Suspicion is that this fragment of a sign represents George Borgfeldt & Co., commission merchants, who were located here from approximately 1931 to 1959. This Borgfeldt advertisement from Moses King's Photographic Views of New York, 1895, lists several of these same items: dolls, toys, china, glassware... A view of the 1895 Borgfeldt location on Washington Place is also included in King's Photographic Views on google books.
George Borgfeldt (1833-1903) was an early resident of the Dakota Apartments. His name appears in the New York City "Police" census (1890) as "Borgfeldt George M age 56" living at the "Dakota 8th Ave 72nd to 73rd Sts." With him were Johanna F. Borgfeldt, age 28, (wife? daughter?) and Johanna F. Wilkins, age 20, (possibly a maid). His death in 1903 was reported in the New York Times (22 Nov. 1903, p. 7), "George Borgfeldt, founder of the importing firm of George Borgfeldt in this city, died on Friday at Doeblinz, Vienna, Austria. Mr. Borgfeldt had not been actively engaged in business for several years past. He was born in Meldorf, (Schleswig-Holstein) Aug. 25, 1833. His father was Johann G. Borgfeldt. Mr. Borgfeldt served an apprenticeship in Rensberg, and then, at the age of twenty, came to this country. He worked as a clerk till 1857, when he opened a store at Nashville, Tenn. In 1865 he came to New York and engaged in the commission business. In 1881 he established the importing house which is carried on under his name. After forty years of active business life, Mr. Borgfeldt retired."
A detailed history of the early years of George Borgfeldt & Co. is available as a google digitized book: The twenty-fifth anniversary of the house of Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. (1905). Some of the highlights include a summary of Borgfeldt's life: "Mr. Geo. Borgfeldt was born in Meldorf, Schleswig-Holstein, in 1833. He served an apprenticeship in Rensburg, came to this country in 1853 and entered the dry goods house of Messrs. Kohlsaat & Co. as bookkeeper. In 1857 he severed his connection with this house and went to Nashville, Tenn. He conducted business there until 1862, when he removed to Indianapolis. In 1865 he returned to New York and organized the firm of Messrs. Good & Borgfeldt and engaged in the hosiery business. Later on he embarked in the fancy goods business and in 1873 became a partner in the firm of Messrs. Strasburger, Pfeiffer & Co. where he remained until 1880. In 1881 he organized the firm of Messrs. Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. In 1895 he removed to Vienna. In 1900 he resigned the presidency and retired from active participation in the affairs of Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. Mr. Borgfeldt died at Doebling, near Vienna, on the twentieth of November, 1903."
A chronology of the company is given as:
The original conception of the company was described as follows:
"For several years prior to the formation of the original firm of Geo. Borgfeldt
& Co., the late Mr. Borgfeldt had been the managing partner of the then leading
toy house, Messrs. Strasburger, Pfeiffer & Co., of New York City. During his
association with this firm it became clear to Mr. Borgfeldt that the American
importer labored under great difficulties. The goods in which he sought to deal
were manufactured in many countries and in what might be termed out-of-the-way
places, and either in small factories or in the homes of those skilled in their
several lines of manufacture. The expense incident to the placing of orders
under these conditions, and the great amount of time which must of necessity
be devoted by buyers in searching the markets, were items entirely disproportionate
to the profits which accrued from the sale of the goods.
To overcome these difficulties and to enable the American jobber or dealer to import goods without the necessity of going abroad, and to eliminate the excessive costs of the old system, Mr. Borgfeldt conceived the idea of assembling in New York samples of the products of the best factories of Europe manufacturing Dolls, Toys and kindred articles, and of booking Import Orders through the display of these samples. To that end, in conjunction with Mr. Marcell Kahle, who had for several years been his valued assistant, and with Mr. Joseph L. Kahle, until then in charge of the credit department and general office management of the business in which Mr. Borgfeldt was a partner, the co-partnership of Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. was formed, and the first sign bearing this name appeared on the building in which three single lofts served the purposes of display. The location was at 83 Leonard Street, and the move was made on January 1st, 1881. It was in this location that the now widely-known Import Order business had its origin."
