Franklin Eldredge grew up in Ohio, receiving his early education in the country schools, and workied on the farm until 1861, when he went to Cleveland to pursue an advanced course of study. Leaving the Cleveland High School shortly before graduation, he worked in the shipyards of Stephens & Presley, pursuing at the same time a course of study in a commercial college from which he was graduated. Shortly afterward he became involved in the hardware business in Cleveland as a member of the firm of Van Tassel & Eldredge, where his attention was first attracted to the sewing machine trade. In 1866, he entered into a partnership with his brother, who already carried on extensive sales of sewing machines in Detroit, Mich. In 1869 he abandoned the hardware business in Cleveland, and moved to Detroit to become an active partner in the management of the sewing machine business. Their trade extended over a large territory, and they had remarkable success in establishing the Domestic sewing machine then being introduced in the market.
Remaining in Detroit until 1874, Mr. Eldredge then went to Chicago as the general manager of the Domestic Co., having under his control all the territory lying between the western line of Ohio and the Rocky Mountains and all the Southern states. He retained this position until he turned his attention to the manufacture and sale of his own machine.
The Eldredge Manufacturing Co. was organized May 1, 1879, he being its first president. In 1886 the company was consolidated with the National Sewing Machine Co., and the two corporations moved from Chicago to Belvidere, Ill., where they built a large plant for the manufacture of their machines. In March, 1890, Mr. Eldredge became president-treasurer of both companies. The attempt to introduce the new machine on the market encountered fierce opposition. At the very outset infringement suits were brought whenever a pretext could be obtained for doing so, and the defense of these involved great expense and led to serious business embarrassment. The persistence, and courage of Mr. Eldredge at length overcame all obstacles, however, and he was free to give his entire attention to the development of the industry.
From a small beginning in 1879, the business in 1894 had grown to a magnitude in which 500 to 600 people were employed in turning out 60,000 to 80,000 sewing machines annually, the product of which amounted to nearly $1,500,000. The goods were sold throughout the entire world, the plant ranking as the largest sewing machine factory in the West. Eldredge died in Chicago IL.
1994 Vacuum & Sewing Hall of Fame Inductee