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J.C. Widman & Co.
J.C. Widman & Company, 1900-1925; Detroit, Michigan
Associated Builders
Murray Corp.

Christian Widman, a German cabinetmaker, emigrated to the United States during the mid 1800s and established a small furniture shop in Rochester, New York. Business prospered, and he married Rosalie (Seifried) Widman, producing a son, name John Charles Widman, born in 1848, who learned the craft and took over the business in 1872.

A cousin, C.D. Widman, had established a cabinetmakerís shop in Detroit, Michigan in 1864 and invited John Charles to join him, which he did. John Charles returned to Rochester after a few short years, and began a new career in the grocery business. However, he returned to Detroit 10 years later to assume the presidency of his cousinís furniture factory when C.D. became ill. During the ensuing years, C.D. Widman & Co. had grown to become one of Detroitís largest parlor furniture manufacturers, and their mirrors, hall furniture, china closets, buffets and chevals could be found in the home of Detroitís finest citizens.  

The Widman plant was located at the corner of Trombly and Orleans St., a few blocks away from the Anderson Electric Car Co./Towson Body Co. in the neighborhood that adjoins the present-day Cadillac Hamtramck assembly plant.

Albert U. Widman, the son of C.D. Widman, joined his fatherís business about 1890 as a salesman, and within ten years had become it superintendent, and manager. He was assisted by longtime employees Sylvester L. Rich and James W. Ailes.  

Sylvester L. Rich joined C.D. Widman in 1870 as an assistant shipping clerk, was advanced successively as molding finisher, foreman, superintendent, general manager, secretary and treasurer, and finally vice president and treasurer. James W. Ailes joined C.D. Widman in 1877 as a salesman, and worked his way up the corporate ladder, and became the firmís president in 1900 when John Charles Widman, left to form J.C. Widman & Co. after a disagreement with the firmís board of directors.

The new J.C. Widman & Co was located at the intersection of 15th St., Kirby St. and the Grand Trunk Railroad line in Detroit, Michigan, a few blocks west of the Wayne State University campus. It was incorporated in April of 1905, with John Charles Widman as president Ė treasurer, and his son, C. David Widman, as secretary. The firm prospered and within a few short years warerooms had been established in New York City and Chicago.

During the teens, a number of local automobile manufacturers contracted with the firm to produce millwork and interior cabinetry for their automobile bodies and by the early twenties, J.C. Widman was producing entire bodies for regional manufacturers such as Jewett (1922-1925), Chalmers (1922-25) and the Earl (1922-23), a mid-priced 4-cylinder built in Jackson, Michigan. Their fine woodwork enjoyed an excellent reputation within the auto industry and furnished bodies for the Syracuse, New York automaker H.H Franklin.

When the founder of the C.R. Wilson Co., Charles R. Wilson, died suddenly in 1924, its board of directors was faced with an uncertain future and no strong leadership within the firm, so they approached another Wilson for help.

Although Detroit banker William Robert Wilson shared the same last name as the C.R. Wilson Co.ís recently departed founder and president, they were not related. However, Wilson, who also happened to be the president of Detroitís Guardian Trust Co., had once been president of the Maxell Motor Corp. and was keenly interested in getting back into the automobile business.

He brokered a deal whereby the C.R. Wilson Body Co., J.W. Murray Mfg. Co., Towson Body Co., and J.C. Widman & Co. would merge, forming the Murray Body Corporation under the leadership of John W. Murray. Wilson, Murray and Towson had longstanding contracts with the Ford Motor Co. and were in good financial shape, and J.C. Widmanís skilled cabinetmakers and millworkers would prove beneficial to the new firm. Unfortunately, the young firm was in receivership within the year. However they emerged a few months later as the Murray Corp. of America, but that story is continued on the Murray page. 

© 2004 Mark Theobald -






Michael Lamm - Body by Murray Ė Special Interest Autos #20 Jan-Feb 1974

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Albert Nelson Marquis - The Book of Detroiters: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Detroit

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