George Francis Wilson was a school teacher and principal of the Chicago Academy in Illinois who had a desire to enter industry. He moved back to his native town of Uxbridge, MA, in 1854. That same year he entered into business in Providence with J. B. Duggan and Eben Horsford selling chemicals. In 1858 he and Horsford moved the business to Seekonk, MA (now East Providence, RI) renaming the company the Rumford Chemical Works in honor of Horsford, a chemist, who occupied the Count Rumford Chair of Physics at Harvard University. Horsford had improved on an earlier Baron Liebig formula for making a leavening agent which became known as Rumford Baking Powder. Benjamin Thompson had gone earlier to Europe from Rumford, NH (now Concord) and had endowed the Count Rumford Chair at Harvard. Horsford had studied with Liebig in Germany.
Horsford worked out of Boston, but Wilson moved to Seekonk to purchase land, manage the building of the plant, establish mill housing and farms to feed the labor force, start a company store and manage the business. Horsford and Wilson alternated back and forth as president and treasurer of the business. Before long the plant and farm encompassed three hundred acres.
Wilson became a father figure to the workers at the plant and their families. In 1865 the workers gave two silver plated goblets to Mr. Wilson for Christmas, one of which is pictured here. On it were engraved the following words:
By the employees of the
Rumford Chemical Works
As a Token of Esteem
December 25th, 1865
The goblets were in the Rumford Factory Museum until the 1960s and were not taken to Terre Haute, IN, when the company moved. Dr. Karl Holst, the last factory manager at the plant donated them to the Museum before he died.