James Woolley was born in 1811, in Dukinfield and became a chemist under an apprenticeship from Samuel Dean in Manchester, England.
In 1833, Woolley opened a shop on King Street as a chemist and druggist.
in 1841, he was one of the first members of the new Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, later serving on the council.
In 1844 Woolley bought the business of R.H. Hargreaves and moved to 69 Market St., Manchester
in 1858, James Woolley died and his son George Stephen Wooley took over the business.
In 1872, another brother, Harold Woolley, took over control of the scientific apparatus and surgical instrument departments. At the same time as Harold entered the business, a partnership was given to C. A. Johnstone and the firm became James Woolley, Sons & Company.
In 1884, T. C. Twining joined the company in charge of the scientific instrument department at the market street, location. He was previously an apprentice to Messrs. Philip Haris & Co. of Birmingham for six years. He recommended to Woolley and Johnstone that the firm begin the sale of photographic equipment with the introduction of the dry plate. The department grew slowly .
In approximately 1886 a fire destroyed the premised behind the market street shop and the business was moved to Knowsley Street, Cheetham Hill.
In 1889 Mr. Harold Wooley died by an accidental inhalation of citric acid. T. C. Twining took charge of all the departments under Harold. George Woolleys son, Edward James was brought in as a partner to replace Harold. The Scientific instrument and photography department under Twining's management grew by leaps and bounds. The firm introduced the Victoria Studio camera that proved to be very popular.
During the 1900s the firm produced an important document for the trade entitled the Scientists Reference Book and Diary, published annually.
In 1892 the company moved back to newly built facilities at Victoria bridge, which accommodated warehouses, show rooms offices and wholesale operations.
In 1914 the folding camera business struggled and ended due to the supply of lens from Germany.
In 1927 George Woolley died, leaving one of the largest drug and chemical establishments.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, Collections Department: James Woolley & Co., 2001.
The Photographic Dealer, Dec. 1900, p. 139.
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