G. W. Cole Co., “Three In One”

 

 

The “G” stands for George W. Cole who is credited with the invention of Three-In-One Oil.

Together, with J. Noah H. Slee, they developed and marketed this one single mixture to accomplish three things with respect to the maintenance  of a bicycle, namely, a rust preventative, lubricant and cleaner. Hence the name “Three-In-One.”  Some of their advertisements also stated that the product is a blend of three oils, animal, mineral and vegetable, which may also have contributed to its name.

According to a story in the Staunton (Va.) Daily Leader entitled “Industry and Commerce” published on May 23, 1908, the business of G.W. Cole & Company was established in 1894 and incorporated in 1899.

A September 16, 1966 story entitled: Three-In-One Oil Birth Traced to Jersey Shore” outlined the early days of the business.

Mr. Slee, along with George W. Cole, developed Three-In-One Oil, a household staple, now manufactured by Boyle Midway Inc., a subsidiary of American Home Products, New York.

Mr. Slee and Mr.Cole, partners in G.W. Cole and Co., “conducted business in New York and West Park, Monmouth County” according to yellowed documents unearthed in the legal department of American Home last week. West Park was part of Neptune Township.

Three-In-One Oil was first sold as early as 1890 in the Shore area, and the name “Three-In-One” was first used Sept. 14, 1894. The name as a trademark was registered Oct. 17, 1905.

According to the records, Mr. Slee bought out Mr. Cole sometime before 1903, but retained his former partner as a salesman at a salary of $2,400 annually.

A factory was subsequently built in Rahaway (N.J.) and in May, 1903, manufacture of Three-In-One moved there from the shore.

What became of T.W. Cole & Co. appears to be somewhat of a mystery, and officials at American Home Products were at a loss to explain how the firm came to be in possession of Three-In-One.

One official was willing to hazard a guess that the product had been purchased by American Home or one of it’s subsidies sometime during the 30’s.

In New York, G.W. Cole & Co., was first listed in City Directories between 1896 and 1898  as “bicycles” with an address of 111 Broadway.

In the 1900 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directory the business was listed as a New Jersey corporation. At that time, the “&” in the company name was dropped, changing it to the G.W. Cole Co. George W. Cole was listed as president and J. Noah H. Slee as secretary. The business remained listed this way through 1904.

According to a June 17, 1909 letter from Slee to a publication called “Printers Ink,” Cole resigned from the company in 1904. In 1906 (I don’t have access to the 1905 Directory), Slee was listed as president and Henry Hedenberg as secretary.  Slee’s obituary states that he remained president of the company until 1937 when he moved to Tuscon, Arizona for his wife’s health reasons.

In the 1909 Copartnership and Corporation Directory the name of the company was changed again, this time to the Three-In-One Oil Company. Slee and Hedenberg remained named as president and secretary.

The company utilized several New York addresses over the years:

  • 1896 to 1898 – 111 Broadway
  • 1900 to 1906 – 141 Broadway
  • 1908 to 1916 – 42 (34 – 52) Broadway
  • 1918 to 1922 – 165 East Broadway

The current Three-In-One website completes the company history and solves the mystery mentioned in the 1966 story above, as to how American Home Products came into possession of Three-In-One. The guess provided by the company official in the story wasn’t too far off. In 1933 the capital stock of the Three-In-One Oil Company was acquired by Drug Incorporated. That year, Three-In-One Oil Company was still listed in the Manhattan Telephone Book at 171 Varick Street. Drug Incorporated later dissolved, at which time the Three-In-One Oil Company became part of Sterling Products Inc. Then in 1936, A.S. Boyle Company, a subsidiary of American Home Products, purchased the brand from Sterling.

The Jersey Shore factory location was apparently established in the late 1800’s in Asbury Park. The G.W. Cole Co., was listed in the 1901 Asbury Park Directory as “bicycle sundries,” with an address of Third Avenue, corner of Railroad Ave., West Park. Cole is listed individually at that address as far back as 1899. Prior to 1899 only listed hm with a residential address of 704 Fourth Avenue. According to one account, at that time, he was operating out of a shed that covered 234 square feet.

The factory in Rahway N.J. that opened in 1903 was located along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, just east of Scott Avenue. The factory and its early growth were documented in the 1908 Staunton (Va.) Daily Leader story on “Industry and Commerce.”

In 1905 the total area was 5,250 square feet and today the floor space of the factory is more than 8,000 square feet. The building itself is vine covered and is a prominent feature on the main line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

It’s not clear when the factory shut down, but today the location appears to be a relatively new city parking garage that’s located adjacent to the railroad tracks.

According to the 1900 census records Cole was originally a bicycle mechanic and the first advertisement I can find for Three-In-One Oil focused exclusively on bicycle maintenance. It was from an 1896 issue of the “L.A.W. Bulletin and Good Roads.”

