George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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be approaching half a million of population, but there is the great^and reserved
force of the Ohio river that will again be, as it was before the^railroad era, a
large factor in her mercantile prosperity.

Dry Goods Trade.

The force and bearing of the preliminary remarks, as to the increasing volume
of the mercantile business, is especially apposite to the wholesale dry goods trade
of Pittsburgh. There are at present but seven strictly wholesale houses, but the
magnitude of their sales is large.

15



226 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

In looking through such old-time publications as Cramer's Almanack and others
Ihat at an early date made a specialty of noting and publishing the statistics of
ihe business of the then town of Pittsburgh, there is nowhere found any note of
the dry goods or other similar mercantile business. As the writer in the Chicago
Bureau, previously quoted, says, every effort was made for manufacturing suprema-
cy, and little or nothing done to build up the mercantile interests.

In 1808 it is recorded of the manufacture of some articles that are to be classed
as dry goods. About 58,000 yards were annually woven of linen-woolsey, cotton
and linen mixed, averaging 56 cents per yard, worth |38,848. Of linen Cramer's
Almanack says:

"About 80,000 yards of flaxen linen, coarse and fine, are brought to the Pitts-
Burgh market yearly."

The average price appears to have been about 60 cents.

In 1857, in "Pittsburgh As It Is," the first record is statistically made of the
dry goods trade of Pittsburgh, but the wholesale and retail houses are all classed
together, and it is stated that there are twenty-five houses in all, employing 311
hands, and transacting business to the amount of |2,334,239. In 1876, in "Pitts-
burgh and Allegheny in the Centennial Year," it is of record that there are ten
strictly wholesale dry goods houses in the city, who employ 144 hands, and whose
sales are $4,400,000. In this is included the houses dealing in millinery goods
and in cloths exclusively. It is also mentioned that there are seventy-six retail
and wholesale houses, whose sales will average $7,000,000.

In 1876 it had increased in twenty years, so that the wholesale dry goods trade
alone was nearly 100 per cent, greater than the wholesale and retail trade in 1856 ;
and in 1886, only ten years after, the trade again shows an increase of equal pro-
portions over the trade of 1876, as was shown by the trade of 1876 over that of
1856. This gain is made under that segregation of the trade into distinct classes,
'hj which several firms that were in 1876 classed with the dry goods trade are now
large establishments, dealing in exclusive millinery goods, cloths and similar
classes of goods, that are by the trade technically designated as dry goods.

Any genealogical resume of the early firms in the dry goods business cannot be
attempted, from the impossibility of obtaining the facts of the origination of the
irms doing business in the early years, or their successors. Among them was
James Breading & Co., afterwards Breading, Shipton & Hogg (James Breading, John
Shipton and Jas. B. Hogg, who was lost on the ocean steamer "Atlantic," when she
foundered off the Newfoundland coast). That firm was succeeded by Breading,
Arnold & Co. (James Breading, Geo. E. Arnold, afterwards in the banking business,
under the firm style of Geo. E. Arnold & Co.) This firm was one of the earlier
wholesale houses established, and it is said it was the active agent in the establish-
ment of 50 or 60 firms in various lines of business in sections of Western Pennsyl-
vania and Eastern Ohio. There was also, along from 1830 to 1840, Leavitt & Co.,
in which Thos. M. Howe was a partner. This firm was succeeded by Baird, Leavitt
& Co., and there were subsequent changes. Michael Tiernan & Co., afterwards



MERCANTILE INTERESTS. 227

Tiernan, Murphy & Co., Waterman, Palmer & Co., McClurg & Dennison, Mason
<fe McDonough, Gregg & McCandless in 1838. Afterwards McCandless, Jamison
<& Co., John H. Brown & Co., Smith & Hampton (Geo. P. Smith, Wade Hampton).
This firm passed through several changes of style and subsequently became Wil-
son, McElroy & Co., and then McElroy, Dickson & Co., under which style the firm
leased to exist. In 1843 C. Arbuthnot established a new dry goods house, which
is now Arbuthnot, Stephenson & Co. (Charles Arbuthnot, John C. Stephenson and
others). And in 1850 Joseph Home, the firm now Joseph Home & Co. (Joseph
Home, A. P. Burchfield, C. B. Shea). James B. Haines & Sons, who succeeded
Hampton, Wilson & Co. in 1852.

