In 1895 King Camp Gillette was the
salesman for the man who invented cork-lined bottle caps. "Invent
something people use and throw away,"
the man told him. It'd sure worked for him.
Gillette wondered what he might invent. It hit him one morning while
he was shaving. He thought up the safety razor, but he couldn't
figure how to make good disposable blades. For years he struggled.
Finally he met William Nickerson.
Nickerson was a fine inventor. This was a fine challenge. Nickerson
finally saw that he could make the blade wide. He could let the
holder bend it into position. Then he'd have both accuracy and a
sharp edge. Together, Gillette and Nickerson began making safety
razors in 1903.
The next question was what to name the thing. If they called a razor
blade a Nickerson, that was too suggestive of nicked skin. In the
end Gillette's name attached to the invention, and his face rode on
the razor blade wrapper. Within a few years Gillette was a
Now that's only the first half of Gillette's story. Howard Mansfield
tells the rest, and it gets very interesting. The year before he
cooked up the safety razor, Gillette published a book on another
idea entirely. It was terrifying and idealistic.
His Utopian socialistic world would be based on universal
cooperation. All production would be done efficiently by one great
company with all people as shareholders. "Selfishness would be
unknown, and war would be a barbarism of the past," he wrote.
James Forten was born of free African-American parents in Philadelphia on September 2, 1766. He studied at a Quaker school but at the age of fifteen he quit to serve as a powder boy aboard the privateer Royal Louis during the American Revolution. He was captured by the British and held prisoner for seven months. He eventually spent a year in England where he was introduced to abolitionist philosophy. Upon returning to America he was apprenticed to a sailmaker, but by 1786 he was foreman and in 1798 he became owner of the company. The business prospered and in 1832 employed forty white and African American workers. By the 1830s Forten had become active in the abolitionist movement and was a strong opponent of African colonization. He became a noted pamphleteer, a 19th-century form of social activism and was an early fund-raiser for William Lloyd Garrison's The Liberator. Forten was president and founder of the American Moral Reform Society and was active in the American Anti-Slavery Society. He was a vigorous opponent of northern implementation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. Forten died in Philadelphia on March 4, 1842.
Henry Ford, born on July 30,
1863, was the first of William and Mary Ford's six children. He grew
up on a prosperous
family farm in what is today Dearborn, Michigan. Henry enjoyed a
childhood typical of the rural nineteenth century, spending days in
a one-room school and doing farm chores. At an early age, he showed
an interest in mechanical things and a dislike for farm work.
In 1879, sixteen-year-old Ford left home for
the nearby city of Detroit to work as an apprentice machinist,
although he occasionally returned to help on the farm. He remained
an apprentice for three years and then returned to Dearborn. During
the next few years, Henry divided his time between operating or
repairing steam engines, finding occasional work in a Detroit
factory, and over-hauling his father's farm implements, as well as
lending a reluctant hand with other farm work. Upon his marriage to
Clara Bryant in 1888, Henry supported himself and his wife by
running a sawmill.
"Father" of the petroleum industry, born in Greenville, New York;
he spent his boyhood in Castleton Corners and attended
Drake worked a succession of jobs in the Midwest and East after
leaving the family farm at age 19, ending up as a conductor for the
New York & New Haven Railroad (1850-57). In the late 1850s he bought
stock in George Bissell's Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company, and in 1857
(taking advantage of his conductor's job to travel free) he traveled
to see the land near Oil Creek (Titusville), Pennsylvania, where
surface oil was being collected.
Walter Chrysler was born on April 2, 1875 in Winnebago, Kansas, a railway town where his father worked as an engineer with the Union Pacific Railroad. A few years later, the Chrysler family moved to Ellis, Kansas. Ellis was yet another railway town, where Walter spent his spare time in locomotive shops watching repairmen at work and occasionally working with them. At the age of 18 he constructed a fully detailed, model steam locomotive and ran it on a rail track he constructed. Chrysler became a master mechanic and in 1908 a Superintendent of 10, 000 workers at Chicago & Great Western Railroad. It was at an auto show in Chicago in 1908 that Walter Chrysler saw the future when he first spotted a Locomobile Phaeton. He decided to combine his meager savings with a $4,300 loan to purchase the vehicle. Most people now in his position might have taken the new automobile for a cruise around the city. But Walter Chrysler was not interested in showing off his new toy. Instead, Chrysler spent his spare time taking the automobile apart, studying it, and rebuilding it. He was instantly hooked and decided to take a 50% pay cut in 1912 and switch careers..... He was going to break into the automobile industry.
A decade and a half after laying his eyes on the Locomobile Phaeton, Walter Chrysler launched the Chrysler Corporation in spectacular fashion during the New York Auto Show. The Chrysler Six Phaeton made the most stunning debut in automotive history at that time - selling 32,000 units its first year. The Chrysler Corporation became the second largest U.S. automaker during the 1930s. By this time Chrysler was a self-made millionaire and began turning his attention to other activities, including financing and helping design the Chrysler building in New York City. He resigned from the Chrysler Corporation in 1935, at age 60, and died August 18, 1940.
Lloyd G. Balfour was born in Wauseon, Ohio; attended public schools in Louisville, Kentucky; graduated from the University of Louisville and Indiana University Law School; and following brief careers in the fields of law and sales, he came to Attleboro, Massachusetts with the specific intent of founding a jewelry company that would have high standards for excellence of product and quality of its personnel. Mildred McCann Balfour grew up in North Attleboro, Massachusetts and studied at the University of Illinois. Lloyd and Mildred met around 1918 and they were married in 1921. Together they worked to build the L. G. Balfour Company into the giant that it became. The Balfours lived in a log cabin on a working farm. Their home, located on Pine Street in Norton, was the scene of many gatherings of friends and associates. There was another side to the Balfours, one that was rigorously safe guarded. They participated in many philanthropic deeds but with little fanfare. They were generous to many schools and hospitals; to many local students who could not have attended college without this support; and to distressed families needing support over the rough spots. Lloyd Balfour died at his home on July 11, 1973, at the age of 87. Mildred survived him by a decade. Under the terms of his will, the L. G. Balfour Foundation, was founded. It is designed to help support the causes that Lloyd and Mildred supported during their lifetimes. The people of the Town of Norton are grateful for the Balfour Foundation grant that has helped them to finance their new library building. The citizens of Norton will be ever mindful of the generosity of this fine couple.