Jump to content

The Fountain Pen Network uses (functional) cookies. Read the FPN Privacy Policy for more info.  To remove this message, please click here to accept the use of cookies



Announcement: New Privacy Policy
Please note that as of today, May 25, 2018, a new Privacy & Cookie Policy is in force, compliant with the GDPR. By continuing to use FPN, you accept this new policy.
You may find the new policy by clicking the button or link at the bottom of each page called "Privacy Policy", or alternatively by clicking below:

New Privacy Policy
***** The FPN Admin Team *****





Photo

Early Esterbrook History - Back To The Roots

esterbrook history family

  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 AAAndrew

AAAndrew

    (Not so) Wee Timorous Beastie

  • FPN Supporter - Rhodium

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,413 posts
  • Location:Durham, NC
  • Flag:

Posted 21 April 2018 - 18:51

After having re-read the Jean Esterbrook thread, I was inspired to do some delving of my own back in the Old Country. I reached out to the fine folks at the Liskard History Museum in the town in Cornwall where Richard was from and asked if they had any information. I received a nice note back with some interesting tidbits which I thought I'd compile into what else I've figured out and share it with you all here. 

 

The first thing that pops up is that the Esterbrooks really liked "Richard" and "Mary" as names. The Richard Esterbrook who was the founder of the company here in the US, is often called Richard Esterbrook Sr. and his son, who was first to the New World and brought his dad over, is commonly known as Richard Esterbrook Jr.  The confusion begins to set in when you realize that there was a Richard Esterbrook before "Sr." and another Richard Esterbrook after "Jr." who was also often called "Jr." 

 

So, let's start in Liskeard Cornwall. A small town in Northeast Cornwall, just about a 30 minute drive west of Plymouth. In 1778, the first Richard Esterbrook was born in the parish and married Mary Anne Oliver. At some point he moved just down the road to the small hamlet of St. Austell. It was here that Richard (Sr.) Esterbrook was born in 1813. At some point they moved back to Liskeard where Richard (Sr.) married Mary Date from Travistock in West Devon, (where the Esterbrooks are first found in the 17th-century). By 1841, Richard Esterbrook (Sr.) was running a Bookshop/Stationer at 20 Pike St. in Liskeard. The building, just down from the museum, is currently a travel agency. He was still there in 1851, but gone by the 1861 census, though he still owned the bookshop. In the collection of the museum are posters dated 1844, 1848 and 1850 showing Esterbrook as the printer. This means that Esterbrook was like most stationer/bookshops of the time, he also did printing. 

 

He eventually sold the bookshop in 1866, the same year in which he dissolved the original partnership with Cadbury and Bromsgrove, and formed R. Esterbrook & Co. with his son, Richard Jr. who had just turned 30 that year. (Sr. also voted in local Liskeard elections in 1861 and 1863/64. So, he hadn't completed severed ties with this home, despite becoming an American Industrialist.)

 

Speaking of Richard Jr., he was born in Liskeard in 1836. The nice person at the museum found the deed of sale for the shop in 1866 and said that someone, no identification of who or when, had placed a note in along with the deed which says, "Richard junior was apprenticed to a well known pen and nib manufacturer and eventually emigrated to America and set up business on his own account ….with great success.. The firm he founded, still in existence, the Esterbrook Corporation, is a firm of international repute but particularly in the USA of the standing of the Parker Pen and Shaffer Pen companies." The reference and comparison to Parker and Sheaffer tell me that this was a 20th-century, fountain pen reference, perhaps in the 40's? There's no indication where the info on the apprenticeship came from. But it leaves a key question unanswered. 

 

Was that Richard (Sr.) who was really a Jr, or Richard Jr. who was really Richard the Third? (can understand why you'd not want to be known as that)  If we look at the date, apprenticeships traditionally started when one was 13 or so. That would have been c. 1826 for Richard Sr., or c. 1849 for Richard Jr. My guess is that it was Richard Jr., not Richard Sr. In 1826, the pen industry was in its real infancy in Birmingham. Only a few years earlier, Gillott was tempering his pens in a cast-iron skillet and selling them in boxes he packed personally. It's highly unlikely that someone would have come all the way from Cornwall to do an apprenticeship with a relatively new and small industry way up in Birmingham. But by 1849, the industry is growing tremendously, and it's much more likely for this to happen. This could also help explain why Richard Jr. would have left instead of sticking around to take over the family business. It was not uncommon for apprentices, after finishing their proscribed time, from taking off and seeing other ways of doing the same work, or looking for fresh fields away from where they did their apprenticeship. John Turner, later founder of Turner & Harrison, and possibly one of Richard Esterbrook's skilled workmen from Birmingham, went to France after his apprenticeship. 

