Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
DR. WILLIAM F. DONOVAN. Ability, when backed by enterprising measures and progressive ideas, will accomplish more than any other professional requirement, an illustration of which may be seen in the career of Dr. William F. Donovan, one of the most widely known opticians in the Southwest. He ranks among the leaders in the professional circles of Springfield, and is in every way deserving of the large success that he has attained in life, for he has by his own efforts risen from an environment none too auspicious to a conspicuous position in the professional world. But this is not to be wondered at when we learn that there runs in his veins blood of an excellent old Celtic family, and he has doubtless inherited from his sterling ancestors the characteristics that win in the battle of life.
Dr. Donovan was born in the city of Cork, Ireland, July 16, 1868. He is a son of John and Mary (McCarthy) Donovan. The father's death occurred in Hull, England in 1892. He was surveyor of the board of trade of the British government for a period of more than thirty years. He was also an officer in the Royal navy for a period of more than twenty years, having been a lieutenant. Our subject's mother died when he was an infant and he has little knowledge of her family.
Doctor Donovan attended the common schools and later was graduated from Christian Brothers College in 1883. When a boy he immigrated to America without the consent of his father. He went direct to St. Paul, Minnesota, and there began working for an oculist, remaining in his employ for six months, and then entered the University of Minnesota, near the city of St. Paul, remaining a student there two years. He received funds from his father to defray his expenses while in school there. He then went back to work for his former employer, the "Pioneer" oculist, remaining with him one year, then took a position in the technical department of the Spencer Optical Company, of New York City, remaining there about five years. Desiring to further his optical education, he spent one year in the Philadelphia College of Optics, and then went to Chicago and took charge of the Julius King Optical Company of the Chicago branch, this firm having other branches in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago, the company's headquarters being in New York. After remaining three years with this company in Chicago and becoming exceptionally well equipped for his life work, he opened offices for himself on State street in Chicago, where he built up a lucrative and satisfactory business, remaining there until the opening of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, in 1904, when he came to St. Louis to accept a flattering offer by the A. S. Aloe Optical Company of that city, who had obtained exclusive optical concession at the World's Fair. Doctor Donovan accepted the offer and became general superintendent and head consultant in difficult cases. He remained with this widely known firm until the close of the fair, giving his usual satisfaction and high-grade service.
On February 6, 1905, Doctor Donovan came to Springfield, Missouri, and opened an office at 303 South street, taking the entire floor, and immediately built upon one of the largest businesses of its kind in the Southwest. After a stay of six months it became apparent, because of the crude and unsatisfactory work received in ordering his lenses ground in St. Louis and Kansas City and the necessity of returning them frequently for correction, it was absolutely necessary, if he was to turn out the high-class work, which had already won him an enviable reputation in Chicago and elsewhere, he must install a grinding plant of his own. In September, 1905, an order for the same was placed with the Bausch & Lamb Company of Rochester, New York, and on November 1, 1905, was ground the first lens in southwestern Missouri, and his is still the only institution equipped for lens grinding in southern Missouri; in fact, there are only four other lens grinding concerns in the state. The extent to which Doctor Donovan's private practice has grown is illustrated by the fact that he has on file seventy-five thousand prescriptions for lenses, fitted and ground under his supervision, in addition to this, many lenses for other opticians in this section of the state. An average day's grinding amounts to fifty pairs of lenses. Eight expert lens grinders and one frame maker are employed. Sixteen people are employed by Doctor Donovan to assist him in ministering to the needs of the eyes of the people of the Ozarks., In 1913 he removed from his first location to 306 South street, taking the entire ground floor, his increased business making this move necessary. In May, 1914, he began the erection of the attractive and substantial Donovan building at 420 South Jefferson street, and it was completed the following October. It occupies an excellent site just across the street from the Y. M. C. A. building. It was built at a cost of forty thousand dollars, and its erection would indicate the faith of Dr. Donovan in the future of Springfield.
Dr. Donovan was married on Thanksgiving Day, 1909, to Mary B. Durbin, a daughter of William F. and Matilda (Manning) Durbin, natives of Kentucky, from which state they came to Greene county, Missouri, in 1879, Mr. Durbin engaging in the grocery business on the public square, later removing to a location on South Campbell street. He is now conducting a large grocery store and meat market on College street. Mrs. Donovan was born in Springfield, on September 20, 1885, and here she grew to womanhood and received a liberal education in the Loretto Academy, making a good record, and graduating from that institution in 1900. She was talented by nature as a musician and she devoted special attention to the study of this art, with the result that she is a highly accomplished musician, both vocal and instrumental. Until her marriage she was a leader in the choir of the Church of the Immaculate Conception. She is a lady of culture and has long been a favorite with a wide circle of friends. The union of our subject and wife has been without issue.
Dr. Donovan is a member of the Missouri State Optical Association, of which he is president, the duties of which important office he is discharging in a very creditable and satisfactory manner. Politically he is a Democrat. He belongs to the Springfield Club, the Retail Merchants' Association, the Young Men's Business Club, the Associated Retailers, and he and his wife are members of St. Agnes Catholic church.
Personally Dr. Donovan is a genteel gentleman and he stands high in the circles in which he moves.
Springfield-Greene County Library