Thursday, November 17, 2011

a fire on Reade Street

From time to time I've written about the many occupations of my great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller.[1] During his long life he helped found and manage a surprising number of business ventures — fire insurance, title insurance, banks, and land companies. Despite all this activity (and somewhat more[2]) he never abandoned his first enterprise as a "commission merchant" in an office called Louis Windmuller & Roelker at 20 Reade St. in Manhattan.[3]

Here you see the firm name and a signature on a back check he signed while the business was still young.

{source: stampwants}

The other day a reader left an interesting comment on a post I'd written a year ago about the commission merchant business. Using the handle "codepic," this person wrote:
Hi, I bumped into your blog post because I'm trying to track where my antique trunk is made. I found a parts catalog in here http://www.thisoldtrunk.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=7&products_id=112 from which I found the crystallized tin being described and I guess it's the same type of tin my trunk is made of. Interestingly the parts catalog dates to 1889 and has the address "20 Reade Street, New York". Have you seen any reference to Campfield or Wood family during your research?
The short answer to the question is "no" I do not know of any links between my great-grandfather's commission agent business and the firm of Campfield & Wood. Intrigued by the question I've done some online searching and come up with some interesting finds.

Campfield & Wood was in the business of supplying parts to manufacturers of trunks. Alexander Campfield held a patent for a zinc plating process used in the 1870s on metal trunk coverings like the one you see here with its interesting stamped pattern.

{Small trunk (27 x 14 x 12 in.) having a tin cover over pine wood. The tin is zinc plated by a patterned processing that was (probably) the one patented by Alexander Campfield in 1876; source: Collectors Weekly}

Here are the cover and a couple of pages from the source which codepic cites.


{1889 Campfield and Wood Trunk Parts Catalog, 29 pp, containing illustrations and descriptions of trunk locks, rollers, catches, handles, clamps, stamped metal, etc. Includes tools, trunk tacks, wood, and lining paper.}

Campfield & Wood show up in city directories of the 1870s, including these three.

{Wilson's New York City Copartnership Directory (The Trow City Directory Company, 1879)}


{Gouldings New York city directory (Lawrence G. Goulding., 1877)}


{This entry in a copartnership directory of 1874 shows a couple of silent partners who had lent money to the business; Wilson's New York City Copartnership Directory, John F. Trow, Publisher, H. Wilson, Compiler (Trow City Directory Co., 1874)}

It's interesting that in the 1830s there was a firm called Campfield & Wood & Co., carriage-makers, located not far from 20 Reade St.


I'm sure there's more to be learned about Campfield & Wood, and I'm also sure that that firm and my great-grandfather's occupied offices at 20 Reade St. by coincidence and not from any connection between the two. Apart from street address there's nothing I can find that associates the one with the other.

New York City directories list the two businesses and many of their neighbors, both in the building at 20 Reade Street and in the buildings on either side of them.

The other businesses in their building include a supplier of wrapping paper, a merchant, an individual, one E. B. Higgins, who did not choose to have his occupation listed, and these three:



{source: Trow's Directory, 1872}

Next door at 18 Reade you can find a representative of the San Francisco firm of Murphy, Grant, & Co., the "largest and oldest wholesale dry-goods house on the Pacific Coast."[4] This is an 1896 trade card of Murphy, Grant, & Co. showing that they made the best overalls in the world.

{source: Harmer-Schau Auction Galleries}

Two doors to the east, at 16 Reade, were a manufacturer of pool tables[5] and two agents for the Thomas Manufacturing Co., which made mowers, rakes, and "tillage implements" in Springfield, Ohio. This is an ad for one of the Thomas Mfg. Co.'s seed drilling machines.[6]

{source (as you can see): an eBay auction}

A photoengraver, the National Photo-Engraving Co., occupied space in both 16 and 18 Reade. The firm's specialty was in printing stationery and books rather than the usual reproductions of drawings and paintings. Here is one of their ads, along with a (low-quality) reproduction of the work sample that the ad cites.


On the west side of 20 Reade the occupants were just as various. At 22-26 Reade were a print shop belonging to William P. Atkin, a bookbinder named Louis Gilbert, a purveyor of paper[7], a perfume manufacturer, and manufacturers of water meters and hydraulic power implements. In addition, the Dutch Reformed Church in America had its "Domestic Offices" and a shop at 26 Reade Street. R. Brinkerhoff, the Business Agent, was member of a family which had made its home at that address since the 18th century.[9]

The perfume manufacturer was Theodore Ricksecker who is credited as the first American perfumier.[8] This souvenir comes from the 1884 World Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans.

{source: eBay auction}

The water meter and hydraulic power vendors were the same business.[10]



Also at 26 Reade Street was the Baldwin & Gleason Co., makers of celluloid pins and buttons.


