Pen History, 1840’s: H. B. Herts & Sons, British Makers in America

Henry Benjamin Herts, born in 1794, was living in England when he had his family. His children included, his daughter Rachel (b. 1819), and his sons Henry B. Jr. (born May 26, 1823 in Nottingham, died 1884), Daniel born about 1825, Jacob,  and Lewis. They were all born in England.

In 1841 Henry Sr. opened a steel pen factory under the name H. B. Herts & Co, at 281 Bradford St. in Birmingham. According to Brian Jones’s book People, Pens & Production, the factory operated from 1841-1842.

In 1843, at age 49, Henry Sr. came to the United States and settled in New York. He created a partnership with his sons Henry Jr. and Jacob called H. B. Herts & Sons. They set up a factory at 509 Broome St. in New York City where they manufactured stationery (probably blank books), pen holders, and maybe pens.

The reason I say “maybe” is that while H.B. Herts & Sons is listed in various directories as a “manufacturer of metallic pens, penholders, stationery, &c” the advertisements promote the pens as being made in Birmingham. In a large ad in the Doggett’s directory of New York City for 1846-47, it explicitly says that the pens are made at the Bradford Works in Birmingham.

Doggett's New-York City directory, for ...

This wasn’t the first pen they started advertising. The first ads in 1845 mention the Alpha Pen.

1845 Herts sons alpha

In 1846 is when you first see the reference, above, to the amalgam pen you also find the claim “By Royal Letters Patent.” The only problem with this is that I cannot find a British (or American) patent that fits this pen. Perhaps someone else can find it, but it has eluded me. If you do find something you think works, let me know.

The Royal Letters Patent claim also shows up in an interesting ad in 1847. This ad claims that the Amalgamated Silver, Steel and Platina Pen was first introduced into the US in August, 1845 “at which time the manufacturers were unknown to the writing community; the pen, therefore, had to stand on its own merits.”

Because of the superior quality of the pens, they claim that between December 1845 and December 1846, they sold 375,000 gross, or 45,000,000 of their pens. It is in this ad, as well, that they refer to their business address as the “manufacturer’s depot” and list not just their NYC address, but also 35 Cornhill in Boston.

We can compare this 375,000 gross of pens Herts produced in 1845 with the 730,031 gross Gillott claimed to have made in 1843. Herts was no where near as large, but they were making quite a respectable number of pens nonetheless.

1847 Herts sons big ad

The family stayed pretty close, literally, through the years of the business. When the directories show both business and home addresses, Henry B. Sr. is shown as living with at least one, and often two or even three of his sons in the same house over the years.

There’s evidence that some of the sons made trips back to England in at least 1846 and 1849. It’s likely they kept the factory open in Birmingham and perhaps kept it running by other sons or relatives. Since we’ve not found evidence for the factory after Henry left in 1843, it’s not clear if they really still had their own factory, or just had pens stamped with their name by another maker, and just attributed them to their old Bradford Works.

Regardless, they kept selling the pens as H. B. Herts & Sons until 1853 when Henry B. Sr. retired and the old company dissolved. The new company, “Herts Brothers” continued to sell pens as well as import stationery and fancy goods in their new office at 241 Broadway.

An interesting ad/article in the March 2, 1854 Buffalo (NY) Morning Express gives us more information about the company. It talks about “Herts Brothers Amalgamated Iridium, Zinc and Platina Pens” and “The Messrs. Herts are at the head of the great house in Birmingham, England, for the manufacture of Metallic Pens. They employ about 500 persons in their extensive operations.” This pen is patented in England and the United States by ‘Herts Brothers.’ It is for sale at their splendid Emporium, 241 Broadway, as well as in different parts of the Union, England and France.”  If they truly had 500 employees then they were quite a good sized company. The well-known D. Leonardt, one of the largest of the independent makers in Birmingham, had 500 employees at its height in the 1880-1890’s, and that included their own rolling steel operation.

