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

9534 Lake Shore Boulevard
Edward Porter Williams
Edward Porter Williams

Edward Williams, a namesake for the Sherwin-Williams company, was well educated, congenial, and a good mixer. Reports suggested him to be a skilled whist player who perfected a "masterful use of profanity.” Henry Sherwin knew just about all there was to know about the paint business. The two were a perfect combination.

Henry Sherwin became a partner in Truman Dunham & Co. in July 1866. The company was a prosperous importer and dealer of paints, varnishes, oils, and pigments. As a partner in the firm, young Sherwin soon learned all he could about the paint business. In 1869, the company shifted focus to manufacturing only linseed oil. The partnership dissolved in February 1870.

Edward Williams left Day & Williams Company, a company he founded with his brother in 1865 to invest $15,000 to form a partnership with Henry Sherwin to take over Truman Dunham’s retail operations. On February 3, 1870, the Sherwin-Williams & Company began.

In 1882, the company disposed of its retail business to manufacture paint ingredients for customers to mix. Two years later, the company was incorporated on July 16, 1884. At the time, the company had sales agents in New York and Chicago.

Williams, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate and Sherwin, with experience in the retail of paint and varnish, developed the paint business from the factory up. Williams being the better-educated and more business-minded, was responsible for developing the company's sales staff.

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

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

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

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 Calumet Paint Company acquisition near Chicago, Illinois, which gave Sherwin Williams a strong foothold in industrial and railroad-car paints. It opened a manufacturing facility in Chicago to serve the Pullman Company and better serve the farm-implement and carriage industries. Pullman required as many as twenty coats of high-quality finishes for the elaborate interiors of the Pullman cars.

The business of Sherwin-Williams became so diversified that it was more than Sherwin and Williams could handle, and, in 1898 Walter H. Cottingham was made the general manager. 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, Edward graduated from Cleveland High School at 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 1865.

Immediately after graduation Edward entered the Army, enlisting in the 85th Ohio Volunteers. Returning from the Army, Williams, his brother Charles, and Edward L. Day founded the firm of Day, Williams & Co., a glass manufacturer in Kent, Ohio. Edward soon left Day, Williams & Co. to join Henry Sherman.

Williams was a director of Society for Savings, Bankers’ Survey Company, Cleveland Telephone Company, a 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 a member of the Castalia Fishing, The Country, Rofant, Union, and University Clubs.

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.

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. Both are buried in Lakeview Cemetery.

Edward and Louise 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.