With the tree’s name, you might assume it was discovered by a man named Bartlett. But story is not nearly so simple. The variety was actually discovered growing wild in England by John Stair sometime around 1770. He sold some cuttings from his discovery to a nurseryman by the name of Williams, who commercialized the tree and named it after himself. So the Williams pear was born (and many Europeans still know it by this name).
When the variety was brought to America in the late 1790s, it lost its European identity. The first import was planted on a property in Massachusetts that was thereafter acquired by Enoch Bartlett. Mr. Bartlett enjoyed the pears but was unaware of the tree’s European name. According to Pears of New York (1921), Bartlett “allowed the pear to go out under his own (name).” The American Pomological Society added the Bartlett pear to its list of fruits in 1848, leaving Mr. Stair forever forgotten.