1854 herts bros ad

Alas, the “discerning public” did not flock to this pen, and in 1855, Herts Brothers was no longer listed. Jacob is still listed as a “stationer” but it does not tell us where, and Henry B. Jr. has set himself up in his own auction business.

1856 Herts auction

Interestingly, Henry B. Senior just can’t stay away from family, or completely in retirement. In the 1855 New York Census we find Henry B. Herts Sr. living with his daughter Rachel and her husband Jacob Davis. Both Jacob and Henry are listed as at the same business address with Henry labeled “jeweler” and Jacob as a watchmaker.

Henry Sr. died about 1856. Henry Jr. lived until 1884 when he died on a trip to England at the age of 63. Many of his children went on to start up their own businesses including another Herts Brothers, this time Herts Brothers Furniture.

The history of Henry Benjamin Herts still has some mysteries to be solved. It seems from the advertisements that the Herts family may still have had a factory making pens in Birmingham. It’s not clear if all of their pens were imported from that factory, or if some were made in the US, or if they got some from other Birmingham factories, or some combination of the three. Further research on the Birmingham side may be done, but the standard resources don’t mention the Herts family or the Bradford Works beyond that brief mention in Jones’ book. If they were as big and prosperous as the claims, then their omission from the standard histories is a significant one.

We also still have the mysterious patent claims. I cannot find any record of patents claimed in England or the US. For now, it remains yet another mystery.

Harry B. Herts came to America as so many others did, and while his pens seem to have, at least partly if not completely, been made in England, he chose America as his main marketplace as well as home. Because of that, I still consider H. B. Herts & Sons as another of the interesting American pen makers of the 1840’s.

 

Pen History, 1840’s: Myer Phineas, the forgotten success story.

Another stationer in the 1840’s to make his own pens was Myer Phineas. His name is not well-known, but in his day, he was one of the most successful, at least measured by longevity, pen makers in America up to that point. He made pens for 20 years in a wide variety, with several patents to his name, and prestigious customers like the War Department and the United States Senate. He was one of the few of the old stationers still remembered in a look back at the NY stationery trade in an article in the American Stationer in 1891.

Myer Phineas was born about 1814 in either Poland or Russia. It’s not clear when he came to the United States, but by 1845 he owned a stationery and import business in downtown Manhattan, on Maiden Lane, and was already making his own pens. In 1842 and earlier, he does not appear in the business directories of New York City. I’ve yet to find one for 1843 or 1844, but it’s most likely in one of these years he begins Myer Phineas & Co. and begins to make pens.

In the earliest ad, from 1845, he’s already making a wide variety of pens.

1845 Myer Phineas

  • 336 Bank fine point
  • 336 Bank medium point
  • 337 Commercial
  • 364 Double Damascus
  • 264 Damascus
  • 306 Capital Pen fine point
  • 306 Capital Pen medium point
  • 305 Extra Fine
  • 101 Barrell [sic]
  • 233 Register
  • “a new pen” 335 Original
  • Eagle
  • Magnum Bonum

Now, this is a rather extensive set of pens to be making right off the bat, considering he’s not even showing up in the business directory three years before. This is just one of the mysteries surrounding Myer Phineas. If it weren’t for the problem with the dates, the most likely explanation is that he took over C. C. Wright’s pen operation. There are some definite overlaps, including the “Sauvitor” pen which we find in the list of Phineas’ pens below, as well as in an 1843 ad for Wright, associated with a ladies’ boarding school. (Sauvitor may be a corruption of Sauviter, from the Latin phrase “fortiter et suaviter” which may translate as “fortitude and patience”)

1843 cc wright testimonials

This is nowhere near even weak evidence, especially since Wright supposedly kept making pens until 1847.

One thing that is not a mystery is the success of his pens. We find his pens sold in New York through his own store, and by other stationers. In 1858, the Board of Education of the City of New York accepted bids to provide them with Myer Phineas pens, but Phineas himself was only successful in bidding to provide one number, the other four numbers were awarded to his rival stationer Willard Felt.