 

So, Richard Jr., assuming he actually finished his apprenticeship, would have completed his time around 1855. Just in time for him to come to Canada and the US and try and get his father to come over. Fortunately for us, his father left his shop behind, but, prudent man that he was, he didn't sell it right away. He kept a second basket for some of his eggs until it was clear the new venture was going to work after all. 

 

By 1858 they had their factory in Camden and offices and warehouses in Philadelphia. The rest is history, that has been told elsewhere. 

 

I just wanted to fill in some of the early history that has been so foggy up to now, at least for me. There are still many gaps, like how Richard Sr. ended up with a bookshop, or if Richard Jr. did finish an apprenticeship, and if it may have been some of his friends who were the skilled workmen his father supposedly brought from Birmingham? I always assumed that being in the stationery business, Richard Sr. had contacts in Birmingham, which is how he got the workmen. Now, it's possible that Jr. came to the US to find out how pens were made here, realized that we didn't really know what we were doing, and that there were only a couple of people making pens here, so had the idea to bring Birmingham here and start their own factory along "modern lines."

 

If I find out more, I'll let you know. 

 

Andrew 

 

 



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


Sponsored Content

#2 Tom Heath

Tom Heath

    Collectors Item

  • Premium - Ruby

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 931 posts
  • Location:Wind Gap, Eastern Pennsylvania , USA
  • Flag:

Posted 22 April 2018 - 21:24

Andrew

Thanks for that important part of History.


penfancier1915@hotmail.com

 

Tom Heath

 

Peace be with you .   Hug your loved ones today


#3 _InkyFingers

_InkyFingers

    Collectors Item

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,416 posts
  • Location:San Jose, CA USA
  • Flag:

Posted 22 April 2018 - 21:36

I think it was retold in the tv series.."Days of our steel pen life".


Thanks for the most informative reports...there are gaps in your history rpt which we will read after a short commercial break.

#4 PaFitch

PaFitch

    Vintage

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 480 posts
  • Location:Michigan
  • Flag:

Posted 23 April 2018 - 23:43

Good stuff. This information is interesting and provides pieces for further filling in the history of Esterbrook.

 

"Richard junior was apprenticed to a well known pen and nib manufacturer and eventually emigrated to America and set up business on his own account ….with great success.. The firm he founded, still in existence, the Esterbrook Corporation, is a firm of international repute but particularly in the USA of the standing of the Parker Pen and Shaffer Pen companies."  Of course--we've always known Esterbrook was of a standing with Parker & Sheaffer!



#5 AAAndrew

AAAndrew

    (Not so) Wee Timorous Beastie

  • FPN Supporter - Rhodium

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,413 posts
  • Location:Durham, NC
  • Flag:

Posted 14 May 2018 - 17:05

More information. 

 

In my first post above, I took the Esterbrooks' history back to Liskeard, Cornwall and Richard Esterbrook Sr.'s stationery story and bookshop. I mentioned that I was in contact with a volunteer there at the Liskeard Museum. Well, they sent me some photos so I thought I'd share some. 

 

Frances, my contact, confirmed that the current store is the original building from Esterbrook's time. It's at 20 Pike St. and is currently a travel agency. When Frances moved to Liskeard in 1969, it was an independent bookshop which it remained for many years, and prior to that, it was a branch of the large bookseller and stationer WH Smith. 

 

Here's a picture of the street courtesy of Google Street View. 

 

fpn_1526313567__bookshop2sm.jpg

 

 

And here's a view of the shop from Frances. 

 

fpn_1526313557__bookshop1sm.jpg

 

 

 

I had mistakenly said in the last post that Richard was born in St. Austell. I derived that from a baptism certificate. It turns out that St. Austell was where the nearest Friends Meeting was located, so where the baptism would have taken place. (The Esterbrooks were all members of the Society of Friends, aka Quakers). I found his actual birth record and it says he was born in Liskeard and his father was a pattern-maker. 

 

fpn_1526314146__richard_sr_friends_birth

 

 

His father, also Richard, is buried there in Liskeard in the Quaker cemetery. Frances sent a few pictures of that as well. 

 

fpn_1526313578__cemetery1sm.jpg

 

 

 

It's a bit overgrown and under-maintained, but it is periodically cleaned out. 