As before stated no complete chronological or genealogical resume can be satis-
factorily made for the reasons given. It is a sorrowful reflection how soon firms
and men, who were prominent in their day, pass from the memories of posterity,
and all that remains of their toils and struggles or success is a dim recollection in
the uncertain memories of some septigenarian.

Millinery Goods.

These were formerly comprised in the general stock of the dry goods jobbing
houses. There are now three firms whose exclusive trade is millinery goods in
their strict classification. Some of the most expensive buildings of Pittsburgh
for commercial purposes are occupied by this class of trade, being built expressly
to meet the wants of this business. J. D. Bernd, established in 1861, was the first
of these exclusive millinery houses, and Porter & Donaldson, in 1872, the second.
These three houses sell a larger value of millinery goods than the twenty-five
dry good houses did in 1857, and one house more than all the firms dealing in
millinery goods did in 1876. The cloth houses dealing in cloths and tailor trimmings
form another segregation from the old style of dry goods houses. Of these there
are three, who make sales to the amount of about $600,000 a year at the present
time. There are thus virtually thirteen wholesale dry goods houses now at Pitts-
burgh, whose average sales amount to $10,000,000 a year, being an increase of
nearly 150 per cent, in about ten years, and nearly 500 per cent, over the entire
sales of the wholesale and retail houses combined in 1856, or a period of thirty
years. If to this is, as was done by the record of 1856, added the sales of the retail
houses, of which there are several whose transactions are as large as many of the
wholesale houses, there should be added another $10,000,000 of sales, or an entire
increase in thirty years of over 1,000 per cent, in that time, and the dry goods
trade of Pitttsburgh and Allegheny cities may be stated at $20,000,000.

The Hardware Business

of Pittsburgh may be considered as beginning with the first handful of settlers
around Fort Pitt, and certainly with the period when emigration began to make
Pittsburgh its point of departure for the wilderness beyond. It is, however, not
likely that there were any distinctive hardware stores, but such articles as were



228 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

dealt in found their place among the assortments of the general store at that period.
In an early adoption of the policy that the Chicago Bureau^ before quoted, in air
article some twenty years ago on Pittsburgh's advantages, pronounced as an error
that, " they are at present guilty, namely, of a neglect of commercial interests^,
while securing a supremacy of manufactures." The early publications, from the days-
of Cramer^ s Almanack, make no mention of commercial interests. Such exhibits
of the business of the town as were made are only of its growing manufactures, so
that with the hardware business, as with other mercantile branches, nothing can
be gleaned that will show its growth. With the increase of the settlement fron*
village to town, and from town to city, the natural commercial developments into
branches from a general store evolved, and distinctive hardware firms were estab-
lished. Two of the wholesale firms of 1888 reaching in their origination and
geneology back nearly to the twenties, Wolfe, Lane & Co., being the successors of
Witmore & Wolfe, established in 1836, (Michael Witmore, C. H.Wolfe,) and that of
Logan & Gregg, established by Logan & Kennedy in 1831. Among the earlier
firms was also that of S. Fahnestock & Co., established in 1829, whose warerooms
were at the corner of Diamond alley and Wood street, and was a noted resort of
evenings for local politicians, the " wire pullers " of those days. Half a century
ago, the counting house of evenings was a sort of a club resort where the " Quid
Nuncs" of the times discussed the afiairsof the State and formed their little polit
ical schemes.

The two houses noted as dating back to nearly the close of the century justify
from their age a brief historical mention.

Logan & Kennedy were established, as before stated, in 1831. In 1848 it was
succeeded by Logan, Wilson & Co. (John T. Logan, Kobt. T. Kennedy, Philip
Wilson, Edward Gregg). In 1857 that firm was succeeded by Logan & Gregg
(John T. Logan, Edward Gregg). In 1867 that firm was succeeded by Logan,
Gregg & Co. (Edward Gregg, Geo. B. Logan, a son of John T. Logan, Thos. Park)^
the existing partners.

John T. Logan died in 1872, Kobt. T. Kennedy in 1873, and Philip Wilson in
1877.

