Wm Ayres & Sons Inc Horse Blankets 5/A

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Wm Ayres & Sons Inc
The Home of George Ralston Sr. & Laura Hayes Ayres of Philadelphia – Image: Bryn Mawr College

William Ayres of Wm Ayres & Sons Inc, was born 27 March 1820 in Moreland Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He married Elizabeth DeArmand Chambers, who was apparently born in Trenton, New Jersey.

He was the brother of my great-grandfather. He is listed in the 1850 U.S. census as married and with two children, living in the home of his in-laws, occupation: merchant. He is listed in his own home in 1860 in Philadelphia. In fact, by then he has all five of his children, and the mother-in-law is with him—his father-in-law apparently having died.

Further Insights

Wm Ayres & Sons Inc
Wm Ayres & Sons Inc Business Card Front

Ayres in 1860 is listed as a hardware merchant. That would not seem to suggest horse blanket manufacture was his primary trade, but it doesn’t prohibit the possibility. In 1870, hardware merchant, and in 1880, manufacturer. So it may be he was in horse blankets early on. Or he may have slid into that occupation sometime after 1870. Certainly this would have been the case before 1876, as that was the year of the Exhibition, in which the Ayres family had an exhibit.

William, the father, died 10 September 1881, so his life was rather short. He is buried at Woodlands Cemetery in Philadelphia, though I have never seen his grave, or even had it photographed.

Wm Ayres & Sons and After

Wm Ayres & Sons Inc
Wm Ayres & Sons Inc Business Card Reverse

Like most men, he involved the males in his household in the business, most notably his eldest son, George Ralston Sr. Ayres, along with John Chambers Ayres, William “Montgomery” Ayres, and Louis Harlow Ayres, his other sons. George was the holder of the 1887 Patent No. 17,864 for a horse sheet (careful how you say that) of plaid design. He also died young, on 09 December 1890, of Typhoid Fever. He is buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, quite a lovely location.

His son, William Graham Ayres, became a partner in the firm, along with Montgomery and Louis, and they made considerable money, as can be seen by their bankruptcy sale in 1921. They were given $319, 667 – a tidy sum for those times. Now Louis had fathered two children, both girls. Montgomery had only one I am aware of, again, a girl. John had died years before, without providing a partner for the firm—his two sons seem to have been geographically elsewhere, and gone in for other things.

What Else Happens?

Wm Ayres & Sons Inc
Wm Ayres & Sons Inc Patent P. 1

This leaves the sons of George Ralston Sr. Ayres available to eventually re-awaken the firm, if that was to be. George Ralston Jr. Ayres was in the bankruptcy in 1921, and his son appears to have been basically a well-to-do, but unsuccessful, mechanical engineering buff. There is one other possibility for bringing the firm back: Walter Chambers Ayres.

Walter had two sons, one Ned Irish Ayres, who died in the first decade of the 20th century. The other, though, was George Ralston III Ayres. He lived until 1981. Why are we trying to determine if there could have been a re-awakening of the Wm Ayres & Sons Inc firm? Because it seems quite likely that is what happened.

Wm Ayres & Sons Inc
Wm Ayres & Sons Bill-of-Sale

There was a firm called Ayres-Philadelphia, Incorporated, a manufacturer of horse blankets, which finally stopped paying taxes about 1982.

Now considering the death date of G.R. Ayres III, in September of 1981, it is at least possible the timing is more than coincidence. If anyone has information to this or other effect, please contact me and let me know, won’t you? Meanwhile, enjoy the images connected with this remarkable family.

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31 thoughts on “Wm Ayres & Sons Inc Horse Blankets 5/A

  • Louisa Preston

    We were clearing attic junk out of parents attic. Found plastic bags with wool blankets. One has a label “Robe William Ayres & Sons Philadelphia 5A. A beautiful plaid with fringe at ends in excellent condition. Not a robe or a horse blanket.

  • Jacqui

    I just found a beautiful blanket, labeled 5A with a circle around it, and under it is written “Robe 100% ALL WOOL, William Ayres & Sons, Philadelphia.” The tag and the blanket does not seem to be that old- certainly not early 1900s. I am happy to send a picture if it will help in your research.

  • Linda Simpson

    I am the proud owner of a Wm Ayres and Sons blanket. Blue/red plaid, fringed edges, excellent condition. Given to me by my father, a Philadelphia native born in 1932. It serves as our family’s picnic blanket.

