William Foster Nye
William Foster Nye (May 20, 1824 – August 12, 1910) was the businessman that started Nye Lubricants in 1844.
He was born in 1824.
In 1840 at 16 years old, he left his family’s Cape Cod. He became apprentice to a master carpenter in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He left New Bedford to build pipe organs in Boston, took to sea as a ship's carpenter, he worked at an ice house in Calcutta and participated in the California Gold Rush of 1849. He returned to New Bedford to start an oil and kerosene business.
In 1865, he returned again to New Bedford and the oil business, first out of the kitchen of his Fairhaven home, then from a small store front in New Bedford. He sold a wide assortment of oils: burning oils, lubricating oils, even castor oil and salad oil. But the market niche he set out to capture was lubricating oils for delicate machinery: watches, clocks, chronometers, and later, sewing machines, typewriters, bicycles and electrical instruments. He capitalized on the work of New Bedford watch maker Ezra Kelley. Kelley discovered that oil from the jaw and head of the porpoise and blackfish proved superior to any other known lubricant for delicate mechanisms, and his oil, which he began selling in 1844, had become a benchmark industry.
Nye became Kelley's chief competitor. He developed his own brand of “fish jaw oil,” but had to overcome strong market resistance to a new brand name. He started at the top. With the help of a trade journal publisher, he persuaded Cross and Beguelin, a leading manufacturer of watch and clock components in New York, to try his new formulation. Impressed with its quality, they adopted it as their own, and word about Nye's oil quickly spread throughout the industry. Within ten years, Nye had acquired Ezra Kelley's company and moved from his small, rented storefront to his own stone factory on Fish Island, Massachusetts.
He died on August 12, 1910.
- "William F. Nye Dead". Boston Globe. August 12, 1910. Retrieved 2010-08-04. "New Bedford Oil Manufacturer Was First Person to Open Store in Richmond After its Capture. William F Nye one of the most prominent oil manufacturers in the country is dead at the age of 86"