Portland Michigan’s Wolverine Soap Company and the “Perfect Washer,” 1890s-1900s
…and then there was the Wolverine Soap Company in Portland.
No, not Oregon…Michigan.
But that’s just a tip of the iceberg.
William Terriff was the man not only responsible for the Wolverine Soap Company, but also many other enterprises. He was born in Ontario in 1866 and grew up on a farm, where he would consistently help his mother with the daily wash. Tired of the tediousness of washing clothes by hand, he thought he’d try to invent a machine that would do the hard work.
After a handful of failures, he hit on the right formula: two washboards that would scrub the clothes between them. Thus was born Terriff’s brainchild, "Terriff's Perfect Washer." Find a Grave's site says Canadians bought his washing machines and couldn’t get enough of ‘em. His success convinced him he could be even more successful in the United States. He moved to Grand Rapids in 1889…but soon discovered that Michigan already had a plentiful amount of washing machines, and therefore he couldn’t find a backer or manufacturer to produces his washer. Terriff eventually met C.J. Warren from Portland, a furniture maker. After some wheelings ‘n dealings, the two came to an agreement and the Portland Manufacturing Company was born in 1890, makers of those fine “Perfect Washers”.
Terriff also had a hand in the Michigan Commode and Cabinet Company, the Turkish Remedy Company, and helped organize the Wolverine Soap Company, makers of fine toiletries and soaps. That company was located on Water Street near Powers Park in Portland.
Aside from all those endeavors, Terriff also financially helped a company that specialized in coffee, spices, and teas. He helped manage it as well until it got back on its feet…but before he bowed out, the company was able to produce some products with Terriff’s name (and face) on the labels.
On July 10, 1913, Terriff passed away at the Oak Grove Sanitarium in Flint due to heart trouble.
Terriff never married, as he was too busy with his enterprises and it’s believed his constant working hastened his heart problems.
Wolverine Soap Company, Portland, Mi.
MORE MICHIGAN STUFF!