Sewing Machine Research
ISMACS International
International Sewing Machine Collectors' Society

Rags to Riches

by Graham Forsdyke
Issue No. 33

HOW DOES a young girl go from having practically nothing to becoming a millionaire and finish up marrying a bishop? Via is the answer to that question.

In 1884 the American Sewing Advance trade magazine told the story of the American Dream thus:

"About the year 1890 a young, prepossessing, modest and determined girl alighted from the coach in Denver one morning.

"She was perhaps 21 years of age and it was evident to those who met her on the occasion of her advent in that then rather vociferous town under the mountain shadows that she had gone west with the intention of growing up with the country, as she evinced a remarkable degree of independence, supplemented, however, by strong womanly qualities which soon established her high in the esteem of all with whom she came into contact.

" She at once made her mission known by canvassing the business portion of the city for an eligible location in which to open up a sewing- machine store.

" The adventuresome young lady had gone out from Chicago as the agent of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and among total strangers and with but her own shrewdness and strong stamina to back her, proposed to win her support.

" It appears that when a mere infant she, with several brothers and sisters, had been left without parents.

" With energetic men in rival establishments to contend with, to open new stores and appoint local agents in remote towns, there not being then a wad of railway in the territory; to keep her own general business going, and at the same time maintain a reputation in a locality where then it was difficult for a single woman, without family support, to do so; these all tried her to the utmost but she rose superior to all the petty and great obstacles, and was soon respected far and wide as it was conceded that she had the right stuff in her.

"Of all things was the one great factor in winning success in those days in Colorado.

" Among the foremost -- if not the foremost -- cattle raisers in Wyoming in those days was Mr. I W Iliff. His herds were numbered by hundreds of thousands and his ranges in Wyoming and Colorado were widespread.

" By some chance, he being a widower at the time, he met the young sewing-machine agent on one of his visits to Denver.

" Courtship followed, and it was not long before were abandoned for family cares. She became Mrs. Iliff and Chyanne became her home.

" Now the wife of a millionaire and removed from the cares and vexations of business life, Mrs. Iliff displayed in a supreme degree those high womanly qualities which, under former trials, brought her so successfully through.

" When Mr. Iliff died leaving his entire and vast cattle interests to his widow and two sons, she became one of the leading cattle dealers in the United States, her income increasing at the rate of from 100,000 to 300,000 dollars per year under her management.

" It quite naturally followed that she should be sought in marriage by adventurers and others, but she withheld their advances and eventually married a Methodist bishop Henry W Warren of Atlanta, Georgia, in 1883.

" The Singer Sewing Machine people had never forgotten the young lady who made that bold strike out into the far west, and have always taken every opportunity that presented itself to pay her great respect and attention that they felt this pioneering lady deserved.

" Shortly after her first husband's death Mrs. Iliff went to Europe, and during her long tour the Singer representatives in every great centre were instructed by the home company to seek her out and do everything in their power to entertain her during her stay there.

" These are but skeleton facts in the romantic life of the once-poor girl who's now one of the richest women in the trans-Missouri region; fuelled by her own industry and native worth, stepped up from poverty to the possession of a fortune estimated above $10 million."