From postcards, to war planes, to vacuums — C.U. Williams was entrepreneur

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By MICHAEL BUSHNELL
Northeast News
February 1, 2017
The Big Blue River starts in southern Johnson County, Kan., where Wolf Creek and Coffee Creek meet south of Stanley to form the Blue River. It meanders lazily in a northeastern direction toward the state line, through Martin City, then turns north, skirting the eastern boundary of Kansas City toward its destination, the Missouri River. Along the way, it collects waters from both Brush Creek and Indian Creek.
Lewis and Clark referenced the Blue in their diaries during their westward exploration in 1804:
“We set out early, the river falling a little, the wind from the S. W. Passed the mouth of a Small river on the L. Side above the upper point of a Small Island, called Blue Water River, this river heads in Prairies back with the Mine River about 30 yd. wide.”
In this C.U. Williams “Photoette” postcard published around 1910, we view the tranquil river as it flows through Swope Park. A trademark of Williams’ postcards was the decorative writing style that described the view on the card and the trademarked Photoette process he used.
Williams was a prominent businessman of the time and owned a variety of businesses in the Bloomington, Ill., area in addition to his picture postcard business, among them an automobile dealership and a manufacturing company that made oil heaters for homes and businesses. The Oil-O-Matic heater was widely known as the most satisfactory oil burner in America at the time. During Wold War II, Williams’ company manufactured gears for anti-aircraft guns, and its employees actually sponsored an Army Air Corps P-47 fighter plane in support of the United States war effort. For that effort, the company was awarded the Navy’s E award for excellence.
In 1945, the company merged with the Eureka Company of Detroit and was renamed Eureka-Williams Corporation. It began producing vacuum cleaners. In 1974, A B Electrolux of Sweden purchased the company. Today, the Williams company is still alive and well and manufactures products under the banner of Electrolux Home Care Products North America.

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