There's a lot to be learned about 20 Reade and its neighbors from accounts of a fire that consumed the building next door. The Times gave the event extensive coverage, as you can read here: PERFUME-LADEN SMOKE CHOKES FIRE FIGHTERS; Five Also Badly Hurt at Fierce Blaze on Reade Street. Exploding Celluloid Spreads the Flames Which Burn Out a Five-Story Building and Damage Adjacent Property (New York Times, December 23, 1901). You can read the story here. The City's own fire report is more succinct. It says that on December 22, 1901, a fire destroyed the six-story brick building at 22-26 Reade Street. The fire stared in the sub-basement and extended upwards to the top floor by means of vertical belt shafts (used for powering manufacturing equipment) and the building's elevator shaft.[11] The Times' reporter wrote that the fire caused explosions when it reached the Baldwin & Gleason workshop. "These sounded like the bursting of big firecrackers, but were not of sufficient force to endanger the firemen and others inside the danger lines." The report also says that when the fire reached the Ricksecker establishment on the top two floors, "the odor of perfumes cold be discerned all the way down the block, and the firemen said afterward that ordinary smoke was nothing by comparison to that laden with the sickening smell of musk or even of high-priced colognes."

The Times man found that a man had been working in the sub-cellar early the same morning as the fire and it was presumed he had inadvertently left behind a cigarette stub or burning match behind.

As the fire progressed, he said, "the scene in the alley [behind the building] was probably the most remarkable of the whole fire. This alley is only 25 feet wide. From the fire escapes of buildings on one side it almost possible to reach to those on the other. Firemen swarmed up the escapes, but by the time they reached their positions of vantage the smoke was so dense that they could not be seen a few yards away. To an onlooker at the lower end of the alley it appeared as though they must all be suffocated, but they were not, and relatively few had to stop their work. In a saloon at the corner of the alley and Elm Street the celebrated belt given to John L. Sullivan by popular subscription when he was champion prizefighter of the world was on exhibition. The owners of the place heard of the fire and rushed down town to get out the treasure, which contains 365 diamonds and 15½ pounds of gold."

The Times reporter assures his readers that "the well-known landmark called Cobweb Hall, which has been standing since the memory of the oldest inhabitants began,... was not hurt except by having its walls and interior saturated with the thick smoke." Chances are, the smoke added to the ambience of this hangout. Another Times article described the place: "Rusty silverware, ceilings dusty with cobwebs, bar furniture, tables, and chairs of remote date, old prints on the walls, and Pattullo's name [that of the founder] in silver letters, on the front windows of the hostelry." (NYT, November 16, 1902)[12]

This detail from a panoramic map of Manhattan, made about 1900 shows the block where 20 Reade Street could be found. The building at 22-26 is shown out of scale (much narrower than it actually was). I've marked it in red. In addition I've identified the building at 20 Reade and also put white circles around the locations of "Cobweb Hall" and the saloon where the extravagant John L. Sullivan belt was being displayed.

{Bird's-eye-view of Manhattan and adjacent districts, New York City, New York, ca. 1900, Not drawn to scale; source: Library of Congress}

This detail from a fire insurance map of 1897 shows the block where the fire took place. I've outlined 22-26 Reade in blue and shown the rough locations of the saloon and "Cobweb Hall."

{Insurance maps of the City of New York. Borough of Manhattan. Volume 3. Published by Sanborn Map Co., 11 Broadway, New York. 1904. Source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

------

Some sources:

Collectors Weekly, Small Herringbone tin Trunk with Wood Handles. "Herringbone style tin in great shape. Measures 27" long, 14" wide 12" deep. Pine under the metal. Wooden runners on the bottom are offset, appears to be hand made."

Bird's-eye-view of Manhattan and adjacent districts, New York City, New York, ca. 1900, Not drawn to scale; source: Library of Congress

The Bay of San Francisco, the metropolis of the Pacific Coast and its suburban cities, a history (Lewis Publishing Co., 1892)

Index of wills, inventories, etc. in the office of the Secretary of State prior to 1901 (New Jersey. Dept. of State, 1912)

PERFUME-LADEN SMOKE CHOKES FIRE FIGHTERS; Five Also Badly Hurt at Fierce Blaze on Reade Street. Exploding Celluloid Spreads the Flames Which Burn Out a Five-Story Building and Damage Adjacent Property. New York Times, December 23, 1901. Extract: "Reade Street was the scene of all the excitement that the intricate machinery of the New York Fire Department can arouse at a dangerous conflagration yesterday afternoon. The building at 22, 24, and 26 was completely gutted from its sub-cellar to its roof. Chief Edward F. Croker estimated the losses to be at least $75,000, and the police said that the damage would not be far short of $100,000."

