In the 1860s, Ichabod Washburn was a successful wire manufacturer who recounted his rise to the top of Worcester's economic and social ladder. After his death in 1868, an admiring minister published the autobiography to show "how a great business was developed and large wealth acquired for the uses of benevolence."
During the winter [of 1819], I engaged in business on my own account for the first time, manufacturing ploughs. To stock myself, I required a small capital or credit.
With a few dollars I had earned I commenced, relying in part on my credit. There was no difficulty in getting such stock as I wanted where I was known, but how to obtain plough-moulds, which were indispensable, I did not know. I was advised to make application to Mr. Waldo in Worcester. I was an entire stranger to him, so that when I asked if he would trust me until I could sell them, his mild, discriminative eye was turned upon me, as if in searching scrutiny. But to my great relief, he at once filled up a blank note for the amount to be paid in gold or silver, which I signed, and in due time paid…. No part of my subsequent business life gave me more pleasure than that winter. Rising with a light heart, generally at my anvil by sunrise, working until nine in the evening, and then retiring fatigued, I realised fully that the sleep of the laboring man is sweet.
…. In the autumn of 1834, I continued the business of manufacturing wire on my own account, at what is called the Grove Mill, built by Stephen Salisbury, Esq., under my direction.
In the enlargement of the business from time to time, the machinery has been most drafted by myself, and constructed under my direction. The iron-wire department gradually increased up to 1842, when my brother Charles engaged with me as a co-partner, continuing until 1849.
One year after, in 1850, I took as a partner, my son-in-law, P.L. Moen. In him, I have had a most efficient aid in bringing up the business to its present mammouth size. While he makes no claim to be a practical mechanic, he has by his exactness, promptitude, and aptness for business generally, supplied a deficiency in myself indispensable to success. He has managed with rare ability our finances, a department of the business for which I never had the taste or inclination, always preferring to be among the machinery, doing the work and handling the tools I was used to, though oftentimes at the expense of smutty face and greasy hands.
Autobiography And Memorials of Ichabod Washburn. Showing how a great business was developed and large wealth acquired for the uses of benevolence. By Rev. Henry T. Cheever (Boston: D. Lothrop and Company, 1878). Online at http://www.assumption.edu/users/mcclymer/TAHCourse2/WashburnAutobiography.html