 

fpn_1526313602__cemetery3sm.jpg

 

 

 

And Richard Sr.'s father (the real Richard Sr.) is buried there. He died on 2 Feb. 1846. The headstone says "2nd of 2nd Month 1846"

 

fpn_1526313586__cemetery2sm.jpg

 

 

 

In Jean Esterbrook's story captured in the pinned thread, she mentions Tremedon as the Esterbrook home. Truffle Finder was going to look for the Tremedon hamlet to find where the Esterbrooks had lived. Well, I have some more information and can somewhat clear up that mystery. 

 

First off, Tremeddan is a grand house in Liskeard, not a hamlet. My source in Liskeard could find no connection between the Esterbrooks and the real Tremeddan House which was built between 1760 and 1811 and was originally called Tremeadow (Tree in the Meadow) House. Instead, in the 1841 census, we find Richard Esterbrook and family doing what most shopkeepers of the time did, he was living on the same street, if not in the same building, as his business. His address is listed as Pike St. This makes more sense. There's no evidence that Esterbrook made a huge pile of money in his stationery/printing/bookshop, at least not enough to buy a large, fancy house like Tremeddan. 

 

When Richard Jr. had made an actual pile of money, and built his grand house on the Hamptons in Eastern Long Island (Bridgehampton, to be exact), he named it Tremedden, which would have been the name of the grandest house growing up in his native Liskeard. 

 

Here's an old plan for Tremeddan House. 

 

fpn_1526313625__tremeddan1.jpg

 

 

 

Here's what Tremeddan House looks like today. 

 

fpn_1526313640__tremeddantoday.jpg

 

 

And here's what the US Tremedden, Richard Jr's house, looked like back around the turn of the century. The house itself was built between 1877 and 1882 and was torn down during the Depression when upkeep on such a mansion would have been horrendous. 

 

fpn_1526313649__tremedden_in_us.jpg

 

 

 

After leaving Cornwall in about 1852 or so, Richard Esterbrook kept a house there and registered to vote in local elections. He is recorded as voting up to 1864. Before leaving he had registered his dwelling as Pike St., where his shop was, and afterwards, he registered his dwelling as Dean Terrace, a set of terrace homes built between 1838-47 by the town's architect Henry Rice. 

 

fpn_1526313614__deanterracesm.jpg

 

 

Richard originally moved to Canada and I find him first in Toronto, but he later moved to Galt, outside Toronto near Waterloo. The Quakers kept meticulous records and we have mentions of Richard Esterbrook, his wife Mary and daughter Mary, and Richard Jr. as he is called. Interestingly enough, in an 1857 directory of Galt, is listed a Richard Esterbrook & Co. "dealers in hardware." It's not clear if there was any connection because it wasn't until 1859 that the Toronto Meeting of Friends wrote to the Norwich Meeting recommending Richard Esterbrook and his wife Mary to them, as Esterbrook was moving to Galt "in the compass of yours..."  It also goes on to say, "The residence of our Friends in your land is likely to be temporary only, but they request it. We send you a certificate agreeable to good order..."

 

There was also a George Esterbrook living in Norwich in 1851. Esterbrooks in general were Quaker so he may or may not have been a distant or near relation of Richard's. That may help explain why Richard would move to Galt or Norwich or wherever outside the major city. These were very small towns in rural Canada. There is more to be discovered here.

 

We also find evidence that Richard Jr. was also in Galt or at least under the Norwich Meeting's purview because there are several records addressing the serious concern that Richard Jr. informs them that he is resigning from the Society of Friends. There  is a whole committee dedicated to this in 1861 to meet with Richard Jr.  to discuss this, and finally accept his decision. 

 

In 1861 Richard Sr. and his wife and daughter are granted a certificate of removal, which they can take to their new Friends Meeting in Haddonfield, NJ. Richard Jr. just leaves the society. 

 

How this falls into the company history that they opened up their Camden factory in 1858, I'm not sure. We do find Richard Esterbrook & Co. in a directory of Philadelphia for 1861/62. Their address is given as 403 Arch St., and the factory is listed in Camden, and both of the Richards were living in the same house at 5th & Penn in Camden. 

 

So, it seems that they were traveling back and forth from Canada to the US to start up their company in Philadelphia, open the factory in Camden, while living in Canada, and Sr. still owned his book shop and was voting in local elections in Cornwall. There was no burning of any bridges in the Esterbrook family. 

 

It seems that it wasn't until 1866, when Esterbrook dissolved the initial partnership with Cadbury and Bromsgrove, and he sold his shop in Cornwall that he was convinced that this was all really going to work. 

 

Anyway, I hope this helps fill in some of what we can speculate or know about the early years before Esterbrook became "ESTERBROOK."  I'll still continue to find more and will share as I do. 