In 1853, the War Department in Washington DC purchased his pens from the local (Washington DC) stationer R. Farnham. And in 1861, the United States Senate purchased 156 dozen of his pens.

He seems to have focused mainly on commercial and financial customers, government and education. The most complete list of his pens is found in a catalog of a large supplier of educational textbooks, learning tools and other supplies.

Ide & Dutton of Boston were a very large firm carrying many of the latest and most modern of educational supplies. In their 1855 catalog, this is the list of the only steel pens they offer.

A Catalogue of Books, Maps, Charts, and School Apparatus, Publis

As you can see from the list, he also manufactured pen holders. The Accommodating Pen Holder was actually one of his own inventions.

Myer Phineas was not only a successful stationer and pen maker, he was also an inventor.

I have not found all of his patents, but right now I’m aware of four of them: two for pens, one for a pen holder, and one for an ink well.

In 1853, he patents the design of a pen with slots or ribs cut into the top of the nib, held with strips along the side. This is to increase flexibility yet keep the pen stable and durable. This becomes his “500 Patent Double Spring”  (see above) and is most likely the original design for later similar pens like the Esterbrook 126 Double Spring.

1498394389929671005-00009843

ESTERBROOK-126

The next year, in 1854, he patents a new kind of pen holder that allows for different sized nibs to be held firmly, yet with some spring. This is the Accommodating Pen Holder. I’m not sure what the “Extra Accommodating Pen Holder” is, but it’s most likely a slightly fancier version of the one he patented.

Then in 1856 he patents a “fountain pen” which is what they called pens with built-in reservoirs before today’s fountain pens came along. It’s punched from a single sheet with a bend at the top to create a top reservoir, similar to the later Hunt design seen even today on modern Speedball calligraphy pens.

1856 Myer Phineas patent reservoir

Phineas also patented an inkwell that seems to have made quite an impression. Even as late as 1891, in an article in American Stationer “Reminiscences of the New York Stationery Trade” the short section on Myer Phineas says:

Myer Phineas & Co. were located in Maiden lane and were well known.  They were the patentees of an inkstand which has had an extensive sale.

I’ve not found the original patent, but I have found a picture of one of the ink wells that says it was patented and the patent was renewed Aug. 18, 1869. That’s interesting because that’s after Myer’s death in 1868. The article may even imply that it’s still being sold, or was sold for quite a while.

So, the particular inkwell I saw was produced after September 18, 1869, which is after Myer Phineas’s death in 1868. I can find no reference for his business continuing after his death, or who could possibly have made the ink well. In the city directories, there’s only an entry for his widow “Ellen” which shows her living in a boardinghouse at 137 W. 43rd. This remains yet another mystery still to be solved.

Myer Phineas was not only a businessman, but also a manufacturer and an inventor. He was able to develop a rather large line of pens and pen holders in addition to the other material he imported and sold.

1847 myer phineas importer and pens

It’s a shame that his contribution to the new steel pen industry in the US was soon forgotten by most later “historians” of the steel pen trade, as we will see in later posts.  He deserves to be remembered, and honored for being the longest-producing pen maker coming out of the 1840’s.

Pen History, 1840’s: Mark Levy and Brothers

In the 1830’s we saw Mark Felt, a prosperous stationer, try his hand at making pens. We’ve also seen Sampson Mordan over in England also start to make his own pens, as well as create innovations. This was not an isolated phenomenon.

The 1840’s saw more stationers try and make their own pens. They had been selling the British pens and demand was growing. Already, by the 1830’s, it’s just accepted  by most that the steel pen is the superior writing tool.

1830s steel pens better

In the 1840’s steel pens become big business for the stationers, and it’s not just the pens.  There’s a proliferation of ads touting this paper or that ink as suitable for, or even designed for the steel pen.

1840 Preston ink

So, the stationers were well aware of how much money was being spent on steel pens, and how the market was growing. It’s no wonder a few of them try and get into the business. One of them who did, and succeeded for a bit, was Mark Levy and his brothers Henry and Lewis.

