New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

The Mersereau Manufacturing Company, Brooklyn; Notes

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An ‘advertising tin’ is a tin can with advertising on its sides. The Mersereau Manufacturing Company of Brooklyn N.Y. manufactured advertising tins in the late 1800s. These were made on contract for a large number of companies and for many products. I began collecting Mersereau tins on a whim, since my Mother was a Mersereau. As it turns out, the man who founded the company was a first cousin three times removed of Loyalist John Mersereau, progenitor of the New Brunswick Mersereaus.

These are a few facts about the Mersereau Mfg. Company which has not been well chronicled elsewhere.

Edgar W. Mersereau was the founder, Vice President and General Manager of the Mersereau Mfg. Company which was established in New York in 1887.

The Mersereau Manufacturing Company and 98 percent of all other can companies in the United States were taken over by the American Can Company on March 25, 1901. This was after 18 months of work by Moore Brothers of Chicago in arranging the consolidation. Edgar remained the manager but he was no longer the owner of the company. The consolidation was prompted by competition between the many tin manufacturers and the unstable prices that resulted.

The factory was still in operation in September of 1901, as we know from an announcement that it would be closed for a day on September 18th out of respect for President William McKinley. The Mersereau plant was shut down later that year, however.

All Mersereau tins were therefore manufactured between 1887 and 1901. Tins manufactured prior to the consolidation were labeled with the “Mersereau Mfg. Co., …” brand. Tins manufactured after March, 1901 but before the closure were inscribed with the American Can Company identification “10A”.

Some small pieces of information about the Brooklyn factory include a flag-raising which took place on June 17, 1899. “A flag, 15 x 25 feet, was raised to the top of a thirty-foot pole yesterday at the factory of the Mersereau Manufacturing Company, Jay and John Streets, borough of Brooklyn. When the flag was unfurled the employees sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘My Country Tis of Thee,’ and the genial treasurer Mr. H. Ward Ford, delivered an address, followed by the secretary, Mr. L. Macdonald, and there was a prolonged outburst of patriotic enthusiasm.” Another event was in December of 1899 when Annie Edington was awarded $2,000. compensation for an accident at the factory. She had claimed $15,000. damages when her thumb was crushed by a machine. The accident occurred in February of 1898.

Edgar took out Letters Patent number 470,859 dated March 15, 1892 for a round sheet metal box with a screw top. The innovation was that the top part of the box to which the lid was screwed would not turn relative to the body of the tin, thus making the operation of the lid more effective. Edgar also took out Letters Patent number 472,284 dated April 5, 1892 for a device invented by Benjamin Adriance for double seaming the top and bottom of irregularly shaped sheet metal boxes, and particularly for rectangular boxes. This patent was challenged by Stephen A. Ginna et al and a court ruling was made in Mersereau’s favor on July 3, 1895.

Letters Patent number 648,700 dated May 1, 1900 was for a round metal box to contain a typewriter ribbon on a spindle. One of the innovations claimed for this tin was that the lid could be used to withdraw the spindle, and that the ribbon could be installed in the typewriter with less soiling of the hands.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Edgar was born on April 25, 1854, a son of Rev. Lawrence Mersereau and Adelaide Stone. He was of the same stock as New Brunswick Mersereaus. He lived at different times at 225 and479 Ocean Avenue in Brooklyn and at 81 Fenimore Street, Flatbush, and perhaps at other addresses.

Edgar married Lorette Owen on August 18, 1879. I do not know how this marriage ended, but by 1899 his wife is referenced by the name Ada. He was a prominent member of the Midwood and Knickerbocker Field Clubs and was involved with a special police unit charged with maintaining order and safety on bicycle paths, which was an issue in those days.

Edgar Mersereau died in 1906, when he would have been about 54 years of age.

– – – – A-P-P-E-N-D-I-X – – – –

Where was Edgar Mersereau’s Factory?

This envelope, postmarked April 27, 1894, indicates that the factory was on Pearl Street in Brooklyn. However, Pearl Street is in lower Manhattan, not in Brooklyn. The present limits of Brooklyn have corresponded to those of Kings County since 1896, two years before it became a borough of the City of New York. So, further research might show that Brooklyn extended onto Manhattan Island before 1896.

To complicate the matter, it was indicated in an 1899 newspaper article that the factory was located at the corner of Jay and James Streets and that it had been there for about twelve years. Jay Street is in lower Manhattan, but does not intersect a James Street. There is a Saint James Place, but it is some distance away.

I have one only tin that is inscribed “E.W. Mersereau Boxes, 90 Chambers Street, New York”. Chambers Street is in lower Manhattan and I infer that the reference to [the City of?] New York means that that it might have been made after 1898. The company name E.W. Mersereau is also non-typical. Did Mersereau try to compete with the American Can Company?

To complete these notes, there is an Ocean Ave. in Brooklyn, but there is also one in lower Manhattan. Fenimore Street, on the other hand, is indeed in present-day Brooklyn. These are the two Mersereau residences listed earlier in these notes.

– – – – S-O-U-R-C-E-S- – – –

Various sources, but primarily from the Brooklyn Eagle newspaper, on-line edition: April 22, 1897 (04/22/1897), page 4; 06/18/1898, page 7; 09/17/1899, page 36; 11/14/1899, page 16; 12/01/1899, page 2; 12/14/1900, page 5; 03/24/1901, page 5; and 09/18/1901, page 2. The portrait sketch is from the 09/17/1899 issue, page 36. The envelope is from my collection. Thanks to Hoby Van Deusen who discovered the newspaper sources listed above and shared them with me.


Written by johnwood1946

September 3, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Its great that you have added info on the venerable Mersereau Mfg. Co. They made many beautiful & collectible tins. It will help future researchers! Hoby Van Deusen—

    Hoby (Hobart D.) Van Deusen

    December 10, 2011 at 3:45 PM

    • I just picked up a Mersereau’s Quick Loader and I don’t know what is was used for. Has like a two inch nozzle on it an when you press in on the center piece it blows something out of the nozzle. Any idea what it was used for?

      Thanks Charlie


      April 27, 2014 at 11:13 AM

      • Hi Charlie. I hoped that it was for loading gun powder, but I was wrong. I saw another quick loader which was clearly labeled as being for squirting insecticide. Subsequently I bought another quick loader which included original contents, which I disposed of very carefully lest it contain DDT. – John


        April 27, 2014 at 4:05 PM

  2. I had one of those Quick Loaders and yes they were for spraying insecticide; sort of the pre-Flit type sprayers that were invented later. I had a whole collection of them but they were sold several years ago. They had a tank containing an insecticide liquid attached to a long pump handle. You could do a lot of spraying compared to the small amount of powder contained in the Quick Loaders. Hoby Van Deusen:

    Hoby Van Deusen

    April 27, 2014 at 4:32 PM

  3. Hi, You might be interested to know that there is a Mersereau tin on eBay US advertising Pilkinton Fruits & Flowers Mixture tobacco.


    October 7, 2015 at 1:16 PM

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