Wednesday, March 7, 2018

From Bagley through Todd - Part Two

Note: the first installment in this series was posted at

On April 19, 1856, Albert G. Bagley, the gold pen and pencil manufacturer who was one of the pioneers in the industry through the 1840s, retired and headed west to St. Louis, leaving Henry Harrison Houghton and Charles F. Newton behind to continue the business he had created, under the name H.H. Houghton & Co.  There would be several other partnerships before Edward Todd appeared on the scene in 1870.

H.H. Houghton & Co. advertised heavily in the New-York Tribune at the end of 1856:

Unfortunately, Houghton died suddenly at the age of 36 on October 27, 1857:

Charles F. Newton continue the business himself for a short time thereafter.  He ran identical advertisements through the 1857 Christmas season, changing only the first line to indicate that C.F. Newton is the successor to Bagley, Houghton & Co.

At some point between 1855 and 1860, a man by the name of Keller Kurtz became a traveling salesman for Newton – or possibly for Houghton or Bagley.  Kurtz was a Pennsylvanian who had opened a “Book, Stationery and Notion Store” in Gettysburg in 1847, which he later renamed the “Keller Kurtz Literary Emporium”:

The “celebrated cheap store of Keller Kurtz” had been selling “Bagley’s unequalled gold pens” since the early 1850s:

Kurtz closed his shop in 1855, selling off all the fixtures and squaring away his debts by December 17, 1855:

He also sold his interest in a “boot, shoe, hat and cap” partnership known as Cobean and Paxton at the same time.  By January, 1860, Kurtz was a full time representative for C.F. Newton, when on January 10, 1860, he narrowly survived a brutal robbery in his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee:

The thief stole a few items at gunpoint, leaving Kurtz tied up in his room, but the perpetrator missed about $2,000 worth of writing instruments in Kurtz’ trunk.  The violent attack made national news, including in Kurtz’ hometown press:

Meanwhile, another character came within Newton’s orbit: James P. Byrne.  After the outbreak of the American Civil War, Byrne began selling “Byrne’s Army and Navy Writing Case,” a writers kit including pens, pencils, ink and paper.  According to this advertisement in the October 29, 1861 edition of the New York Tribune, orders were addressed to J.P. Byrne at 1 Maiden Lane.

What’s interesting about this advertisement is that while the address is the same as Newton’s, and as David Moak noted in Mabie in America the firm of C.F. Newton & Co. was listed as early as 1859 at that address in the New York City Directories, there’s no indication here that Byrne was part of the “& Co.”  I believe published accounts of the existence of a firm by that name was Newton referring to himself in the “royal We,” since Newton still appeared to be acting all on his own at 1 Maiden Lane at the end of 1859, as this advertisement from the December 8, 1859 issue of the New York Tribune indicates:

The earliest reference I could find to the formal organization of C.F. Newton & Co. was on January 4, 1861, when a copartnership notice was published in the New York Tribune naming Newton, James P. Byrne and Joseph Moneghan as partners effective January 1, 1861:

On January 1, 1864, Keller Kurtz officially became a partner in C.F. Newton & Co.:

Byrne left at some point during 1864, moving to Chicago to become a partner in Kearney & Co., a publisher, bookseller and stationer in that city.  Byrne is described as having been “for many years a member of the firm of C. F. Newton & Co., of New York,” but we know the longest he could have been associated with Charles F. Newton was five years – and judging from his side business at 1 Maiden Lane selling Army and Navy writing sets, it looks like his connections with Newton prior to 1864 could best be described as fluid.

In light of Byrne’s departure, at the end of 1864, Newton, Kurtz and Monaghan dissolved C.F. Newton & Co., simultaneously forming a new partnership effective January 1, 1865 named Newton, Kurtz & Co.:

Charles F. Newton retired from the firm on May 1, 1867, leaving the remaining partners to recast their partnership under the name of Kurtz & Monaghan:

And at this point – finally – we reach the part of the story that sent me down this rabbit hole in the first place: attempting to learn exactly when Edward Todd came into the picture.

1 comment:

Bob Blackburn said...

And what a rabbit hole it is! Great story and amazing research; thanks for sharing Jonathan...