John T. Logan, one of the founders of the firm, began his apprenticeship in
the hardware business with Geo. Mayer, of Lancaster, Pa., at the age of 12 years.
In 1819, having finished his term of service, he went to Philadelphia in that
year with a new suit and a few dollars in his pocket. While there he was
invited by a Mr. Hoag to come to Pittsburgh and assist him in the hardware busi-
ness, and he arrived in the city in the fall of 1829. The next year Eobt. T.
Kennedy, having completed his term of service with a Mr. Kirkpatrick in the
dry goods business, came to Pittsburgh. Shortly after he and Mr. Logan pro-
posed to Mr. Hoag to become partners with him. That gentleman declining, Mr.
Kennedy went back to Lancaster, and his father agreed to give him $3,000 and
loan a similar sum to Mr. Logan. The two young men, then about 22 years of
age, then organized the firm of Logan & Kennedy at the date before mentioned,



MERCANTILE INTERESTS. 229

and began business at 68 Wood street. The salesrooms were subsequently removed
-to 87 Wood street, and afterwards to No. 127, and in 1851 to No. 52, now 306 and
308 Wood street, where it is still located.

The firm of Whitmore & Wolfe was, as before mentioned, established in 1836,
by Michael Whitmore and Christian H. Wolfe, and began business at the corner
of Liberty and St. Clair, now Sixth street. The firm subsequently became Whit-
more, Wolfe, Duff & Co., (M. Whitmore, C. H. Wolfe, Geo. Duff, H. Jones,) when
the salesrooms were removed to No. 50 Wood street, now 314, carrying on the
Liberty street house until 1841, when they sold that part of the business to Wolfe
■& Lane, (B. Wolfe, Jr., Thos. H. Lane,) subsequently the firm style became Whit-
more, W^olfe, Lane & Co., (M. Whitmore, C. H. Wolfe, Thos. H. Lane, Chas. T.
Neale,) afterward the firm became Wolfe, Lane & Co., the present style of the
•firm, (Thos. H. Lane, John D. Cherry, Geo. M. T. Taylor, Horace G. Darsie.)

Christain H. W^olfe died February 28th, 1887. Michael Whitmore having
died some years previous. Mr. Wolfe was really the founder of the business, and
in the latter years of his life resided mostly in Philadelphia. He was a great
lover of art and had accumulated a fine gallery of paintings. He spent many of
the last years of his life in gratifying this taste and in associating with the artists,
and quietly assisted struggling young artists by purchasing their pictures. He is
•said to have been a fine connoiseur in art.

Of the amount of the sales at the time cited there are no statistics; but in
1856 there were eight wholesale firms in Pittsburgh, whose sales are given
;as amounting to $615,000. In 1886 there were but six strictly hardware firms
'^dealing in what is termed shelf goods, cutlery, and similar merchandise, but their
rsales are stated at that date as amounting to $1,800,000, or an increase in the thirty
years of 300 per cent., with a decrease in firms of 25 per cent. This exhibit of
what is technically termed the hardware trade, does not really comprise its bulk.
In the segregation into special branches which occurs in all mercantile houses,
with the increasing commerce of a community, the hardware business of the city
has thus become divided. This mention of that class of the commercial interest
is only of that of those dealing in what is understood as hardware and cutlery
.goods. Among those segregation from the hardware business are the scale houses.
The making of scales was at one time a branch of the manufactures of Pittsburgh,
•having been established in 1833 by L. R. Livingston, in what was called the Nov-
elty Works, but the making of scales is no longer a branch of Allegheny county's
industries, and those sold by the firms who carry on that distinct branch of the
hardware business are made elsewhere, and the aggregate of their sales should be
;added to the amount of that of hardware.

Drugs.

The selling of drugs in Allegheny county is, as with hardware, a business that
vgoes back to the backwoods days, nor of it is there any record, until 1815
'when four firms are mentioned in a directory of that year. Among whom are
Avery & Vanzandt the Charles Avery previously mentioned in connection with



230 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

his philanthropy and in the account of copper, as one of the pioneers in that
branch of Pittsburgh's industries. In 1837, there were seventeen druggists, of
whom eight were wholesale firms. Among those are B. A. Fahnestock & Co.,
established in 1829 by B. A. Fahnestock, whose direct successors is the firm of Geo.
A. Kelly & Co., who in 1872 succeeded, through the firms of Fahnestock, Haslett
& Schwartz, also, Holmes & Kidd whose successors became J. Kidd & Co., Kidd &
Fleming (Jonathan Kidd, John Fleming) and then Fleming & Bros. (.John Flem-
ing, Cochran Fleming) which is the present style of the firm, although the firm
sell now exclusively their own proprietary medicines. In relation to the habits^
of the drug business at that time the following extracts is the best illustration of
of the drug business at that time and might in some respects be used for other com-
mercial interest are made from an after dinner speech by L. H Harris, of the L.
H. Harris Drug Co., at the first annual banquet of the Pittsburgh Oil, Paint and
Drug Association December 10th, 1887.