Report of the Fire Department of the City of New York (1902)

Safety Maintenance & Production , Volume 11 Insurance Engineering, Record for the Year 1905 (January 1906)

The Southeastern reporter, Volume 19 (West Pub. Co., 1894)

Index of wills, inventories, etc. in the office of the Secretary of State prior to 1901 (New Jersey. Dept. of State, 1912)

Home furnishing review, Volume 12 (Andrew J. Haire, 1897)

American printer and lithographer (Moore Publishing Co., 1895)

Annual report of the Commissioner of Labor, Issue 11, Part 1 (State Dept. of Labor, 1913)

The International harvester co (United States. Bureau of Corporations, Govt. Print. Off., 1913)

The Pharmaceutical era (New York, D. O. Haynes & Co., 1877)

The Sun. (New York, November 12, 1908)

The book of New York; forty years' recollections of the American metropolis (The Book of New York company, 1912)

The Mission field, Volume 1 (Boards of the Reformed Church in America, 1888)

Bragaws, my blog post dated November 20, 2010

The family of Joris Dircksen Brinckerhoff, 1638 compiled by Richard Brinkerhoff (New York, R. Brinkerhoff, 1887)

Pressure Lamps International

Ricksecker's Perfumes

Report of the Fire Department of the City of New York (1902)

http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1996607

The Trow City Directory Co.'s, formerly Wilson's, copartnership and corporation directory of New York City (Trow, 1874)

The Trow City Directory Co.'s, formerly Wilson's, copartnership and corporation directory of New York City (Trow, 1879)

Gouldings New York city directory (Lawrence G. Goulding., 1877)

The Trow (formerly Wilson's) copartnership and corporation directory of New York City (Trow, 1901)

The Trow (formerly Wilson's) copartnership and corporation directory of New York City (Trow, 1909)

1897/98 LAIN'S DIRECTORY Brooklyn

Wilson's New York City Copartnership Directory, John F. Trow, Publisher, H. Wilson, Compiler (Trow City Directory Co., 1874)

Gouldings New York city directory (Lawrence G. Goulding., 1877)

Wilson's New York City Copartnership Directory (The Trow City Directory Company, 1879)

Longworth's American almanac: New-York register and city directory (T. Longworth, 1837)

------

Notes:

[1] For my posts on the man click the "Louis Windmuller" link in the panel at right. Here are links to the LW&R ones:

[2] His obituary in the Evening Post gave a pretty full run down of his many activities. You can read it here: Louis Windmuller Dead, New York Evening Post, October 20, 1913.

[3] He helped found and manage the Title Guarantee and Trust Company, the German-American insurance Company, the Hide and Leather National Bank, the German Alliance insurance Co., the Maiden Lane Safe Deposit Co. and Maiden Lane Savings Bank, the Bond and Mortgage Guarantee Company, the South Manhattan Realty Co., and the Newtown Savings Bank. Two years before his death Who's who in Finance, Banking, and Insurance (N.Y. 1911) gave the tersest possible summary of his public life:
Windmuller, Louis

Merchant, banker; born Münster, Westphalia, Germany, 1835; educated Gymnasium Carollnum, Münster; came to the United States, 1863; since then resident of New York City; married, New York City, Nov. 23, 1859, Annie Eliza Lefman.

Successfully engaged in business in New York City as a merchant; senior member of the firm of Louis Windmuller & Roelker of New-York and Frankfort-on-the-Main, Germany; president Maiden Lane Savings Bank; first vice-president and director Maiden Lane Safe Deposit Co.; director and one of the founders German- American Insurance Co., Title Guarantee and Trust Co., German Alliance Insurance Co., South Manhattan Realty Co.

Independent; supported Cleveland on tariff issue, and in campaign of 1892, with Carl Schurz and others, formed the German-American Cleveland Union, contributing effectually to the Cleveland success of that year. Supported McKinley on financial issue, 1896; chairman German American Hughes Alliance, aiding in election of Governor Hughes 1908.

Member New York Chamber of Commerce, New York Board of Trade and Transportation (managing director); treasurer Legal Aid Society, giving gratuitously legal aid to helpless strangers. Life member New York Historical Society; member Germanistic Society, Germanic Museum Ass'n of Cambridge, Mass, (vice-president); vice-president Heine Monument Ass'n, Arion Society.

Recreations: Long walks; art and book collector.

Clubs: Merchants', Lotos, Press, Underwriters, New York Athletic, National Arts, Reform (treasurer since 1889).

Contributor on Economic, civic, and financial questions to North American Review, The Forum. Outlook, New York Times, New York Evening Post, New Yorker Staats Zeitung. Meyer's Konversations. Lexicon, the Berlin Nation and other periodicals.

Residence: Woodside, Queens Borough. Office: 20 Reade St., N. Y. City.
[4] This shows the Murphy, Grant, & Co. building in the 1870s.

