Andy Denes, an avid collector of metal match safes and matchbook holders, contacted me in December 2005 and provided wonderful historical context for J.E. Mergott Company. The company's products included not only the Jemco handbags frames with which bag collectors are so familiar, but a wide range of other metal items.
This 1912 patent matchbook holder carries the J.E. Mergott logo. (thanks to Andy Denes)
Newark, the City of Industry, published in 1912, attempted to documnet the history of industrial evolution in the Newark, New Jersey area. The following is the J.E. Mergott entry.
"IF the makers the many excellent lines of merchandise one sees advertised in the weekly and monthly publications always stated where these goods were made, it is a demonstrable fact that Newark would always be in the limelight as a threat industrial center.
One of the industries of the city which is a marked illustration of the axiom, "Great oaks from little acorns grow." is that of The J. E. Mergott Company, which is now one of Newark's large and flourishing business concerns though its modest beginning hardly presaged the present splendid showing, as will be seen in the accompanying illustration.
In small quarters, at 19 Green Street, this industry was started by "J. P. Mergott in 1878. He was sole proprietor until 1889 when an incorporated company was formed and the business moved to 10 and 12 Ward street. Here the enterprise prospered and after a time, as still larger space was needed, another move was made, this time to Irvington. Here the industry stayed until an unexpected mishap, in the nature of a fire, occurred in 1905, and the enterprise was returned to Newark and the present commodious and up-to-date plant was erected. This plant is on Jelliff Avenue, covering lots from 316 to 364. and consists of buildings of the most approved style of fire-proof and semi-proof construction. The plant is equipped with every facility for the purposes of the business and due regard for the convenience, well-being and safety of the firm's employees.
The building consist of a main mill which is of four story brick construction, 375 x 50 feet, a two-story fire-proof building adjoining which 150 x 40 feet. Some smaller buildings which are used for storage purposes, the power plant being situated in the midst of the buildings.
The power house. which is 79 x 90 feet, has a two hundred and fifty horse power engine, and three boilers of one hundred and fifty horse power each, and also contains ample facilities for the lighting, heating and water supply of the entire space devoted to manufacturing.
The plant is protected from fire by an automatic sprinkler system which has been installed in every department, and has a fire alarm system which is connected directly with the city's department, and employs about six hundred hands.
The product consists of bag, purse and pocketbook frames and some few metal specialties, all of which are turned out in large quantities and distributed over a wide territory. These products have earned for themselves a first-class name and are favorably received by the trade in all districts, there being an increasing demand for these goods.
The concern is incorporated, with ample capital stock, and the executive officers now directing the business are: President. L. F. Mergott; vice-president, F. A. Fuller: secretary and treasurer. William E. Howell, who are gentlemen of recognised business ability and prominent figures for the industrial betterment of the "City of Industry." (Newark -City of Industry, 1918 page 118)
This 1921-23 patent matchbook holder carries the J.E. Mergott logo. (thanks to Andy Denes)
Andy Denes shared his correspondence with Jack Mergott, whose grandfather's great uncle was Julius Eugen Mergott, founder of the company. Documents held by the Family date his birth to Bottenhorn, Germany in 1851.
My father forwarded your email to me. Julius E. Mergott was my great-great grandfather's brother. I still meet older people today who tell me that they used to work at the J.E. Mergott Company in Newark. At any rate, I dont know much more a bout the firm, except they had big army contracts at some point for brass buttons and they made brass pocketbook frames as well as other metal things I have some odd pieces made by the company, including a perpetual calendar, a letter opener and a desk piece of some kind, but no matchbookholders I have no idea where you might took except possibly to try some antique dealers in the Newark area. Let me knowwhat you find. Its at! very interesting to me. I have a photograph of Julius and his three brothers that was taken in Newark around 1890 I believe. Youngest brother Wilhelm was in the Franco-Prussian War. Otto, my ancestor, is the source of all named Mergott in the country today. All the other brothers had daughters. Julius' daughter, Meta, inherited the company from her father when he died and it soon want into the red. My grandfather arranged the company's sale in the 1950's, I think to Fedder's, the air-conditioner company. I remember her as she was still alive when I was very young. She had close ties to our relatives in Germany and used to visit them often. Her estate was used to found the Meta C. Mergott Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation that gives its investing profits away to registered charities. I am on the board. It is fun work. Now you know everything that I do on the subject Good luck. -Jack Mergott"
"Hi Andy, It's nice to hear from you again. I newer made the connection between you and the ebay auction. Very interesting indeed. How much info did I give you on J.E. Mergott? Did I leave anything out?- probably. I have a large photographic portrait of the four Mergott brothers done in Newark sometime in the 1880's I think. If I told you about the Fedders sale, then I probably told you that the estate of Meta C. Mergott (Julius1 daughter and heir) is now a charitable foundation, on who's board I sit (doesn't that sound pompous?). Anyway, we give away the income that the foundation money earns every year to different charities. That was my grandfather's idea and it was he who engineered the sale of the Company in the first place. That's probably why "Cousin Meta" had such a soft spot in her heart for him. She spoke German fluently if I recall and spent a lot of time travelling in Germany and Austria later in her life. I don't think she ever married. My great great grandfather Otto, was Julius' younger brother and died somewhere out west, killed by Apaches while prospecting for gold. The family left Western Germany in the 1870's as they had strong ties to France (the father of the four brothers married a girl who was half French and was also a French teacher) and they distrusted Bismarck and the Prussians. Even so, the youngest brother, Wilhelm got caught by the draft before getting out and served in the Prussian army during the Franco-Prussian War. That's probably more family history than you want to know, but there it is. Thanks for writing. -Jack Mergott"
February 1950 Handbags and Fashion Accessories, announced the acquistion of the J.E. Mergott Company by Fedders-Quigan on page 113 and again in a full page annouce,ment on page 116.
Fedders-Quigan Adds Mergott Co
The Fedders-Quigan Corp. has acquired the handbag frame business, plant and facilities of the J. E. Mergott Company of Newark. The plant is being operated as the J. E. Mergott division of Fedders-Quigan.
January 4, 1950
It is our pleasure to announce that we have acquired the handbag frame business, plant and facilities of the J. E. Mergott Co. which we will hereafter continue as our J. E. Mergott Division.
We wish to assure you that we will continue to produce the "Jemco" frames with the same standards of styling and quality for which they have been known over the years.
The facilities of the Fedders-Quigan organization will be placed behind our J. E. Mergott Division operation in order to insure a greater efficiency of service and delivery and continued expansion to meet your needs.
Mr. George Laubenstein, who is continuing with us as manager of our J. E. Mergott Division, will work in close cooperation with Mr. William Pierro, the general manager of our handbag frame divisions and Mr. Bruno Giordano, the general sales manager of these divisions.
For your convenience, we are retaining the Empire State Building offices.
J.E. Mergott was listed in the Industrial Directory until 1954/55 or 55/56 and are no longer listed in the 1956/57 directory.
Other items made by J.E. Mergott:
Jem Jr. 120 box camera, case made about 1940 by Mergott and covered in black or red leather. It measures 4 1/2" x 4 1/4" x 2 1/2".
Military Buttons: brass