By 1841, Mark, Henry and Lewis had formed Mark Levy & Brothers, selling stationery out of their “Cheap Stationery Warehouse” at 40 Maiden Lane, upstairs. They were also making and selling their own pens under the Mark Levy name.

1841 mark levy ad

The Levy brothers used one of the standard practices of the day and sent samples of their pens to busy newspaper reporters and editors in the hopes that they might get a small bit of newsprint praising their pens. Well, it seems to have worked. By 1843 they had quite a collection of testimonials from newspapers around New York.

1843 mark levy testimonials

The pens themselves came in fine and broad. But they only made the pens until about 1845. The stationery store lasted a bit longer. In 1853 Henry left the business. And Mark left in 1856, leaving just Lewis, still at 49 Maiden Lane selling “fancy goods.”

One note about the picture of the pen at the top of this post. This may be the oldest pen in my collection, or at least one of the oldest. It came to me in a small assorted group of pens, none seemed to be newer than 1860’s. Many were in not so great shape, like the Levy pen, but considering their age, I kept every one. It’s not often you come across a 172-year-old steel pen.

This is the one with the oldest verifiable date. You’ll be seeing a few more of them as we talk about the makers.

MarkLeveyPen

Pen History, 1840’s: C. C. Wright & Co.

Charles Cushing Wright was born in Damariscotta, Maine in 1796. His early life was a story of hardship (orphaned!, abandoned!), drama (poisoning! oppression!) and hard work to overcome a lack of formal education or familial support worthy of a 19th-century novel.

The greatly shortened version is that he initially studied under a silver smith in Utica, in up-state New York, decided he would teach himself engraving, moved first to Savannah and then left for Charleston, S. C. after the great Savannah fire destroyed his workshop. In Charleston he met his wife, Lavinia Dorothy Simons. In 1820 they were married and in 1823 they moved to New York City.*

Once in the city he partnered with another talented engraver, Asher Durand, and Durand’s older brother to form Durand and Wright. Working together for four years, from 1823-1827 they became important bank note engravers.
Wright was a talented medalist (sculptor of medals and medallions), engraver and a die-sinker, the person who carves the dies used to make coins. Some consider him the premier American medalist as all of his training was in the US or self-taught. This 1848 medal commemorating Zachery Taylor’s victory over the Mexicans at Buena Vista is a good example of his work.

zach taylor medal
Wright was also active in the artistic community in New York City. He and Durand, along with Samuel F.B. Morse (of Morse Code fame), Rembradt Peale, Thomas Cole, and others were in the group of young and talented artists who broke away from the American Academy of Fine Arts to eventually form the National Academy of Design, an influential honorary society of artists that is active to this day as the National Academy Museum and School.
Through his work with the Academy he became friends with the well-known chemist James Mapes (father of the author Mary Mapes Dodge). Through Mapes, Wright came to know another chemist who had turned into an ink manufacturer, Thaddeus Davids. Davids had been making ink since 1825 and continued until 1889.

Thaddeus davids ad with location

Davids introduced Wright to the prosperous stationer David Felt. (see my post on the 1830’s when Felt had a short-run try at making his own steel pens under the name of Stationer’s Hall Pens.) For a time Wright was given a space in Felt’s workshops at 34 Wall St. to engrave seals for wealthy clients and make engraved plates to make custom labels. The fancier the engraving on a label, the harder it was to counterfeit.  Monograms and seals were all the rage at the time, and Wright’s work was well-received.

1840 ad for David Felt advertising Wright’s medallion stamps.

1840 David Felt medallions

1840 David Felt labels

In 1842, James Mapes’ son, Charles Mapes, joined with Charles Wright and Joseph C. Barnet and together they formed a company for making steel pens. It is not unlikely that they may have started with David Felt’s old pen making equipment as we no longer find references to Stationer Hall pens by that point, and there’s no record of Felt selling his equipment before this time. I’m sure however they started, with Wright’s abilities as a die sinker and engraver, they soon made their own dies and they began making pens under the name of C. C. Wright & Co.

