Cyrus Wakefield

  • Cyrus Wakefield
  • "Although not born on South Reading soil, Cyrus Wakefield has become the unofficial 'father' of the town which eventually bore his name. Born in Roxbury, New Hampshire on February 14, 1811, he was descended from prominent families of the First Parish in Old Reading. His great-grandfather, Thomas Wakefield, was the son of Thomas Wakefield who came to Reading in 1730. An eager young man, Cyrus Wakefield gained his knowledge from the common school in Roxbury, New Hampshire, which was held three months each year. At the age of 15, he traveled to Boston and worked as a clerk in a grocery store for three years. He worked as a clerk for several other Boston stores and took advantage of the opportunities around him. He attended evening school, lectures, and private study and at the age of 23 he established the firm of Foster and Wakefield on Commercial Street in Boston. Two years later, in 1836, he formed a partnership with his brother, Wakefield and Company, which lasted until 1844. It was at this time that he recognized the potential in rattan, generally discarded as refuse. The rattan was accidentally purchased and sold at a profit to a few chair makers who, by hand, made the outside of the cane into seating chairs. The business grew rapidly and led to the dissolution of the grocery business and the continuation of his rattan business in a Boston office. Mr. Wakefield soon found that without machinery, the cost for preparing the rattan was too great. Utilizing a brother-in-law in China, he sent a sample of the cane most in demand and soon his Canton Split Rattan was known throughout the world. The supply soon became sporadic, yet the demand increased and in 1856 he resolved to begin the manufacture of cane in the United States using the whole of the rattan - the cane, the pith, and the shavings. He secured two hand machines and later moved to South Reading in 1856. Eventually water replaced hand power and later steam was added as the business increased. The business soon outgrew building after building;Captions: 1. Cyrus Wakefield in a portrait painted in 1873 by Thomas H. Badger. -- 2. The Wakefield Town Hall donated by Cyrus Wakefield as it looked in 1929.
  • Image from the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department annual calendar, 1989
  • Photos courtesy of the Payro family, Louis Picardi, and the Wakefield Historical Society.
  • [Wakefield, Mass.] : Wakefield Municipal Gas & Light Department


“Cyrus Wakefield,” Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, Wakefield, Mass., accessed May 13, 2021,


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