How rue Label de Montclair gets its name (history and heritage)
Samuel Crump Jr. had a printing business in Brooklyn which was started by his father, Samuel, in 1832. His father retired in 1861. Samuel Jr. took on a business partner, William Everdell. Business was good. They started making labels for the emerging canned food industry.
In 1875, Crump & Everdell decided to build a new factory in Montclair, along the New York and Greenwood Lake Railroad line (now the NJ Transit Boonton line). They built a 100 foot by 240 foot building near the old Walnut Street station.
Samuel and his wife, Anna (Riker), have moved to Montclair. The label manufacturing business continued to grow exponentially. The Brooklyn plant was handed over to former employees, who continued to print labels under the Cincinnati-headquartered Hinds, Ketchem & Co. banner.
On July 4, 1877, a fire destroyed the Montclair building. No one knows how it started, but some people suspected it was sparks from a firework display. Almost immediately, a new, much larger building (150 feet by 525 feet) was erected.
Everdell resigned from the company and Crump continued under his own name. Business exploded. There were nearly 200 employees and they printed nearly a million labels every day.
They did everything at the Montclair factory, except making the paper. They cut the paper from gigantic rolls of unfinished paper. They coated it with clay to the desired weight and shine. They made their own glue and their own inks. And they were becoming famous for their multicolored labels (up to 10 different colors).
The facility grew to five large buildings and the company occupied the entire block from the railway tracks to Forest Street and a new street, known as Label Street, to Oak Place (although ‘Erie Street, by the Lanes, and Oak Place did not come into existence until the early 20e century).
They built housing for employees who needed it. Two multi-unit houses at the northeast corner of Forest and Walnut streets exist to this day. Crump was progressive in that it was one of the first employers to start profit-sharing programs with its employees.
Samuel and Anna had 12 children. Unfortunately, six of them died young. A seventh was killed in action during the First World War. His name, Samuel Crump, is inscribed on the Edgemont Park memorial.
Samuel and Anna have built a large Victorian house on Highland Avenue. The house was demolished, but the spiers and turrets are clearly visible around the 20e-Century photos just below Kip Castle.
Samuel was said to be a little eccentric. He reportedly wore paper suits and drilled holes in his shoes so his feet could “breathe”. It was reported that the Crumps had the first phone in Montclair.
In 1890 Samuel sold the factory to Hinds, Ketchem. He and Anna moved to Dutchess County, New York.
There are family legends that after printing, Samuel experimented with wrapping coconut milk and lost his fortune. There are few, if any, news reports that support this. He died in 1925 while he and Anna were visiting their daughter, Elizabeth, in Shanghai. Anne died in 1927.
In 1891 Hinds, Ketchem merged with Crump Co., Frey Printing, and Russel & Morgan to form the U.S. Printing Co. The focus shifted from labels to creating various forms of paper and board. The US Printing Co. operated in the Label Street area until 1928. The Montclair mill alone produced over 9 million pounds of paper each year.
In 1929, the town of Montclair purchased the Crump facility for $150,000. He was harshly criticized for his purchase, and many Montclairians considered him a huge “white elephant”.
It turned out to be a wise investment, however, after the Black Friday hit and the country descended into the Great Depression. The city needed a place to feed and house unemployed families.
During the 1930s, the city donated some of the buildings to the United States Department of Agriculture, which used them as a research center to stop the spread of Dutch elm disease, which destroyed nearly all elm trees in the northeast.
In 1937, it was decided to demolish the main building (the one built after the fire of 1877) and to set up a car checkpoint there. Cars were inspected there until 2008, when the state shut it down. The former Motor Vehicle Commission building now houses the Montclair Bread Co.
Several of the other Crump buildings have been replaced. The only other original building is at the intersection of Erie Street with Oak Place, where DFIT Fitness Studio is one of the major tenants.
“History & Heritage” is a series on the history of Montclair written by representatives of the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library. Mike Farrelly is a trustee of the Montclair History Center and has been the township’s official historian, a volunteer position, since 2004.