1842 CC Wright American steel pens
C. C. Wright pens were well-received and consistently won top place in the American Institute’s fairs in New York City. (with poor Josiah Hayden’s pens coming in second every year they competed together)

1843 cc Wright american institute
They soon were offering a wide variety of pen shapes and types with over a dozen offered in 1844. They seem to have targeted especially businesses (like banking), and schools.
1844 cc wright listing types

1844 cc wright schools
His ads are often filled with testimonials about the quality of his pens from newspapers to whom he would send samples, from famous penmanship teachers, and from business folks.

1843 cc wright testimonials

1843 testimonials1

1844 cc wright testimonials

And in 1842, the same year they started making pens, C. C. Wright & Co. submitted a proposal to provide pens to the Treasury Department. Some of the references they used to get the attention of the Treasury Dept. included Judge Tallmudge, the city Recorder at the time, and “Professor [James] Mapes” who was to be in Washington DC and was going to drop off a few samples. The other references were W[illiam]. H. Cary & Co, importers of fancy goods, and Russell, Mattison and Taylor, one of the largest button manufacturers in NYC.
In the proposal to the Treasury, they offered the following pens at the following prices. Pens on cards were provided at a dozen per card, a dozen cards per gross.
On Cards
1. Imitation of the Perrian Pen – $2.75/gross
2. Columbian Eagle Pen – $3.00/gross
3. National Pen – $2.00/gross
4. Naval Pen – $2.00/gross
5. Elastic Pen – $1.80/gross
6. Knickerbocker Pen – $1.75/gross
7. Merchant’s Pen – $1.60/gross
In Boxes
1. School Pens – 75 cents/gross
2. Fine office pens, No. 1 – 87 ½ cents/gross
3. Fine office pens No. 2 – 75 cents/gross
4. Columbian Eagle Pens with holders – $2.50/gross
5. Imitation of Misely’s Pen (possibly Mosely’s pen?) – 50 cents/gross [link]
6. (late Hotchkiss and Co’s) pen – 87 ½ cents/gross
Holders and Handles were also to be provided. At $1.75 and $1.60 per gross respectively.

Wright continued to do engraving and medallions while also making money from his pens. An example from this time is this wonderful advertising note for his pens. (That’s Lafayette on the right) (image courtesy of the New York Historical Society)*

CC Wright Steel Pens certificate

In early 1847 Charles Wright sold his business for a “tidy sum” which allowed him to focus full-time on his medals and other engraving projects.

Unfortunately, Charles Wright died in 1854 at the relatively young age of 59.

There are three major questions still to be answered related to Wright’s time as a pen maker:

  1. Where did he get the tools for making pens? The story that’s been passed down says that while at David Felt’s he saw first-hand the difficulties Felt had in importing British pens. I suspect it was more that he saw a wide variety of pens and realized that with the right tooling it was fairly easy to make pens, and his knowledge of steel and its properties could come in handy. At the time there, again, weren’t many American manufactures. Atwood was out before 1841, and Hayden was just getting started, as was Mark Levy and Rhodes & Sons. Felt could haven advised him that this was a way to make some money, which Wright was in need of.
  2. To whom did Wright sell the pen making equipment and the business? I doubt the machines just disappeared. If he sold the business for a “tidy sum” then someone bought the assets and most likely began making pens. A likely candidate has yet to materialize out of a few possible options.
  3. What did a C.C. Wright pens look like? Obviously some were imitations of other pens, but none have been found as far as I can tell. If anyone finds one or a picture of one, let me know. More people than just I would be interested.

The 1840’s are shaping up to be an interesting decade. You start to have more serious artisans and industrialists trying their hand at pen making. It’s no long the inventor like Atwood, or stationer seeing if it’s cheaper to make than to buy, like Felt.