"These were the 'good old times,' fifty years ago, when although the volume of
business was small the profits were large. The commercial traveller was unknown.
The head of the house was known personally to every customer and to all those from
whom he bought goods. Purchases were generally made in person and a reason-
able time was allowed for the filling of orders. An ordinary bill of goods was not
expected to leave the house inside of two or three weeks. Although there was a
general rush of business on each rise in the river, and for the spring and fall trades,^
the rush was on orders left weeks and sometimes months previous. I have heard
of but one complaint of delay and that was from an Ohio customer, who after wait-
ing some two months asked to know the cause, and afterwards apologized for being
so impatient and explained that he feared it was because his previous bill was due
and unpaid. Goods were sold in quantities convenient to handle, which were put
up in advance and ready for shipment. What are called ' Grocers' Drugs ' were
always put up in kegs or boxes of twenty-five, fifty and a hundred pounds each and
rarely sold in smaller quantities. Instead of sending for a quarter dozen of Sooth-
ing Syrup and a sixth dozen Castoria, as now, the old time orders called for one
gross Godfreys Cordial, and six dozen each of the three sizes of Castor Oil which
were always ready put up and at hand. These 'good old times' continued for many
years — within the recollection of us all.

" The working hours were from six or seven in the morning until nine or ten at
night and in the busy seasons much longer. Employees were expected to be at
work all the time. There were not so many daily papers to read, no cigarettes to
be smoked and no base ball games to discuss ; but the inevitable Castor Oil, God-
frey's Cordial, Bateman's Drops, Essence Peppermint and the like were always at
hand to beguile what might otherwise have been a leisure hour, and not only the
errand boys and apprentices, but the warehousemen, clerks, salesmen and assistant
book-keepers were expected to join in this pleasing pastime when not otherwise
engaged. ^ "^ * ^

"All goods were bought and sold on six months' credit, with an allowance of
5 per cent, discount for cash. Settlements were insisted on in all cases twice a
year January 1st and July 1st statements were rendered to every customer, with
a memorandum of the date of maturity by average, and interest was invariably
charged on all accounts averaging past due at date of payment. * * -s^ * In
those days each dealer knew personally the standing of every customer, and but
little was lost in bad debts. It was a usual practice for customers to drop in the
store after supper to leave orders or for a friendly chat, and this seemed to involve-
the necessity for keeping open late in the evening."



MERCANTILE INTERESTS. 231

The statistics of the amount of sales of the drug firms are not of record until
1856, when there were eleven wholesale druggists and patent medicine dealers.
It is of record in "Pittsburgh As It Is," published in 1857, that the sales amount-
ed to 1725,000. In 1876 there were nine distinctive wholesale drug houses, whose
sales, according to "Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Cennennial Year," (1876)
amounted to $1,260,000, employing 104 hands, being an increase on amount of
sales as above of about 80 per cent, in the twenty years, but a decrease in the
number of firms of some 20 per cent.

In 1886 there were five strictly wholesale drug firms and eight firms preparing
proprietary medicines, and one dealing in druggists sundries, being virtually four-
teen firms in the business. The segregation, as before mentioned as occurring un-
der natural business laws, being strongly manifested here. The drug business as
embraced in this combination is stated in " Pittsburgh's Progress, Industries and
Eesources" (1886) as making sales from |2,250,000 to 12,500,000, an increase m
the ten years from 1876 of about 100 per cent., although there was a decrease in
the number of firms of nearly 50 per cent., and over the figures of 1856 of about
350 per cent., with a decrease of over 60 per cent, in the number of firms. As
the statistics of 1856, 1876 and 1886 were all collected by the same person, through
personal interviews with the various firms, they are probably approximately cor-
rect, and possibly rather under than over the actual facts, as the author of those
publications complains of the difficulty of obtaining full statistics.

