Biography of James M. McCarthy

Owner of the McCarthy Dry Goods Company, founder and president of the Woonsocket Trust Company, James M. McCarthy has been an important and familiar figure in the life of this city for many years.

He was born at Providence, Rhode Island, on May 7, 1858, a son of Dennis J. and Rose (McEvoy) McCarthy, of that city. Both parents were born in Ireland, the father in Killarney, the mother in Lonsford, and the former was a stevedore by trade.

James M. McCarthy received his education in the public schools of his birthplace, completing the high school course in 1874, and later entering Nicolet College in Canada, where he was graduated in 1879. When his academic training was finished, Mr. McCarthy started for the Black Hills of Dakota with that characteristic spirit of independence which he has displayed throughout his entire career. He got no further than St. Louis, however, where he found himself stranded and in need of work. After considerable difficulty he obtained a position as clerk in a dry goods store where he worked for a year to obtain money necessary to return home. Arriving in Providence he again obtained a position as clerk in a dry goods store, where he remained until he made his first independent venture in business at Cranston, Rhode Island, establishing a dry goods store in 1884 in partnership with David Hunter. This not proving as successful as he had hoped, the following year he returned to Providence and took a position as a clerk; but eventually he established what is today the McCarthy Dry Goods Company, at Woonsocket. Mr. McCarthy first came to this city in 1889 and soon had his dry goods enterprise under way. Maintaining the highest standards of excellence both as to quality of product and service, he built his business to prosperous proportions as the demands on him constantly increased. He was careful to guard against the dangers of over-expansion, following principles of sound business operation, and as a result he was soon forced to enlarge his establishment to care for the growing trade. Today the McCarthy Dry Goods Company is the largest enterprise of its kind in this section of Rhode Island, and employs an average of one hundred and twenty-five people. An entire building is necessary for the operation of the business, the company occupying six front floors and eight back floors. This enterprise has been directed personally by Mr. McCarthy since its establishment, and its success is a tribute to his business ability. He is the executive head of the firm, the other officers being: William A. McCarthy, assistant treasurer; and Charles E. McCarthy, secretary.

Mr. McCarthy has by no means confined his activities solely to the direction of his dry goods company. Realizing the need and opportunity for a sound banking institution, he founded the Woonsocket Trust Company in this city, and has been the only man to occupy the office of president. He is also president of the Blackstone Valley Transportation Company, and both these enterprises owe much to his able direction of their affairs. Mr. McCarthy has also given his ability freely in the public service. In 1887, at Providence he was elected a member of the school committee of that city, and recently Governor Pothier appointed him police commissioner of Woonsocket, and in this important office he is giving the people of the city a progressive, efficient administration of the finest type.

In politics Mr. McCarthy supports principles and candidates of the Democratic party, while fraternally he is affiliated with the Catholic Knights, and the Knights of Columbus. He worships with his family in the faith of the Roman Catholic Church. Mr. McCarthy has contributed most generously of his time and substance in the support of worthy charitable and civic movements, and his benevolence is always extended to those in need.

James M. McCarthy married Mary E. Prosser, born at New Bedford, Massachusetts, a daughter of Lorenzo D. and Bridget (Conroy) Prosser of that place. Several children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. McCarthy, as follows:

  1. Rose, who married Thomas Sharkey.
  2. William.
  3. Lorenzo, a priest of the Roman Catholic Church and president of Providence College.
  4. James M., Jr., a doctor of Woonsocket.
  5. Mary E., who married Judge Raphael L. Daignault, (see biography elsewhere in this work).
  6. Irene, the wife of Edward Mee.
  7. Charles.
  8. Anna, wife of Joseph O’Donnell.
  9. Genevieve, who lives at home with her parents.

1 thought on “Biography of James M. McCarthy”

  1. Hello,
    My name is Denise Allen. I am researching the McCarthy’s Dry Goods and Department Store when managed by Mr. William McCarthy in 1934 – 35. Around this time period we have documentation suggesting that he contracted with Mandeville and Sforzina (M&S) to modernize portions or perhaps all of the Store. I am specifically looking for pictures, papers, designs, the contract agreement, etc.

    For your context, I’m preparing to donate a Special Collection on behalf of my grandfather, a frenchman, Mr. Edgard Sforzina (1881 – 1941). He came to New York City in 1923 while an employee of Lucien Alavaoine, Rue Caumartin, Paris and after graduating from “L’Ecole des Arts Decorative”. In the United States today we would say he graduated from a university’s School of Design and Architecture and that he worked as an Industrial Designer. He was fortunate. He worked doing what he loved and as such, designed the look and feel of interior spaces and furnishings for several famous homes and buildings.

    What I am searching for is any documentation that provides some evidence of the work done by M&S in Woonsocket. For example, items that describe or show their work; its scope, scale, and work products. I am interested to know what the impacts were, if any, on the store or the city as a result of their modifications, etc.

    I have documentation stating that there were issues with the work done by Mr. Mandeville and that Edgard drove up to speak with “Mr. Wm McCarthy” personally on (or about) Sept 5, 1935 to work with him directly to make the situation right. The only other remnant we have of his time in Woonsocket, is a small humorous piece of artwork; a self-portrait of himself “dueling” with a lobster. It show’s his sense of humor through art.

    I am very grateful for what ever your organization may be able to share about their work for the Store, or if you could point me to someone or an organization that could. I hope to hear from you and appreciate your time in following up on this request. Thank you very much.

    Denise Ellison Allen

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