John H. Purdy, founder and present head of this house, was born
at Bath, Steuben Co., N. Y., on April 4, 1835. His father was a
painter, and with him John partially learned the painterís
At the age of nineteen, he began to learn the trade of repairing
watches and jewelry, under an indenture of three years, at $35 a
year, with board and washing. From these earnings, in two and a
half years Mr. Purdy saved twenty dollars, with which he
purchased his first entire new suit of clothes. In this same
suit he was married, four years later (1859), at Mount Pleasant,
Iowa, to Mary E. Gregg, of Bath, N. Y.
In 1856, Mr. Purdy engaged as a journeyman watchmaker at
Addison, and afterward at Penn Yan, N. Y. In 1859, he went to
Des Moines, Iowa, and in connection with S. C. Goodwin engaged
in the jewelry business. In 1864 this partnership was dissolved,
and Mr. Purdy carried on the business alone, under the name of
J. H. Purdy & Co.
In 1865, having sold out to Plumb Bros. he came to Chicago and
for ten years was engaged as a commercial traveler for Chicago
and New York houses.
January 1, 1875, Mr. Purdy formed an arrangement with Charles
Wendell, at No. 170 State Street, whereby he was enabled to
travel in a few of the Northwestern States, and sell on his own
account, as the firm of J. H. Purdy & Co., dealing in a complete
line of tools and materials for watchmakers and jewelers.
In 1880, a partnership was formed with Leopold Stein, under the
firm name of J. H. Purdy & Stein, who commenced business at the
present location, Nos. 125-27 State Street. On February 21,
1883, Mr. Stein withdrew, leaving Mr. Purdy sole owner of the
business. It is now conducted under the name of J. H. Purdy &
In order to show the increase in the business of this house, it
is but justice to state that in 1884 their ledger shows sales to
nearly fifteen hundred customers, located in thirty-four States
and Canada. Mr. Purdy has two sons, Fred, who is engaged with
his father in business and Charles S.