John Rhoads, of Derbyshire, England, came to America in 1699, with his youngest son Joseph, and purchased land in Marple Township, Delaware County (then Chester County), Pennsylvania. On his death in 1701 he left this land to his son Joseph, who according to family tradition established a tanyard thereon in 1702.
Joseph Rhoads died in 1732, and his widow, Abigail Owen Rhoads, continued the business with the help of he youngest son, James. An ancient ledger in the possession of Miss Caroline N. Rhoads, of Bryn Mawr, is full of transactions in hides, bark, and leather on the part of Joseph Rhoads and his widow. In this we find- an entry as early as 1723.
On coming of age, in 1743, James Rhoads inherited the tanning business, as shown by court records with reference to the division of his father's estate.
On the death of James Rhoads, in 1778, his son, Joseph Rhoads, succeeded to the business. The present Joseph Rhoads, brother of the members of this firm, has in his possession a ledger covering business transactions of Joseph Rhoads, 2d, in bark, hides, and leather, from 1784 to his death.
Joseph Rhoads, 2d, died in 1809, leaving the tanning business to his sons, George and Joseph Rhoads—Joseph being the grandfather of the present members of the firm. They carried on the business on the same site until 1861, when it was taken over by Jonathan E. Rhoads, son of Joseph, who carried it on until 1868, when he sold the old homestead and tannery.
The ancestral tanning business was continued by Jonathan E. Rhoads in a tannery purchased by him in Wilmington, Delaware. (1868)
Jonathan E. Rhoads went into business with Thomas McComb, as the firm of Rhoads & McComb, and engaged in currying and the manufacture of leather belting. Near this time he sold his tannery. (1877)
The firm of Rhoads & McComb was dissolved and Jonathan E. Rhoads took into partnership in the same business his son, John B. Rhoads, under the firm-name of J. E. Rhoads & Sons. (1887)
Another son, George A. Rhoads, entered the firm. The firm of J. E. Rhoads & Sons opened a store at 229-33 N. Third Street. Philadelphia John B. Rhoads taking charge of same. (1889)
The store was removed to 229 Market Street. (1890)
The store was removed to 239 Market Street. (1893)
In 1894 a third son, William E. Rhoads, was admitted to the firm, and a year or two later the headquarters of the business was moved to Philadelphia, W. E. Rhoads taking charge of the department of credit and finance, while John B. Rhoads managed the selling department, and G. A. Rhoads the factory at Wilmington, Delaware.
A branch store was opened in New York City. (1906)
Under this arrangement the business grew and prospered, until it was necessary to find larger quarters at 12 N. Third Street, the present location. (1907)
A branch store was opened in Chicago. (1909)
On September 20 the firm met with a severe loss in the death of John B. Rhoads. (1911)
Jonathan E. Rhoads, though remaining a partner, had not actively participated in the management of the business because of his advancing years. On September 14, 1914, after a life full of years and useful service, Jonathan E. Rhoads, then in his eighty-fifth year, was gathered to his eternal reward.
The business is still prospering in the hands of George A. and William E. Rhoads.
1. "J. E. RHOADS & SONS, TANNERS, Philadelphia," Association of Centenary Firms and Corporations of the United States, Second Issue, Philadelphia, 1916, pages 15-17.