Rossman & Bracken

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Rossman & Bracken Co.
387 Lexington Ave. City.

The plumbing firm of Rossman & Bracken Co. was located at 387 Lexington Ave., New York City, from approximately 1891 to 1896. The origins of this company can be traced to their predecessor, Mead & Rossman, plumbers, who were listed in New York city directories from 1873 to 1891. Mead was George H. Mead, who was in business a few years prior to forming his partnership with Rossman. Rossman was Jonas Abraham Rossman (1854-1926). Bracken was William Rice Bracken (1859-1912).

Rossman & Bracken were the plumbing contractors for a number of New York's largest buildings constructed in the 1890s and early 1900s. Rise of the New York Skyscraper, 1865-1913, by Sarah Bradford Landau and Carl W. Condit (1996), mentions Rossman & Bracken as the plumbing contractor for the 1895-98 St. Paul Building at the juncture of Broadway, Park Row and Ann St. In 1895 a strike by union workmen against Rossman & Bracken (New York Times, 9 Jan. 1895) was said to affect the following buildings under construction at the time: "New-York Life Insurance Co. at Leonard & Elm Sts; Hoffman House; Flower Hospital at 63 & Ave A; Murdock's residence at Riverside Drive & 74; Bolkenhayn Hotel at 5 Av & 58; building at John & Nassau Sts."

Russell Sturgis, writing in The Architectural Record, June, 1898, says, "One of the leading New York plumbing firms recognized as such by the building trade generally is that of Rossman & Bracken Co., of No. 132 East 42d street... The World Building, the residence of Colis P. Huntington, the St. Paul Building, of which Mr. George B. Post is the architect, were completed by this firm."

Other New York buildings with Rossman & Bracken plumbing were the Abbey Theatre at Broadway and 38th St. (1893) and a dormitory at Columbia University (1902).

This ad for Rossman & Bracken dates from 1896 when they were located at 387 Lexington Ave. Another ad dated a year later carries the address 132 E. 42nd St. Both 387 Lexington Ave. and 132 E. 42nd St. are approximately the southeast corner of Lexington Ave. and 42nd St. and may very well represent the same location. Directory listings give the address as 132 E. 42nd St. from 1896 to 1905. This ad from 1905 appeared in the Exhibition Catalogue of the Brooklyn Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The Rossman and Bracken partnership was dissolved in 1907 when the company filed for bankruptcy. As reported in the New York Times, 12 Feb. 1907, "Plumbing Firm Fails. Rossman & Bracken Co. Said to Have Lost by City School Contracts. A petition in bankruptcy has been filed against the Rossman & Bracken Company, plumbing and steamheating contractors, of 11 East Twenty-second Street. Judge Holt of the United States District Court appointed Hayne Davis receiver, fixing his bond at $15,000. The liabilities are $137,000, to 120 creditors, and the nominal assets are $172,000." The Journal of the Board of Education of the City of New York, 9 Oct. 1907. p. 2095, recorded, "Resolved, That the contract of Rossman & Bracken Co. for installing heating and ventilating apparatus in Erasmus Hall High School, Borough of Brooklyn, ... be declared voided and forfeited for non-compliance with the terms of the contract."

The Bulletin of the Building Trades Employers' Association, August, 1907, reported, "Schedules in bankruptcy of the Rossman Bracken Co., 11 East 22d St., a member of the Master Steam and Hot Water Fitters' Ass'n, filed recently, show liabilities of $166,317 including unsecured claims of $117,573: assets, $125,742, including machinery, $10,825, and debts of $112,662. The largest secured creditors are the Lincoln National Bank, $11,000; T. Kieley, $5,000; American Radiator Co., $6503, and Crane Co., $6,333. Among the unsecured creditors are the E. F. Keating Co., $13,411; J. L. Mott Iron Works, $4,583; Loomis-Manning Co., $2,935, and Maxwell H. Elliott, $2,798."

Two patents secured by Jonas Rossman were "Plug for Soil or Other Pipes," patent 424690 issued 1 April 1890, and "Candle and Attachment," patent 1144728 issued 29 June 1915. The candles were plumbers' candles for use in dimly lit areas.

According to Jonas Rossman's entry in the 1920 U. S. Census he was working at that time as an inspector for the City of New York.

On William Bracken's death in 1912 the following appeared in the New York Times, "Died. Bracken - On Dec. 1, 1912, William Rice Bracken, in his 54th year. Funeral services at his late residence, 611 West 156th St., on Wednesday afternoon, 1 o'clock."

Jonas Rossman's death notice, New York Times, 20 May 1926, read, "Died. Rossman - Jonas, in his seventy-eighth year. Member of Crystal Lodge, No. 638, F. and A. M. Masonic and church services at his late residence, 204 Alexander Av., Friday, 8 P. M. Funeral Saturday, 2 P. M."

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