Inventor and Manufacturer of "Terriff's Perfect Washer." Two curving washboards rubbing the clothes between them took out the dirt built by the Portland Manufacturing Company in Portland, Michigan circa 1890.
William was the son of Katherine Durrell and James Terriff.
"Michigan Trust Company Will Administer Estate. William W. Terriff, a prominent business of Portland, Ionia county who died in July leaving an estate estimated at $150,000 made a will in September 1903, naming the Union Trust company of Detroit as executor, In December 1904, he made another will with some slight modifications in the bequests and named the Michigan Trust Company in this city as executor. Upon his death in July the Union Trust company produced the first will and its petition for administration was acted favorably by the Ionia County Probate Court. The second will came to light a few weeks later ant the Ionia court has set aside its first appointment wand the Michigan Trust company will have the administration. By the terms of the will, the estate is divided into fifty six parts and apportioned among brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews living in Canada. The shares are not given outright, but to the Michigan Trust Company in trust to be paid in installments to the heirs named.
Sept 17, 1913 Grand Rapids Press
"W. W. Terriff, of Portland, Mich., was born on a farm near Guelph, Ontario, July 16, 1866. His antecedents on both sides were Scotch, his father being a native of Aberdeen, Scotland. After leaving school he worked in a dry goods store in a country town, later accepting a position as timekeeper in the shops of the Midland Railway, then located at Port Hope; then went to Rochester, New York, finding a position in a large department store. When living at home, he was called upon to assist in doing the family washing, from which he conceived the thought of inventing a washing machine. After several experiments and disappointments, he scored a success, and after securing his patent and selling a large number of machines, he sold his Canadian right and secured a patent in the United States. In September, 1889, he came to Grand Rapids, but found washing machines more plentiful here than in Canada and they seemed almost a drug on the market. He tried to interest several manufacturers in and around Grand Rapids, but none could be induced to even make machines for him at a given price, until he met Mr. C. J. Warren, of Portland, who was at that time making furniture in a small way, and with whom he succeeded in making a contract for a given number of washers at a given price, while the inventor exploited the territory. After about six months selling
machines and territory in Michigan, a stock company was organized in Portland for the manufacture of the machines, under the style of the Portland Manufacturing Co.
Mr. Terriff engaged with the company at a salary of $50 per month and 25 cents royalty on each machine, he to go on the road and appoint agents; but after ten months he returned home, only to find the stockholders discouraged and on the point of abandoning the enterprise, but Mr. Terriff made them a proposition to continue for another year and give him the entire management, without compensation other than his royalty. This they accepted, and at the end of the first year a cash dividend of 20 per cent. was declared, with one-half of the company's indebtedness paid off. At the end of the second year, he handed them a cash dividend of 50 per cent. and all indebtedness paid. The next year the stockholders received a cash dividend of 100 per cent. and the stock is now worth 500 cents on the dollar and no one willing to sell at that. The Portland Manufacturing Co. is now one of the largest and most successful washing machine factories in the country.
The reasons for Mr. Terriff's success are not difficult to understand. Before he was an inventor, he was a salesman, and understood the tribulations of the chap who solicits orders for a washing machine. Unlike most inventors, he has remarkable ability in the management and exploitation of his device or product, and can handle successfully a business which has strewn the country with wrecks in the shape of dismantled and abandoned manufacturing plants, and win success where others have achieved only failure. He is also one of the organizers of the Portland Furniture Co. and a stockholder in the Michigan Commode and Cabinet Co.
Mr. Terriff was one of the original organizers of the Wolverine Soap Co., but had no active part in its management, but when the soap business was on the point of collapse, he bought out the other stockholders and now has the management of the company, which paid a dividend of 65 per cent the first year, and there is every prospect of the stock being even more valuable than that of the Portland Manufacturing Co.
Mr. Terriff is comparatively a young man, and his remarkable record is due wholly to the exceptional executive ability with which he is endowed, and he is looked upon as one of the shrewdest business men in Michigan.
Source: Family Tree Legends.
Obituary of Wm. Terriff
Portland Observer - Thurs. July 10, 1913
DIES IN SANITARIUM
William W. Terriff, Head of Enormous Soap and Remedy Business Expires in Flint
LEAVES FORTUNE OF $160,000
A Remarkable Business Man Who Came to Portland in 1888 and Made a Success of Everything He Undertook.