This sets us up for a whole different breed of professional pen makers to come along in the 1850’s and 1860’s.

* Many thanks go to Neil Musante, whose article in the Summer, 2014 issue of the MCA Advisory, the magazine for the Medal Collectors of America, was a source of tremendous help in the writing of this post, as was the personal correspondence with Mr. Musante who was generosity itself with his knowledge and help. Also, credit to the New York Historical Society who owns the amazing advertising note above.

Pen History, the 1840’s: Josiah Hayden

Josiah H. Hayden was born 15 August 1802, son of Josiah Hayden Jr. (1768-1847) and Esther Hayden (1769-1862). He was born in upstate New York while his father, originally from Williamsburg, Massachusetts, was busing harvesting potash and preaching to the local Native American tribes*. When Josiah was still young they moved back to Williamsburg where Josiah and his older brother Joel became industrialists and entrepreneurs in the typical mold of the mid-19th-century: ambitious, hard-working, innovative, dedicated to their community and causes, and successful by moving with the times and adapting to new markets.

They started out in Williamsburg, Massachusetts, a small town in Hampshire County in the western part of the state. The town is built along the Mill River which served as a source of power for several of the local industrial operations over the years.

In 1809 Josiah’s uncles, Daniel and David Hayden opened up the first cotton mill in Western Massachusetts. The mill was profitable through the War of 1812, but was later abandoned as the price of cotton fell and larger mills were built elsewhere that could produce more cotton thread more cheaply. The mill sat empty from 1818 until 1822 when Joel Hayden and James Congdon purchased the property, rebuilt the dam, dug a canal and started making power-looms for weaving broadcloth. In 1827, Congdon withdrew from the business and Joel was joined by his younger brother Josiah.

In 1831, Joel and Josiah began moving away from the door locks and harness trimmings they had been making after the looms became obsolete, to make japanned buttons, tin buttons, button-molds and metal-shanked lasting buttons. Buttons were a big item in a day when shoes, dresses, suits, pants, and pretty much everything else were held together with buttons. Unfortunately, in 1832, early on a Sunday morning in November, the factory building was completely destroyed by fire. Fortunately, they were insured for $2500.

The next Spring the brothers began to rebuild. The new building was three stories, and measured 64 feet by 32 feet. Later they added two wings of two-stories each making it 104-feet total in length. Upon reopening, though, the two brothers split their business in two different operations.

Joel began experimenting with improvements on the metal-shanked lasting button and eventually came up with a design for the first flexible-shanked lasting button made in the US. These would naturally replace the sewn buttons made by Mr. Williston of nearby Easthampton, so Hayden and Williston entered into business together and eventually employed about 200 people, mostly women. In 1848, Williston bought out Joel Hayden and moved the button making to Easthampton, but by then, Hayden was on to other things. Joel eventually ran a larger cotton mill with 400 spindles, made door locks in another foundry, and eventually became quite successful, and rich, making brass plumbing fittings.

When the button factory was rebuilt in 1832, and Joel went off to invent the flexible-shaft lasting buttons, Josiah continued making japanned buttons and button-molds. Metal button making at the time used a lot of similar equipment to making steel pens. You have to prepare the metal, often with furnaces and rollers. You need presses to impress designs and shape the sheet metal, ways to polish and finish the items, and then operations to box and ship them.

While continuing the button business, which was consistent, but probably not terribly exciting, Josiah decided to branch out into making these new, hot items, steel pens. In 1839 he brought in Andrew Adams, of Middletown, Connecticut as foreman and began to make steel pens in a part of the button factory. Josiah Hayden was personally connected with the business until 1845 when he sold the steel pen business to the brothers Williston and William Ezra Thayer, who moved the business to Williamsburg village. I’ve found one reference saying that the Thayers continued making pens until 1856 and in the Massachusetts Register for 1852, under Hardware, you find this entry which is additional evidence that steel pens were still being made in western Massachusetts.

