Abram French

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Abram French & Co., Franklin Street, Boston, ca.1879-1885

Abram French (1805–1884) was a crockery, glassware, and china dealer in 19th-century Boston, Massachusetts.[1]

Brief biography[edit]

French was born in Chelmsford, Massachusetts in February 1805,[2] a descendant of William Abrams of Boston.[3] He clerked for crockery merchant Samuel B. Pierce on Broad Street, Boston, beginning in 1831. He was later associated with the firm of Andrew T. Hall.[2]

Around 1841 French sold "china, glass and earthen ware" from his own shop on Milk Street, near Batterymarch St.[4] He later formed a partnership with John T. Wells as French, Wells & Co. (ca.1850 - ca.1858) on Milk St., along with Josiah B. Kilbourn (ca.1850), and Robert E. Newman (ca.1858-1861).[5][6][7] With George W. Bassett, French formed the firm of Bassett, French & Co. (ca.1868), also on Milk Street. Junior partners included John T. Wells, Lemuel E. Caswell and Lewis G. Coburn.[8] Then beginning in 1869, French re-formed his business as Abram French & Co., and remained as main partner until his death in 1884. Among his junior partners were John T. Wells, Lemuel E. Caswell, Lewis G. Coburn, S. Waldo French.[9][10][11] His son, William Abram French (1843–1909), joined the firm in 1867.[12] The firm billed itself as "importers of crockery, china and glass ware, French and Bohemian fancy goods, silver plated ware and cutlery, paper hangings."[9]

He served as an Inspector for city Ward No. 9 in 1848.[13] In 1853 he served as a judge in the exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association, held at Faneuil and Quincy Halls.[14] French lived in Boston on Edinboro St., ca.1858-1868. Around 1873 he moved with his family to an estate once owned by Samuel Griswold Goodrich in Jamaica Plain. At some point he also owned the Warren house, 130 Warren Street, Roxbury.[15]

In 1874, the business expanded to Chicago.[10] After the old Milk St. shop burned in the fire of 1872, Abram French & Co. moved in 1879 to a new building on Franklin St. at the corner of Devonshire St.[16][17] By all accounts the new shop presented merchandise in a tasteful and remarkably luxurious setting. The firm also exhibited specimens in the 1874 and 1881 exhibitions of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.

As for recreational baseball, in August 1882, the Abram French & Co. baseball team lost to Jones, McDuffee & Stratton.[18]

French died after a sudden illness in January, 1884, at his home in Jamaica Plain, and was buried in Forest Hills Cemetery.[19] He had been married, with seven children.[2] His son William A. French continued the crockery business in his name;[20] as did his grandson, H.C. French (who also dealt chinaware in Chicago in the 1880s with French, Thomas & Co.).[21]


  1. ^ Boston Almanac. 1884.
  2. ^ a b c Abram French Dead; The Old Crockery Merchant Passes Away Unexpectedly at His Home in Jamaica Plain. Boston Daily Globe, Jan 15, 1884. p.2.
  3. ^ Edward Griffin Porter. Rambles in old Boston, New England. Cupples, Upham and Company, 1886; p.125.
  4. ^ "China, Glass and Earthen Ware. Boston Almanac. 1841.
  5. ^ Boston Directory. 1850.
  6. ^ Boston Directory. 1858.
  7. ^ Boston Directory. 1861.
  8. ^ Boston Directory. 1868.
  9. ^ a b Boston Commercial Directory. 1869.
  10. ^ a b Boston Almanac. 1874.
  11. ^ Boston Almanac. 1876.
  12. ^ Massachusetts of today: a memorial of the state, historical and biographical, issued for the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago. Columbia Publishing Company, 1892.
  13. ^ City Directory of Boston. 1848.
  14. ^ 7th exhibition of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association. Boston, 1853; p.52.
  15. ^ Harriet Manning Whitcomb. Annals and Reminiscences of Jamaica Plain. Printed at The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1897.
  16. ^ Abram French & Company; Opening of the New Store of the Firm; Spacious Show Rooms and Choice Goods --Some of the Attractions of the New Establishment. Boston Daily Globe, Dec 16, 1875. p.5.
  17. ^ Boston Almanac. 1879.
  18. ^ Jones, McDuffee & Stratton, 12; Abram French & Co., 11. Boston Daily Globe, Aug 13, 1882. p.7.
  19. ^ Funeral of Abram French. Boston Daily Globe, Jan 17, 1884. p.4.
  20. ^ Harvard College Class of 1865. Secretary's report. 1921.
  21. ^ Harvard Graduates' Magazine. 1901.

Further reading[edit]

  • A Stubborn Fire; Abram French & Sons Partially Burned Out. Firemen Work for Hours Without Effect Until the Water Tower is Used. Loss $100,000, Mostly from Breakage of Fragile Ware. Discovered the Smoke One of the First Victims Ready Fuel for the Flames. Boston Daily Globe; Jun 23, 1885. p. 1.
  • A Big Fire in Boston. New York Times. June 23, 1885; Page 5.
  • Abram French's Loss; Appearance of the Promises in the Morning—The Insurance. Boston Daily Globe; Jun 24, 1885. p. 3.
  • Abram French's New Store; Perfectly Appointed Retail Establishment of Well-Known Crockery Firm Opened at 47 Summer St. Boston Daily Globe; May 15, 1901. p. 5.
  • Receiver Named; Abram French Company to be Wound Up. William A. Gaines, a Creditor, Presents Petition in Court. Does So With the Assent of Company and Banks. Boston Daily Globe; Aug 19, 1902. p. 9
  • Liabilitites are $341,528.; William A. French of the Abram French Company Files a Partition in Bankruptcy. Boston Daily Globe; Dec 9, 1902. p. 9.
  • Quite Complex; Financing of Crockery Firm Surprising. Creditors Hear Report on Abram French Company. Two Receivers for Old and New Concerns. Also a Third for An Officer of the Two Corporations. Management Came in for Much Criticism. Relationship Figured. Sharp Financing. Boston Daily Globe; Dec 12, 1902. p. 7.