The departments of the company included China and Earthenware; Dolls; Import Toys; Stationery, Musical and Optical Goods; Import Glassware; American Toys; Druggists' Sundries; House Furnishings; French and Italian China; American Cut Glass and Pottery; Art Goods; American Fancy Goods; Foreign and Domestic Notions; The Japan Import and Export Commission Co.; Hanover Rubber Goods; Cutlery; Advertising and Purchasing; and an extensive Selling Force.
A biography of Borgfeldt appeared in the The National cyclopedia of american biography (1894) including the following details: "Borgfeldt, Georg, importer was born in Meldorf, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, Aug. 25, 1833, son of Johann George Borgfeldt. His father occupied various important positions in the city: was mayor of the town, inspector of dykes, school-commissioner, director of the savings bank, etc., making him a person of importance and influence. The son was educated at the normal college in Meldorf, served an apprenticeship in Rindsburg, and came to the United States at the age of twenty... Mr. Borgfeldt was married in 1851 to Alice Lahey, daughter of James Lahey, civil engineer of New York city..."
An advertisement for a perfume called Violette de la Reine in Cosmopolitan (Nov. 1896) named Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. "U. S. Importing Agents" (click for image). A full-page advertisement for "Chafing Dishes and 5 O'Clock Tea Kettles" in the Home Furnishing Review (June 1895) named Borgfeldt "Sole Agents" for the Jas. H. Hawes Mfg. Co., Tonawanda, Pa. (click for image). An exceptional opportunity for Bric-a-Brac Buyers! was offered by Borgfeldt in The Jewellers' Circular and Horological Review (4 Oct. 1893) (click for image). This advertisement appeared in the American Jewish Year Book, Volume 15, 1913..
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the house of Geo. Borgfeldt & Co. (1905) includes an image of the company's headquarters of the time, 48-50 W. 4th St. Borgfeldt & Co. were in this building from 1898 to 1910. In 1910 they moved to 119 E. 16th St. on the corner of Irving Place. Then in 1931 they moved again to 44-60 E. 23rd St. on the corner of 4th Ave. (later named Park Ave. South). They were in business at this location until 1959.
This advertisement from Fabrics, Fancy Goods and Notions, March, 1910, proudly locates Borgfeldt's new home at 16th St. & Irving Place.
This advertisement for Borgfeldt's Druggists' Sundries Dept. also dates from 1910.
In the middle of this same wall at 44 E. 23rd St. one can make out the letters ERBONE CO. This is the remains of a sign for the Warren Featherbone Co. The Warren Featherbone Co. were corset manufacturers located in Three Oaks, Michigan. An image on the New York Public Library's Digital Collections shows the name Featherbone (in the dim distance, to the right of the Metropolitan Life building) (click for image).