In 1888 there are the same number of strictly wholesale drug firms. George
A. Kelly & Co., the successor of B. A. Fahnestock, of 1829 ; C. A. Henderson, es-
tablished by Wm. Henderson in 1841 ; W. J. Gilmore & Co., established by John
Hannen in 1825 ; L. H. Harris Drug Company, established by Harris & Ewing in
1867, and E. Holden and Fleming & Bros., established by Holmes & Kidd in 1828,
the oldest proprietary medicine house. Touching this point, Mr. Harris, in his
remarks, before quoted from, says :

"There were twelve wholesale druggists here a quarter of a century ago, and
only yit'e left to-day to tell their story! There are volumes of unwritten history
in these statistics. Is it not, in a great measure, a long story of largely increased
labor, vexations, expenses and risks, and a constant decrease in the margin of
profit? Is it not a fact to-day that the wholesale druggist who can cover all the
expenses of doing business by the profit on his regular sales doe^ all he dare hope
for, and that his profits are the result of favorable speculation in goods that fluctu-
ate in value?"

And Mr. Harris also states the following touching changes in character of

goods :

"In glancing over our price lists year after year, although changes are made
daily, I have been surprised that a list of thirty years ago, or at an interval af
ten "years (except during the years of the war or immediately succeeding), will
average about the same to-day in the total footings of the entire list. The size of
the list has, however, sleadily advanced in growth. New remedies, new chemicals,
and, most of all, proprietary go'^ds seem to come on the market with undue rai»-
idity, and, unfortunately, sometimes come to stay — on our shelves.



232 ALLEGHENY COUNTY'S

" Taking a price list of 1855 I find but 144 items on the list of proprietaries,
and this included the essences, paregoric, laudanum, Bateman's drops, and other
goods put up on the premises. In 1860 the same list had increased to 230; in
1877 to 550, and to-day upwards of twelve hundred items will not cover the list of
those in general demand in this market; and this does not include the pills, fluid
extracts, elixirs and plasters of various kinds that would require a separate vol-
ume to enumerate."

The Wholesale Grocery Trade

of Pittsburgh is to day a large and growing one, and is the largest of the mercan-
tile interests of the city. The upward movements going on in other branches of
the wholesale trade of the city is decidedly perceptible in this.

For some time after the opening of railroad communication with the East this
branch of the city's trade was to some extent injured, but a reaction once begun a
steady growth of the grocery trade has followed. Groceries are of so staple a
character and without fashion that where they are purchased is of no consideration,
and likewise as they are handled at such small per cents, of profit it is those
small percentages that decide purchasers. In this respect there are advantages at
Pittsburgh in many articles that are among the standards of the trade. Sugars,
for instance, are sold at as near cost as can be arrived at. New Orleans molasses,
from the advantage of river carriage and cheap freights, is also a feature of the
market, and also tobaccos. The standing of the grocery trade of Pittsburgh is so
high that the firms have at all times the opportunities of the best options on all
goods they wish to purchase, and buying generally for cash, and being thus rated,
have at all times the ofiTer of any bargains in the market. This high standing is
well deserved, for it is a noteworthy fact that there has been but one failure in the
wholesale grocery trade of Pittsburgh in a quarter of a century, and that was rather
a liquidation than a bankruptcy. This is a show of solidity, financial strength and
business ability that is hardly equalled in any other city. The grocery trade of the
city has always had the tradition of being close buyers, cash men, which is well
sustained, and of being as liberal sellers. Buying close, most always as before
stated for cash, they are subsequently able to sell as close, and from their own fin-
ancial strength sustain their customers and extend to them as liberal terms as the
customs of the trade justify or their needs require. In the preliminary chapter of
this volume the pioneer character of many of the industries of the city are men-
tioned, and in the grocery trade this feature also obtains. It was at Pittsburgh that
the feature of roasted cofi^ee, now so leading an article in all grocery stock, was
first introduced, and eventuated in Pittsburgh becoming the heaviest roast cofiee
market in the country and the growth at Pittsburgh of the largest cofiee house in
the world. As previously mentioned, " roast cofiees " are a distinctive department
of the wholesale grocery trade of Pittsburgh. There are in the city six cofiee
roasting houses.

The first attempt to introduce roast coffee in the stock of grocery houses was at
Pittsburgh, by the old Hope Spice Mills proprietors, Baxter & McKee, who had a
small establishment for grinding spices on Third avenue near Wood street. They



MERCANTILE INTERESTS. 233

began roasting a few bags to sell, in connection with their spices, to the retail trade
of the city as a novelty, about 1840-2. Previous to that the roasting of coffee was
one of the items of work in each household. To-day it is most probable that in



Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 31 of 43)