1852 thayer still making steel pens

What these pens were called, is still unknown. They may have continued the Hayden brand, but you don’t find any references to them after 1844. It looks like yet another mystery still to be solved.

Hayden Premium Pens

From the beginning, Hayden was not out to innovate with his steel pens, but to imitate. He took as his model the very successful pens from James Perry. They were even labeled as American Perryan Pens.

1841 Hayden imitations of perry

1841 Heyden american perryan pen

While they may have been unoriginal in shape and finish, that is not to say they weren’t good quality pens. As proof, Josiah entered the pens into the annual fair of manufactured goods held by the American Institute in New York City.

In his first year, 1841, Hayden received a silver medal, and seems to have been the only steel pen to be awarded a prize. But starting in 1842, the first year his new rival, C. C. Wright, entered, poor Josiah Hayden was fated to come in second every other year he submitted an entry, in 1842, 1843 and 1844.

Josiah also opened up an agency at 5 Platt St. in New York City with his younger brother Philanthropus “Peter” Hayden to sell and distribute the pens.

1842 hayden j and p premium pens

Josiah stayed in Haydenville, as that part of outer Williamsburg had become known, while Peter was in New York.

“The Haydens were recognized as the leaders in every important business.”

The Hayden brothers were significant in their community not just as rich industrial powers, but also as dynamic and contributing members of their society. Josiah Hayden was a lay preacher in the local Methodist community and he and Joel were instrumental in the building of the Methodist church. Joel and Josiah were especially active in the abolitionist movement and Josiah is recorded on a petition to the US House of Representatives as “Josiah Hayden and 35 other citizens of Williamsburg, Massachusetts” objecting to the admittance of Texas into the Union as a slave state.

In 1838, the community of Haydenville was formed and got its first post office. Josiah Hayden was its first post master. Joel and Josiah also donated the land in Haydenville for the Haydenville Cemetary and the first person buried there was their father, Josiah Hayden, Jr.. Joel and Josiah also built houses next to each other, across from the factory. These are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In addition to their industrial pursuits, the Hayden brothers invested in many other side businesses in the area. In 1838, Joel and Josiah opened a general store, mainly catering to their workmen. They operated this for five years doing a business of $25,000 a year. They ran the store for a while before selling out. Josiah came back to it in later years, running the store for a couple of years with his partner Sereno Kingsley after another owner died. And In 1846 Josiah joined with two other wealthy gentlemen to found a bank in nearby Northampton. Joel was active as a Director on the board of a local railroad and his influence was seen as important in the town being connected to and given a stop on that railroad.

Joel went on to become active in local politics before expanding his sphere of influence in later years eventually becoming Lt. Governor of Massachusetts from 1863-1866, during the whole of the Civil War.

Josiah’s Golden Pens

As a side note, I also wanted to mention another pen-related phase of Josiah Hayden’s amazing life. After Josiah sold off his steel pen business to the Thayer brothers, he joined with Rollin L. Dawson of Syrachuse, N.Y. and began to make gold pens at the old steel pen factory. He continued this until 1848 when he sold the business to three locals who had worked with him in his various businesses.

Dawson, Warren & Hyde manufactured gold pens and eventually pen and pencil cases, pen holders and fine jewelry from 1848 until at least the 1860’s. In 1855, Massachusetts took inventory of the various industries doing business in the state. In Boston there were two gold pen manufacturers and the previous year they had made 6,500 pens with a capital investment of $3,500 and employed 6 people.

Dawson, Warren & Hyde, on the other hand, way out in the wilds of western Massachusetts, that same year, made 80,000 gold pens, using a capital investment of $25,000, employed 13 men and 12 women. Their gold and silver pencil case business manufactured 40,000 items, captial of $12,000, and employed 24 men and 11 women. And their steel penholder business made 6,000 gross penholders with a smaller capitalization of $3,000 and employed 4 people, 2 men and 2 women.

Here’s a Dawson, Warren & Hyde gold pen holder and pen. Picture is courtesy of the Williamsburg Historical Society, Ralmon Black, Secretary.