By 1901, the uses for the product had significantly expanded.  A June 5, 1901 advertisement in the “Boston Post” provided this expanded description.

“3 In One” is the ideal lubricant for all delicate mechanisms. It will not gum, collect dust, turn rancid or dry out. For oiling bicycles, firearms, typewriters, sewing machines, hinges, locks, in fact, delicate mechanisms of any sort, it is better than any other preparation. It prevents rust and tarnish on metal surfaces in any climate, in any kind of weather.

Further it is a furniture polish par excellence. It removes scratches, spots, streaks, etc., and leaves no dampness or grease to rub off and injure the finest fabric. Fred W. Peabody, dealer in pianos, musical instruments, etc., of Amesbury Mass., recently said: “We have used “3 in 1″ for several years past with perfect satisfaction. We find it will do all you recommend it to do, and more. It is one of the best piano polishers I have ever used.”

While Cole may have been the actual inventor of the product, it was Slee as a businessman who made it a national brand. According to an article he wrote in 1912 for a publication called “Judicious Advertising”the company did not employ traveling salesmen, but relied totally on advertising to develop the business.

In an effort to create a demand among consumers he talked about two main methods: The first was advertising in publications of general circulation.

Our general publication advertising embraces some seventy or eighty papers, all of which have been selected for specific and definite reasons. For instance, we use every paper in the United States and Canada devoted to the interests of sportsmen and the outdoor life. We call them “gun papers.” Then we use all the leading women’s publications. We use the principal boys’ publications. We are great believers in educating the youth.

In other words, our advertising is based largely on class publications because we find by taking up a certain field and working it thoroughly we get better results. We prepare our ads to specifically interest the readers of each class of publication in exactly the thing for which he buys the publication.

Certainly either of these two 1908 advertisements could have been found in any number of “Field & Stream” type publications.

 

Likewise, in 1908,  this advertisement would appeal to the reader of a women’s magazine.

Another method he discussed was the distribution of samples and advertising matter by mail. Most of the earlier “3 in 1” advertisements included an offer for a free sample but he also spoke of another sampling method that put millions of samples in the hands of possible users right at the time they needed it.

We have arrangements with certain leading manufacturers in many various lines whereby they pack a sample bottle of 3-in-One oil with practically every good gun or revolver that is sold. The Columbia Phonograph Company places a sample of 3-in-One with every machine they make.

Our samples are devised for a striking advertising effect, having the label not on the outside of the bottle but floating in the oil – “a patented floating label.”

One approach that he didn’t mention in the article but caught my eye was providing a free oil can with your 3-In-One purchase. It’s a strategy that’s used quite often today at sports stadiums around the country when your beer comes in a free souvenir cup that’s yours to keep.

3-In-One Oil is still made today by the WD-40 Company and the trademark hasn’t changed much over the years.

   

I found a total of three bottles associated with Three-In-One Oil and possibly a fourth.  One is 5 1/2 inches tall. There’s no embossing on the front or back panels but both side panels are embossed. One side contains the company name, G.W. Cole Co., the other contains the words “Three In One” in quotation marks. Mouth blown, this bottle dates between 1899 when the company incorporated and dropped the “&” in its name and 1909 when they were renamed the Three-In-One Oil Co.

Two others I found are also mouth blown, but only 4 inches tall. One side panel is embossed “Three In One” in quotation marks and the other 3-In-One Oil Co. They date no earlier than 1909 when the company changed it’s name to the Three-In-One Oil Co. I’ve seen this same type of bottle, with a cork top, pictured in advertisements that date as late as 1929, but being mouth blown they probably were made no later than the mid-teens.

The possible fourth is an ounce or less and could be one of their free samples. Its similar to the one contained in the advertisement below and would have contained the patented label floating inside the oil.

      

Griffin Manufacturing Co., New York

      

The Griffin Manufacturing Company, makers of shoe polish, was started by Anthony (Tony) Aste in the mid 1880’s. Nick-named the “King of Bootblacks,” he turned a single shoe shine stand into the world’s largest maker of shoe polish. Also a well known thoroughbred race horse owner, his story was summarized in his December 8, 1954 obituary printed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Anthony L. Aste, 88, of 29 Prospect Park West, who rose from roving boot black to millionaire and president of the Griffin Manufacturing Company, makers of Griffin shoe polish, died after a heart attack in Long Island College Hospital, where he had been under treatment for the past two and one-half years.

In 1885 Mr. Aste rented space in the produce exchange building in Manhattan and installed the first high chairs for shoe shining. He branched out into other buildings in the financial district.

He hired a chemist to develop a superior polish for his stands. The polish was so successful that it was bottled and sold to other bootblacks. From that beginning he formed the Griffin Company, which for many years has been at 410 Willoughby Avenue.

In the late 1890’s he began racing horses and recently received a plaque from the Belmont Park track citing him as the oldest living racer of horses in America. He counted as one of the most memorable days in his life the occasion in 1901 when he sold a horse which cost him $4,300 to William C. Whitney, the millionaire, for $50,000 at the Sheepshead Bay track.

