ABMA Founding Member Spotlight: Jenkins Brush Company
Wed September 14, 2016
Twenty-miles east of New York City lies historic Cedar Grove, the 17th best place to live in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Monthly. Named for cedar trees that once festooned the surrounding valley and hillsides, this unassuming town of 12,411 has churned out a few celebrities over the years, from an Olympian to the inventor of the crossword puzzle. Here, locals relish apple pie from the Pilgrim Diner and cheer on participants of the annual Holiday Hoops Fest. But older than any of Cedar Grove's community traditions is its rich legacy of brush manufacturing.
In 1877, 16-year-old Melanchton Jenkins joined Cedar Grove's oldest continuous business, J.B. Ward Brush Manufacturers. Colleagues called Jenkins a "cheery-faced" individual, and apparently the boss's daughter, Mary, fancied happy-looking guys and ended up marrying young Jenkins. By 1884, 23-year-old Jenkins was Ward's most successful traveling salesman.
One spring after returning from his usual route of selling handmade brushes to consumers across New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, Jenkins arrived home to find the Ward warehouse burnt to the ground due to a pitch pan fire. While Mr. Ward rebuilt, Jenkins decided there was no better time to open his own brush manufacturing company, some say an endeavor he pursued with the help of his father-in-law.
Under a tree near the former Ward site, Jenkins officially launched M.W. Jenkins Brush Manufacturing. Like Ward's factory and many other structures at the turn of the century, the first Jenkins building also burnt. But Jenkins persevered, reconstructed, and continued to make a wake in the brush industry with his growing crew of skilled workers, constant innovation, and a proud heritage of fine craftsmanship.
In 1917, Jenkins helped establish the American Brush Manufacturers Association. With a firm belief in his trade and mission to provide the world with reliable, durable brushes, Jenkins passed the thriving business onto his sons, Edward and Warren. The company stayed in the family until 1950, when Dick Jenkins sold it to Stan Worden, who turned it over to current owners, Craig Sigler and Eric Euker, in 1996.
Nearly two centuries after the unfortunate explosion of Ward's that spawned the silver lining of redemption, Jenkins thrives as one of the world's leading providers of industrial brushes.
"Since the days of the horsecart, Jenkins has virtually set the pace for industrial brushes in applications that range from heavy-duty, high-volume manufacturing to aerospace, military, nuclear power and petroleum," touts the Jenkins site.
From cleaning and removing with abrasive power to applying and arranging with a delicate touch, each Jenkins brush is carefully designed for a wide variety of purposes, reaching quite the gamut of unique places.
"Jenkins Brushes can be found working hard in space, deep under the sea, underground, in aviation, military and aerospace applications, and in every manufacturing and production discipline worldwide," shares the Jenkins website.
Now, 139-years later, Cedar Grove boasts a new celebrity: M.W. Jenkins and his company that is still located at 444 Pompton Avenue. So grab a slice of Pilgrim Diner's pie, and celebrate one of the East Coast's original employers. Here's to another century!