Thursday, December 19, 2019

Peter Quackenbush, The Quackenbush & Company Store In Paterson, New Jersey

PETER QUACKENBUSH, son of Peter Quackenbush, born February 24, 1844 and married 1st, May 27, 1868 to Loretta Darby of Westield, New Jersey. Together they had the following children: Marie, born October 25, 1871. He married 2nd Sarah A. Quin on June 6, 1876. Together they had the following children: William Dixon, born December 16, 1877; Louis Estil, born March. 19, 1880; Sarah Amelia, born January 10, 1883; Edith, born December 3, 1885.

PETER QUACKENBUSH in his maternal (Demarest) line, comes from an original French Huguenot family, resident in the Colony of New Jersey at a period almost as early as when his paternal ancestor established himself in New York. He received his education in the public schools of Paterson and in Prof. Allen's Academy. In 1860 he engaged in employment as clerk in the dry goods store of John C. Van Dervoort. In 1878 he embarked in the dry goods business for himself at No. 180 Main Street. In 1882 the firm of Quackenbush & Company was organized, Mr. John B. Mason being admitted as a
partner, and in 1901 Mr. Quackenbush's son, William Dixon Quackenbush, was admitted as a third partner. The Quackenbush & Company store is the principal dry goods establishment in the city of Paterson, having developed into what is termed a Department Store in 1896. Its reputation is of a kind corresponding to that enjoyed by the popular shops of New York and other large cities. Its success has always been of the solid order—the result of intelligent enterprise and management; reliable service to the public and a reciprocal popular appreciation which has been constant in its development. Mr. Quackenbush, as the most successful merchant of Paterson in the line of trade which, probably more than any other, engages the interest of the general public, naturally occupies a personal position of especial prominence in the community. But the mere prominence which his character as a popular merchant confers upon him does not by any means represent his actual position as a citizen. This position is one of the greatest public spirit, the highest usefulness and the broadest activity. He has uniformly, however, preferred to exercise his influence in modest ways. He has frequently been offered opportunities for political preferment, but has declined them in every case. The only public office which he has held is that of member of the Board of Education, in which he served for two years, finally resigning on account of the pressure of his private affairs.

He was one of the leading spirits in the movement which resulted in giving Paterson its fine system of public parks. He was also a member of the Park Commission, on which Board he served four years. He has held the position of Vice-President of Paterson Board of Trade, and in 1900 was elected President of the Paterson Business Men's Association, an office which he resigned in 1901. He was elected a member of the Board of Directors of the Second National Bank in 1890 and has served continuously until the present time (1909). He was active in organizing the Citizens' Trust Company and served as a director the first year of its existence. He is prominent and earnest in church work being a leading member and one of the officers of the Broadway Reformed Church and for many years has been a member of the Board of Education of that denomination. For many years he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Paterson Young Men's Christian Association and also the Paterson Young Women's Christian Association and for ten years he was Director and President of the Paterson Rescue Mission. For the last few years he has been President of the Charity Organization Society in which he takes great interest. He was married June 6, 1876, to Sarah Amelia Quin, daughter of Mr. William D. Quin, a former prominent citizen of Paterson and at one time its postmaster, under President Buchanan.

About the store - The building at 192 Main St. in Paterson, N.J., was built for the Quackenbush Co., one of the city's two major department stores. Peter Quackenbush, of Dutch descent like so many early residents of Paterson, opened his own store for business in 1878. John Mason became a partner shortly thereafter and the business prospered until the Paterson fire of 1902. (Johnstown, Galveston, San Francisco, Chicago destroyed; Baltimore, Paterson and many other cities hit by major fires; people of that era would have seen Katrina as just another problem. Was it simply easier to rebuild back then, or was it that we were less taken aback, in that post-Civil War era, by disasters? In any event, many a department store operated from tents or neighborhood storefronts until it could rebuild its headquarters.) Quackenbush had only one child who lived to adulthood, and his health was not good; he went to Colorado Springs in pursuit of relief, and eventually Quackenbush and Mason sold the store to the Spitzes, who had been in business in Union City. Fittingly for this week, Peter Quackenbush was a delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1904, and his resume reads like the most solid of citizens': president of the rescue mission, founder of a home for nurses, builder of a chapel for his church, member of the school board and park commission. Such was the prominence of the local department store owner, particularly when the family that owned your only real competitor, Meyer Bros., lived in Newark and took the train up to run the store. During the Depression Quackenbush's became part of the Allied Stores chain and then in the 1960s it became part of Stern's, the Times Square department store. When Stern's was bought by Allied in 1951, the company chairman said: "Retailing is a very simple business." He announced plans to open suburban branches. The early 1950s, of course, was when discounters such as E.J. Korvette were beginning to eat department stores' for lunch, and New York was a bit less simple than Reading. Eventually Allied developed a two-prong strategy in New York; Stern's expanded into New Jersey, and the Gertz chain, which had grown out of a stationery store in Jamaica, Queens, would carry the flag on Long Island. That left Stern's main store as sort of an afterthought in a declining Times Square, and it was closed, making Stern's a New Jersey chain based at Bergen Mall in Paramus and with a downtown store in Paterson, which wasn't doing well either. Stern's soon moved away to become a nearly ubiquitous store in North Jersey and Meyer Bros. became an extremely low-end department store before burning down in 1991.

The greatest tragedy in history, in the Paterson Fire Department, occurred on March 11, 1938 at a 4 alarm fire at the Quackenbush warehouse. Station 474 was sounded at 1:58 PM. The flames gutted the building and long after the fire was well under control, Deputy Chief Sweeney and four men from Engine Company 5 Captain William Devenport and firemen Louis Rodesky, William Lynch, Matthew O'Neill) made the Supreme Sacrifice when the walls of the building collapsed on them. At the time the wall collapsed, the firemen were devising a means to to pull it down because they knew it was in danger of falling. The only survivors from Engine 5 were fireman Thomas Schofield who was in the alley picking up hose and driver and engineer Ralph Miller who was maintaining the pumps at the Ahrens Fox engine (#3401). A never to be forgotten scene took place when driver Miller had to return the apparatus to Headquarters alone. As he stepped from the Engine he was met by Chief Engineer Coyle. Miller stood at attention and announced "Number 5 returning back to quarters." The Chief bowed his head and wept. Miller cried, "I'm all alone, Chief."

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