Born in Manhattan’s lower East Side, he lived in Brooklyn for over 50 Years.

The obituary mentioned that Aste opened a shoe shine stand in the Produce Exchange Building which was located at the foot of Broadway in lower Manhattan. At the time, it was the custom to have shoes shined by someone on the street while you stood on one foot and then the other, so this was a relatively new concept.

He paid $660 a year to operate the stand, or “throne” as it was known back then, at the Produce Exchange. A photograph of a large and extremely crowded main hall of the exchange taken in 1886 confirms that Aste had made a shrewd investment.

 

Neither Aste or the Griffin Manufacturing Company were mentioned in the NYC directories until the mid-1890’s. Aste was first listed in 1896 as a blacking maker located at 82 Cortlandt Street and the Griffin Manufacturing Company ( Anthony L. Aste, proprietor) first appeared in 1900 at the same location. Sometime in 1907 or 1908 they moved to 69 Murray Street and around 1914, the company incorporated in New York State. Both the 1914 and 1919 NYC Copartnership and Corporation Directories listed Antony and his son Robert as the company’s president and secretary respectively.

The business remained listed at 69 Murray Street until the early 1930’s when they bought a building on Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn. The purchase was announced in the December 31, 1933 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

The factory at 410 to 424 Willoughby Ave. has been sold for the Ahlecy Corporation to the Griffin Shoe Polish Company for its new plant.

By the 1930’s their products were sold under a wide range of trade names including: “Griffin Allwite,” “Griffin Kidine,” “Griffin Lotion Cream,” “Griffin Sterling” and “Griffin A,B,C.”

  

Apparently his formula was so good that a competitor, the Two-in-One Shinola Bixby Corporation  was actually convicted of stealing it. According to a March 31, 1936 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

The formula for shoe polish that made a millionaire of Anthony Aste, who began life as a roving boot black, was stolen by the Two-in-One Shinola Bixby Corporation with the aid of Dr. Raymond Warburton, a chemist formerly employed by Aste, Justice James C. Cropsey ruled today in Equity Term of Supreme Court. He gave an injunction in favor of the Griffin Manufacturing Company, Aste’s corporation, and said the defendants must pay damages which may amount to $250,000.

Evidence before Justice Cropsey showed that for a long time the defendant concern tried to obtain the secret of the high quality of Aste’s invention. They made hundreds of analyses and tried to buy up the Aste concern and consolidate all the shoe polish manufacturers.

Failing to do that, it was charged that they hired Dr. Warburton, who had been employed by Aste as confidential chemist from 1916 to 1919 and knew all the secrets.

“Upon payment of $1,000 they obtained from him both the plaintiff’s process and formula.” said Justice Cropsey in his decision. The attempt by the corporate defendant to prove that it did not obtain plaintiff’s process from the former employee is clearly shown to be untrue.

The pastes and polishes were not the only interests of the company. According to an article in the August 24, 1922 issue of “Printer’s Ink,” Griffin owned patents to a number of shoe-shine related appurtenances and designs as well.

They own the patents on the rubber tipped shoe rest that makes it easier for the customer to keep his foot steady under the shining cloth of the operator. Another feature looking to the comfort of the patron has been the armchairs with a bit of space between them allowing the use of both arm rests for comfort. Another patented design is the half step at one side that makes it easier for women to reach the chairs without danger of damage to skirts and with greater comfort and less embarrassment.

All told, this enabled Griffin to supply everything that was needed in the trade under one concern, increasing their appeal to the operators of parlors and stands, as well as individual bootblacks. The firm even provided assistance in locating new stands to prospective owners. Aste summed up this business approach himself in the “Printer’s Ink’ article:

In a visit with Mr. Aste where he was supervising the opening of a new parlor he laid special stress on these service features and the real quality of the polish manufactured by the concern. He felt a pride in the accomplishment of his plans and did not hesitate to say that any stand that would install his features and use his materials correctly would make a success, provided the location was right.

The company was still listed on Willoughby Avenue in the 1955 Brooklyn Telephone Directory, but by 1959 I can no longer find them. Sadly, the Willoughby Avenue location is now a parking lot for Home Depot.

It appears that the business (or at least the name?) was purchased in 2013 and is now called the Griffin Shoe Care Company, located in Crystal Lake, Illinois. So, if you want, you can still buy Griffin Shoe Polish today!

The history of the business between the late 1950’s and 2013 is not clear.

The bottle I found is a small (2 to 3 oz.) machine made bottle probably made in the 1920’s, prior to their move to Willoughby Avenue. It has the name “Griffin” and a picture of a griffen, the company’s trademark, embossed on the base. The griffin was an antique monster with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle.

According to a Counsular Report to the House Of Representatives dated 1901, the company registered and was using the trademark in the United States for several years. This dates its use back to the late 1890’s. The Report went on to say that they did not have rights to the trademark on products shipped to Germany.

