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Meet William C. Goodridge, Former Slave Who Went From Barbershop Owner to Real Estate Tycoon

Born a slave in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1806, William C. Goodridge was just five or six years old when he was indentured to Reverend Michael Dunn, who operated a tannery in York, Pennsylvania.


Goodridge received his freedom in 1822 when Dunn went bankrupt, then moved to Marietta, Pennsylvania, where he learned the trade of a barber.  After returning to York in 1824 opened his own barber shop and soon diversified, selling candy, cosmetics, jewelry, and toys. There, too, he manufactured “Oil of Celsus,” his own treatment for baldness, which he marketed to barbers in more than a dozen cities, including Philadelphia.

Goodridge then opened an employment agency, began to invest in commercial and residential real estate, and in 1842 opened his own freight service, the “Reliance Line of Burthen Cars”. Cementing his position in York.  In 1847 built Centre Hall, a five-story commercial property in the center of town.

By the mid-1840s Goodridge had joined William Whipper and Stephen Smith in nearby Columbia as the wealthiest African American businessmen in south-central Pennsylvania.


Written by PH

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