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In 1877 Jonathan Masbach (1819-1915), formerly a baker, founded J. Masbach & Sons, Hardware, at 1080 Third Ave. (near 64th St.), New York City. Jonathan Masbach is recorded in the 1870 U. S. Census as a baker living in New York's 11th Ward. His sons at that time were Herman, Carl, Robert, and Louis, ranging in age from 15 to 5. Trow's New York City Directory for 1877 lists Herman and Robert as the sons in the new business. In 1881 they moved to 1029 Third Ave, and in 1884 the business name changed to Masbach Bros. By 1886, Jonathan Masbach had disappeared from directory lists, and the brothers consisted of Charles (Carl), Herman, and Robert J. Masbach. Robert Masbach was identified as in business at both 1029 Third Ave. and 82 Vesey St. The youngest brother, Louis Masbach, had his own hardware / home furnishings store at 1031 Third Ave. (near 61st St.) from 1889 to 1908.

In 1894 Robert Jonathan Masbach (1860-1943), age 34, applied for a passport, where he declared that he was born 7 Feb. 1860 in New York, N. Y.

Jonathan Masbach and three of his sons were recorded in the 1900 U. S. Census. Johathan, age 78, a widower, lived with his son, Robert, at 52 W. 95th St., Manhattan. Robert Masbach, 40, was married with two living children, Gertrude, 13, and Edwin, 5. Herman Masbash, 45, born June 1855, lived at 52 W. 112th St., Manhattan, with his wife, Emma, and two children, Sadie, 9, and Harold, 4. Louis Masbach is also found in this census. He was 34 years old, born Dec. 1865, and lived at 201 W. 121st St., Manhattan. He and his wife, Minnie, had been married one year and did not have children.

Jonathan Masbach died 9 Sept. 1915. His death notice in The New York Times, 10 Sept. 1915, read, "MASBACH.-On Sept. 9, at 30 West 73d St., Jonathan, beloved father of Charles, Robert J.,and Louis Masbach, in his 95th year. Funeral Sunday at the convenience of the family." Herman Masbach is not mentioned in this list of sons. He predeceased his father in 1904.

Shortly after the death of Jonathan Masbach, two of the third generation of Masbachs joined the business. These were Edwin R. Masback (1895-1990) and Harold E. Masback (1896-1972). Edwin was the son of Robert J. Masbach, and Harold was the son of Herman Masbach. It was around this time that the spelling of Masbach changed to Masback (ending in K instead of H). Both Edwin R. Masback and Harold E. Masback registered for the World War I draft in 1917, using the Masback spelling. Edwin identified himself as a manager at Masback Hardware Co., 86-84 Warren St., and Harold said he was a salesman at Masback Hardware Co., 82 Warren St. In the World War II draft (1942) Harold Masback was still employed at Masback Hardware, which was now located at 330 Hudson St. The business had been located on Warren St. from approximately 1907 until they moved to 324-344 Hudson St. in 1936.

Robert J. Masbach's obituarly in The New York Times, 17 March 1943, p. 21, explains some of this chronology: "Robert J. Masback, founder and chairman of the board of the Masback Hardware Company, 326-44 Hudson Street, one of the largest wholesale houses in its field, died yesterday at his home, 277 Park Avenue, at the age of 83. Entering the employ of Patterson Brothers, hardware merchants, in 1874, he opened his own store while still in his teens. In 1896 he established his wholesale business, which, after expanding so that it occupied five adjoining buildings on Warren Street, moved to its present location in 1936."

Masback Hardware was in business here on Hudson St. for more than forty years (from 1936 to approximately 1979/80).

The Masback sign was still clearly visible here along Vandam St. mid-block between Varick St. and Hudson St. in Oct. 2010. There are also Masback signs on each side of the corner of Hudson St. and Vandam.

Copyright © 2010 Walter Grutchfield