 

Robinson Brothers, New York, Buffalo Ammonia

Buffalo Ammonia was manufactured by the Robinson Brothers Chemical Works of Brooklyn New York..  The application for their trademark buffalo, registered on May 30, 1913, stated that it had been continually used in the business since 1896.

Advertisements for their ammonia published in the late 1940’s use the phrase “since 1893.” Based on this I think it’s safe to assume that the product hit the market sometime in the mid 1890’s

The first listing I can find for the Robinson Brothers Chemical Works was in the 1897 Brooklyn City Directory, located on Montrose Avenue, corner of Seneca Avenue. (They are not in the 1889 directory and I don’t have access to directories in-between.) The business remained listed at that location through the late 1940’s. By 1949, the business address had changed to 235 Randolph Street, also in Brooklyn, where it was still listed in the mid-1960’s. The 1913/1914 Copartnership and Corporation Directory for Brooklyn listed the brothers’ names as Edward S. and David Robinson. In the same directory in 1922, only David was listed.

Buffalo Ammonia was advertised with a wide variety of uses both as a cleaning fluid and toilet article. An item in the August 25, 1923 issue of “Brooklyn Life,” while lengthy, paints a good overall picture of it’s “as advertised” qualities and benefits.

Doubtless few appreciate the many uses of ammonia and the importance for most purposes of it being pure.

Most of the cheaper brands of ammonia sold in bottles consist for the most part of water softened by the addition of caustic soda, or soda ash, and containing only enough ammonia to impart to the solution the odor of the chemical.

When used for washing clothes, ammonia solutions containing caustic soda are very injurious as the soda will cause the fabric to rot or disintegrate.

Impure brands of ammonia, therefore should never be used for laundry purposes, while for other household uses, such as cleaning nickel work on gas stove ranges and other appliances, and removing stains, a pure ammonia is incomparably more effective.

Its purity, coupled with its low price, is the chief distinction of Buffalo Ammonia, manufactured by the Robinson Brothers Kings County Chemical Works at Montrose and Seneca Avenues, Brooklyn.

This ammonia is perfectly pure and clear and wholly free from caustic soda or soda ash, so that it can be used with perfect safety on the most delicate fabrics and employed with equal confidence for all household purposes. Not only that, but it is equally good for toilet purposes.

Added to the bath, especially in hot sultry weather it will make the water feel smooth and soft and without the use of soap, leave the skin equally smooth and soft as well as odorless and clean and impart to the body a delightful sensation of coolness. For shampooing the hair it is equally good. A teaspoonful should be put into the water with the soap. This will produce an abundant lather when rubbed into the scalp with the fingers and, having washed the hair with clean water and rubbed dry with a towel, it will be left soft and fluffy. The use of the ammonia will also tend to prevent dandruff.

A little Buffalo Ammonia placed in the water will also make shaving much easier and smoother by softening the beard. Incidentally it is a perfect substitute for smelling salts, the reviving effects of which are due wholly to the ammonia they contain. A whiff of Buffalo Ammonia will produce the same revivifying effect.

Buffalo Ammonia is sold by all grocers.

The bottle and labeling of Buffalo Ammonia was described in a “Special Notice” printed in the January 4, 1912 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

This description of the bottle “Engraved or blown on its upper parts near neck on opposite sides words BUFFALO AMMONIA” fits the bottle I found exactly. Both the bottle and label, as described, are shown in a 1932 advertisement. In a 1949 advertisement, other than a screw-top finish, the bottle didn’t change much.

   

Today Montrose and Seneca Avenues do not intersect. Seneca (north-south) terminates at a railroad corridor and Montrose (east-west) terminates west of Seneca. I guess it’s possible that at one time Montrose continued east adjacent to the railroad. 235 Randolph is currently part of a yard that stores/services aerial lift vehicles. It is located directly adjacent to the same rail corridor. It’s possible that both locations are actually one and the same and that the address simply changed as the neighborhood developed around the Robinson facility.

On a final note, a business called the American Bluing Company, located in Buffalo New York also manufactured a product called Buffalo Ammonia. Advertisements for their product say that the company was established in 1873 and they used a different image of the Buffalo on their packaging so the two companies don’t appear to be related.

I guess it’s possible that the Brooklyn company was a knock-off or copy cat of the Buffalo company?

 

 

S. M. Bixby

The S. M. stands for Samuel Merrill Bixby. His company, S M Bixby & Co., started in 1860 and was in business for over 60 years. They manufactured ink and glue items but their main product was shoe blacking and polish.

The  February 7, 1920 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle featured S. M. Bixby & Co. in a series called “The Wonders of Brooklyn.” Much of the information it contains is the product of an interview with Theo W Rich, manager of Bixby’s export department at the time.