  • Sue Spilsbury

    I have a 5A robe tagged William Ayres & Son. It is a subtle red and green plaid with corded fringes, but has holes in it. I am elderly, and if I pass on, I doubt my heirs will recognize the quality of the fabric. If it were donated to Goodwill, it will be thrown into the dumpster because of the holes. I would like to send it on to someone who would repair it and care for it. S. S., New Orleans

  • Gail Smith

    I have a blue and black plaid wool blanket with fringe that my father gave to me back in the 70’s. He told me that it had been used to keep warm in old cars that had poor heaters . It was old when he gave it to me but it is still in great shape. The label reads:
    Wm Ayres & Sons Philadelphia 5A Motor Robes ..The Standard..

  • Jane Willis

    My small blanket is mostly brown, with green, white and red plaid. My father used it in his car as a picnic blanket or if a passenger was cold. Its label reads, ” Wm Ayres & Sons Inc, Philadelphia, All Wool Robes. With the 5A logo on a circle.

  • Deborah Cobb

    I am trying to find information on my paternal grandmother’s father William Blair Riley. He was a manufacturer of horse blankets in the Philadelphia area around 1880-1910. I don’t know the name of his company. He made a great deal of money and left enough behind to provide for 4 generations. If you can supply any information I would be grateful.

  • Bill Clagett

    My uncle, born in 1912, gave me a robe before he died. Still a beautiful almost new looking, fringed. It is dark blue on one side and a blue, gold and off white plaid on the other. The label is located on the lower right corner of the plaid side with
    Wm Ayres & Sons Philadelphia circled 5A MOTOR ROBES The Standard.

  • I am in possession of a beautiful (what appears to be) leopard print blanket. Tag says WM. AYRES & SONS PHILIP MOTOR ROBE, with 5A in a circle. One corner has some fraying. I can’t find any info on it. Age, value? Thank you.

  • Geraldine Reed

    My great grandmother was Malinda Ayres. Wonder if any connection to this Ayres branch. Her father was John H. And was age 26 in 1850 according to the census. I have two of these blankets.

    • Hi! I have an extensive listing in my AYRES file. I list no one that meets the description of John H. or or Malinda. However, there were something like six AYRES groups that came to the U.S. The oldest, I believe, was in New England. Mine came to Pennsylvania. But there were apparently two independent groups that came to different areas in PA. At least one AYRES group is in the South.

  • Brian

    Today I found a plaid Ayres blanket in its original plastic bag at Goodwill for $3. It is light blue, white, and reddish brown. High-quality, no holes or damage. The previous owner took very good care of it.

    • That sounds like a great find. I’ve been hearing some of the Ayres’ was bought out yet continued to produce for a while. Any idea of a date of manufacture? I’d like to know more about the later developments.

  • I have a 5A solid maroon blanket that my parents received in 1943 when they were married. We’ve used it during our almost 52 years of marriage. It’s about 74 years old, still beautiful and in good shape. It has the “William Ayres and Sons” Robe and Philadelphia 5A wording on the silk label. It’s nice to know some things were made to last.

    • Your comment makes me feel good concerning my ancestors. Yes, it’s nice to know that some, at least, were interested in providing a quality product for the profit they sought. Thank you for your kind remark.

  • Christine Simons

    My great grandfather was William Graham Ayres. He died in 1934. I don’t know anything about the Ayres & Sons Co. except that my mother used to drive us by the shop from time to time and would remark that that was Grandfather Ayres’ shop. There was a large wooden horse with a blanket on it in front of the shop. This was probably in the 1950s. I believe it could have been in Bryn Mawr. Not sure because I was young.

    • That makes us distant cousins. I sent you an email. I hope you will respond. I have just a ton of AYRES information to share with you, and hope you have some to share as well. I’m not exactly sure when the shop was sold.

  • Jennifer Ayres

    Thanks for writing this. My great Grandfather was William Graham Ayres and his son William Graham Ayres was my grandfather. I knew they were the owners of the Baker Blanket, which use to be THE blanket for horse owners. Glad to see horses were an integral part of my history. Makes it easier to explain to my husband why I have such an affinity for them.

