Edward C. Stearns

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Edward Carl Stearns
Stearns-edward-c 1901-07.jpg
Born(1856-07-12)July 12, 1856
DiedApril 21, 1929(1929-04-21) (aged 72)
CitizenshipUnited States
OccupationEntrepreneur, Industrialist, Company founder
Known forFounder of E. C. Stearns & Co.,
Stearns Automobile Co.,
Stearns Steam Carriage Co.,
E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency
Stearns Typewriter Co.
Spouse(s)Louisa Albro
ChildrenOne adopted son, John Edward Stearns
Parent(s)George Noble Stearns (1812–1882) and Delilah Amanda Taylor (born 1816)
Stearns-edward-c sig.gif

Edward Carl Stearns (July 12, 1856 – April 21, 1929) was the founder of several companies in the late 19th century in Syracuse, New York,[1] including E. C. Stearns & Company, Stearns Automobile Company, Stearns Steam Carriage Company, Stearns Typewriter Company and E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency.


Stearns was born in Syracuse and was the youngest of seven children born to Delilah Taylor and the 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.[2]

Hardware business[edit]

About 1860, the elder Stearns 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]

The business grew quickly, and Stearns was "soon able to send his own traveling men on the road, instead of allowing a few large jobbers to monopolize the sale of his goods."[2] The younger Stearns was the head salesman and during the early years spent much time traveling continually to the "principal cities of the Union."[2]

Second generation[edit]

Stearns, along with his sister, Avis Stearns Van Wagenen (then Mrs. Avis Mead), assumed the duties of the hardware 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.[2]

George N. Stearns died on July 19, 1882, in Syracuse.[1]

Bicycles and automobiles[edit]

When the bicycle first became popular, it was natural that Stearns should take it up "first as a sport and then as a business." After becoming one of the best riders in this "section" he decided to manufacture the new vehicles in his shop at 224 Oneida Street where he had moved the business after his father's death. He soon developed several of the "best selling models of the bicycle era. He employed "noted" riders to "race his product," few of them any better riders than he. His models became so popular they were in demand throughout the world.[4]

By the early 1890s, E. C. Stearns & Company had branched into bicycle manufacturing and formed a subsidiary called E. C. Stearns Bicycle Agency. Stearns, ever innovative, moved to automobile production and built his first automobile in 1899, an electric. The automobile firm sold so few models through 1900 that they reverted to steam power in 1901. The Stearns enterprise was known as Wholesale Bi-steam Carriage Company and Stearns Automobile Company which was also called Stearns Steam Carriage Company.[5]

His son, John Edward Stearns, was secretary of the company in 1929 and had been in "active charge" of the business since the elder Stearns retired several years earlier.[4]

Personal life[edit]

He was an "outstanding" athlete as a boy and young man and was a skillful ballplayer and an "exceptional swimmer." He once swam Skaneateles Lake to "establish the theory" it could be done. He was "absolutely fearless," a good boxer and wrestler, and "delighted in all kinds" of physical competition. He once subdued a husky burglar in his James Street house, holding him until the police arrived.[4]

He was married on January 19, 1881, to Louisa Albro, daughter of John Albro, a "noted" author of Syracuse, and Elizabeth Brewer of New Jersey.[1]

Stearns was a member of the Citizens' Club, Sedgewick Farm Club, Century Club and the Y.M.C.A. Through the Chamber of Commerce and similar organizations he gave much time to public service. He was chairman of the commission that investigated the burning of the Bastable Block in Clinton Square, bringing out recommendations that were incorporated into the city building code.[6]

An active Republican, he "steadfastly refused" to accept nominations for office or appointments that involved holding political office but gave freely of his counsel to party leaders. He was also a trustee of local baseball field, Star Park and for many years a trustee of the Homeopathic Hospital, later renamed Syracuse General Hospital. He was a member of the Onondaga Golf and Country Club.[6]

He had one adopted son, John Edward Stearns, who took over the family business after the elder Stearns retired. In later life Edward C. Stearns owned an automobile dealership.[1]

Stearns died on April 21, 1929. He had just returned from Florida a week earlier, and he and his wife were in "such poor health" that they both decided to enter the hospital for rest and treatment.[7] In October 1929, his estate which he left to his wife and son, was valued at $551,855.[8]

His wife, Louisa A. Stearns, died less than one year later on February 28, 1930, at the family home at 658 West Onondaga Street and left a net estate valued at $459,447. Son, John Edward Stearns, of 108 Sedgewick Avenue, inherited the entire amount. Included in the estate were 3,000 shares of stock of the E. C. Stearns & Company, which were valued at $225,000.[6]

The couple were members of May Memorial Unitarian Church,[6] where Stearns was a trustee for 20 years. Both were buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse.[7]

External links[edit]


  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 d e "George N. Stearns". Old Wood-Working Machines, 2010. Retrieved January 1, 2011.
  3. ^ Boyd's Syracuse City Directory 1879. Andrew Boyd, 1879. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ a b c "Edward C. Stearns, Civic Leader and Pioneer in Bicycle Industry, Dies". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. April 22, 1929.
  5. ^ "1900 Stearns Electric". Early American Automobiles, 2010. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d "Mrs. Stearns Net Estate is $459,447". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. April 6, 1932.
  7. ^ a b "Stearns Rites Wednesday". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. April 23, 1929.
  8. ^ "Edward C. Stearns Estate Value is Placed at $551,855". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. October 17, 1929.