It was back in the year 1860 that Samuel M Bixby began to make shoe polish in the basement of his shoe store on 8th Ave., in old New York. At that time the people of the United States were mostly dependent on foreign-made shoe blackings, which were imported in large quantities. One that was quite popular was applied with a flat stick – one end embedded in the cork – and then rubbed furiously with a heavy brush to obtain a shine. The directions on another, a crumbly cake-like substance, urged our ancestors to “take a piece the size of a pea” with no hint of whether they had reference to petit-pois or marrow fats , and no distinction between sizes 3 1/2 B and 9 shoes. Were the members of the present generation compelled to use such stuff, after a taste of the niceties  of modern invention, the air would become blue with piratical execration.

The founder of our industry was bent upon improvement and uplift. The spontaneous popularity achieved by his product made his shoe business an affair of minor importance, and he forthwith engaged exclusively in the manufacture of shoe polishes in modest quarters at the corner of Washington and Dey Streets. After more than twenty-five years of steady increase in the business, a removal was made to a large factory building on Baxter Street near Canal where the output assumed such proportions that another removal became necessary.

It was then that the citizens of Brooklyn beckoned kindly, and we negotiated the purchase of this building, formerly a shoe factory, together with a large area of unimproved property adjoining it at the rear. This was in 1910.

The NYC directories confirm much of this story.

  • Between 1863 and 1865 Samuel M Bixby was listed at 475 Eighth Avenue with the occupation “shoes”
  • From 1867 up through 1886 the S.M. Bixby & Co. was listed with the classification of blacking. The address over this period was listed as either 74 Dey or 173 Washington (corner of Washington and Dey).
  • Between 1886 and 1888 their address changed to 194 Hester (corner of Baxter) and the business was listed there through 1910.

Kings Handbook of New York City, published in 1892, included a section on S.M. Bixby & Co which included a photograph and description of the Hestor Street operation.

The particular articles by which S.M. Bixby & Co. have won their reputation are “Three Bee” Blacking and “Royal Polish” the former a paste blacking for men’s boots and the latter a liquid dressing, for restoring the color and gloss to ladies’ and children’s shoes. The building in which these goods are manufactured is an imposing six-story structure, supplied with machinery and appliances necessary for the business, and is the largest one in existence devoted exclusively to the manufacture of shoe-blacking. It is located at 194 and 196 Hester Street, adjacent to the busiest part of Broadway, and one block from Canal and Centre Streets. The salesroom and offices of the company occupy a portion of the second floor, while the shipping department and stockrooms are on the main floor. The remainder of the space in this immense building is divided into various departments, where the compounding and putting up of the blacking is done. In all departments the manufacture is an interesting one, and furnishes employment to upwards of 150 hands. It is not alone the excellence of their blackings and dressings and the convenient and perfect form of putting them up, that have given S.M. Bixby & Co. the leading position they occupy today in their especial line, but their persistent and novel methods of making the merits of the goods known, and a display of an unflinching determination to be always abreast of the times.

Sometime around 1910/1911, the company moved to the Brooklyn factory which was located on 2nd Avenue at 45th and 46th Streets. In addition, they also utilized portions of two buildings in Bush Terminal for storage purposes. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle feature described the Brooklyn plant this way:

Equipped with electrical power, well-arranged mixing utensils and a labyrinth of labor-saving machinery, this plant has hummed its daily note of inspiration to its army of contented workers during the ten years that have elapsed since the Bixby organization made Brooklyn its home. The operation of the various mechanical departments make interesting moving pictures to which must be added the swish of steaming kettles, the rumble of the presses that stamp out the tin boxes, and the never ceasing jingle and rattle of glass bottles in which “Jet Oil” and “Royal Polish” for black shoes, “AA Brown for brown shoes and “Shu-Wite” canvas shoe cleaner are filled. Imagine , if you will, the filling of these bottles by an expert operator, whose cleverness enables her to pick up empty ones and remove those that have been filled at the rate of 34 to 36 per minute and meanwhile tell her coworkers of the fun she had at a dance the night before.

Samuel Bixby was the president of the company up until his death on March 11, 1912. His cousins, Samuel A. Bixby and Willard G. Bixby continued to run the company after his death. Both are listed as president at various times between 1912 and 1920.

Bixby was an innovative marketer and as far as I can tell, one of the first to create what we might call today a “rewards” or “incentive” program.” The program was described in the November 28, 1894 issue of the “Boot and Shoe Recorder”

A couple of years ago S.M. Bixby & Co., published a neat little book of “Home Songs” which at once became popular, for it contained a number of prime old favorites which our mothers used to sing. The plan was to send this book to any person who would send to them a label from a box or bottle of their blacking or dressing, and six cents. As an advertising scheme it was a most pronounced success, and numbers two, three and four followed. Each contained sixty-two pages, words and music of such songs as were worth singing, and societies, glee clubs and families sought and used them. Edition after edition has been printed since that time. The firm made special arrangements with shoe dealers who handled “Royal Polish,” “Three Bee Blacking,” and “Santinola” which enabled them to sell much more by offering these books as premiums, furnishing them with sample of the “Home Songs.”