{From a panorama engraving showing San Francisco by Frederick Hess, 1875}

For more on Murphy, Grant, & Co. see The Bay of San Francisco, the metropolis of the Pacific Coast and its suburban cities, a history (Lewis Publishing Co., 1892)

[5] Wallie Dorr, pool tables. "The sole manufacturer of the Doré [pool] tables is Wallie Dorr, 16 and 18 Reade street, New York, who is also the manufacturer of the novel and fascinating parlor game Loo-Wese, which in a brief period has become one of the best sellers and leaders in the higher class of toy lines." -- Home furnishing review, Volume 12 (Andrew J. Haire, 1897). See also: Wallie Dorr Co., 16-18 Reade st. (George S. Van DeWater, partner) -- Annual report of the Commissioner of Labor, Issue 11, Part 1 (State Dept. of Labor, 1913)

[6] The Thomas Manufacturing Co. also made razors like this one.


And early in the 20th century became known for its "pressure lamps" like this "kerosafe" model.



[7] The Vernon Paper Company were general paper dealers specializing in wrapping papers. See Lockwood's directory of the paper and allied trades, Volume 31 (Vance Pub. Corp., 1905) and Printing trades blue book (A.F. Lewis & Co., 1918) " Wrapping Papers, Vernon, Paul E., &Co. 22-24-26 Reade; tel. Worth 4725"

[8] Here's an ad for Ricksecker perfumes.

{source: vintagefeedsacks.blogspot}

"He is credited to have been the first American to establish a perfumery company, launching his first fragrance in 1868. Over the decades, he became renowned for his rich spice and floral fragrances in perfumes and colognes. His use of pottery and glass, in a variety of shapes, colors, techniques, and sizes were part of the appeal -- then, as is now for collectors." -- Ricksecker's Perfumes

[9] Some of the Brinkerhoff family were neighbors of the Louis Windmuller family in Woodside, Queens. George Brinckerhoff owned a farm a few hundred yards south of the Windmuller land as shown in this property map. George Brinckerhoff was connected to Louis Windmuller's wife, Annie, via Magretia Brinckerhoff who married Theodorus Van Wyck in 1693. Their daughter, Altje Van Wyck married Richard Thorne from whom Annie was directly descended. -- Bragaws on my blog, November 20, 2010.

[10] "The Standard Water Meter Company, successors to the Tuerk Hydraulic Power Company, manufacturers of Water Meters and Motors, are now situated at 22 to 26 Reade street, New York City. Their former place of business was 23 Vandewater street, and It is at the latter address that the factory Is yet situated. The Standard Disk Meter which they are putting upon the market has been approved by the Municipal Water Works Commissioner. It has the very latest improvements, and for accuracy and fine mechanical work they claim it cannot be excelled." -- Sanitary and heating age (Sanitary and Heating Publishing, 1901)

[11] Report of the Fire Department of the City of New York (1902)

[12] Cobweb Hall was popular among actors, professional people, sporting men, and politicians. "Mayor Grant and Mayor Gilroy used to drop in there frequently to discuss city affairs with the other celebrities who frequented the place" and its' second owner himself served as a city alderman at one time (New York Sun, February 18, 1919). A contemporary account says Cobweb Hall was
an aged and dust-encrusted structure, hedged in by the massive growths of a recent day. On a gray November afternoon, when snow threatens, let us enter the "snug," which is reached by a passage in front of an unembellished bar; the absence of all pretension is its charm; and if the tumblers of hot whisky-toddies which subdue the chill in the air with their aroma, are vicious on so cold a day, then here, at least, the vice is in its naked ugliness, without a speck of tinsel to gild it. Cobwebs are stretched across the walls and the ceiling; gauzy seas of them have veiled every object — the pyramids of ale-casks, and the demijohns at the bars. From every corner and crevice the eye meets them depending by their silken threads; but, notwithstanding their plenitude, it would appear less sacrilegious to the custodian to rob an altar of its plate than to destroy one of the finely-spun nets that have given his establishment its name. No one comes here or should come seeking luxury, for it does not exist. The tables and chairs are of plain deal, without cloths or cushions; albeit, they are as strong as the steaming Lochinvar and Dublin punches, that are served to you in glasses, not such as you have been used to, but plenary crystals that hold a generous half-pint. ... Genial sobriety is the rule at "Cobweb Hall," however. Men come through its dingy portals, and while away whole afternoons in sipping the hot toddies, and recalling the past with old friends and acquaintances. The atmosphere itself has an effect in giving the mind a retrospective turn, and in its yellow haze evolve the teeming figures of old times which have seemed almost lost to memory. -- "English Haunts in New York," Appletons journal , Volume 10 (D. Appleton and Co., 1873)

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