San Francisco County
HERBERT EDWARD LAW, F.C.S.
HERBERT EDWARD LAW, F.C.S., of London, Vice President of The Viavi Company, Inc.., and president and treasurer of the Anglo-=American Securities Company of San Francisco, California, was born near Sheffield, England, December 5, 1864, the son of Crossley Law and Rebecca (Brown) Law, and in 1866 came with his parents to the United States, settling in the city of Chicago.
There he attended the public schools and the German-American Institute, became proficient in German and an instructor in the Institute. Soon afterwards he was made confidential secretary of E. C. Potter, manager of the North Chicago Rolling Mills, out of which the United States Steel Corporation was developed.
He joined his brother, Hartland Law, in selling subscription books and in 1884, under the firm name of Law, King & Law, they represented the Western Publishing House of Chicago in San Francisco. In 1886 they purchased a controlling interest in the Western Publishing House, but disposed of it soon afterwards and returned the same year to San Francisco. Here they began the development of the Viavi System of Treatment. Mr. Law has been largely the organizing power in the Viavi business, than which he deemed no other of his numerous interests more important nor more essentially a part of himself. He has been the animating force, combining and directing the separate efforts, great or small, of every individual ever connected with the organization into one consistent result. One of the unique features of the Viavi business is the method of sale. It is based wholly on personal contact, a principle which is now almost universal in all lines of business. The Laws have developed an organization in which thousands have received practical training and in which more than 10,000 active workers are at the present time engaged in spreading the Viavi teachings and selling the Viavi Preparations in more than twenty different countries.
Mr. Law’s activities have been important in other fields. It has been said that, with his brother Dr. Hartland Law, he has been the largest real estate operator in San Francisco during the past twenty years. No individual has built so many high-class buildings in so short a time. He has touched no property which he has not improved. His first operations were in the region northwest of Van Ness avenue and Vallejo street. Coming to the downtown section, among others he has owned and improved property at Mission and Main streets, Mission and Annie streets, Mission and New Montgomery streets, and then on Market street, near Third street, where he built the splendid Monadnock building.
Just before the fire, with his brother he bought the Fairmont Hotel. Restoring it after the fire cost $1,840,000. The reconstruction of the Fairmont gave direction and emphasis to that fine thing we now know as the San Francisco spirit. In the three years immediately after the fire $7,000,000 passed through his office in rebuilding, exchanging and restoring to sound position his and his brother’s holdings.
After leasing the Fairmont to the Palace Hotel Company the Law brothers exchanged it back to Mrs. Herman Oelrichs, securing through the exchange, forty acres of water front property adjoining the military reservation of Fort Mason. Potentially valuable, it was inaccessible. The completion of the tunnel now authorized through Fort Mason property will make it accessible and they are planning to make it the site of a great rail and ocean terminal.
Mr. Law acted as chairman of the Street Changes, General Widening and Grading of Streets Committee, whose work complemented the Burnham plan for a San Francisco splendid and beautiful.
In 1910 he negotiated with the Chinese Government on behalf of the Western Steel Corporation, of which he was then president, the largest contract China had made up to that time. He was energetically interested in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and he and his brother made possible the use of the Harbor View region as a part of the site.
He was for many years a director of the Merchants’ Association, is a director of the Merchants’ Association, is a director of Wells-Fargo Nevada National Bank and other large corporations; is a Fellow of the Chemical Society of London, a member of the Union League Club, and has been an extensive traveler.
Transcribed by Gloria (Wiegner) Lane.
Source: Press Reference Library, Western Edition Notables of the West, Vol. I, Page 347, International News Service, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta. 1913.
© 2007 Gloria Lane.