Collins Lawton Balch - Succesful Business Man

Collins Lawton Balch (July 6, 1834-September 24-5,1910) was born in Providence, Rhode Island to John Rogers and Elizabeth C. (Lawton) Balch. Collins attended the Providence High School followed by a short time at Brown University starting in 1851. At Brown he would seek a degree in English but would end up leaving the university in 1854 without graduating.

After giving up on college Collins headed to New York City where he would become a clerk at a dry goods commission house. After a few years he would leave this work to take charge of a jewelry manufacturing business. In subsequent years Collins was involved in various aspects of the jewelry business and would eventually become interested in a newly emerging material known as celluloid. Celluloid would end up becoming a very important material in the world of film and photography. Eventually Collins would become a high ranking figure in a celluloid manufacturing company known simply as the "Celluloid Company". During this time Collins would meet and marry Georgia Hardy on October 11, 1859. Together Collins and Georgia would have two children only one of whom would survive.

Religious Affiliation

In 1864 Collins became a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Tremont, New York (then a suburb of New York City). In this church Collins would serve in a variety of important roles. At various times he served in the positions of church trustee, deacon, elder and was annually reelected to the position of superintendant of the Sabbath School.

Family Conflict

It was in the celluloid business that Collins would gain significant wealth. When he died, in 1910, his estimated net worth was approximately $250,000 (a significant sum for the time). This Balch fortune seems to have caused its fair share of trouble. Collins suffered and died from cancer on September 24 (or 25) 1910. Shortly before Collins death there seems to have been some level of conflict between his wife Georgia and his one surviving child Grace.

In June of 1910 Grace signed papers to have her Mother committed to the Bloomingdale Asylum in New York. Grace claimed that her mother, Georgia, was no longer mentally competent enough to manage her own affairs. Eventually Georgia, with the help of a cousin, would succeed in challenging her confinement and winning her release; sometime in March of 1911. In Georgia's case she would argue that her estranged daughter had conspired to get her out of the picture and exercise influence over her father. The evidence seems to suggest that this may have been the case. Shortly before his death Collins issued a new will to replace a prior will. In the new will the majority of the Balch fortune would go to Grace Balch rather than Collin's wife Georgia.

Once Georgia won her release from Bloomingdale Asylum she was able to successfully sue for the overturning of the later will. Georgia accused her daughter of kidnapping her and exercising improper influence over Collins. Grace asserted that she only had her mother's best interests at heart and that the incompetency proceedings were undertaken upon the wish of her father. Eventually a jury would side with Georgia and reinstate the original will giving her the bulk of the family fortune. After the trial, in a strange twist, Georgia, Grace and various family members seem to have then worked out an agreement in which the wealth would once again go to Grace.

It is uncertain how aware Collins was of the whole ordeal with his wife. On the recommendation of a physician Collins moved, with his daughter's support, to have his wife committed. Grace's claim is that the mental strain, caused by her father's cancer, was to much for her mother to handle. Ruled incompetent Georgia was then confined to Bloomingdale and later transferred to Los Angeles. Two years after her release Georgia would die leaving a lawsuit against the trustee of her property unfinished.

News Article Regarding the Dispute between Mother and Daughter:

New York Tribune - Sunday, October 5, 1913

Genealogy of Collins:

Father: John Rogers Balch
Mother: Elizabeth C. Lawton

Wife: Georgia Hardy
Married: October 11, 1859


1. Frank Collins (died in infancy)
2. Grace Collins

Primary Sources/Links:

Genealogy of the Balch Families in America - By: Galusha Balch

NY Times - Mrs. Balch Freed To-Day

NY Times - Widow Wins Fight for Balch Estate

NY Times - Mrs. Balch Dead

The Miscellaneous Reports - By New York (State). Superior Court (New York)

NY Times - Miss Grace Balch's Defense

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