Warren, Dawson & Hyde pen

Warren, Dawson & Hyde pen 2

Epilogue

Josiah Hayden went on to dabble in various businesses in New York and Ohio, while Joel stayed in Haydenville. The Haydenville Manufacturing Co. continued even after Joel’s death in 1873 and a devastating flood in 1874 that destroyed the original factory and much of the town.

Hayden Manufaturing

The factory was rebuilt in 1876 and continued in operation as a brass works into the 1950’s when it was purchased by the Sterling Faucent Company who operated it for a few years before closing it.

Hayden Manufaturing

Today, the Haydenville Historic District encompasses the old Brass Works factory, the Hayden homes, the Congregationalist Church, the old school and several other buildings in a delightful slice of a 19th-century industrial community. You can find Greek Revival, Gothic Revival and Italianate styles of architecture in the several buildings. The historic factory has been restored and houses offices, studies and, for a short time, the Hilltown Cooperative Charter School.

Post script

Hayden pens never made a major impact on the history of steel pens in America. They were one of the top American pens of their day, so in that respect they helped set a higher standard for American-made, but they were short-lived and soon forgotten. They’re never mentioned in any of the subsequent histories written not even 40 years later, but that does not mean their impact was as soon lost. While Josiah Hayden didn’t make pens for long, his operations did live on past his interest, in the form of the elusive Thayer brothers, and then the gold pens of Dawson, Warren & Hyde.

Josiah Hayden and his brother Joel are also wonderful examples of the better kind of early industrialists and important parts of the story of the building of America. It is forgotten makers like them that have inspired me to write this blog, to try and recapture some of the lost history of one small part of American industry.

Credits

Much of the general history comes from two sources:

Unless otherwise attributed, any facts come from one of these two sources, and sometimes both. Birth and death dates are from birth and death records found on Ancestry.com Any mistakes or omissions are mine alone.

Pen History: The Early Years – 1840’s, the Rise of the Americans

In the previous entries on pen history, the British manufacturers played a dominant role in the steel pen industry. Up through the 1830’s the Americans were minor players in many things, not just making steel pens.

At the beginning of the decade, the United States of America was still a fairly young country. The last signer of the Declaration of Independence to die, Charles Carroll, had only died in 1832. In 1840, there were only 26 states in the Union, with Michigan being the latest formed, in 1837. The formal border between Canada and the US wasn’t formalized until 1842. It wasn’t until the middle of the century that “base ball” is mentioned for the first time in print,

1845 baseball ny herald

and Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative  of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

The 1840’s saw a young country begin to grow into its power and geographic size. It saw the first travelers cross the Oregon trail, the evocation of Manifest Destiny, and the war with Mexico. The first adhesive postage stamp, the discovery of gold in California, and the invention of the first sewing machine by Elias Howe also show the inventiveness, energy and potential of this new nation.

By 1850 multiple makers competed in a very new, extremely rapidly growing market.

1850 sewing machinese

The 1840’s also saw a mini-explosion of new American steel pen manufacturers and sellers, as the techniques from Birmingham made their way across the Atlantic, machinery and tool making expertise was refined and began to spread outside the major industrial centers, and the demand for steel pens (predominantly British) began to rise at the same time as nativist feelings towards “buying american” rose as well.

Charles Atwood moves on to other pursuits after 1840, but several other new-comers step in to fill the void.

Some are short-lived, like Mark Levy, some keep going for over a decade (Myer Phineas). We have stationers who make pens, like Mark Levy and Myer Phineas, as well as inventors, artists and industrialists like C. C. Wright and Jodiah Hayden. We also have a rather strange anomoly, an American-based maker of British pens (Herts & Sons).

Instead of trying to write a single, very long post to cover everything, I’ll break up these makers into individual posts so as to be able to deal with them as best I can. I’ll ensure this list is turned into a list of links as these posts go up, so if you want to find one of them, you can get there from here.