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date: 25 February 2020

Letchworth, William Pryorlocked

(26 May 1823–01 December 1910)
  • William H. Brackney


Letchworth, William Pryor (26 May 1823–01 December 1910), industrialist and philanthropist, was born in Brownville, New York, the son of Josiah Letchworth, a harnessmaker, and Ann Hance. Raised in a strict Quaker home, he was educated at primary school and then went to work for his father in the harnessmaking business. His parents were Hicksite Quakers who were strongly opposed to slavery. Young William frequently attended the Unitarian church and nurtured a social conscience of his own. At fifteen he went to Auburn, New York, to work in the firm of Hayden and Holmes, manufacturers and merchants of saddlery hardware; his salary was forty dollars per year. His personal frugality and industrious attitude impressed his employer, who sent him to New York City in 1845 as a confidential secretary to Peter Hayden, the senior partner who also ran another business in the city, the P. and T. Hayden Company. In 1848 the hardware merchants Samuel and Pascal Pratt of Buffalo offered Letchworth a partnership; he accepted and became the managing partner in a new company, Pratt and Letchworth. Many innovations characterized Letchworth’s business, including the organization of a modified assembly line, which he employed at the Erie County Penitentiary. In the 1860s he experimented with processes to produce malleable iron, and as the Civil War concluded, his new company, the Buffalo Malleable Iron Works, made a significant contribution to the war effort....

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