Avis Stearns Van Wagenen

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Avis Stearns Van Wagenen
Stearns-avis 1901-07.jpg
Born (1841-01-01)January 1, 1841
Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, United States
Died January 7, 1907(1907-01-07) (aged 66)
Syracuse, New York
Citizenship United States
Occupation Company founder
Known for Partner in E. C. Stearns & Company with her brother, Edward C. Stearns
Co-owner of E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency (1893-1899)
Spouse(s) Daniel Mead in 1861,
Matthew V. V. Van Wagenen (born 1839) in 1886
Children Two adopted children
Parent(s) George Noble Stearns (1812-1882) and Delilah Amanda Taylor (born 1816)

Avis Stearns Van Wagenen (January 1, 1841 - January 3, 1907) was a partner in E. C. Stearns & Company, a hardware business, with her brother, Edward C. Stearns in the late 19th century in Syracuse, New York.[1]


Avis Stearns Van Wagenen was the daughter of George N. Stearns (1812-1882), a wagon maker, who also invented several tools and patented many of his innovations including a boring and mortising machine and auger. She was born in Syracuse on January 1, 1841 and was the second eldest of seven children born to Delilah Amanda Taylor and the George N. Stearns.[2]

About 1860, her father began manufacturing his patented devices under his own name and he established himself in a "small but complete works." During 1864, he incorporated as George N. Stearns & Company and relocated to a small building the firm erected at 116 Cedar Street in Syracuse.[3] The company was principally involved in the production of hollow augers.[2]

She graduated from Syracuse High School and taught in public schools in Syracuse but resigned that position to work for her father's hardware firm, finally taking charge of the business in 1877.[1]

Hardware business[edit]

Avis Stearns Van Wagenen (then Mrs. Avis Mead), along with her brother, Edward C. Stearns, assumed the duties of the company in 1877 and a new co-partnership was formed after their father experienced health problems. The company name was changed to E. C. Stearns & Company not long after his death on May 19, 1882.[2]

Bicycle manufacture[edit]

During 1893, the Stearns hardware enterprise ventured into the manufacture of bicycles and went into business as the E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency. In 1899, the company was sold to American Bicycle Company of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[4]

By June 1900, the American Bicycle Company demanded that the founders of the E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency, Edward C. Stearns, Herbert E. Maslin and Mrs. Avis Stearns Van Wagenen, of Syracuse, execute an agreement not to engage in the manufacture of bicycles in competition with A.B.C., who claimed they made an agreement with the Stearns company when their factory was sold to the combination. A.B.C. felt that Stearns was in violation of their contract because the Bretz Manufacturing Company, in which the parties were alleged to be interested, was notified to cease manufacture of both the Regal and Holland and "other machines" which closely resemble the Stearns and Barnes bicycles made by A.B.C. Both the Frontenac Cycle Company and Stearns Cycle Agency of Syracuse were warned against manufacture and sale of the machines, however, E. C. Stearns denied he was connected with the manufacture of bicycles and the Bretz Company also claimed their bicycles were different from the Stearns and Barnes bicycles.[5] The company alleged unfair competition in the lawsuit.[6]

Personal life[edit]

On November 14, 1861, she married Colonel Daniel Mead, a soldier of the Civil War and went to the front with him.[7] She married a second time on November 24, 1886 to Matthew V. Van Wagenen who was born on March 18, 1839 and was the son of Wessel B. Van Waggenen and Lamira Nottingham, both of Syracuse.[1] He was raised on the "old Van Wagenen farm" which was located where Syracuse University now stands.[8] Together, the couple adopted two daughters during their marriage. Van Waggenen was a manufacturer of dump wagons and had 14 patents on the invention. For some time he had been manager of the Toronto branch of the E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency and also of the Empire Cycle Company.[8]

Auburn Wagon works[edit]

After her husband's death, she sold his dump wagon manufacturing business to a group of Auburn, New York "capitalists" including Thomas M. Osborne, Frank E. Swift, Clarence F. Baldwin, Courtney C. Avery, Adolphus H. Searing and Charles Tuxhill. The sale included the machinery, stock and good will of the concern and the business went forward under the name of the Auburn Wagon Works. Courtney C. Avery, formerly connected with the D. M. Osborne Company was named manager. The works, which employed 50 men, opened again for business on March 13, 1905.[9]

Later life[edit]

Avis Stearns Van Wagenen died on January 3, 1907 at her home at 1201 South Salina Street. She was found dead on the kitchen floor of the upper flat where she lived with her daughter, Marguerite Avis Van Wagenen and her son-in-law, Jacob Crouse Tyrell. She had been asphyxiated by gas which escaped from an open burner used in heating water for the bathroom. The death was ruled accidental by Coroner's physician, Archer D. Babcock. The house was filled with gas. She occupied a room off the kitchen and had ignited the gas that evening to take a bath.[7] She was an invalid at the time of her death.[8]

On January 4, 1907, a hearing on her accounts as administratrix of the estate of her husband, Matthew Van Wagenen was held.[7] He died in New York City on January 28, 1905 of Bright's disease and had traveled there for business two days earlier. The funeral was held in the family home at 823 West Genesee Street in Syracuse.[8]

She was survived by two adopted daughters, Mrs. Robert E. Maslin[7] and Marguerite Crouse Tyrrell (died 1913) who was married a second time in 1911 to Dr. James M. Douglas.[10]

Stearns family - Coat of arms - 1901


In 1892, she became interested in the genealogy of the Stearns family through Dr. Bond's Genealogies and the History of Watertown and authored several books on the history of her family who were early settlers in the United States and arrived on the Arbella, Gov. Winthrop's flagship.[1]

Stearns dedicated volume 2 to the memory of Henry Bond, M.D., who was the only son of Henry Bond and Hannah Stearns Bond, who published the first genealogy of the Stearns family in 1855 under the title Genealogies of the Families and Descendants of the early Settlers of Watertown, Massachusetts.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Avis Stearns Van Wagenen. Stearns genealogy and memoirs, Volume 2. Courier Printing Co., Syracuse, New York, July 1, 1901. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c "George N. Stearns". Old Wood-Working Machines, 2010. Retrieved January 1, 2011. 
  3. ^ Boyd's Syracuse City Directory 1879. Andrew Boyd, 1879. 
  4. ^ "Bicycle Brands Home Page". The Wheelmen, 2010. Retrieved January 7, 2011. 
  5. ^ Good roads: devoted to the construction and maintenance of roads, Volume 31. Emil Grossman & Bros., New York, New York, June 1900, pg.4. 
  6. ^ "Trust Forces Fight on Bicycle Makers". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. April 5, 1901. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Mrs. Avis Van Wagenen Found Dead on Floor - Well-known Resident had been Asphyxiated by Gas - Others are Overcome". Syracuse Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. January 4, 1907. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Sticken Dead in New York". Syracuse Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. January 30, 1905. 
  9. ^ "Works Starts To-Morrow". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. March 12, 1905. 
  10. ^ "Mrs. Delia Shew Wins Long Suit". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. November 16, 1924. 
  11. ^ Stearns genealogy and memoirs, Volume 2. Courier Printing Co., 1901. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c d e "Van Wagenen, Avis Stearns 1841-". OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., 2010. Retrieved September 17, 2011. 

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