Russell Sage is most famously credited with originating “puts and calls” used when buying or selling stock options on Wall Street. In 1874, he bought a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and was thereafter known as a financier.
Born in Oneida County, New York, Sage operated grocery stores in Troy and served as a Troy alderman. He was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Whig. Through his association with Jay Gould, a leading American railroad developer and speculator, Sage’s interests expanded from mercantile and politics to railroads and finance, enabling him to gain extensive financial control over several Western railroads.
Sage moved to New York City to devote himself to the business of finance. He was also active in the development of telegraphic communications and influential in developing the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company, which he then consolidated into Western Union.
After the death of his first wife, Maria, Sage married Margaret Olivia Slocum, who inherited his fortune upon his death. She endowed a number of buildings and institutions with his name, including Russell Sage College and the Russell Sage Foundation.
Sage is buried alone in an unmarked mausoleum. On the same plot just yards away is the grave site of his first wife Maria W. Sage, which is marked by a large obelisk.