In 1920 or 1921, the F.F. Dalley Corporation gained control of S.M. Bixby & Company. According to the September 23, 1922 issue of the American Investor:

The F.F. Dalley Corp’n was incorporated March 23, 1920, under the laws of New Hampshire, and began business Jan. 1, 1921. Through ownership of capital stock, this Corporation controls F.F. Daley Company, Inc., S.M. Bixby & Co., Shinola Company, Munroe Novelty Co., Thermokept Corporation, F.F. Dalley Co. of Canada, Ltd., and Morris Howard Realty Company.

At the time, the F.F.Dalley Company, S.M Bixby & Co., and the Shinola Co. were the largest shoe polish manufacturers in the United States. Later, in the late 1920’s or early 1930’s, the names Bixby and Shinola  resurfaced as the “2 in 1 Shinola-Bixby Corporation.”

The last individual listing that I can find for S.M.Bixby & Co. is in the 1924 directory at the 2nd Avenue location in Brooklyn.

As far as I can tell, none of the Bixby buildings located in Manhattan still exist today. The former Washington Street/Dey Street intersection is now located within the new World Trade Center complex and no longer exists. The Brooklyn location on 2nd Avenue may still exist as 201 46th Street. It’s a five-story manufacturing building built in 1900.

I’ve found three different types of Bixby bottles over the years. One is their uniquely shaped bottle with a March 6, 1883 patent date embossed on the front and Bixby, with an oversized “X” embossed on the base.

 

Developed for liquid blacking and called “Bixby’s New Bottle and Combination Stopper for Sponge Blacking,” the reasoning behind its design was explained in an advertising card for Bixby’s “Royal Polish.”

The bottle has a broad base and will not upset easily; the mouth has a wide projecting flange, and an air chamber below to prevent the overflow of the liquid in taking out and putting in the sponge, which perfectly insures cleanliness.

The second is shaped like a rectangular medicine but with rounded sides and the third is a cone ink with Bixby embossed on the base. All are mouth blown.

 

Carbona Products Company, Carbona

             

The Carbona Products Company was founded sometime around the turn of the century but the actual start date is not clear. The company’s initial product was a first of it’s kind non-flammable stain remover called Carbona, the trade name for carbon tetrachloride. Up to that point clothing and fabric stains were treated with gasoline which resulted in a significant number of household fires and explosions.

Ernest C Klipstein, the company’s first president began importing carbon tetrachloride from Germany as a dry cleaning and spot removal solvent as early as 1898 (some documents say 1888) and I’ve seen Carbona listed in a Riker’s Drug Store advertisement as early as 1904. However,the first mention of the company that I could find is in a 1907 issue of the Druggist and Pharmaceutical record where the address was given as 80 William Street, New York.

Benzin is altogether too dangerous to be carried in stock, as it’s history has abundantly shown. A good substitute for it is Carbona, which is absolutely unburnable. This product is manufactured by the Carbona Product Company, of 80 William Street, New York.

Shortly thereafter, the company moved to Newark New Jersey where they incorporated in 1907 with capital of $700,000 and Klipstein as president. The business was listed in the Newark Directories from 1908 to 1911 at 5 Burnet Street. During this time I can’t find a New York listing for them.

Then, in 1912, they returned to New York and it appears that they operated a significant portion of the business there over the next several decades. That year they were listed at 148 West 23rd Street and then between 1915 and 1925 their address was listed in the directories at 302 W 26th Street. At times during this period they also used 5 East 43rd Street as an address.

Sometime in the 1920’s they moved their operation to Queens. An article in the February 5, 1921 issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced that they were establishing a factory in Long Island City.

Announcement has just been made that the factory of the Carbona Company, a non-explosive cleaning preparation, is to be established on Van Alst Avenue in Long Island City. The office of the Company is now located at 5 East 43rd Street, Manhattan. The management plans to come to Long Island City in order to get more room and larger accommodations to meet the increasing demand for their product.

Then another article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, this one on April 17, 1947 announced:

The Carbona Products Co. of New York has acquired for occupancy the railroad siding property including building, located on the block front of Greenpoint Avenue and Review Avenue in Long Island City, for the processing and distribution of its products.

The brand name was acquired in 1994 by Delta Pronatura and still exists today. According to their web site, Delta Pronatura is the leading manufacturer of stain removal and household cleaning products throughout Europe.

In addition to stressing it’s non-flammable properties, early Carbona advertisements called the product a cleaning fluid that removed grease spots without injury to fabric or color. Carbon Tetrachloride was the first chlorinated solvent used in dry cleaning operations and was commonly used in dry cleaning by the 1930’s, so there’s a lot of truth in their advertising.

