Parlor Pride Stove Enamel was closely associated with Benjamin D. Milliken who was listed as a peddler in the 1878 Boston City Directory. It’s likely that he was making and selling the product locally by that time.
Around 1880 he began to formally manufacture it in Boston under a partnership with I. C. Stuart. That year, “Milliken & Stuart, stove blacking,” was listed for the first time in the Boston City directories with an address of 21 Commercial Street. Over the next several years Milliken & Stuart was listed at several different Boston addresses including 5 India (1882), 52 South Market (1883) and 85 Fulton (1885).
Sometime in 1885 the partnership was apparently dissolved and Milliken continued as sole proprietor. The 1886 Boston Directory listed the business as the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Co., B. D. Milliken & Co., proprietors. That first year, the business remained listed at 85 Fulton Street.
Around that time the first newspaper advertisements for “Parlor Pride” began to appear. This advertisement appeared in the January 23, 1886 edition of the Burlington (Vt) Free Press.
The 1885 edition of “Leading Manufacturers and Merchants of the City of Boston” featured the company and mentioned that in addition to Milliken’s Parlor Pride Stove Enamel the company was also manufacturing Milliken’s Parlor Pride Paste Polish and Milliken’s Cold Iron Enamel. The feature went on to describe the business at the time.
This company does a large business in the trade by reason of the superior excellence of its goods and the immense popularity they have achieved throughout the entire United States and Canada. The factory is located at No. 85 Fulton Street, occupying three entire floors for manufacturing purposes, each being 30 x 80 feet in dimensions. Here are all the necessary apparatus for the manufacture of the beautiful enamels and polishes for which the concern is so well and favorably known in the trade and among the community in general, and the demand is so large and continued that a force of twenty-five hands is constantly employed to assist in the compounding and preparation of the goods…So popular are the goods that Mr. B. D. Milliken, the sole proprietor, has been obliged to open a branch establishment at Nos. 188 and 190 McGill Street, Montreal. Mr. Milliken also imports and grinds all kinds of Ceylon and lubricating lead and the finest quality of plumbago, much of which he uses in the manufacture of his unequalled goods, and the remainder he sells to the trade.
In 1887, the company moved to 140 Commercial Street. It was around this time that the design of their bottle (as least as depicted in their ads) changed as well. This February 28, 1887 advertisement from the (New Haven Conn.) Morning Journal Courier depicted the new design.
It was at the 140 Commercial Street address that Milliken developed and patented a device that supported the manufacture of his Parlor Pride Stove Enamel. The patented device was described in an article printed in the April 5, 1889 edition of the Tunkhannick (Pa.) Republican.
A patent has just been granted on an ingenious contrivance, made by Mr. Benjamin D. Milliken of Sommerville Mass., for the purpose of mixing liquid and powdered substances where the latter cannot be held in solution. This will be a great convenience to manufacturers of sauces, liquid polishes and the like, where a given quantity of each ingredient must enter every package. The machine is so constructed that an “agitator,” revolving in the tank, keeps the contents in perpetual “boiling spring motion,”and at the same time straining the liquid. An additional device measures the quantity required for each bottle, filling the same at the rapid rate of 48 bottles per minute, or 200 gross a day. One of these machines has been in constant use since April of last year, at 140 Commercial Street, Boston, where it can be seen by anyone interested, pumping Parlor Pride Stove Enamel.
Although evidently a skilled inventor, Milliken was apparently not a strong businessman. An item in the June 27, 1889 edition of the Boston Globe announced that his business had failed.
Benjamin D. Milliken & Co. (Parlor Pride Manufacturing Company), manufacturers of stove enamel, 140 and 142 Commercial Street, Boston, have failed. The liabilities are about $25,000, and assets $15,000. The creditors are offered 50 cents on a dollar.
Two days later, a follow-up item in the Globe announced that the business would continue under the direction of three trustees.
The creditors of Benjamin D. Milliken & Co., manufacturers of stove enamel, 142 Commercial Street, Boston, held a meeting yesterday. The statement presented showed the liabilities to be $24,445 and the assets as far looked into $11,000. It was unanimously agreed that the failure be settled through three trustees; they to hire Mr. Milliken at a fair salary and go on with the business; the intention being that 100 cents on the dollar be worked out and then the assets remaining be returned to Mr. Milliken. Nathaniel F. Ryder and L. H. Wiley of Boston and Milton Yetter of East Stroudsburgh, Penn., were chosen trustees.
Milliken’s continued association with the business did not last very long and by 1892 he was only listed at his residence in Sommerville Mass., with no reference to the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Co., or stove polish.
Around the same time, on February 10, 1893, the business reorganized under the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Company name. One of the trustees, Nathaniel F. Ryder, served as the company’s treasurer. Ryder was also principal in a varnish manufacturing company called Burbank and Ryder and over the next several years the two businesses were closely related if not one and the same. In fact between 1893 and 1904 the two companies shared the same addresses in the Boston directories. Likely retail stores and/or offices the addresses were: 8 Oliver (1892 -1893), 149A Milk (1894 – 1899), 18 Central (1900) and 8 Exchange Place (1901).
During this period Burbank & Ryder operated manufacturing facilities in both Middleborough Massachusetts and Charleston Massachusetts and its likely that Charleston was where Milliken’s Parlor Pride Stove Polish was made during this time. In fact, between 1902 and 1904 the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Company listed Burbank & Ryder’s manufacturing facility at 62 Alford Street in Charleston as their address.
In 1905 the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Company was no longer listed at the same address as Burbank & Ryder so its not clear whether the companies were still associated at this time. Parlor Pride was listed in Boston at 64 Federal Street and 60 State Street in 1905 and 1906 respectively.
As late as 1906 “Parlor Pride Stove Polish” advertisements were still appearing in some northeastern United States newspapers. This advertisement, one of the last I could find, appeared in several Vermont newspapers in 1905 and 1906.
In 1907 the company was no longer listed in the Boston directories and it appears they moved to North Andover Massachusetts around that time. The 1913 Directory of Massachusetts Manufacturers listed the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Co. in North Andover and identified the proprietors as James W. and William J. Leitch. While the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Company was not listed in the North Andover directories between 1907 and 1926, the plumbing and heating business of J. W. Leith & Son was listed at 136 Main Street. There’s a good possibility the the two companies were actually one and the same or at least associated during this time. While I don’t see newspaper advertisements for Parlor Pride Stove Enamel during this period, the product was included sporadically in advertised department/hardware store price lists.
In 1930, the Parlor Pride Manufacturing Co. was still located in North Andover and was now included in that town’s directory at an address of 90 Saunders Street. It was listed this way through 1949 with Robert P. Miller named as proprietor. In 1951 it was no longer listed and I lose track of them.
The bottle I found is mouth blown and square in shape. It includes the Milliken company name likely dating it no later than January, 1893, when the business reorganized. It matches the bottle type that began appearing in advertisements in 1887 so the bottle most likely dates between 1887 and 1892.
The embossing on the bottle is not sharp but at the bottom it seems to name both Boston and N.Y. as locations. That being said, I can’t locate any reference to the company in the New York directories. I couldn’t find any additional information on their Montreal location either. It’s possible the company was just indicating they had agents in those locations but I really don’t know?