William M. Pratt, the founder of the Goodell-Pratt Company, served on the Board of Directors of the Millers Falls Company from 1931 to 1946. A third generation tool man, he built his business on the basis of his financial acumen rather than an intimate understanding of tool production and design.(1)
Josiah Pratt, William M. Pratt's grandfather, was the first of three generations of Pratts involved in tool manufacture. He was born in Mansfield, Massachusetts, on January 17, 1802. His father, a carpenter and farmer, moved the family to Buckland Center where Josiah became involved in making axes at a local blacksmith shop. Josiah liked the work, and at age twenty-one, in Stansted, Quebec, he assisted with the construction of the province's first trip hammer—a large, mechanized hammer commonly used in forging wrought iron and steel. He returned to the United States and eventually relocated to Charlemont, Massachusetts, where he set up shop in 1832 and was issued United States Letters Patent No. 6,989X for an axe-making machine. Using a trip hammer, he manufactured a variety of axes and edge tools, making scythe snaths as a side line. The substantial output pf his business was valued at $7,087 in 1832—a considerable sum for the time. Josiah Pratt stayed in Charlemont for eleven years before moving his operation to site with better water power in Shelburne Falls. Perhaps the most prominent of the Connecticut Valley's early axe makers, he was especially noted for the quality his cast steel products. He and his wife, the former Catherine Hall, were the parents of eight children. When Franklin J. Pratt, the first of their two sons, joined the family business, it was renamed Josiah Pratt & Son. When the second, Francis R. Pratt, joined the business, it became Josiah Pratt & Sons. Josiah Pratt retired from the tool business 1865 and died in 1887.(2)
Francis Roscoe Pratt, the second son of Josiah Pratt and father of William M. Pratt, was born in Charlemont, Massachusetts, in 1835. When the family moved to Shelburne Falls in 1843, he enrolled in the Shelburne Falls Academy and on completing his education went to work in his father’s axe-making enterprise. He left the family business at age twenty-seven to take a position with W. H. Maynard & Company, a Shelburne Falls tool manufacturer. In 1867, he moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, to work in the office of Maynard’s wholesale grain dealership. Shortly afterward, Maynard’s tool manufacturing operation became H. S. Shepardson & Company, a producer of such hardware items as braces, bits, awls, chisels and farm tools employing thirty-seven men.
Francis Pratt returned to Shelburne Falls in 1872 to take up a position as superintendent of H. S. Shepardson & Company. When Shepardson died in 1876 and the firm was sold to H. H. Mayhew, Francis Pratt stayed with the operation, adding the title of manager to that of superintendent. He became the firm’s assistant treasurer in 1886, and on Mayhew’s death in 1894, company treasurer. When his son, William M. Pratt, purchased a controlling interest in Albert Goodell’s Goodell Tool company in 1907, Francis Pratt became its vice-president. The elder Pratt also served as a director of the Pratt Drop-Forge and Tool Company, an entity created by his son when he assumed control of Ducharmes & Company in Shelburne Falls. In 1913, Francis R. Pratt funded the construction of the Pratt Memorial Library building in Shelburne Falls. The structure was dedicated to memory of his parents, Josiah and Catherine Pratt.
Francis Roscoe Pratt married Lydia Taft. The couple had one son, William M., the founder of the Goodell-Pratt Company.
Born in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, on August 13, 1867, William M. Pratt graduated at age sixteen from the Arms Academy, the local secondary school. He moved to Pukwana, a small town in central South Dakota in 1884 and worked there as editor and publisher of the Pukwana Press and as cashier for the Bank of Pukwana. The following year, he accepted a cashier position at the Case & Whitbeck Bank in the nearby town of Kimball. Life on the prairie must not have been to the young man’s liking for he returned to Shelburne Falls in 1890 to become secretary of the H. H. Mayhew Company, the hardware manufacturer where his father served as manager and plant superintendent. William Pratt did not stay with Mayhew long. He moved to Greenfield in 1892 to become a sales representative for the Wells Bros. Company, a tool producer that would eventually become Greenfield Tap & Die.
In 1895, William Pratt purchased a fifty percent stake in Goodell Brothers, a Greenfield manufacturer of braces, drills, screwdrivers and small hardware items run by Dexter W. and Henry E. Goodell. With the purchase, he became treasurer and manager of the operation. In 1898, he purchased the remainder of the business and renamed it the Goodell-Pratt Company. Pratt began an aggressive program of expansion—buying or acquiring controlling interest in smaller companies and purchasing product lines from others. The Goodell-Pratt Company grew to the point that it would boast that it manufactured and distributed a line of “1500 good tools.” The onset of the Great Depression, however, doomed the operation. It was merged with the Millers Falls Company in 1931, and William Pratt became a member of the Millers Falls board of directors, serving for a number of years as an international sales representative.
William Pratt married Emma C. Richardson, and the couple had two children, Ethel A. and Francis W. An avid outdoorsman, Pratt pursued his interest in hunting and fishing with a passion, providing an interesting contrast to another of his hobbies—stamp collecting. For a time he served as president of the First National Bank of Greenfield. He died in Greenfield, September 26, 1946.