“I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” topped the Billboard chart as the most popular song of 1909 followed closely by “Shine On Harvest Moon.”
Movie goers were flocking to see D.W. Griffith’s, “His Duty,” starring Mary Pickford; and book readers, primarily women, were buying Gertrude Stein’s, “Three Lives,” making it the most popular book of the year.
In that year, the Pearl Harbor Naval Base was built and the NAACP was formed. Instant coffee and Bakelite were the big inventions of the year and John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil became the world’s first billionaire.
The life expectancy in 1909 was 47 years and the average wage was $12.98 for a 59-hour work week. Sugar was a mere four cents a pound and a Kodak Brownie box camera cost just one dollar.
It was believed by many that the period from 1900 to 1909 was the most innovative and productive decade of the 20th century. Though the latter part of the century saw tremendous strides in communications and technology, there can be no doubt that in the first decade of that century innovation and production became the hallmark of one South Paris resident by the name of Perley F. Ripley.
The first car that Ripley bought ran for a season and then he decided to sell it. According to, “A Story of Maine Pluck,” by Arthur G. Staples, Ripley is quoted as saying, “I had a customer pretty well landed. He was backing and filling and I knew that he wanted that car overmuch and that’s the time to sell it and that’s the man for a customer.”
The customer lived in Andover, a considerable distance from South Paris by 1900 standards and a long trip for Ripley. In exchange for the car he received a three-year-old colt and a pair of big, seven-foot oxen. The trade was the easy part; the hard part was getting the colt and the oxen to South Paris.
According to Staples, Ripley hitched the oxen together with twine and led them and the colt on foot to Rumford Point.
“I got supper at Rumford Point; traded with a man to drive the oxen in the next day and started with the colt, leading him to South Paris. Forty mortal miles it was between Andover and my dooryard. I fairly stumbled in along daybreak and that colt was just able to totter.
“I got the oxen in a few days; traded them; sold the colt and got a good thing. THAT’s an automobile trade! But the trek through the night, leading a colt, trailing two oxen walking mortal slow; edging them along, stumbling on the way was unforgettable. But that’s partly how I made a start. And I was only a boy in the trade game at that!”
The boy, bitten by the sales bug, grew into the young man who convinced his friend and barber, Herbert Fletcher, to combine their finances and open an automobile dealership. In 1909, the Ripley and Fletcher Company became a Ford Motor Company franchise and is now the oldest, continuous Ford dealership in New England.
Perley Ripley died in 1945 leaving a legacy of good business and civic mindedness behind. Members of the Fletcher family remained involved in the business for many years.
A few other owners held the business over the years and in 1976 Harold Jones, of North Norway, who is still the owner of the company, purchased Ripley and Fletcher. Son Grant Jones is the president/general manager; daughter, Jinger Duryea, is the vice president; and son, Kurt Jones, is treasurer.
The building, still in its original location, has seen many upgrades with a total renovation project of both interior and exterior completed in 1989. Ripley and Fletcher have 31 employees in their sales, service and body shop departments.
A lot has changed since 1909: Music can be downloaded on iPods, movies can be streamed directly to your television, and sugar costs way more than four cents a pound. But, how Ripley and Fletcher does business has not changed very much since Perley Ripley open the doors.
When Tracy Knight, sales manager, was asked why she thought Ripley and Fletcher has been so successful for 103 years, her response was, "This is a small community and our customers are our friends and neighbors. We treat them fairly and honestly and they come back again and again. That’s what Perley Ripley did and that is what Ripley and Fletcher still does.”