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#6 _InkyFingers

_InkyFingers

    Collectors Item

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,416 posts
  • Location:San Jose, CA USA
  • Flag:

Posted 14 May 2018 - 18:52

Great detective work! Would you say Quakers are religious and most industrious?

#7 AAAndrew

AAAndrew

    (Not so) Wee Timorous Beastie

  • FPN Supporter - Rhodium

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,413 posts
  • Location:Durham, NC
  • Flag:

Posted 16 May 2018 - 17:00

Another couple of pieces of the puzzle. 

 

Richard Esterbrook's original partners were James Bromsgrove, and Joel Cadbury, Jr.. In 1866 they dissolved this partnership and Richard Sr. re-formed R. Esterbrook & Co. with his son. 

 

I've been curious for a while now about Bromsgrove and Cadbury. 

 

Well, Cadbury was easy. His father, Joel Cadbury Sr., owned a dry goods store in Philadelphia and his uncle owned a drugstore there as well. His father was also on the board of a local Turnpike company. They were also devout members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). So, they were local, Quakers and had money and connections. Joel Jr., after having his portion of Esterbrook bought out, formed another partnership and made brass steam and plumbing fittings until he died in 1923. As a side note, his son, Henry Joel Cadbury became a prominent Biblical scholar. He was forced to resign as a professor at Haveford College after having written a letter calling for a lessening of inflamatory rhetoric against Germans during WWI. We tend to forget that there was tremendous anti-German feeling during that war. My grandmother was German-American during the war and remembered so many of their friends changing their name to something less German-sounding. Her name was Miller so they were fine. Anyway, Henry Cadbury was also chosen by the American Friends Service Society to represent them at the ceremony when the American and British Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. 

 

James Bromsgrove was trickier. He just appears for the first time anywhere in the US living in Camden, NJ, just down the street from the Esterbrook factory, in 1861, the first year Esterbrook appears in the directories. He then disappears after the dissolution. Well, I think I've tracked him down. 

 

James Bromsgrove was born in Somersetshire in 1814. In 1841 he was in Birmingham, living with a tool maker's family, and by 1845 he is listed in a directory of Birmingham as a "steel pen manufacturer" and his address is the same as that of William Mitchell's pen factory, the Washington Pen Works.I also found the record of his daughter Emily's baptism where he is also marked down as a "steel pen maker."  

 

So, James Bromsgrove was one of the steel pen makers brought from England. He must have done well enough that he had enough money to become partners. I suspect, with his background as a clerk, (and in later census records he claims to be a "retired clerk") that he was familiar with the business side of the pen industry. 

 

After the dissolution of the partnership he retired and moved back to England. In 1881 he emigrated to New Zealand. He is buried in Auckland and in his 1897 obituary they say he once was a man of means and had retired from business "31 years ago" which would be right at 1866. 



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#8 _InkyFingers

_InkyFingers

    Collectors Item

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,416 posts
  • Location:San Jose, CA USA
  • Flag:

Posted 16 May 2018 - 18:50

Fastinating! Thanks for the detailed work!

#9 AAAndrew

AAAndrew

    (Not so) Wee Timorous Beastie

  • FPN Supporter - Rhodium

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,413 posts
  • Location:Durham, NC
  • Flag:

Posted 18 May 2018 - 20:56

So, my friends at Liskeard Museum dug up a photo of the Esterbrook store while it was run by W. H. Smith & Son. The photo's probably from about 1900-1920, so well after Richard sold it in 1866. I'm attempting to find out when WH Smith took over the spot and how long it was in business. They were just starting their first real expansion about the late 1850's, so they could have bought Esterbrook out, but there's no telling. If they did, there's some chance that the windows in the picture (which seem pretty darn close to how they are today) may have been the same as they were in Esterbrook's day. 

 

All speculation, but fun. 

 

fpn_1526676791__20_pike_st_esterbrook_st



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne


#10 AAAndrew

AAAndrew

    (Not so) Wee Timorous Beastie

  • FPN Supporter - Rhodium

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,413 posts
  • Location:Durham, NC
  • Flag:

Posted 18 May 2018 - 21:05

Oh, and they sent me a map showing where Richard Sr. Sr.'s grave is. The old Society of Friends (Quaker) Halbathic burial ground is here

 

50°27'56.9"N 4°27'42.4"W

 

Andrew



“When the historians of education do equal and exact justice to all who have contributed toward educational progress, they will devote several pages to those revolutionists who invented steel pens and blackboards.” V.T. Thayer, 1928



Check out my Steel Pen Blog


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

-Montaigne






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: esterbrook, history, family



Sponsored Content




|