For marketing and sales of their products the company enlisted a
man who became, in later years, one of the most influential
promoter of the American industries, John Williams. Here
is an excerpt from his biographical sketch, published in 1906:
"Immediately after the collapse of the abortive attempt in 1848
to establish the political autonomy of Ireland, an attempt which
did not attain the proportions or dignity of a revolution, but
which more or less seriously compromised with the British
authorities a great many patriotic Irishmen.
John Williams, originally a hardware salesman, but at that time
an editorial writer on the Dublin Nation, deemed it expedient to
immigrate to America. His activities as a Nationalist had made
him persona non grata to the Crown and to that extent
embarrassed his career.
But his chief reason for leaving Ireland
was that the political and social conditions existing and
established in that country closed every door' of advancement to
the enterprising and ambitious man. He reached this country
alone before the end of 1848, and for some reason not now
remembered went to Port Jervis, N. Y., instead of remaining in
this city, where the opportunities were apparently much larger
and better suited to his capacity.
Naturally he experienced the difficulties and discouragements
which attend the educated immigrant without capital or friends.
His family had been identified with the iron interests; his
grandfather having established in Waterford the first foundry
built in the south of Ireland, which at the time of his leaving
home was conducted by his mother for the estate of his father,
of whom he was the posthumous thirteenth child.
As there were
many ahead of him in the succession the foundry gave him no
opportunity for satisfactory employment. He found his first
steady engagement in this country in a small foundry in Port
Jervis, of which he quickly became bookkeeper and accountant. In
1851 he sent to Ireland for his wife and five children.
John Williams was in many respects a remarkable man, with a
phenomenally active mind, a highly developed imagination and
ideas far exceeding the limitations of his opportunities. Men of
his temperament care less for the gains of systematic industry
than for the current excitements of diversified mental
He was a man of strong convictions. Anything in the
way of a reform movement had for him an irresistible attraction.
He was a religious enthusiast, but was unalterably opposed to
the restraints of a formal church relation, delighting in
theological controversy and in ostentatious nonconformity to the
dicta of ecclesiastical authority.
He was a forcible and
impassioned advocate of what he believed in and equally zealous
in the condemnation of what he doubted or disapproved. The
period between 1845 and the outbreak of the Civil War witnessed
the birth of many movements, some ephemeral and others, notably
the antislavery movement, in which he took, an active part,
epoch-making in their influence. Many of these movements,
promising reforms of greater or less consequence, powerfully
attracted a man of the temperament of John Williams.
The temperance cause at that time divided society into two
distinct classes and the best elements of every community were
opposed to all traffic in liquor. Into this contest Mr. Williams
plunged with characteristic enthusiasm, and he did all he could
to create a controlling popular sentiment in favor of
prohibitory legislation as applied to the sale of Intoxicants of
all kinds. He was a leader of the movement to incorporate into
the statutes of New York the drastic provisions of the Maine
law, then attracting great attention.
This movement gave promise
of success at one time, but seems to have been overshadowed by
the more exigent political problem of restricting and finally
abolishing the institution of negro slavery. These fascinating
but unpractical activities naturally drew Mr. Williams from
commercial pursuits into the then open field of personal
He edited for a time a local newspaper in Port
Jervis, the Tri-State Union, and later founded and conducted a
temperance journal with the surprising name of the Maine Law
Precursor. To have refrained from polemical writing would have
for him impossible. His literary style was that of the
controversial pamphleteer of the age-virile, vigorous and
incisive. He made a distinct impression upon the radical thought
of his time.
John Williams' early training as a hardware salesman led him to
believe that this business, then in its beginning, offered him a
promising career in this country, and he decided to return to it
His first engagement in this line was as a traveling salesman
for the saw manufacturing firm of Wheeler, Madden & Bakewell,
Middletown, N. Y. He started out with his customary enthusiasm,
but was soon recalled for a reason which many salesmen of the
present time would be glad to have interrupt their trips.
sold so many saws that it would tax the resources of the plant
to the breaking point to catch up with his orders in half a
year. His employers were quite willing to hitch their chariot to
a star, but when it came to hitching it to a comet the pace was
Those were the days of small things in American
manufacturing. No one concern being in a position to afford him
full opportunity for his high voltage energy as a salesman, he
decided to establish himself as a general manufacturers' agent
in hardware and to handle a number of lines.