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Research Resources For New York City


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#1 AAAndrew

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 13:59

A lot of fountain pen history happened in New York City. A lot of writing implement history of all kinds happened there. (Eagle Pencil Company? Esterbrook Steel Pen Co.?)

 

I've gathered a few resources I use when exploring the Big Apple's history into my latest blog post

 

This includes multiple sources for city directories, such as the NY Public Library's collection. These are fantastic for finding people, connecting them to others (when two people share the same address and are in the same business and were rumored to be working together, you can pretty much guess that they were) and figuring out when and where they moved. I've been able to find missing partners, change the date on founding and dissolution of companies, and all kinds of things from these terrific resources. And there are a lot of them out there. 

 

There are several historical societies and other organizations devoted to the history of New York City. I have had very nice correspondence with some of these. The researchers and curators work there because they really enjoy knowing more about the city, and if you can educate as well as ask, that can really help get a dialogue going. I list a few in the post. 

 

And then there's the actual geography of the city, and the buildings. I'm a sucker for maps, and Iove to look up the addresses I find. I then go to Google Maps and use street view to see what's there. Often, especially in lower Manhattan, the buildings are new, but every once in a while I find something work exploring. If you think you might be looking at the actual building where Waterman had its headquarters for a while, for example, then you want to go to NYC Landmarks Preservation Society web site where you can search any address in NYC and it will tell you all about the building, including when it was built. It's an amazing resource. 

 

I'd love to find other resources that y'all use. If anyone has any other sites or resources for learning about NYC's past, I'd love to hear it.  Thanks!


Check out my Steel Pen Blog. https://thesteelpen.com/ . 

 

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#2 MarcShiman

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 14:09

This is a great post. Thank you. I'm researching pen companies of the NY Tri-State area (NY, NJ, and Connecticut), and there will be a point where I'll have to physically go visit the libraries. 

 

I would suggest that you include New Jersey in your compiliation of sites. This is because Manhattan fire codes prevented pen companies from working with celluloid without a major retrofitting of the factory. Only Waterman and Diamond Point met that standard from what I found so far. Everything else was made in New Jersey and assembled in NY. (New Jersey was anything goes when it came to safety and chemical regulations. its one of the reasons that NJ was the plastics capital of the world in the first half of the 20th century. It also had many, many major fires, "major" being defined as entire city blocks razed to the ground)

 

Examples include Mabie Todd and Eclipse had barrel/cap manufacturing in an enclave of Kearny New Jersey called "Arlington". I found other pen manufacturers with addresses there too. Its not surprising, DuPont's Arlington Works was based there.

 

Esterbrook was in Camden, NJ from what I understand. Or did they start in Manhattan? Eagle was also based in NJ at certain points of its life.

 

Marc


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#3 AAAndrew

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 14:15

Esterbrook started in Philly, but very soon moved their works over to Camden across the river. Then they moved their headquarters to NYC, but the factory was in Camden until almost the end when they moved it to Cherry Hill, NJ for a very short time. 

 

Most of my subjects were pre-plastics as I'm researching steel (dip) pens. But they did tend to move their factories around. A lot started out in NYC when they were small, but then moved to Brooklyn, NJ, or in one case, Mt. Vernon, NY. 

 

Hey, any NJ or CT. sources you recommend, let me know and I'll include them with a thanks. 

 

And seeing Mabie Todd in your profile, you may get a kick out of this. 

 

As part of my series on steel pen history, I'm investigating a short-lived pen maker in the 1840's called C. C. Wright. Spoiler alert, he turns out to be Charles C. Wright, the famous engraver and medallion sculptor. The story from his great grandson says that he was introduced to Thaddeus Davids, the chemist who started making ink in 1825, and together they worked on Wright's pens. (more to come)
 
Well, that led me to follow Davids through the years and when I finally came to the end, the dissolution of his company and paying of creditors in 1890, I found quite a cast of characters. 
 
In an announcement in the 26 Nov. 1890 Buffalo Evening News, it lists a veritable Who's Who of the stationery world as the assignees for creditors who include: The Dennison Manufacturing Company, Eberhard Faber, John W. Carter, James P. Dinsmore, The White, Corbin & Company, John Gibson, George W. Mabie, Jonathan L. Bard, Henry H. Todd, John H. Mabie, Thaddeus Davids, David F. Davids, James W. Todd. 

Check out my Steel Pen Blog. https://thesteelpen.com/ . 

 

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne


#4 MarcShiman

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 15:06

The list of creditors doesn't surprise me, as most North East manufacturers were not vertically integrated like the big Midwest guys - for the most part, every brand out there was an amalgammation of other companies' OEM products. So it wouldn't suprise me that Mabie Todd, Faber, etc were creditors in the form of parts supplies to them.

 

What really sparks me in researching these companies are the ones that never produced a product with their brand name on it - the parts suppliers. There's one clip supplier that is stil lin existance today and obviously DuPont supplied the plastic The big mystery company I'm researching is called Sanite Company or Sanite Corporation in Burlington NJ that seems to have been a major supplier of barrels and caps to pen manufacturers and burned down in 1943.


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#5 AAAndrew

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 15:51

Here's an article on the fire. 

https://www.newspape...sanite_fire_12/

https://www.newspape...sanite_fire_22/

 

The only other newspaper references to Sanite are for Sanite Deoderant and other personal hygiene items. 


Check out my Steel Pen Blog. https://thesteelpen.com/ . 

 

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne


#6 MarcShiman

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Posted 18 November 2017 - 15:17

Sanite had three employees, I don't know if they were ownership or management or what, that held a whole bunch of celluloid patents from the 1930's

 

John Whitehouse

Samuel Neidich

William Mendel

 

the ones assigned to Sanite were largely about pen barrel construction, so I'd have to assume they were making pen barrels for other companies.

 

I need to go to Burlington I think.


HEISERMAN PEN SWAP

 

Dec 9, 2017 - 10-3pm

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#7 AAAndrew

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Posted 19 November 2017 - 12:20

Have you tried the Burlington County Historical Society? They often have a lot of very local information not available elsewhere. 

 

Do you have access to ancestry.com? Sometimes you can learn some things from that as well, but I'd try the historical society first. 


Check out my Steel Pen Blog. https://thesteelpen.com/ . 

 

"No one is exempt from talking nonsense; the mistake is to do it solemnly."

-Montaigne







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