How Montclair’s Label Street got its name (History & Heritage)
Samuel Crump Jr. had a printing business in Brooklyn that was started by his father, Samuel, in 1832. His father retired in 1861. Samuel Jr. took on a business partner, William Everdell. Business was good. They started making labels for the newly emerging canned food industry.
In 1875 Crump & Everdell decided to build a new plant in Montclair, along the New York and Greenwood Lake Railroad line (now the NJ Transit Boonton line). They built a 100-foot-by-240-foot building near the old Walnut Street Station.
Samuel and his wife, Anna (Riker), moved to Montclair. The label-making business continued to grow exponentially. The Brooklyn factory was turned over to former employees, who continued printing labels under the banner of Hinds, Ketchem & Co., with headquarters in Cincinnati.
On July 4, 1877, a fire destroyed the Montclair building. Nobody knows how it began, but some people suspected that it was sparks from an early fireworks display. Almost immediately, a new, much larger building (150 feet by 525 feet) was erected.
Everdell resigned from the business, and Crump continued under his own name. Business boomed. There were almost 200 employees, and they printed almost a million labels every day.
They did everything at the Montclair plant except make the paper. They cut the paper from gigantic rolls of unfinished paper. They clay-coated it to the desired weight and gloss. They made their own glue and their own inks. And they were becoming famous for their multicolored labels (as many as 10 different colors).
The facility grew to five large buildings, and the business took up the entire block from the train tracks to Forest Street and a new street, which came to be known as Label Street, to Oak Place (although Erie Street, by the tracks, and Oak Place didn’t actually come into being until the early 20th century).
They built housing for employees who needed it. Two multiunit houses at the northeast corner of Forest and Walnut streets exist to this day. Crump was progressive in that he was one of the first employers to start profit-sharing programs with his employees.
Samuel and Anna had 12 children. Unfortunately, six of them died young. A seventh was killed in action during World War I. His name, Samuel Crump, is listed on the memorial in Edgemont Park.
Samuel and Anna built a large Victorian house on Highland Avenue. The house has been demolished, but the spires and turrets are clearly visible in turn of the 20th-century pictures just below Kip’s Castle.
It was said that Samuel was a little eccentric. He was said to have worn paper suits and drilled holes in his shoes so his feet could “breathe.” It was reported that the Crumps had the first telephone in Montclair.
In 1890 Samuel sold the factory to Hinds, Ketchem. He and Anna moved to Dutchess County, New York.
There are family legends that, after the printing business, Samuel experimented with the packaging of coconut milk and lost his fortune. There are few, if any, news reports corroborating this. He died in 1925 while he and Anna were visiting their daughter, Elizabeth, in Shanghai. Anna died in 1927.
In 1891 Hinds, Ketchem merged with the Crump Co., Frey Printing and Russel & Morgan to form the U.S. Printing Co. The focus changed from labels to creating various forms of paper and cardboard stock. The U.S. Printing Co. operated in the vicinity of Label Street until 1928. The Montclair plant alone produced over 9 million pounds of stock every year.
In 1929 the town of Montclair bought the Crump facility for $150,000. It was criticized severely for the purchase, and many Montclairians thought of it as a huge “white elephant.”
It turned out to be a wise investment, however, after Black Friday hit and the country sank into the Great Depression. The town needed a place to feed and house families that were put out of work.
As the 1930s wore on, the town offered some of the buildings to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which used them as a center for research into stopping the spread of Dutch elm disease, which destroyed almost all the elm trees in the Northeast.
In 1937 a decision was made to knock down the main building (the one built after the fire in 1877) and to put up a motor vehicle inspection station. Cars were inspected there until 2008, when the state closed it. The former Motor Vehicle Commission building now houses the Montclair Bread Co.
Several of the other Crump buildings have been replaced. The only other original building is at the Erie Street intersection with Oak Place, where the DFIT fitness studio is one of the major tenants.
“History & Heritage” is a series on Montclair history written by representatives of the Montclair History Center and the Montclair Public Library. Mike Farrelly is a trustee of the Montclair History Center and has been the official township historian, a volunteer position, since 2004.