From delivery boy to manufacturer


William Williams was Hillsboro H.S. graduate

By Isabella Warner - For The Times-Gazette



This photograph, circa 1935, shows women working at Williams Shoe Company in Portsmouth.

This photograph, circa 1935, shows women working at Williams Shoe Company in Portsmouth.


Courtesy photo

Former Hillsboro businessman William W. Williams was a man of wealth and a successful entrepreneur in the then-rapidly industrializing city of Cincinnati. Williams founded the Williams Shoe Company and served as president and manufacturer of the business for several years.

Unusual for the time, Williams was also a kind and reasonable employer to hundreds of young factory workers and also donated to local charities.

Williams was born in Hillsboro, Illinois in 1873. However, he spent most of his childhood in Hillsboro, Ohio, where he attended public school. After he graduated from high school, he immediately set to work as a grocery delivery boy. He later worked as a clerk at a shoe store, where he worked his way up to a managerial position in Hamilton, Ohio. Around that time, he married Lenora Dunlap in Cleveland. He had one child, Robert Dunlap.

Williams recognized potential in the men’s shoe market, and set about organizing his own company in Cincinnati to support his growing family.

The Williams Shoe Company prospered in its first years of establishment. Several factory locations housed about 200 workers each, many of them young women and children, as was the practice of the time. Williams sent merchandise to 32 states and employed eight travelling salesmen to promote his products. Business was booming for Williams and his family. Records indicate that the Williams Shoe Company made $60,000 in 1913, an amount equivalent to $1.5 million today.

In 1935, Williams announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for United States president. During that time, Williams was attempting to start a business in arch-support footwear in New York City. There is little known about his campaign for a Republican Party presidential nomination. It’s likely that Williams dropped out of this race very quickly upon realization that he was not suited for the position, and his announcement is only recorded in local newspapers.

Williams was intelligent and innovative in the field of men’s footwear. Despite only a high school education, Williams was able to reach such distinction and affluence that he considered running for president. He did not receive the Republican Party’s support, and his business later suffered greatly during the Great Depression. Despite that, Williams was a generous and kind-hearted man who gave back to his community and achieved great influence during his time as a Cincinnati businessman.

Information for the story came from online sources.

Isabella Warner is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

This photograph, circa 1935, shows women working at Williams Shoe Company in Portsmouth.
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2020/10/web1_Williams.jpgThis photograph, circa 1935, shows women working at Williams Shoe Company in Portsmouth. Courtesy photo
William Williams was Hillsboro H.S. graduate

By Isabella Warner

For The Times-Gazette