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This is a 3 part article written by Glyn V. Farber and appeared in the TAMS Journal June 1997.
Most of you have probably seen one or more varieties of the Menter maverick tokens. Charles A. Menter was a tailor dealing in clothing on credit in Rochester, New York during the late 1800s and early 1900s. You will soon learn more about this man and the wholesale and retail clothing firms he operated. However, you may be surprised to learn that he had very little to do with these interesting tokens when they were issued in the early 1920s. The reason is, Charles A. Menter died 12 July 1913 at the age of sixty-one. Very few records of this company exist today. In most cases city directories are all that remain. Fortunately the Rochester Public Library does have a good selection, but early directory listings for Charles A. Menter are very sketchy. Below is an outline of dates and business names, followed by facts on each Menter company.
Menter & Henry 1887
In 1887 Charles A. Menter was a tailor with the establishment of Menter & Henry. This business was located at 30 Tallman Building in Rochester, New York. This is the earliest known listing in a Rochester City Directory. Information prior to 1887 is not available at this time.
Menter & Brell 1888
Menter moved to 174 E. Main Street the next year and acquired a new partner by the name of William Brell in 1888. By all accounts, they were tailors and in the wholesale business only as it was previously.
Menter & Rosenbloom 1889
Charles Menter must have been looking for someone special, for in 1889 he is listed with Max Z. Rosenbloom as Menter & Rosenbloom. Max Rosenbloom was his third partner in only three years. Menter & Rosenbloom were located at 22 Exchange place and continued to be tailors in a wholesale clothing business. The firm of Menter & Rosenbloom continued to relocate for the next few years. In 1891 the company moved to 102 State Street and the following year to 99 State Street. During these years Menter & Rosenbloom were once again listed as “Wholesale Only.” However, Charles Menter does not have a business address in the 1891 directory and in 1892 he is listed as moved to Albany, New York. He may have moved there to establish another business.
Spiess, Menter & Rosenbloom 1893
In 1893 a new company appears, “J. A. Spiess, Mrs. Hattie B. Menter & Max Z. Rosenbloom” at 518 Cox Building. Hattie B. Menter is the wife of Charles Menter. Charles Menter has returned to Rochester, NY. The following was found in the 1893 Rochester city directory – (1) Menter Chas. A. 99 State, house 80 Charlotte (2) Hattie B. Mrs. (Spiess, Menter & Rosenbloom) 518 Cox Bldg. h. 84 Charlotte.
Note the different house numbers of Charles Menter (80 Charlotte) and Mrs. Hattie Menter (84 Charlotte). I believe this to be in error. Also note Charles Menter’s business address of 99 State Street. This was the business address of Menter & Rosenbloom in 1892. John A. Spiess is listed as a partner of Spiess, Menter & Rosenbloom in 1893 only. In 1897 Spiess operated the Spiess Clothing Co. at 98 Campbell Street.
Menter, Rosenbloom & Co. – Indianapolis, Indiana
Menter, Rosenbloom & Co. 1894
In 1894 John A Spiess is no longer connected with Spiess, Menter & Rosenbloom. Once again a name change is noted. Hattie B. Menter is still a partner and her husband is listed as manager. Menter, Rosenbloom & Co. consisted of Mrs. Hattie B. Menter, Charles, Max Rosenbloom and J. N. Schlesinger. In 1895 another move transpired, this time from 518 to 417 Cox Building. The Cox building was located on St. Paul Street. Soon after the move Charles Menter is listed as a partner of Menter, Rosenbloom & Co.
Mrs. Menter and J. N. Schlesinger are no longer partners after 1896.
During the years 1897, 1898 and 1899 Charles Menter and Max Rosenbloom progressed from a small wholesale clothing company to retail sales. By 1900 they were listed as “Retailers & Wholesalers.” That same year they made plans to open clothing stores across the nation. In 1901 Stores in Evansville, Indiana; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Detroit, Michigan; and Grand Rapids, Michigan opened. The next year more stores opened in Denver, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Paul, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; Syracuse, New York; and Toledo, Ohio. This established Menter, Rosenbloom & Co. as a national chain. In 1903 a clothing store at 70 Main Street in Rochester, New York opened. The Cox Building is now listed as the general office.
Menter & Rosenbloom Co.
Menter & Rosenbloom Co.
Menter & Rosenbloom Co. 1904
By 1904 the co-partnership firm of Menter, Rosenbloom & Co. of Rochester, New York together with all the rights, good will, property, stock of merchandise, accounts and other assets in the state of New York and other states were
transferred to a newly formed corporation. The name of this new stock corporation was Menter and Rosenbloom Co. The company was set up in accordance with the laws of the state of New York on 26 January 1904. The purpose for which this company was formed are as follows:
To buy, sell, lease, let and generally to deal in cloths, clothing, wearing apparel of all kinds, notions, fancy goods, ornaments, household, furniture and glassware, and other articles and commodities of personal and household use and consumption, and manufactured goods of any kind and description; also to manufacture, lease, sell and deal in any and all of such articles, goods and merchandise etc.
