Preferred Utilities

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Preferred Utilities Mfg. Corp.
New York, N. Y.

Preferred Utilities Mfg. Corp. is still in business as of July 2016. Their website,, offers the following as part of their timeline of history:

Preferred Utilities Manufacturing Corporation was founded in 1920 and has been in continuous operation since that time. Originally Preferred was an installer and distributor of combustion equipment for industrial, commercial and institutional applications.
In 1940, Preferred Utilities began manufacturing # 2, # 6 oil and gas burners and combustion systems. That burner's descendants continue to be manufactured today. Over 16,000 burners have been manufactured and installed since 1940.
In 1941, Preferred Utilities designed and produced the first factory packaged four pass down draft firetube boiler with integral burner, controls, and accessories. Production of the "Unit Steam Generator" continued for 30 years, with over 3,000 boilers shipped.
In 1944-1945, Preferred Utilities went Public with a stock offering that raised money to build a new boiler manufacturing facility in Danbury, CT. The Factory building was completed and operational in 1946.
In 1963, Preferred Instruments started manufacturing combustion instrumentation and controls, including: draft controls, draft indicators, damper actuators, flue gas temperature indicators, smoke opacity indicators, and others.
In 1964, Preferred Utilities purchased the instruments division of General Controls, Inc., adding draft, flue gas temperature, and the boiler lead/lag control product lines to the company’s offering. This event also initiated the formation of the Preferred Instruments division of the company.
In 1965, Preferred Utilities moved its sales and Engineering office out of New York City into a newly constructed office building added on to the Factory in Danbury, CT.  In 1972, W.N. Best Combustion was purchased adding the line of heavy industrial register burners and specialty waste burners.

Preferred Utilities Co. Inc. was listed in Polk's 1922-23 New York City Directory with company officers consisting of R. S. Bohn, president; J. S. Kaplan, vice president; and R. K. Archibald, secretary.

Richard Stephen Bohn (1893-1956) was one of two Bohn brothers from Fort Wayne, Indiana, connected with Preferred Utilities. The other was his older brother, Gerald William Bohn (1885-1963). Both appeared in the 1900 U. S. Census as sons of William Bohn, age 45, born Pennsylvania, living at 285 West Berry Street, Fort Wayne, Indiana. At that time Gerald W. Bohn was 14 and Richard S. Bohn 8 years old.

Richard S. Bohn appears in New York City directories in 1917 as manager of Wayne Oil Tank & Pump Co. with offices at 1790 Broadway, New York City. The Wayne Tank & Pump Co. manufactured gasoline tanks and pumps in Wayne, Indiana. This ad for the Wayne Tank & Pump Co. appeared in Automobile Trade Journal, vol. XXVI, no. 7, 1 Jan. 1922, pg. 182.

In 1923 it was announced that Jacob S. Kaplan (1891-1964), who had trained as a forester at Yale University, had "resigned as city forester of Manhattan to accept a position with the Preferred Utilities Company, 1780 Broadway. New York" (Yale Forest School News, vol XI, No. 1, January, 1923). According to this report, "Jacob Kaplan has specialized in his Preferred Utilities Company on the sale of Ray oil burners for factory and home heating and power."

The Ray Oil Burner Co. was represented by Preferred Utilities in New York City. This company manufactured oil burning heating equipment, and was established in San Francisco in 1872 as the W. S. Ray Mfg. Co. An early ad for the W. S. Ray Mfg. Co. dates from 1892, when products were mostly stoves and tinware. Much later this ad from 1919 features the latest model oil burning system.

William S. Ray (1852?-1915), founder of the W. S. Ray Mfg. Co., seems to have had very little biographical attention. I found him in the 1880, 1900 and 1910 U. S. Census reports, living in San Francisco. These indicate he was born in New York (the 1900 census says February, 1850). In 1910 he was 60 years old, a stove manufacturer. The California Death Index registered William S. Ray, age 66, death 19 March 1915 at Napa, California. Findagrave has W. S. Ray 1852-1915 at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Colma, San Mateo County, California.

Other Preferred manhole covers are found on 5th Avenue at the corner of 20th Street, and 17th Street near the northeast corner of Stuyvesant Square.

This Do Not Overfill sign must have been supplied by Preferred Utilities when they installed an oil tank here on 54th St. near 11th Ave., New York City.

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