The company made a number of other non-flammable products as well. A 1908 item in the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record listed Carbona as well as Carbona Liquid Soap, Carbona Cream, Carbona White Satin, a polish for silver and Carbona Black Satin, a polish for stoves.

By the 1930’s, it appears that cleaning people’s leather shoes was not enough and they started manufacturing shoe polish as well.

On a side note, in the 1960’s and 1970’s sniffing Carbona was one way to get a cheap high. A 1970 issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine stated:

Carbona sniffing seems to be increasingly popular among adolescents, and its use in a group that has abused other drugs complicates an already difficult situation.

80 William Street and 302 West 26th Street in Manhattan, as well as 5 Burnet Street in Newark, all no longer exist.

The bottle I found is a twelve ribbed machine made bottle with “Carbona” embossed on the base. It’s probably from the late teens or 1920’s.

Everett & Barron Co., Shoe Polish, Providence R.I.

Everett and Barron was founded in 1895 by Samuel A Everett. The company’s activities centered around shoe polish and dressings.

The Who’s Who in New England, published in 1916, maintained a listing for Samuel A Everett.

Founded the firm of Everette & Baron, mfg. agts., 1895 and became sole owner in 1897; incorporated in 1903, Everett & Barron Co., of which he has since been president and treasurer.

The business was located at 217 Canal Street through the late teens and later at 359 Eddy in Providence. Samuel A Everette was still listed as president and treasurer through 1945 (at 79 years old). A year later, in 1946, P. A. Boyd had replaced Everette as president and treasurer.The business was still listed in the Providence Directories as late as 1964 (the latest directory I could find).

Early on, the company sold several products under a brand name called U.N.O. In 1906, the company acquired the Columbia Shoe Dressing Co. and the Burbank Manufacturing Co. A notice in a 1906 issue of the “Canadian Shoe and Leather Journal” announced the acquisitions and provided a partial summary of their expanded product/brand menu.

Everett & Barron Company of Amherst Nova Scotia and Providence Rhode Island, manufacturer’s of the “U.N.O.” Shoe Blacking have recently purchased all trade marks, stock and good will of the Columbia Shoe Dressing Company, Bath, Maine and also of the Burbank Mfg. Co., Boston. In addition to the line which they formally manufactured, they will now make the “Trilby Polish” , “Twentieth Century Dressing,” “Goodrich Combination,” and all brands manufactured by the Columbia Dressing Company, and also the “American National Dressing,” “University,” and other brands formerly owned by the Burbank Mfg. Company. They have also added more room to their Providence factory and are fitting it with the most improved machinery.

An advertisement from the 1920’s continued to promote their U.N.O brand and also mentioned one of the acquired brands, Trilby Polish.

The company also maintained a Canadian factory in Amherst, Nova Scotia. According to one 1910 magazine article, by then, they were “now shipping their polish in Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and also covering Newfoundland, and other islands on the Canadian coast.

The company maintained an office in New York City for a while as well. The Copartnership and Corporation Directories list them at 127 Duane Street between 1907 and 1915. During that time Frank B Mansfield served as the New York Manager. Apparently focused on sales, a September 11, 1907 article in the “Boot and Shoe Recorder” provided some background on Mansfield as well as Everett & Barron.

Frank B Mansfield, representing the Everett & Barron Company, of Providence R.I., starts on Monday for his semi-annual trip through New York and Pennsylvania.

The history of shoe polish in this section would not be complete without mention of Mansfield, for whether “Goodrich,” “Trilby,” or “U.N.O.,” the same individuality is behind the pushing of the goods…Ten years or more ago when liquid shoe polish was a struggling youngster on this market, Mr. Mansfield, as New York State manager, began the missionary work which was the foundation of a business of which one might well be proud.

The old Goodrich concern was merged into the Columbia Shoe Dressing Company, and it’s trade marks, formulas etc. later purchased by the Everett & Barron Company, of Providence R.I., which is now making the entire line in connection with the well known U.N.O. brands of polish which are everywhere recognized as standard.

Mr. Mansfield starts out with the “best polish made,” not best simply because he is selling it, but because he believes it is, in which opinion he is confirmed by a goodly proportion of dealers throughout the territory.

The company was also apparently committed to research of new products as well. The 1940 Bulletin of the National Research Council included them in a list of Industrial Research Laboratories. Their laboratory, which started around 1907, included a director and a staff of three chemists. They  listed waterproofing compounds, dyes, emulsions, shoe dressings and similar compounds, paint, oils colloids and lacquers as research activities.

It looks like they weren’t just focused on chemistry. In 1927 they were advertising a combined polish, dauber and brush that was probably quite innovative at the time.

The current building at 127 Duane Street was built in 1915. Everett & Barron’s last listing at that address was 1915 so I assume they were forced to vacate to facilitate construction of the current building.

The bottle I found is machine made, listed as two ounces and probably from the 1920’s.

