Edward Williams - Co-founder of Sherwin-Williams & Co.

9534 Lake Shore Boulevard
Edward Porter Williams
Edward Porter Williams

Edward Williams had initially invested in Truman Dunham & Co., a company that sold paints, oils, varnishes, and window glass started in 1866 with Henry Sherwin, a self-taught entrepreneur and inventor. The company split up, and Williams and Sherman pooled their savings to start Sherwin-Williams & Co. in February 1870, manufacturing paint ingredients for customers to mix.

Williams, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate and Sherwin, with experience in dry goods and groceries, learned the paint business from the factory up. Williams being the better-educated and more business-minded, was responsible for the development of the company's sales staff.

The company purchased its first factory in 1873, located on the Cuyahoga River. The factory manufactured paste paints, oil colors, and putty. Painters had to buy the ingredients and mix their paint each day. The company startled competitors in 1880 when it marketed premixed ready-to-apply paint.

Sherwin-Williams developed the first patented re-closable paint can in 1877. The paint can revolutionized the way paint could be used, and more importantly, reused. A short time later, they added the manufacture of their tin cans.

The partnership dissolved in 1884, and Sherwin and Williams incorporated as The Sherwin-Williams Company. In the same year, the company introduced inside floor paint. This new product encouraged the notion that a specific paint should be used for a specific purpose.

Sherwin-Williams had always been committed to finding and developing new markets for paint products. In 1888, the company saw the possibility of marketing paints and coatings to the railroad industry. Williams engineered the acquisition of Calumet Paint Company near Chicago, Illinois that gave Sherwin Williams a strong foothold in the market for industrial and railroad-car paints. It opened a manufacturing facility in Chicago to serve the Pullman Company and to better serve the farm-implement and carriage industries. Pullman required as many as 20 coats of high-quality finishes for the elaborate interiors of the Pullman cars.

The company continued to grow in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of paints, coatings and related products to professional, industrial, commercial and retail customers.

Edward Porter Williams was born on May 10, 1843, in Cleveland. He was next to the youngest of eight children born to William and Laura Fitch Williams. At the age of sixteen, he graduated from Cleveland High School at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Erie Street (East 9th Street). A year after graduation, he entered Hudson College (Western Reserve University), receiving a B.S. degree in 1864 and an M.S. degree in 1869.

During his college days, Edward attended a fraternity convention in Utica, New York. It was there that he met and eventually married Louise M. Mason on July 22, 1869. Louise was born on December 3, 1845. The Williams had four children: Edward Mason born on November 9, 1871, Sarah Granger (Garfield) born on January 10, 1873, Lewis Mason born on August 11, 1875, and Reba Louise (Baldwin) born on June 20, 1876.

Immediately after graduation Edward entered the Army, enlisting in the 85th Ohio Volunteers. He held a short-term assignment at Camp Chase in Columbus, guarding Confederate prisoners. Returning from the Army, Williams founded the firm of Day, Williams & Co., a manufacturer of glass in Kent, Ohio.

Williams was a director of Society for Savings, Bankers’ Survey Company, Cleveland Telephone Company, trustee of Western Reserve University, and vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce. Williams was one of the founders of University School as well as a vocational city school for boys. He was reported to be a skilled whist player who perfected a "masterful use of profanity." He was a member of the Castalia Fishing, The Country, Rofant, Union, and University Clubs.

Edward was taken ill in September 1902 and spent six months at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. A short time after returning home, he began to fail and died on May 4, 1903, of heart failure. Louise died two years later on March 24, 1905, and buried alongside Edward in Lakeview Cemetery.