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Main and Winchester

Birth place or City of origin:
State of origin: CA
Last known City:
Last known State:
Start/Birth date: 1849
Death/End date: 1912

In November of 1849, two master craftsmen from New England formed a partnership that was to grow into one of the most venerable businesses on the West Coast. Charles Main, a partner in the Boston carriage and harness firm Main and Mayo, sailed from Boston on February 4, 1849 and arrived in San Francisco on July 5, 1849. He tried his hand at placer mining on the South Yuba for several months before returning to San Francisco where he met Ezra Winchester, who had arrived in San Francisco in July 1849.

That year, Charles Main and E. H. Winchester founded the legendary firm of Main and Winchester with their sights set on selling the highest quality horse tacking to clientele who would benefit from the California Gold Rush as well as the prosperous surroundings of San Francisco. M & W was the first saddle shop of any significance on the West Coast and Charles and Ezra were able to profit immediately with the contract for Russell & Major's Pony Express Line in 1860.

The First Directory of Nevada Territory, published in 1862, contains a Main and Winchester ad featuring the building cut, and a listing of ”First Premiums” awarded by the Mechanics Institute in 1857 and 1858 and at the State Fair in 1857 in five categories of goods, including California Saddlery. Other similar ads include awards won at the Bay State Fair in San Francisco in 1860.

As California grew so did M and W developing a stellar reputation for hiring only the finest craftsmen and adhering to rigid standards. Their San Francisco shop also became a training ground for employees who would eventually go on to open their own important firms such as D E Walker of Visalia fame and Al Nolte of Olsen-Nolte. In 1905 M and W consolidated with the other pioneer San Francisco firm of L D Stone before ultimately merging into Keyston Bros in 1912

In November of 1849, two master craftsmen from New England formed a partnership that was to grow into one of the most venerable businesses on the West Coast. Charles Main, a partner in the Boston carriage and harness firm Main and Mayo, sailed from Boston February 4, 1859 and arrived in San Francisco on July 5, 1849. He tried his hand at placer mining on the South Yuba for several months before returning to San Francisco where he met Ezra Winchester, who had arrived in San Francisco in July 1849.

From the first the firm prospered, moving periodically to larger quarters. About 1860 the partners had printed a broadside picturing their building at 68 Battery Street. It shows a three-story building with various articles of harness and saddlery hanging on the outside walls, and crates of merchandise ready for shipment on the street in front. The labels on these cartons provide a graphic picture of how far the firm had come in a decade. They read, J. Tinkham - Guaymas; R.H.R. - Honolulu; M.L.B. (Myron Bird) - Stockton; A.T.N. (Nelson) - Sacramento; and P.J. Pefley - Salem, O. The partners continued to use this cut of their establishment for much of the sixties. Soon after this portrait was done a fourth floor had been added to the structure, and the street numeration had been changed to 214-216. Perhaps the government contracts the firm received to outfit the California Volunteer troops on duty in the Southwest during the Civil War made this expansion necessary.

The First Directory of Nevada Territory, published in 1862, contains a Main and Winchester ad featuring the building cut, and a listing of First Premiums awarded by the Mechanics Institute in 1857 and 1858 and at the State Fair in 1857 in five categories of goods, including California Saddlery. Other similar ads include awards won at the Bay State Fair in San Francisco in 1860.

A description of the firm published in 1868 cited employment figures of sixty men in the saddlery and harness department, and twelve producing whips. Value of commercial production was put at $80,000, nearly half the entire production of saddlery and harness goods in the City. In 1880 the partners expanded into the building next door, the address becoming 214, 216, 218, 220 Battery.

 

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