Major Manufacturing Company, New York

   

The company sold household cement products and was established in 1876 by Alphonse Major. The origin of Major’s Cement was told in a 1913 issue of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record.

On his way back from Washington where Alphonse Major went with the suffragette hikers in his motor car, he stopped over in Baltimore to visit the place where he first engaged in the manufacture and sale of Major’s Cement. In an interview published in the Baltimore Star, Mr Major tells of his purchase of the recipe for the cement from a man in Galveston, Texas, but he made no use of it until a year later when he obtained space at a poultry show held in the Maryland Institute Hall where he sold quantities of it. He established a sidewalk stand in front of old Carroll Hall, and from this small beginning the sale of Major’s Cement has grown until it is known all over the world and the business occupies extensive quarters at 461 Pearl Street, New York.

Originally called the Alphonse Major Cement Company, they were listed in the NYC Directories beginning around 1880 at 232 William Street. In and around 1906 they apparently incorporated in New York State and changed their name to the Major Manufacturing Company. (The 1906 Copartnership and Corporation Directory listed the Major Manufacturing Company (NY) for the first time and indicated that the Alphonse Major Cement Company was dissolved.) Around this time they moved to 461 Pearl Street where they remained through at least 1933.

The company produced a number of differently named cement products. An advertisement in the April 5, 1893 issue of Illustrated America listed the following different products:

Majors Cement is the best for repairing China, Glassware, Vases, Meerschaum, Tipping Billiard Cues, etc.

Major’s Leather Cement for patching Boots and Shoes.

Major’s Rubber Cement repairs everything in rubber.

Major’s Best Liquid Glue, always ready for use.

The company trade mark consisted of an ordinary plate broken in two and mended with Major’s Cement supporting a stone. Apparently it started as an exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 utilizing a 300 lb. stone.

The trademark later appeared on their stationary but interestingly, the weight was reduced to 250 lbs and in 1920 another advertisement in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle knocked it back even further to 200 lbs. Either the cement got weaker or the truth kept catching up to them?

 

An article in a 1900 issue of Iron & Steel provides some insight into the company, it’s product and how it was marketed.

We are in receipt of a letter from Mr. Major, the famous cement man, of New York, in which he sets forth some very interesting facts about Major’s Cement.

The multitudes who use this standard article know that it is many hundred percent better than other cements, for which similar claims are made, but a great many do not know why. The simple reason is that Mr. Major uses the best materials ever discovered and other manufacturers do not use them, because they are too expensive and do not allow large profits. Mr. Majors tells us that one of the elements of his cement costs $3.75 a pound, and another costs $2.65 a gallon, while a larger share of the so called cements and liquid glue upon the market are nothing more than sixteen cent glue, dissolved in water or citric acid, and, in some cases, altered slightly in color and odor by the addition of cheap and useless materials.

Major’s Cement retails at fifteen and twenty-five cents a bottle, and when a salesman tries to sell a substitute you can depend on it that his only object is to make a larger profit.

The profit on Major’s Cement is as much as any salesman ought to make on any cement. And this is doubly true in view of the fact that each dealer gets his share of the benefit of Mr. Major’s advertising, which now amounts to over $5,000 a month throughout the country.

Insist on having Major’s cements on hand.

If you are at all handy (and you will be likely to find that you are a good deal more so than you imagine) you can repair your rubber boots and family shoes, and any other rubber or leather articles, with Major’s rubber cement and Major’s leather cement.

And you will be surprised at how many dollars a year you will thus save.

If your jobber can’t supply you, it will be forwarded by mail; either kind.

Major must have been a very interesting guy. Another story in a 1916 issue of the American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record talked about Major’s belief in advertising and the need to keep the product before the public eye. It’s his approach to doing this that caught my attention:

Alphonse Major, the president of the Major Manufacturing Company, New York City, has always been a believer in advertising, to which much of his success is doubtless due. Having just celebrated hi sixty-ninth birthday, Mr. Major feels that he is entitled to some relief from the strenuous labors of business, and is following his practice of the last few years in spending much of his time in his automobile in the fresh air distributing advertising matter and keeping the name of Major’s Cement before the public. To this occupation and the attendant outdoor life, Mr Major credits his fine health, and incidentally it has had a tonic effect on the sale of Major’s Cement.

After his death in 1927, the business continued to be run by his family, at least into the mid-1930’s. The 1933 NYC Directory listed his daughter Lillian as president.

The brand lasted well into the 1950’s. I’ve seen advertisements for Major’s Cement as late as 1955 in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. One from 1952 referred to an 80 year history so I assume it’s a continuation, or at least related, to the original business.

461 Pearl Street appears to be part of what is now One Police Plaza.

The bottle I found is mouth blown, small, maybe an ounce or two and embossed on all four sides: This is Major’s (1) Rubber Cement (2) Major Manufacturing Co. (3) New York, U.S.A. (4). The company name, Major Manufacturing Co., dates it after the 1906 incorporation date.