Andover Biography - William Wood

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This is a record in progress.

William Madison Wood was born in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard on June 18, 1858, to immigrant parents from the Portuguese Azores. He had to go to work to support his family at age 13 when his father died. He began working in the New Bedford cotton mills and quickly rose through the ranks.

When Frederick Ayer asked Wood to save his unprofitable cotton mills, Wood came to Lawrence in 1886 as a manager at Washington Mill, but quickly was promoted to treasurer. Ayer decided to convert mill production to wool. Because Ayer's mills were not profitable, Wood advocated combining mills to save costs and created the American Woolen Company by combining eight mills in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York. In 1899 he became president of the American Woolen Company. The American Woolen Company became the largest worsted wool manufacturing company in the world.

In January of 1912 when the work week was reduced from 56 to 54 hours by order of the Massachusetts Legislature, Wood reduced the workers' pay accordingly. This was the impetus for the Bread and Roses Strike in 1912.

After World War I Wood brought the American Woolen Company headquarters to Andover and renamed Frye Village to Shawsheen Village. He built a planned community consisting of brick homes for the high level managers and white wooden homes for the lower level managers,recreational facilities including a golf course, a pool and a club house. He even built a drug store.

Part of a bequest to the Town by Wood's son Cornelius was specified to be used for a plaque on the corner of Lowell and North Main Streets. The inscription describes Wood as "an industrial genius, a humanitarian, and a great benefactor of youth". This terminology is a condition of the bequest. The remainder was to be used for "public purposes".

Built the West Parish Church and is buried in the West Parish cemetery.

After several strokes, took his life in 1926 at the age of 67


  • "Wood: Andover Honors Controversial Figure", Eagle Tribune, Januart 13, 2000, page 1 and 2

--Eleanor 11:37, January 3, 2013 (EST) back to Main Page

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