William Foster Nye was born 20 May 1824 in Pocasset, Barnstable County, Massachusetts, United States to Ebenezer Nye (1799-1891) and Syrena Dimmock (1801-1872) and died 12 August 1910 New Bedford, Bristol County, Massachusetts, United States of unspecified causes. He married Mary Sturtevant Keith (1824-1904) 20 May 1851 .


He was born in 1824.[1] In 1840 his family was living in Cape Cod. He became apprentice to a master carpenter in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He left New Bedford to construct pipe organs in Boston, Masschusetts. He then became ship's carpenter. The ship took him to India where he worked at an ice house in Calcutta, India. He returned to the United States for the California Gold Rush of 1849. He then returned to New Bedford, Massachusetts to start a whale oil and kerosene business. Whale oil and kerosene were used in lamps for illumination.[2]

He served in the Union Army. At the end of the conflict he worked as a traveling merchant. He was a carpetbagger in Richmond, Virginia.[1][2]

In 1865, he moved back to New Bedford, Massachusetts and worked in the whale oil business. He first worked out of the kitchen of his Fairhaven, Massachusetts home.[3]

Ezra Kelley discovered that oil from the head of the porpoise or a blackfish had the perfect viscosity for watchmaking. Nye and Kelley became competitors in selling the oil to watchmakers.[2]

He died on August 12, 1910 at age 86.[1]


Offspring of William Foster Nye and Mary Sturtevant Keith (1824-1904)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Martha Elizabeth Nye (1852-1928)
Joseph Keith Nye (1858-1923)
Mary Athalia Nye (1862-1894)

Footnotes (including sources)

‡ General


  1. ^ a b c "William F. Nye Dead". Boston Globe. August 12, 1910.,+1910&author=&pub=Boston+Daily+Globe&desc=WILLIAM+F.+NYE+DEAD.&pqatl=google. Retrieved 2010-08-04. "New Bedford Oil Manufacturer Was First Person to Open Store in Richmond After its Capture. William F Nye one of the most prominent oil manufacturers in the country is dead at the age of 86" 
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ "William Foster Nye". Archived from the original on April 18, 2010. Retrieved August 4, 2010.