The amount of capital stock was $300,000.00 of which $280,000.00 was preferred stock and $20,000 common stock. Named directors of the Menter and Rosenbloom Co. were Charles A Meter, president; Max Z. Rosenbloom vice-president; and Alfred Michaels, secretary. Alfred Michaels was also a partner in the Menter, Rosenbloom Co. beginning about 1900.
The next ten years were a boom period for the Menter and Rosenbloom Co. as they expanded the company by leaps and bounds. During this period additional clothing stores were opened in states listed above along with stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Approximately seventy-five clothing stores were opened by 1912. Only about forty stores have been located to date. The Menter and Rosenbloom tokens were issued somewhere between 1910 and 1912.
The Menter Co. 1913
On 2 July 1912 Max Z. Rosenbloom, vice president of Menter & Rosenbloom died. After his death Charles Menter must have tried to reorganize the company he now owned. In 1913 the Rochester store moved to 68 Main Street and city directories in many cities were indicating “The Menter Co.” or “Menter Co.” successors to “Menter and Rosenbloom Co.” Charles A. Menter continued to run the giant clothing store chain, with the help of Alfred Michaels and David M. Brickner, until his death on 12 July 1913. Menter died unexpectedly at his summer home on Netley Island near Clayton, New York.
During this time (1912-1913) as many as fifteen stores closed across the nation. On 22 January 1914 it was announced that Menter and Rosenbloom Co., a $3000,000.00 corporation, had placed its affairs in the hands of a committee of its largest creditors. The Company assets and liabilities were transferred pending reorganization.
The Menter Company, Inc. 1916
Apparently Charles Menter never applied for a name change with the state of New York. This was done 22 April 1916 by David M. Brickner, president of Menter and Rosenbloom Co. The new corporation was then officially named The Menter Company, Inc. City directories began indicating this new company name about 1917. Another move in 1916 occurred from 68 Main Street to 62 State Street. The general office was still located at 600 Cox Building.
In 1918 The Menter Company, Inc. moved to New York City. The 1918 Rochester city directory list only James C. Marks as store manager. In 1922 the Rochester store moved to 82 Main Street, and to 58 State Street in 1924. Only store managers are reported for the next several years. The last listing for the Menter Company in Rochester is 1931.
1921 Menter Co. Advertisement 425 Euclid Ave. Cleveland, Ohio
The move of the Menter company’s general office to 469 7th Ave, New York City in 1918 may have been the results of a new president. In the early 1920s Olaf Ussing was president, with Hobart P. Swanton vice-president and treasurer, and H. F. Wooster secretary. Ussing was a bond salesman from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania who became president of White & Co. of New York City in 1917.
The first retail store in New York City was at 45 E. 17th Street. Other stores were located at 45 W. 14th Street and 161 W. 125th Street. The number of clothing stores in the Menter chain were at forty in 1924 down from seventy-five in the early 1900s.
Business troubles seemed to follow the Menter company after the death of Charles Menter and Max Rosenbloom. On 30 December 1925 the assets of The Menter Company, Inc. were sold for $656,000.00 by the receivers, who were appointed on 1 September 1925. On 19 January 1926 Olaf Ussing resigned as president of The Menter Company, Inc.
Menter Stores Corporation 1926
By 1926 another new company was formed with general offices still in New York City. The Menter Stores Corp. now appeared in most city directories across the country. The new president of Menter Stores Corp. was David Kamerman and Jesse Smalbach was secretary-treasurer. New York City locations were at 45 W. 14th Street, 157 W. 125th Street and 289 Livingston.
More than half of the remaining Meter stores closed in the next five years. Very few stores had remained open after 1930. Perhaps this was due to the 1929 stock market crash and the business situations leading up to it. The “Great Crash” ushered in the “Great Depression.” Millions of men lost their jobs in 1931 and this number tripled in 1932. The early 1900s was such a glorious time that the National Association of Merchants tailors concluded that “a well dressed American should have twenty suits, a dozen hats, eight overcoats and twenty four pairs of shoes.” Without a job who could buy a suit?
In a 1937 chain store directory, The Menter Stores Corp. is listed at 45 W. 14th Street, New York City. The directory mentions that six stores remain in the once large chain. The only other stores listed in city directories after 1937 are in Elwood, Indiana (1938); Minneapolis, Minnesota (1952); St. Paul, Minnesota (1956); Kansas City, Missouri (1955), and Albany, New York (1957). The year in parenthesis is that store’s closing date. The Albany, New York store at 44 S Pearl appears to be the oldest store of the chain. Its not known exactly when the New York City store closed or when The Menter Stores Corp. dissolved.
In the early decades of this century it was impossible for a working man or woman to secure a loan from a legitimate lender. In 1902 Charles Menter & Max Rosenbloom took advantage of this by offering men’s, ladies, and children’s clothing on credit. Advertising by both the Menter & Rosenbloom Co. and the Menter companies contained terms such as “Cash & Credit Clothier,” “Installment clothing,” and “Open a charge account.” Other advertisement offered “Suits made to order – Payments $1.00 weekly” or “50¢ down and 50¢ per week will buy your choice of ladies dresses.” It is interesting to note that when The Menter Company folded in 1926, accounts receivable on customer installment accounts were $3,383,486.09.
Menter Co. Geneva, N.Y. – Key Ring / Charge Coin