The J. W. Willard Manufacturing company was founded in 1857 by John W. Willard in New York as a dealer in Daguerreian apparatus and photographic materials. It was a small company located at 118 William Street. The opening of this establishment was during a period of fierce competition and only through Mr. Williard's conviction and virtues did the business eventually begin to succeed after two years of hard work. Mr. Willard was born in 1826, in Chester Connecticut and was reported to have started in the photographic business in 1856.
In 1860 Mr. Willard opened a new Warehouse at 522 Broadway in New York. He began to advertise and slowly grew the business by using his sound business practices. The new Stock house grew to sales of three hundred thousand dollars carrying on trade as large as any retail establishment in the country.
In 1864 the firm was located at 684 Broadway in New York City in one of the largest and most attractive warehouses in America. During this period the company was incorporated under the laws of the state of New York as simply the Willard Manufacturing Company. Willard Manufacturing was one of the largest manufacturers in America along side American Optical, E & HT Anthony and Holmes, Booth and Haydens.
In 1866 Willard Manufacturing acquired the entire business of Charles F. Usener, a celebrated optician. Usener continued to work at the Willard Manufacturing Company and his name was prominently announced in advertisements regarding the quality of lenses available. Mr. Charles F. Usener was born on the 2nd of July in 1823. He was a native of the German state of Wurttemberg. Mr. Usener immigrated to America in the 1850s, where he was listed in New York directories as a Daguerreian and optics manufacturer. He became a naturalized US citizen on October 12th, 1860.
By 1870 the firms name was changed to J. W. Willard & Co. and located at 109 Bleecker Street New York.
In 1872 John W. Willard made a deal with N.C. Thayer, an inventor and manufacturer, of the firm N.C. Thayer & Co., a large photographic supply house based in Chicago. The N.C. Thayer & Co. advertised as the Willard Mfg. Co. successor. The new firm set up shop at 609 Broadway New York and J. W. Willard and A. H. Baldwin remained on staff at the firm. This arrangement lasted for only a short time, and J. W. Willard resumed control of the business with an association of the well-known firm of William B. Holmes & Co and A. H. Baldwin. He moved the business to 644 and 646 Broadway at the corner of Bleecker Street.
In 1882 with Mr. Willard being the largest owner, he advised his board to dissolve his company. Due to incidents of an unpleasant nature, he withdrew his interest in the company. Mr. Willard joined the Scovill Manufacturing company and assumed charge of a department where many of his old customers would patronize him
On march 31st, 1891 N.C. Thayer suffering from ill health and unable to run his large Chicago photo supply business sold it to Sweet, Wallach and Company.
In 1896 Mr. Willard organized a co-operative purchasing agency for photographers and photo-engravers at 25-27 Third avenue, New York City. The agency provided everything needed for photographic and process work on very favorable terms.
In 1897 J.W. Willard left Scovill to become the editor of Snap Shots magazine and remained in that position until his death.
Mr. Charles F. Usener died on the 17th of April 1900 and is buried in Green wood cemetery Brooklyn New York.
Mr. John W. Willard died on January 26 1901 in his native home in Chester Connecticut.
1867 Photographic Mosaics - Page 151
1868 Manual of Photography, m. carey lea , p355
1872 The Photographic Times, p23
1872 The Photographic Times, p89
1896 new photo miniature, p480
1896 Wilson's photographic magazine Vol. 33, p94
1901 The Photographic Times
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