A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

History: Harris Hardware And Best Paint Sold in Matawan, 1911

A hundred years ago this week you could buy a good lead paint from George M Harris of Matawan, according to the ad below, which can be found on page 2 of the 20 April 1911 edition of The Independent.

What Is It Made Of?
Patterson-Sargent Paint is made of old Dutch process white lead, cold pressed linseed oil, aged, settled and ripened in the tanks of B P S Factory (new oil is not fit to use), a little drier, and the necessary coloring pigments. B P S Paint contains no adulteration whatever.

This analysis was made at Yale College by Herbert E Smith, the Connecticut State Chemist.

White Lead and Zinc Oxide      94.36%
Insoluble                                    5.07%
Total                                        99.43%

Gehlhaus Block                                  Matawan

According to America's Marine Progress, by George Weiss, (New York: The New York Marine News Co, 1920, pg 304) the Patterson-Sargent Company was established about 1895 in Erie, Pennsylvania by Ben Patterson and Winthrop Sargent. You can read the pertinent portion of text from Weiss at Marinelink, which unfortunately does not cite its source.

Documents of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, Vol 6 (1916), pg 26, describes the Gehlhaus Building as being the first entrance along Main Street south of Little Street. That block of buildings accurately describes where the old Harris Hardware was situated as late as the 1990s. It relocated to the vacated Foodtown store and soon closed.

Dr Herbert Eugene Smith, son of Henry Hart Smith, was born in Hartford, Connecticut on 21 October 1857, according to New England Families, Vol IV, edited by William Richard Cutter, (Lewis Historical Publishing, 1913, pg 1613). Herbert E Smith was Connecticut State Chemist for New Haven as of 20 November 1897, according to Geer's Hartford City Directory and Hartford Illustrated, Vol 59, pg 633. He taught chemistry at Yale Medical School, serving as dean of the school beginning in 1885.


  1. Maybe the famous Matawan shark was suffering from lead poisoning, the effect of which is irritability and aggression. Or, maybe not.

  2. Good old harris hardware.......gone forever .....courtesy of the home depot.

    1. There's no question that box stores like Home Depot, Staples and Price Club killed Harris Hardware, Bayshore Stationers, and Foodtown. But that's not the reason for a dead downtown Matawan a decade later. Keyport has turned things around significantly, but Matawan's problem persists. Is there a functioning process for getting new businesses onto Main Street? Is the Borough Council looking at why the downtown is unattractive? Maybe it is the poor fundamental organization of downtown? Lack of parking? Are prospective shoppers fearful of heading into the downtown area? Are prospective businesses testing the waters and finding Matawan inhospitable? I've heard new businesses complain about the official permit process. Are rents too high?

      At this point we might have a chicken and the egg logic problem: New businesses won't come because of the problems, and the Council won't fix problems because businesses won't come.

      That impasse is easily remedied by surveying prospective business owners for why they are attracted to downtown Matawan and what they see as the challenges. And then the Council needs to follow up with those business persons to find out which of the challenges turned them away from opening a business downtown. If that is already being done, then shame on those who have the data and haven't fixed the problems that have been highlighted.

  3. So sad that Harris Hardware, my Grandfather', George Harris's store is gone. I recently ran into his employee's great granddaughter and had a wonderful talk. So glad I was able to visit the new owner and roam around the store before it closed.