In 1921 the National Cyclopaedia of American Biography described Edward K. Warren as follows, "Warren, Edward Kirk, manufacturer, capitalist and philanthropist, was born at Ludlow, Vt., Apr. 7, 1874, son of Waters and Caroline Clarissa (Parsons) Warren and a descendant of Joseph Warren, who came from England in 1635 in the ship, Alice, landed in Virginia and later settled in New England. From this first ancestor the line is traced through his son Jacob and his wife, Mary Hildren; their son Joseph and his wife, Mary Wheeler; their son Ephraim and his wife, Esther Parker; their son Thomas and his wife, Tabitha Dustin, and their son John and his wife, Lydia Chamberlain, who were the grandparents of Edward Kirk Warren. Thomas Warren was a revolutionary officer who fought at Bunker Hill; he was a cousin of Gen. Josiah Warren. Mr. Warren's father, a native of Ludlow, Vt., was a Congregational minister and an ardent abolitionist. The son received his education in public schools at East Berkshire, Vt., and Three Oaks, Mich., where his father preached. He was variously employed at Three Oaks until 1868, when with James L. McKie he organized the firm of McKie & Warren for the sale of general merchandise. The business was a successful one and in 1879 he bought out the business of Henry Chamberlain, a former employer in Three Oaks. Because his customers frequently complained that the whalebone dress stiffening dried out and became brittle, Mr. Warren began to search for a substitute. On his purchasing trips to Chicago he called at a feather duster establishment where he observed large piles of turkey wing feathers discarded as unsuitable for feather dusters. In these rejected feathers he found a material which could be utilized as a substitute for whalebone, and after experimenting for about a year he perfected the method of manufacturing it commercially, which is as follows: Removing the plumage from turkey feathers, the quills are split, pithed and fibred by an original mechanical process, after which the fibres are wound into a continuous cord. These cords are combined by winding, braiding or stitching in varying numbers to give the desired size, weight and resiliency in the finished product, and it is then subjected to a patented process to give it uniformity. A patent for his invention which he called "Featherbone," was granted Oct. 3, 1883, and he organized the Warren Featherbone Co. of Three Oaks, Mich., to handle it."
Warren's patent for a Corset-Stiffener (Patent No. 286,749) was secured 16 Oct. 1883. It read in part, "This invention has for its object the utilization as a rib or stiffener for corsets and other articles of dress or fabrics of the stalks, stems, or quill portions of feathers after they have been stripped - as, for instance, the feathers of turkeys, geese, chickens, and other fowls - much of which kind of stock has heretofore had little or no commercial value."
Edward Kirk Warren (1847-1919) received the following obituary in the New York Times, 17 Jan. 1919, "Chicago, Jan. 16. - Edward K. Warren, President of the International Sunday School Union, died today at Evanston, Ill., a suburb. His home was at Three Oaks, Mich. Mr. Warren, who was one of the world's most earnest Church and Sunday school workers, was born at Ludlow, Vt., April 17, 1847, a son of the Rev. Waters Warren and Caroline C. Parsons Warren. The family located at Three Oaks, Mich., in 1858, where the Rev. Waters Warren was a pioneer in missionary work and pastor of the Congregational church there. On Jan. 24, 1914, Edward K. Warren celebrated the completion of a business life of fifty years in Three Oaks. He acquired a fortune in the manufacture of a substitute for whalebone, "Featherbone," which he invented in 1882. He was also interested in other business enterprises, and owned several ranches in Texas, New Mexico and Mexico, carrying on cattle raising on a large scale. He was President of the World's Sunday School Convention held in Jerusalem, April, 1904. As Chairman of the World's Sunday School Executive Committee, he promoted and carried through a cruise to Jerusalem and the Holy Land, chartering a ship, which carried 800 delegates from North America, which was joined by an English ship carrying 500 delegates."
Extensive historical information on Edward K. Warren is found at the We Relate website.
This image was used in the Warren Co.'s corset ads.
The Warren Featherbone Co. was founded in 1883 in Three Oaks, Michigan. Their presence in New York began in 1889 at 115 Worth St. They moved to 44 E. 23rd St. in 1905 and stayed until 1928. As of this report in March 2011 the company was still in business and located in Gainesville, Georgia. According to the website Three Oaks Michigan Business Assocation the "Warren Featherbone factory still stands in Three Oaks." (This site shows a photograph of E. K. Warren.)
Featherbone stays were used in dresses as well as corsets. This ad from 1888 comes from the Western Kentucky University's Fashion Illustrations website.
This advertisement from the New York Tribune, dates from Jan. 1897, when the business was located at 907 Broadway.
This ad appeared in The Delineator, Oct. 1902. Unpaid volunteers were offered prizes to contribute new creative ways to market the featherbone product!
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