home > about us > company history page 2

Fran carried the thought downstairs to his wife. Mary Hagerty agreed that the project had possiblities--starting a discussion of ways and means what was to occupy the couple and their friends for weeks. The idea which was to turn a random speculation into a thriving business first appeared at one of those give-and-take sessions. Why make it a ladderback chair? Why not make it a copy of an authentic New England colonial ladder-back? Why not find an original ladder-back to reproduce and then sell the kit as a copy of a genuine, Early American antique? With this idea the Hagertys had, as the saying goes, found their gimmick.

During 1953--five years after the night that John's wails started something in the Hagerty household--Cohasset Colonials by Hagerty sold approximately 10,000 prefabricated kits of Early American furniture. The fact that the Hagerty line now embraces twenty-six different pieces with an average sales price of almost fifteen dollars an item suggests the scope of the Hagerty enterprise; the circumstances that Fran and Mary operate the only mail-order business of its kind, that when they started they knew little about Early American furniture and nothing about colonial craftsmanship, and that they had practically no experience in selling anything by mail, make this whole project a somewhat implausible story.

Before following the Hagertys as they turn back 200 years of history in order to launch a very modern business, a little personal background is in order. Though both Fran and Mary insist that they would welcome competition in their particular field, any parallel venture would run headfirst into some unique problems. The young and energetic Hagertys may owe some of their success to the very innocence with which they approached their challenging enterprise, but they were, in other ways, admirably equipped to put Early American craftsmanship to work in a twentieth-century setting.

To begin with, both the Hagertys are born-and-bred New Englanders, which gives them squatter's rights to that possessive pride and interest all Yankees have in the artifacts of the colonial period. Mary Connolly was born in Newton, a Boston suburb, and was teaching in the Newton public schools when she married Fran in 1944.

Francis Hagerty, who is now thirty-nine, is also a native Bostonian. As a boy, Hagerty spent his summers around Cohasset and Scituate, picturesque harbor towns some twenty miles southeast of Boston, where he became a knowledgeable handy man around the fishermen's dories. After graduating from a Boston high school, Fran studied naval architecture and marine engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. By the end of the third year young Hagerty's marks were so low that he decided to anticipate the inevitable and strike out for himself.

Previous | Next