Workday Wednesday: Barrett Nephews & Company

When the gate house of Barrett Nephews & Company collapsed from disrepair in 1939, the remaining brick walls of the 122 year old factory at 84 Broadway, West Brighton, Staten Island, NY had to be demolished. The attached article describes the final days of the old Barrett Nephews & Co. buildings and a little of its long history (source: Staten Island Advance).

Staten Island Advance, April 3, 1939
page 2

As noted in the article, the original dyeing business was started by William Barrett (1775-1834) of Concord, MA.  Barrett opened his first cloth dyeing business known as William Barrett & Co. in Malden, MA with his partner Hugh Thompson (from whom he had learned the process) in 1801. During his lifetime Barrett also secured many patents on the innovative processes he and his employees developed. In 1804 Barrett started a new company and expanded his business beyond the Boston market by using sales agents in cities along the coast of New England and in New York City. The latter was particularly successful, leading to Barrett’s desire to capitalize on the New York location as a means of more quickly reaching lucrative markets along the mid-Atlantic and Southern coastal cities.

In 1819, William Barrett bought an old mill on a fresh water pond and opened his new factory on Staten Island under the name  Barrett Tileston & Company, in partnership with native Staten Islander and local merchant William Tileston, along with his brother George Minot Barrett (1783-1838) of Concord, Mass and his nephew Nathan Barrett (1795-1865) of Hope, Maine.

Two siblings of Nathan Barrett followed him to Staten Island including John Thorndike Barrett (1811-1890) and Eliza Barrett Heal (1801-1886).  Many of George, Nathan, John T., and Eliza’s children went to work for the firm, married native Staten Islanders, and settled down in the area known as Factoryville, later called West New Brighton. Searches in the census records and local city directories show that at least four generations of Barretts, Heals and related families were employed over the many decades by the family’s dye works on Staten Island.

In 1850, after a falling out with his partners, Nathan Barrett left Barrett & Tileston and started his own business in partnership with Abraham C. Wood of New York City and three sons of his sister Eliza Barrett and her husband James A Heal (1797-1896) who had risen to management positions at Barrett & Tileston. Nathan Barrett invested half of the capital and maintained majority control of the new business.

According to the History of Richmond County (Staten Island, New York: From Its Discovery to the Present Time, Part 1. by Richard Mather Bayles, January 1, 1887.  (p. 721-726).

[Nathan Barrett] Associating with himself, under the firm name of Barrett, Nephews & Co., his three nephews, Messrs. N. M., J. H., and E. B. Heal [i.e., Nathan Minott Heal, Joseph Hughes Heal, and Edwin Baldwin Heal], and Mr. Abraham C. Wood, gentlemen who, up to that time, had held positions at the head of the various dyeing and printing departments, he purchased eight acres of land on Cherry lane, situated in the town of Castleton, and about one mile south of the village of Port Richmond.

This illustration is a rendition of the factory grounds.  Cherry Lane is now called Forest Avenue

The New York Library Digital Collection has a detailed map of the factory grounds – see Staten Island, Plate No. 24 from the 1885 Sanborn Atlas of Staten Island.

Over the ensuing years, Barrett Nephews & Co. was known under a variety of names including The New York Dyeing and Printing Establishment and The Old Staten Island Dyeing and Printing. Barrett Nephews & Co.  Like its predecessor, the new firm grew to be very successful with sales offices in Manhattan (5 & 7 John Street), Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Englewood, NJ.

The firm ran colorful advertisements in major city newspapers to attract attention and draw in retail customers.


Nathan Barrett died while traveling in London in October 1865.  He is buried in Staten Island Cemetery where a good number of Barrett & Heal relations of that era are also interred.  According to Richard M. Bayles, upon his uncle’s death Nathan M. Heal was appointed President and continued in that position until 1879 when he was succeeded by his cousin Clarence Tynan Barrett (1840-1906). Bayles wrote in 1887: “The present board of trustees of Barrett, Nephews & Company consists of the following gentlemen : Clarence T. Barrett, president; Charles W. Kennedy, vice-president and treasurer; Charles E. Heal [son of Edwin B. Heal], secretary; Augustus W. Sexton, Jr., Edwin B. Heal, trustees.” 

In 1888, the Barrett Nephews & Co. was merged in to a new company called Barrett, Palmer & Heal.  The principals were Henry B. Palmer, President, and Corporate Secretary Charles E. Heal.

In 1915 Barrett Nephews & Co.  was officially dissolved. Legal documents regarding its closing and subsequent appeals by creditors are available in the New York Court of Appeals, Records and Briefs. – New York State.  It appears that some form of the business survived until 1932, according to the 1939 Staten Island Advance newspaper article, when it appears to have been abandoned and become derelict.

Further information on the dyeing and printing business and its impact on Staten Island is available at the Staten Island Historical Society441 Clarke Avenue, Staten Island, New York under the archive folder noted below. 

Old New York Printing and Dyeing Establishment records, 1824-1920.

Notes: Related photographs in the Staten Island Geographic Photograph Files.

Records of a printing, dyeing, and dry cleaning factory including correspondence, advertisements, trade cards, account and dye recipe books, maps, photographs, and samples.

Also included are articles of agreement (dated 1856) between Nathan Barrett and the Heals, and a pamphlet, ‘Memorial of Sundry Citizens of the City of New York, Proprietors of a Dyeing and Printing Establishment on Staten Island’, 18th Congress, 1st Session, 1824.

The account and dye recipe books and a product wrapper are from Joseph & Nathan Heal of the Staten Island Fancy Dyeing Establishment, 1848-53.

Workday Wednesday is a daily genealogy blogging post suggested by Denise Spurlock through Geneabloggers.

8 thoughts on “Workday Wednesday: Barrett Nephews & Company

  1. Great information on the dying industry in West New Brighton. My “Joseph Booth” ancestor was a dyer on Staten Island during this time period. I wonder if he ever worked there? Hope to be able to visit Staten Island at some point so I am thankful for the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting! I did not know that Staten Island was ever an industrial area. I thought it was very rural and then very residential. Also, I found it interesting that the company started in Malden, Massachusetts, which became famous in recent times as the home of Malden Mills, maker of the Polartec fleece clothing that was so popular in the early 1990s. Unfortunately that company did not have the long success of the Barrett company.


  3. My GG Grandfather, Henry B. Palmer, shown in a book as the President and owner of Barrett, Nephews, & Co. Do you know when he might have taken over the company. This must have been prior to 1890. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


    1. Hi Jeanette, My apologies for such a long delay in replying to you. I don’t know when Henry B. Palmer became President of Barrrett, Nephews & Co. He was long part of the rival company and was President of that company, i.e. Barretts, Palmer, & Heal Dyeing Establishment. Here’s a court case in which the company was sued and they mention both firms. Henry B. Palmer testifies, so if you haven’t seen this it gives his deposition in his own words. Anyway, I’ll keep looking to see if I can determine that.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s