The Hometown History column is presented by the Fenton History Center and The Post-Journal. Each Friday, a distinct item from the Fenton History Center collections or archival special collections will be featured. Learn about your hometown history through parts of its past.
If one of the items featured brings back some memories or brings up a question, please contact the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or firstname.lastname@example.org to share your memory or get an answer to your question.
By Karen E. Livsey
The Maddox Furniture Company’s promotional give-away was a play on words: a Mad-Ox.
William J. Maddox was a furniture manufacturer in Jamestown. There are probably many homes in this area that have a piece of Maddox furniture even today. The "Mad-Ox" as pictured above was the trademark for this company.
In a biography written about William J. Maddox, there is a statement that he was one of the first in the furniture industry to trademark his products. There was no source given for that statement and no indication as to when he began to trademark his furniture.
Trademarks in the early years protected goods only shipped to foreign countries or Indian Territory. The Trademark Act in 1905 extended trademark protection to interstate commerce. That year 16,224 applications were filed for trademarks. The May 15, 1906, issue of the Official Gazette of the Patent Office (which included trademarks) has on page 1,014: "Serial No. 14,821. TABLES. William J. Maddox, Jamestown, New York. Filed Nov. 20, 1905."
A picture of the Mad-Ox with the description: The representation of an enraged ox, associated with the hyphenated word "Mad-Ox" is included in quotation marks. We now know when Maddox trademarked his tables with the Mad-Ox. This was in the same year that the act was passed that gave trademark protection for interstate commerce, so he was indeed one of the first to trademark furniture for the domestic market.
The Maddox Table Company was started in 1898 in Jamestown by Maddox. He was not new to the furniture industry, having been associated with other firms in Jamestown since his arrival here in 1886. Before Jamestown, he had worked at other furniture companies and had a furniture store in Scranton, Pa. During that time he had invented the reclining rocking chair and had interested Jamestown manufacturers in it. He became part of the Beeman, Breed and Phillips Company which changed to Phillips, Maddox and Company.
His 1891 patent for a "stroke" rubbing machine revolutionized the table manufacturing industry. This allowed the production of a fine wooden table top without the labor intensive hand rubbing and sanding of the wood. With more refinements to the machine, the production of wooden table tops increased, and in 1898 he started the Maddox Table Company. New buildings were established on Harrison Street, and by 1911 almost 400 workmen were employed there. In 1919 Maddox retired, and the firm was taken over by Shearman Brothers, another of Jamestown's long-established furniture makers.
But now back to the Mad-Ox trademark. The item in the above photograph is a metal paperweight made in the image of "an enraged ox" or Mad-Ox. On the bottom is written Maddox Tables. It was probably a "give-away" either at a Furniture Mart event or given to "good" customers over the years. This is one of the Mad-Ox figures that is in the collection of the Fenton History Center. Other ones are larger or wooden. This "enraged ox" was also embossed on the metal shield trademark that was part of the "Maddox Colonial Reproductions" furniture that was a popular line produced by the company.
Mr. Maddox will be a featured story during the Fenton History Center's Mausoleum & More Tour on Sunday at 8 p.m.
The purpose of the Fenton History Center is to gather and teach about southern Chautauqua County's history through artifacts, ephemeral and oral histories, and other pieces of the past.
Visit www.fentonhistorycenter.org for more information on upcoming events.
If you would like to donate to the collections or support the work of the Fenton History Center, call 664-6256 or visit the center at 67 Washington St., just south of the Washington Street Bridge.