Jewelry Turns Boston From Beantown to Gem Town in 1919

According to JCK’s 50th anniversary issue, the city of Boston held 115 jewelers at the time of the magazine’s debut in 1869. By 1919, that number had risen to 535, certainly enough to reflect the city’s nickname: The Hub.

A paragraph in the article struck me, and I wanted to share it in full:

In the very nature of things some of those jewelers of two generations ago have “crossed the bar,” and their businesses have died out, leaving no trace but an affectionate memory. Others have left behind them establishments which in new hands have been carried on to greatly increased dimensions and prosperity. Yet others, whose careers began half a hundred years ago or more are here today, linking a hallowed past with the glorious present, and full of promise of even greater and richer things in the future, if not for themselves, at least their successors.

From my interactions with retailers and manufacturers today, I believe that sentiment to be alive and well in cities throughout the United States.

The 50th anniversary issue of JCK also included mentions of companies that were thriving in Boston when the magazine debuted in 1869, and still going strong in 1919. Here’s a sampling:

Shreve, Crump & Low, 1869

Shreve, Crump & Low Co., 1919

“The oldest jewelry house in Boston is that of Shreve, Crump & Low. It was established in 1800 and throughout its long career has always been a leader in jewelry circles.

When the American Horological Journal, the original number of what is now The Jewelers’ Circular, made its debut in 1869, the firm of Shreve, Crump & Low succeeded that of Shreve, Stanwood & Co., the new members being Charles H. Crump, whose entire business career identified with the house up to the time of his death; George D. Low, and William P. Shreve, a nephew of Benjamin Shreve. In 1888, the firm was incorporated as Shreve, Crump & Low Co., under the laws of Massachusetts with Benjamin Shreve as president, George D. Low as vice president, C.H. Crump as manager, and W.P. Shreve as treasurer.”

Editor’s note: How great is it that Shreve, Crump & Low is still going strong in 2013, and you can follow the country’s oldest jewelry store on Twitter?

Washington St., Boston’s jewelry district, in 1869

Norling & Bloom, 1869

Norling & Bloom, 1919

“The firm of Norling & Bloom, probably the second oldest manufacturing jewelry concern in the city of Boston, was founded in 1866 by Charles G. Norling and Julius R. Bloom. From the very beginning, as now, the business was given over wholly to manufacturing, repairing, and a wholesale business in diamonds.

The war has had no bad effect on the business, according to [present day owner] Arthur R. Kelley, for there has been a steady growth along all lines. The business of the past Christmas season showed an increase of more than 25 percent over a year ago. Mr. Kelley considers the work he turns out as far above the average, as skilled workmen are employed in every line, many of them having been with Norling & Bloom for the past 30 years or more. ‘Careful handwork under personal experienced supervision is sure to bring the best results,’ says the owner of the concern.”

Washington St., Boston’s jewelry district, in 1919

D.C. Percival & Co., 1869

D.C. Percival & Co., 1919

“The history of the business of D.C. Percival & Co., whose birth occurred considerably more than 50 years ago, emphasizes that efficiency breeds success. While the company did not (to use a familiar expression) start with a silver spoon in its mouth, yet it had a substitute which, in many respects, was much better, namely, a lofty and laudable ambition harnessed to a human dynamo and business Socrates in the person of D.C. Percival, the founder.

David C. Percival, was born April. 16, 1838, in the Cape Cod town of Sandwich. He fitted for Harvard College, but preferred to begin a business career instead of continuing his studies, and became a salesman for the old-time Boston jewelry house of Sackett, Davis & Co. Eight years later, he embarked in business as a wholesaler at 336 Washington St., the firm name being D.C. Percival, Jr. & Co., having as partners two young man named Morris and Salisbury.

Throughout his long business career, Mr. Percival had been an acknowledged leader in the jewelry trade, and his earnest attention to business, unfailing courtesy, and recognized integrity won for him the unqualified respect of customers, competitors, and all other associates who had been brought into close relations with him from year to year.

‘You can’t help but win if you have the sense do to these simple things,’ [Percival told The Jewelers’ Circular] ‘1, be honest; 2, attend to business; 3, have the interests of your customers really and sincerely at heart. Now these three need no elaboration. The simpler you keep them, the better. And number three means just what it says. Anything that is not good for your customers is a good deal worse for you.’” 

For more on the jewelry industry in 1919, check out: