Sealy, George (1835–1901)

By: Leslie A. Watts

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1995

Updated: February 24, 2017

George Sealy, Galveston entrepreneur, was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on January 9, 1835, the tenth of eleven children of Mary (McCarty) and Robert Sealy, an Irish immigrant blacksmith. George began helping support his family at age twelve. His first job as a farmhand was to sit as a weight on the end of a plow, for which he was paid ten cents a day. He later worked in a country store while attending Wyoming Seminary and Commercial College in nearby Kingston, and at eighteen he became a station agent for the Lackawana Railroad. When he quit at the age of twenty-two, he was making $150 a month and had saved $1,100. In November 1857 George gave all his savings except $100 to his widowed mother and joined his older brother John Sealy in Texas. John had left home many years earlier and had become a partner of Ball, Hutchings and Company, a successful dry goods and commission business in Galveston. Beginning as a shipping clerk whose duties included sweeping the office, George worked his way through the company ranks. By volunteering for extra jobs, he learned all phases of the business, but his promising career was interrupted by the Civil War. Despite his opposition to secession, he volunteered as a private in the Confederate Army, and, accepting no pay or promotions for his military service, represented Ball, Hutchings, and Company in Mexico from 1862 to 1865, during which time the company received European cotton cards to be used by the Confederacy. After the war George returned to Galveston, where Ball, Hutchings and Company had changed its focus to become a cotton commission and banking business. George was initially named cashier, but became a full partner in 1870. With his help, the firm, which was eventually known as Hutchings-Sealy and Company, was able to move exclusively into banking.

George Sealy's business expertise is also credited with helping save the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway. Founded in 1873 to replace the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad, the venture was jeopardized by poor management. However, under Sealy's subsequent reorganization of the company, the line was not only saved but extended to join the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. The line included an additional train station, from which has grown the town of Sealy, Texas. Sealy's other interests included the Texas Guarantee and Trust Company, Galveston Cotton Exchange, Galveston Rope and Twine Company, Galveston Free School Board, Galveston Maritime Association, Galveston Protestant Orphan's Home, Galveston Evening Tribune Publishing Company, Preston Chemical Company, Galveston Fruit Importing and Trading Company, Bluefields Banana Company, Galveston Chamber of Commerce, Red Snapper Fishing Company of Galveston, South Texas Development Association, Galveston Freight Bureau, Galveston Wharf Company, Galveston Gas Company, Southern Kansas and Texas Railway, Texas Land and Loan Company, Rembert Roller Compress Company, Galveston Meat Exporting Company, and Galveston Electric Light Company. Just after his fortieth birthday, George Sealy married Magnolia Willis (see SEALY, MAGNOLIA WILLIS), the daughter of business associate Peter J. Willis, on May 12, 1875. The couple had eight children. When John Sealy died on August 29, 1884, George Sealy, as executor of the will, was instrumental in establishing the John Sealy Hospital with the elder Sealy's bequest of $50,000 designated for "a charitable purpose." The hospital is now a part of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. A businessman to the end, George Sealy died on December 14, 1901, while traveling by train to a meeting in New York to discuss interest rates on Galveston bonds to help finance the city's recovery from the Galveston hurricane of 1900.

Jane and Rebecca Pinckard, Lest We Forget: The Open Gates, the George Sealy Residence (Houston, 1988).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Leslie A. Watts, “Sealy, George,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1995
February 24, 2017