William W. Terriff, capitalist, manufacturer and patentee of Terriff’s Perfect Washer, wholesale dealer in soaps, remedies and toilet articles, and a businessman of extraordinary ability, died at the Oak Grove sanitarium, in Flint, Monday afternoon at 4:30, after having reached that institution only about two hours prior to his death in company with John B. Hecox and Floyd Todd, of
Portland. Mr. Terriff’s death was due to a long illness from rheumatism and organic heart trouble, which had greatly weakened his vitality and the final
summons came following a chill and sinking spell. Many times during his illness he had rallied from similar attacks, but his vitality had been weakened to such
an extent by the trip to Flint that the sanitarium physicians were unable to cope with his condition and death resulted.
In the passing of Mr. Terriff Portland loses a citizen who made a success of every local business move on which he embarked.
He came to Portland in 1888, at which time he was engaged in selling agents’ territory for washing machine
which he had patented and which was being manufactured in Canada. The following year he organized the Portland Manufacturing Co., manufacturers of washing machines and various other articles, but his enterprise-appeared to be a failure until the manufacture of all articles except the washing machines was eliminated. The company was capitalized at $4,500, and when Mr. Terriff was
granted a royalty on each machine he pushed the business to its utmost capacity and dividends of as high as ___ percent were paid to stockholders. He soon made an improvement over the Perfect Washer and called it
the “Greenville”, this machine being manufactured in Greenville for many years.
Mr. Terriff retired from active management of the company several years ago, when the capital stock was increased to $25,000 for the manufacture of power washers, although he had recently taken up the sale of the gravity washer
patented by E. L. Goodwin of Portland.
In 1900 Mr. Terriff bought the plant of the Portland Soap Co. at 40c on the dollar, and although the business was a failure under former managements he made a complete success of it. The local plant manufactures laundry soap
exclusively, but Mr. Terriff soon delved into the toilet soap and toilet article business, and today his products are sold by 8,000 agents throughout the country. In 1904 he organized the Turkish Remedy Co., being associated with
A. L. Thomas, of Chicago, and this business has also been a decided success under his management.
Mr. Terriff had amassed a fortune conservatively estimated at $160,000, a portion of which was on deposit in Canadian bands and invested in Canadian lands, although he is known to have purchased a large amount of United States
government bonds a few years ago. He was a director of the Maynard-Allen State Bank, in Portland and a man of influence in financial matters.
Mr. Terriff was born in 1867 on a farm near the village of Wingham, Huron county, Canada, and was of Scotch descent. In a booklet entitled” Twenty-Four Years on Hustling in The Washing Machine Business Under Two Flags,” Mr. Terriff
tells of his ups and downs, his achievements and his success; how he helped his mother in the old-fashioned days of washing, and how he conceived the idea of
making a machine that would do the hard work which in those days was accomplished only by hand. The book tells of many failures and reverses in the washing machine business and the final success, and is interesting from cover to cover. These have been distributed among his agents from coast to coast.
Mr. Terriff was a tireless and diligent worker in all of his enterprises, and it was due to his constant attention to business that he brought on an organic heart trouble in his younger days, from which difficulty he had suffered at
irregular intervals since. Dr. Alton, the attending physician, says Mr. Terriff’s death might have occurred at any moment during the past 15 years.
Mr Terriff never married. He was a member of Portland lodge No. 331 F. & A. M. although he seldom attended the meetings on account of other business. His last
illness dates back to the end of March. He had only recently returned from a sanitarium at St. Louis, where he received benefit, but his condition took a sudden turn for the worse about two weeks ago, and it was deemed imperative to remove him to the Flint institution Monday. Messrs. Hecox and Todd left for home at the patient’s suggestion. In less than two hours after their departure
from the sanitarium, Mr. Terriff breathed his last.
Mrs. E. Biggar, of Toronto, Ont., a sister of deceased who has been at her brother’s bedside in Portland for several weeks, left for Flint Tuesday morning and accompanied the remains from that city to Drayton, Canada, where funeral
services were conducted Wednesday afternoon. Besides Mrs. Biggar deceased is survived by two other sisters, Mrs. Battey and Miss Mary Terriff, both of Toronto. Two brothers, John Terriff of Toronto, and James A. Terriff, of Gravelburg, Sask. also survive.
Community: Drayton Township: Peel Township (Concession 11, Lot 1) Locality: Wellington County Municipality: Mapleton Province: ON GPS: 43.76514, -8066270
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