William Ball Rice was an American industrialist who co-founded Rice & Hutchins, a shoe manufacturing company with main offices in Boston, Massachusetts. He served as president of the company from its founding in 1866 until his death.
1. Early life and military service
William Ball Rice was born 1 April 1840 in Hudson, Massachusetts to Obed Rice 1810-1890 and Sarah Maria Ball Rice 1816-1895. Rice was educated in the public schools in Massachusetts and apprenticed as a shoemaker in Marlborough, Massachusetts until he reached 21 years of age. Rice married Emma Louise Cunningham of Marlborough on 25 October 1860, and they had four children. From 1861 to 1864 he served in the Union Army as a second lieutenant in Company E, 5th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, serving in Baltimore, Washington D.C. and North Carolina. Between 1865 and 1866, he served as a sales agent to the U.S. military for the L.T. Jefts shoe manufacturer in Marlborough.
2. Business career
In October, 1866 Rice and his partner and neighbor from Hudson, Massachusetts Horatio H. Hutchins began the Rice and Hutchins Shoe Company with sales offices in Boston, Massachusetts and a factory in Marlborough, Massachusetts. By the time of the companys founding, Marlborough had built a reputation in shoe and boot making to supply the Union Army during the American Civil War. In the first twenty years of the company, Rice and Hutchins established shoe factories in Warren, Maine and Rockland, Massachusetts, four factories in Marlboro, Massachusetts, a factory in Boston, and their first wholesale distribution warehouse outside New England in Philadelphia. After Hutchins retired from the company in 1885, Rice led the further expansion of the company by adding more factories in Quincy, Braintree, and Yonkers, New York. He also expanded the distribution capability of the company by opening wholesale houses in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Chicago. He also was responsible for developing international sales by establishing offices in London, Berlin, and Manila. He led the initial incorporation of the company in 1892 under the laws of New Jersey, and later the reorganization and incorporation of the company in Maine in 1905. At the time of Rices death on 21 May 1909, the company was among the largest shoe manufacturers in the United States.
During his career Rice was engaged in a number of civic and philanthropic pursuits. In 1894, Governor Frederic T. Greenhalge appointed him to the governors council of business advisers and he was a major benefactor of the Quincy City Hospital. When Rices wife, Mrs. Emma Louise Rice died in 1934 she left the family home and grounds at 275 Adams St. in Quincy to the William B. Rice Eventide Home, a non-profit, nursing home corporation.
3. The Rice family and genealogy
William B. Rice had four children. His eldest sons Harry Lee Rice and Fred Ball Rice ran the family shoe manufacturing business after his death until they retired and sold the business in 1929. Harry Rice was born 28 July 1862 in Hudson MA, and was married to Frances Austin Manson in 1900. They had three children: William Ball Rice II 1901-1964, Benjamin Manson Rice 1902-1978, and Edmund Rice 1905-1961. Harry Rice died 5 March 1951 in Quincy MA. Fred B. Rice was born 14 July 1866 in Hudson MA, and was unmarried. He died 11 Feb 1933 at the family home in Quincy MA. Rices third son William Ball Rice Jr. died in infancy in 1872. His daughter Mary Sanborn Rice was born 12 February 1874 in Quincy, MA and was married to portrait painter Homer Lane Bigelow 1868-1955 in 1896. They resided at 37 Old Orchard Road in the Chestnut Hill section of Newton, MA and had three children Priscilla Rice Bigelow Trainer b. 1898, Homer Lane Bigelow, Jr. 1899-1967, and Malcolm R. Bigelow 1906-1945.
William Ball Rice was a direct descendant of Edmund Rice, an English immigrant to Massachusetts Bay Colony, as follows:
William Ball Rice, son of
Obed Rice 1810–1890, son of
Matthias Rice born 1708, date of death unknown, son of
Ithamar Rice 1743–1824, son of
Thomas Rice 1638–1681, son of
Gershom Rice 1667–1768, son of
Edmund Rice 1594–1663