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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
John Edward Williams

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 257-258 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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John Edward Williams, of the firm of Williams & Williams in Utica, is at the head of an extensive furniture and home-furnishing establishment at Nos. 331 to 337 Columbia street which had its inception as a small retail store in 1908. He was born in Leeds, England, on the 24th of May, 1874, and obtained his education in an industrial orphan school of that country. He was there married on the 15th of December, 1898, to Miss Margaret Brimacombe of Leeds, England, and two sons were born to them before their emigration to the United States, namely: Eric, who was born on July 18, 1900; and Leslie, whose natal day was June 28, 1903. They are now associated with their parents in the furniture business.

While still residents of England, Mr. and Mrs. Williams conducted a small store at Leeds. Filled with energy and inspired by ambition, they crossed the Atlantic to America, reaching the shores of the New World on the 8th of June, 1908. A contemporary biographer said:

"They started upon their business career in Utica at the very foot of the commercial ladder. Hard work and long hours meant nothing to them in their resolve to make a success of their business, and each succeeding year found a remarkable increase in trade. Their small second-hand furniture store, where all the delivering was done with a hand-cart, has grown to an immense seven-story establishment, with automobile delivery and all modern devices for doing business. Mr. Williams is famous for his astuteness in the buying end of the business, just as Mrs. Williams is in the selling end. Both are original in their ideas and a journey through their handsome establishment is like a trip to fairy land. They early recognized the fact that a patron setting out to buy home equipment could not successfully make selections from several different articles of furniture and furnishing goods scattered throughout the store, so they hit upon the delightful expedient of fitting up rooms in their building, completely furnished to the last detail with harmonizing furniture and fixtures. There are more than sixty of these rooms, beautifully furnished and equipped, even to the proper kind of paper on the walls. Visitors to these rooms are enthusiastic in their praise of the novelty and beauty of the plan and the splendid way it is carried out. The idea of service in the Williams store is quite in keeping with the splendid lines which they carry in stock. Both partners give their entire time to the business and take genuine pleasure in serving their patrons. It is their proud boast that they have never had a dissatisfied customer, for they are insistent that every patron leave the store perfectly satisfied with what has been purchased, the price paid and the personal service rendered. These factors have been the outstanding features of the business and are responsible for the wonderful success of the concern. Visitors are always welcome at the Williams store, whether intending to purchase or not. Mr. and Mrs. Williams are justly proud of the beauty and utility of their place of,business and are glad to show visitors about at any time."

They have never had occasion to regret their determination to come to the United States, for through the wise utilization of the opportunities here offered they have won a gratifying measure of prosperity, while their genuine personal worth has brought them an extensive circle of warm friends in Utica. Mr. Williams attributes much of his success to the assistance of his estimable wife, who has proved both helpmeet and companion.

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