Caricature sketch of the brothers sowing houses in the heights
The caricatures above are taken from Cleveland Club Men in Caricature, drawings by Associated Cleveland Artists, Jay M. Caughey, director (East Aurora, N.Y. Roycrofters, 1910).

Oris Paxton (b. 1879) and Mantis James (b. 1881) VAN SWERINGEN came from a farming area near Wooster, Ohio. Their father was for a time an engineer in the oil fields of Pennsylvania and fought in the Civil War, receiving a wound at Gettysburg. After the death of their mother, the family moved to Geneva, Ohio, and two years later to Cleveland, settling at East 105 Street and Cedar Avenue. They attended Bolton and Fairmount Schools, where they were proficient in mathematics. Their formal education ended with the eighth grade.

After being employed by others, and after suffering several early business failures, they entered the real estate business. At first they were unsuccessful in Cleveland's new west-side suburb of Lakewood. They then moved their business to the east side, where they subdivided properties for large residences. Success was slow in coming, but the announcement in 1910 of a rapid transit system gave impetus to land sales in Shaker Heights. By 1929, their holdings were valued at $3 billion, mostly as a result of the high valuation of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. For this reason, the stock market collapse of 1929 ultimately led to their financial destruction. M.J. Van Sweringen died in 1935 and his brother in 1936.

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Last updated July 28, 1997