Item #889 Accounts of Hall, Dunn & Hunt Company. Cloth Manufacturing.
Accounts of Hall, Dunn & Hunt Company.
Accounts of Hall, Dunn & Hunt Company.
Boom & Bust of a Successful New Jersey Manufacturing Company

Accounts of Hall, Dunn & Hunt Company.

Salem, New Jersey, 1868-75. Item #889

Folio ledger.  360 x 235 mm., [14 ½ x 9 inches]. Manuscript in ink.  321 pp. Full reverse calf, joints cracked yet sound.  Text block strong and highly legible.

This ledger of Hall, Dunn & Hunt, the leading manufacturer of oil cloth in the United States after the Civil War, includes entries for merchandise sold as well as expenses for labor, design, material, freight, travel, bank loans and bank and notes payable and ownership compensation.  These extensive records of a oil-cloth manufacturer document not only the operations of the business but the way the three owners of the company, Morris Hall, Samuel W. Dunn and William R. Hunt drew heavily on the profits of the company and were paid handsomely for the success of the firm.

A number of the payments recorded in the ledger were made to women who worked in the company.  A Miss Robinson was paid for pattern design work, Miss Petitt’s name appears numerous times and paid for her labor, Miss Stearn and Comilia were paid for providing fixtures, and Lola W. Williams for merchandise.  There were many posting for sewing, and although the names of the payees were not listed, it should be understood that these employees were women working in the factory.

Oil-cloth, also known as enameled cloth or (in England) American cloth, was close-woven cotton duck or linen cloth with a coating of boiled linseed oil to make it waterproof. Historically, pre-Mackintosh, oil-cloth was one of very few flexible, waterproof materials that were widely available. Oil-cloth was used as an outer waterproof layer for floor covering and table covers, luggage, both wooden trunks and flexible satchels, for carriages and for weatherproof clothing.

Samuel W. Dunn (1845-1913), son of John C. and Sarah J. Bilderback Dunn, was one of the leading and prominent business men of Salem. He graduated from Pennington Seminary in 1862 and began his business career as a dry goods merchant. In 1868 he became associated with the firm of Hall, Dunn & Hunt, in the manufacture of floor oil-cloth in Salem. "From the beginning their enterprise proved successful, their trade constantly and steadily increasing until they were in command of a very large and profitable business. The product of their factory was of a superior grade, both in quality and patterns, and therefore found a ready sale on the market.”

An examination of the business records suggest that the firm was highly leveraged and in January of 1878, the company failed.  In an article which appeared in the Carpet Trade Review for November 1878 an announcement appears.  "The failure of W. R. Hunt & Co., oil-cloth manufacturers, of Salem, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, which occurred about the middle of December 1878, was hardly unexpected to those who knew anything about Mr. Hunt's affairs, as it was apparent from some recent sales of goods that he was straining every nerve to raise money, even at great cost.”  By 1877 both Hall and Dunn had retired, taking large payouts and Hunt attempted to keep the company going but struggled with cash flow. 

The article in the The Review continues, "We have taken considerable pains to investigate the affairs of the firm, knowing how great interest is felt in the matter. Hall, Dunn & Hunt started in January 1868, and continued with moderate success until January 1876, when Hall retired and started in business for himself.  In April 1877, Hunt bought out Dunn, and thenceforth operated as W. R. Hunt & Co. In all these successive changes the firm was weakened—each retiring partner being paid too much, a large amount of the debts assumed by the successor proving worthless.” 

"Since Dunn left the firm in April 1877, the business losses have been over $18,000. making the total indebtedness of all kinds $168,904, if the judgments and mortgages stand. The merchandise creditors will realize nothing. The stock in the factory was at sold auction and bought by John H. Morris, an uncle of Mr. Hunt, for $17,000. It will be noticed that Mr. Morris was a judgment-creditor for $10,400."

A detailed account of the investments of Hunt and the progressive decline of the business are described in the remainder of The Carpet Trade Review article. 


Price: $1,250.00

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