  • cinda roudebush

    My family owned a Saddlery company in Columbus, OH, founded in 1857 and closed in 1994 (due to my fathers stroke). We did business with Wm Ayres and Sons for many, many years. When I was born the company sent me a wool carriage “robe” in dark blue with a light blue circle style applique of my monogram, 1942. I still have this beautiful carriage robe.

    From around 1965-1976 our salesman was Jim Summy. The plaid fabric was referred to as “Baker Plaid”. They were the BEST blankets. They also made 100% wool Coolers, which are used to cool a horse down after a workout. The wool fabric was essential to the cooling of the horse. As new fabrics developed with new “space age” materials, I am sure the demand for Ayres products lessened. I left the company in 1976, married and moved out of Ohio.

  • James Herrera

    I just scored a Wm. Ayres & Sons 5A lap robe at Goodwill. It’s mostly dark blue with a green, white, and red plaid going through it. It needs some minor repairs. I had never heard of the maker before and that’s how I find myself here. I think it will live in the car during the winter. Would love to know more about the company.

  • Jack Rice

    My wife just found a Wm. Ayres 5A blanket in a chest from her parents’ home..The blanket is a beautiful blue-gray plaid with fringe at the ends. The tag says Wm. Ayres and Sons, Philadelphia Pa, Standard Quality 5A… Then there is a small white tag below the Ayres tag that says Made in Italy?

      • Gail Saunders

        This information is so interesting to me! I have a beautiful dark blue & red plaid blanket that belonged to my late father, who was born in 1918. I think it must have belonged to his parents, who both died young, and he had it when he married my mother in 1945. As a very young child, I remember always seeing that blanket in the house and always loved it. It is very good quality wool with fringe. The label has the circle logo with 5A and the name Wm Ayers and Sons. I would love to know how old it actually is! I am so glad to have something to connect to my father from his early life, and his parents, who are the grandparents I never got to meet… I always knew the blanket was special, and now I know it for sure. Any other information you have would be much appreciated.

  • Lesa Teepe

    I have a full size horse cooler, white with ted plaid, corner tag says Ayres Blanket People with a circle logo. Received the blanket with my first horse in 1979. It was always trunk stored and rarely washed all these years. Recently I brought it in and gave it a wash and goodness the softness is remarkable. Enjoying it across the sofa! Is it likely to be vintage?

  • Lois Flinkman

    Back in 1980 I began working at Ayres in Philadelphia till they went out of business a few years later. The building where the horse blankets were manufactured was located at H and Westmoreland Streets. It was a 2 story building, with a large water tower. I was a sewing machine operator. My job was to use a double needled sewing machine, to sew the 2 girths on the horse blankets. At times I ran other sewing machines there. I was a binder applying the trim over the outer raw edges of the blankets. I also ran a tacker, which secured the girths, so they couldn’t be ripped off. The second floor was where the blankets were cut (using patterns) from bolts of material. Each horse blanket was composed of 2 parts, the right and left side of the blanket. After cutting, the 2 halves were sewn together (down the back.) Also on the second floor, long rolls of the strap material were cut to certain lengths, and hardware was secured to each strap, thus making a girth. The first floor was occupied by various sewing machines. Near the front of the building was an area where each completed blanket was inspected for errors, folded, and placed in clear plastic, boxed, and ready for shipping. Also at the front of the building were restrooms, the office occupied by the owners who ran the company, and the time-clocks employees punched starting & ending their shift. One of the employees was a sewing machine repair man who fixed all equipment when needing repairs. It was a small business. 1 person cutting blankets, 1 person making girths, 2 sewing on girths, 2 binding blankets, 2 tackers, 2 inspector/packers, 1 supervisor overseeing all operations, 1 sewing machine repairman, 1 working in shipping/receiving, 1 person working in the office. A total of 14 employees working for the 2 owners. If you are interested in more details please contact me using my email address. I can provide information about how the business was run, what I learned about the owners, and what the final days were like.

  • Tracy O'Leary

    I attend estate sales as a hobby and resell items I find interesting. I have luck selling vintage wool blankets, so when I found a throw recently, I thought I’d try it. The label was one I didn’t recognize and would love to get historic info on it if possible? It simply states William Ayres & Sons Philadelphia All Virgin Wool 5A. The blanket is royal blue and red plaid with yellow and white accents. It does not say Robes on it. Is this a newer blanket or older? It measures 56″ x 68″ Any info would be appreciated!

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