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.