About Us


Our History

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From Gas to Electric Light

tl_files/FE_2010/photos/supporting/old-business-card.jpgYoung Jim Ferry’s dreams of an accounting career evaporated when he was only 17 and his father died suddenly. Becoming the family bread-winner overnight, he supported his mother and three other children by selling magazines, household products and groceries.

An uncle convinced him that he needed a better job, so Jim signed on at Jones and Laughlin Steel Company as a crane operator. Just three-and-a-half years later he was an electrical foreman in charge of four mills. Jim left J&L when he was passed over for a promotion, believing he could do better elsewhere.

He joined an electrical contractor who was converting many of the homes in Moon Township from gas to electricity. With much of Pittsburgh still bathed in gas light, Jim Ferry could see a future for himself.

On his 21st birthday, he worked up the nerve to form a partnership with an acquaintance, and they set out on their own. Although the partnership lasted only five months, Jim’s goal remained. In 1926, he started his new business, "James J. Ferry, Electrician," with a $160 loan for which his mother signed using her furniture as collateral.

jj ferry, jr ferryJim found his first customers by walking the neighborhoods of Pittsburgh’s South Side, knocking on the doors of homes and businesses that had no electrical wires stretching from the utility poles out front. He signed his earliest contracts for converting homes from gas to electricity at dining room tables in the glow of gaslight. In just six months, Jim added his first employee, Butch Zeigler, the brother of his closest friend. A few months later Walter Thomas joined the young company and, except for a short spell during the Depression, stayed throughout his life. In 1928, Jim registered his business as "Ferry Electric Company".

Jim Ferry looked for more opportunities – and found them. These were boom days in Pittsburgh, and buildings were going up everywhere. His sales calls included new home developments. Before long, he and his men were working for some of the largest developers in Pittsburgh.

The building boom ended overnight when the stock market crashed in 1929. Like other Pittsburghers, Jim found work when and where he could. He paid off the family’s grocery bill by remodeling a neighborhood grocery store at night. As the country’s economy slowly recovered, so did his fledgling business.

In 1936, the worst flood in Pittsburgh’s history swept through the city. In the aftermath, it seemed to Jim Ferry that the entire city needed to be rewired. Working 10 to 20 hours a day for months, he and his men helped rebuild Pittsburgh, rewiring hundreds of residential and commercial buildings.

In the years that followed, commercial and industrial work became the company’s staple. Ferry Electric Company provided the electrical installation for one of Pittsburgh’s first shopping malls, Whitehall Shopping Center. And during a 10-year period, the company completed more than 20,000 projects for the local electric utility, Duquesne Light Company.

Jim Ferry’s business philosophy has always been straightforward: develop a reputation for reliability, provide quality work and the finest service, and keep your customers satisfied. Guided by these principals, the company is in it's third generation. Founder Jim Ferry once recounted his company’s early days and reflected, "It’s been great watching this business grow, but believe me, we had a very, very small beginning."

Jim distinguished himself in his civic activities. He served on the boards of ten organizations. For decades, he was a trustee of the joint IBEW/NECA Committee for Health and Welfare and on the Committee for Labor Negotiations. In 1968, he received one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on a Catholic layman when Pope Paul VI named him a Knight of St. Gregory. In 1978, he was named the Electric League’s first Man of the Year. The League noted in the award presentation "Jim was chosen for his vast experience, incomparable integrity and dedicated concern for the continuing growth of the electrical industry."

About Our Founder

JJ Ferry, Founder

JJ Ferry, Founder

Born on the South Side in 1905, James J. Ferry was the only child of Margaret Lavelle Ferry and James H. Ferry, both Irish immigrants.  Jim left Duquesne Prep School at the age of 17, when his father died suddenly.  He went to work in the J&L mill to support his mother and two other children his parents were raising.  There he learned to be an electrician.  At the age of 21, he started his own electrical contracting firm, Ferry Electric Company.

With his wife Edna Reiber Ferry, Jim raised a family including James R, Jean (Comber) and Janet (Thomas Palumbo). Each of whom went on to raise families of their own.

Jim Ferry spent his entire professional life committed to the electrical contracting industry.  His peers and union leaders, with whom he worked, elected him for many decades as a Trustee of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local #5 Pension and Health Insurance Plans and as a member of the Labor Negotiating Committee for all union electrical contractors in Western Pennsylvania.  He was past President of the Electric League of Western Pennsylvania and was selected as its first Man Of The Year in 1978.  He was also a past member of the board of directors of the National Electrical Contractors Association and the Pittsburgh Builders Exchange, and was an early member of the Home Builders Association.  In 1969 he was elected to the Academy of Electrical Contracting, honoring the nation's foremost electrical contractors.

1945 - Jim Ferry and wife Ellen Reiber, with their children, Jean, Janet and Jim.Jim served his community as a director on many boards.  These included Elizabeth Seton High School, Lyman Savings & Loan Association, Three Rivers Bank and Trust Company, Rosalia Maternity Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital, Jefferson Health Systems and Robert Morris College.  In 1994 he received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Robert Morris College for his history as the longest serving Trustee, of known record, for any Institute of higher learning in the country.  He also received the Duquesne University McAnulty Service Award, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Joan B. Rodman M.D. Memorial Award for outstanding overall dedication in the fight against Cystic Fibrosis.   He was a member of the Duquesne Society of Duquesne University and the Century Club of Distinguished Duquesne Alumni, South Hills Country Club, Seven Springs Club, the Press Club of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Club.

An avid football fan, he was the longest continuous season ticket holder of record for the Pittsburgh Steelers football club.  His support dated back prior to 1933 when the football club was first formed as the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Active in the Pittsburgh Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church, he served for many years on the Bishop's Advisory Council, the Catholic Institute of Pittsburgh, the boards of the Catholic Youth Association and Catholic Social Services.  Jim was actively involved with the former Toner Institute For Boys and the DePaul Institute for the Sensory Handicapped.  He was past President of the Pittsburgh Serra Club and was founder of the Mission Dinner to support the Pittsburgh Catholic Missionaries working in Peru.   His greatest honor came in 1968 when Pope Paul VI named him a Knight of St. Gregory, the highest honor bestowed on a layman in the Catholic Church.  He was an active member of St. Germaine Parish in Bethel Park since its founding and in the forming of St. Germaine Harbor housing for the elderly.

Historial Documents

A Full Service Electrical Contractor - covering Commercial, Institutional and Industrial customers in Western PA for over 85 years.

We install and service Electrical, Power, Lighting, Renewable Energy, Back-up and Emergency power, Voice, Data, Fire Alarm and other related systems in new and existing buildings.

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