Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Hoge Brush Company Files, Vol. 11

Click to enlarge

[Note: For background on the "Hoge Brush Company Files" series, click here; to see all the entries in the series so far, click here.]

There are few things I like better than functional specificity, and it doesn't get much more functionally specific than a business called the Tubular Rivet and Stud Company. They sent the letter shown above, another treasure from our ongoing look into the Hoge Brush Company files.

The letter pretty well speaks for itself. What interests me is the letterhead design, which shows an aerial view of Tubular Rivet and Stud's vast factory complex. This was a common mid-century letterhead motif (we've seen it in one of the previous letters to Hoge Brush, and it appears on several other letters I'll eventually be presenting in this series), capturing the essence of America's smokestack-driven industrial might.

I've always believed, perhaps naively, that the factories shown in these illustrations were accurate representations of the companies on whose letterhead they appeared. So when I saw the sprawling complex depicted on the Tubular Rivet and Stud letter, I thought to myself, "Wow, they must have been making a lot of rivets!" But then I began to feel a creeping skepticism. Nobody needed that big a factory just to make rivets, right? What a sucker I'd been to believe that these letterhead illustrations were authentic representations — they were probably just stock renderings!

I wanted to know what Tubular Rivet and Stud's factory really looked like, so I started poking around on the web. The company no longer exists, but I quickly found an old promotional piece with another overhead factory shot (click to enlarge):

I initially thought this illustration showed a completely different factory complex than the one shown on the letterhead. Upon closer inspection, however, they do appear to be the same facility (click to enlarge):

Hmmmm, so does that mean this was truly the Tubular Rivet factory, or does it simply mean that they consistently used the same bogus representation? I poked around a bit more and found two photos that show very limited views of the company's plant in 1919 (click to enlarge):

At first I thought there was no way to match up these photos with the letterhead illustration, because the photos provided such tight views. But it turns out that one of them does appear to match a section of the illo. Check it out (click to enlarge):

Okay, I'm convinced — the factory shown on Tubular Rivet and Stud's letterhead was an accurate representation of their facility. But what about other companies? Did any of them use stock factory renderings, or were they all legit? If anyone knows more about this aspect of mid-century letterhead design, please feel free to enlighten me.

(My continued thanks to Joanna and David Zwiep for sharing the Hoge Brush Company letters with me.)


  1. I get '403 forbidden' on the 2nd and 3rd image, so I'm not entirely sure what we're looking at here, so maybe I should not comment, but is there a chance that the image is of a projection/perspetive of what the factory might ultimately look like when it reaches its full potential? Or (perhaps even more likely) that this was a group of factories, either owned by the same company (perhaps under different names) or different businesses?

  2. If companies still did this there would be lots of pictures of Chinese OEM factories on letterhead. Complete with iron gates and suicide nets from "Human Resources".

  3. If interested in letterheads and haven't run across this collection, the Biggert Collection at Columbia University is well worth a gander:

  4. From an architectural survey of Quincy MA


    Minxie J. Fannin & Monique B. Lehner, July 1986


    Quincy, Mass. Historical and Architectural Survey

    Linden Street

    The former Tubular Rivet and Stud Company was one of Quincy's largest manufacturing companies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The foundation for the company was laid in 1874 when David Whittemore began the construction of a shoe machinery factory. In 1893 the Lacing Stud Company and the Tubular Rivet Company merged to form the Tubular Rivet & Stud Co. The factory produced rivets, shoe and glove hooks and overshoe buckles for clothing and harness manufacturers. The first rivet setting and hook setting machines were invented by Mellon Bray, the founder of the company and an early machine is on exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. By 1930 the company was already so advanced that economic historian Orra Stone was calling the Tubular Rivet & Stud Company: "... ranked with the extensive and important industrial enterprises of the Bay State." The invention of the Multi-Head Riveter in 1955 opened a new era in riveting by making it possible to automatically feed and set any number of rivets at one time.

    The original 350 X 40 feet three-story brick factory, on the north side of Linden Street, was built in 1875 with early 20th century extensions to the west and the north. By 1899 a block similar to the one of 1875 was built on the south side of Linden Street. This new two-story mill housed an enlarged machine shop and to the rear, an extensive japan house. In the early 20th century a new two-story brick warehouse was constructed on the adjacent Weston Avenue. In 1961 the company was purchased by Textron Inc., of Providence and in 1964 all operations were transferred to a new plant in Braintree.

    Assessors Records.
    Building Permits.
    H. Hobart Holly. ed. Quincy: 350 Years, 1974. p. 31.
    Stone. Orra L. History of Massachusetts Industries: Their Inception. Growth and Success. vol. 3. 1930. p. 333.

    This complex of industrial buildings is a fine example of industrial architecture of the third quarter of the 19th century. At that time the prevailing mode was the Italianate Style which was characterized by segmental arched windows, brick articulated walls, flat roofs and spare decorative details. The large two and one half story V shaped 1875 building north of Linden Street is 28 bays long and 24 bays wide. These long expanses are mitigated by the presence of projecting brick piers separating the bays which create a formidable view of rhythmical repetition of vertical elements, reminiscent of the textile mills in Lawrence, Lowell and other New England sites. Capping this long wall are rows of stepped bricks within the window embrasure and a plain parapet. It is a clear, crisp, functional design yet elegant in its simplicity without the sterility of later industrial structures. The windows have been covered with brick colored vinyl siding which has been neatly applied.

    The 18 Weston Avenue brick structure set on granite foundation has three large segmental arched openings under a shaped parapet raised in the center and finished with contrasting cast stone. It is a fine small well proportioned industrial structure with simple decorative details.

  5. Parts of the factory complex are still standing in Quincy, MA. The railroad tracks that are in both photos still run parallel to Newport Ave., and the building to the right of your circle in the illustration is now a self-storage facility on the corner of Linden Street and Weston Ave. The complex is no longer as large as it once was, but several recognizable elements remain, visible here: http://binged.it/1T7KcJi.

  6. I live right around the corner from this place. The factory buildings have been converted to condos and some of the buildings have been knocked down. I would estimate that this rendering was accurate back in the day.

    1. I would be glad to take some photos of the site as it it exists today for your comparisons.

  7. Very interesting post, Paul. If you haven't seen letterheady.com yet, take a gander at hundreds of fabulous letterheads from people, places and things from Star Trek to Dr. Seuss to Houdini (http://www.letterheady.com/post/398527079/houdini)