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De Mars - Manufacturers of Overalls - 339 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook, Brooklyn In January 2014 Peter Cronin wrote to share some information about his ancestors the De Mars who lived and manufactured overalls at 339 Van Brunt in Red Hook:
"Lewis DeMars immigrated from Ontario, Canada in the late 1840's and settled in Red Hook. He married Dorinda (Dorothy) Reilly and had three children:The Demars family had a business manufacturing Kentucky Jean overalls and sack coats at 339 Van Brunt street. They were said to be one of the oldest establishments of this kind.Sarah Ann DeMars: Born about 1848 and married Leonard Seeley in 1866. Leonard was a ship captain that used to move produce from Red Hook to New Jersey. They settled in Red Hook
When did the DeMars establish their business and who was founded it?
Elias Howe, created the first industrially usable sewing machine in 1845. He received a patent for his machine in 1854. Among the people who infringed on his patent was Isaac Merritt Singer. The Singer sewing machine company was founded in 1856. The first commercial sewing machines used in ready to wear clothing appeared around 1860.Who worked in the Demars overall factory and what were the working conditions?
I can't find specifics about the DeMars factory but certain things can be extrapolated from similar businesses. Almost all references to overall manufacturing indicate that the main employees were women or "girls".Who was the market for DeMars overalls?
Peter Cronin wrote that his family history says the manufacturing was done on a large scale and was aimed at a mass market, not local consumption.How long was the company in business?
It appears that the company could have started as early as 1870. In the 1915 census Robert H. Demars was listed as an overall manufacturer.
The DeMars Family
Birth of Lewis (Louis) DeMars: c 1817 in French, Canada per censuses or France per death certificate.
1870 Death: March 11 1870, DeMars Lewis age 53 born "France", heart disease, died Brooklyn 1870 (Lewis DeMars 53 DEATH DATE: 24 Mar 1870 DEATH PLACE: Kings, New York, USA CERTIFICATE NUMBER: 1949)
Peter Cronin has posted Lewis Demar's death certificate on Ancestry.com which indicated that -
Lewis Demars age 53, native of France was found at ---- near "Walcot" st in the 12th Ward no occupation, disease of the heart, buried greenwood.Marriage: Dorothy [Dorothea, Dolly] Reily born Ireland circa 1827 died 1906
1892: New York Times - Robert H. Demars, a manufacturer of overalls at 339 Van brunt street, Brooklyn abandoned the Republican Party in 1892 "on account of the high tariff policy of its leaders."
"This alleged protection does me no good", he said, "and does my emplouees not good. I am paying them now from $7 to $9 a week less than I used to pay. Some men in this business pay only $5 a week. The protection tariff do not help us at all." New York Times
1892: Robert H Demars m 37, manufacturer, Mary Jane Demars, 33, Dolly D 7, William H 6, Louis 4 Jane 2 Dolly born Ireland 65
1900: 339 Van Brunt, Brooklyn Ward 12, Robert H DeMars 45, manufacturing overalls, Mary J DeMars 41, 6 children 4 living, Dorathea DeMars 67, mother, born Ireland, landlady, Dorathea DeMars 15, William DeMars 13, Louis DeMars 11, Robert L DeMars 4, Sarah DeMars 17, niece,
1906: Death of Dorothea DeMars
1910: 339 Van Brunt, 339 Van Brunt, Robert H Demars 55, overall manufacturer, Mary J Demars 51, Dorathea D Demars 25 William H Demars 23, none, Louis F Demars 21, bookkeeper, Robert S Demars 14, plumber Hugh R Demars 8
1913: Robert H. De Mars of 339 Van Brunt street was designated as the Republican candidate for Alderman by the Republicans of the Forty-fourth District. (BE)
1915: 339 Van Brunt Demars, Robert H, age 60, overalls manufacturer, Mary J wife, 56, Dorothea, daughter 30, Louis, son, 27, fire department, NYC, Robert F 18, clerk china house, Hugh R son 13 public school
1917: Robert H Demar, 63 of 339 Van Brunt was struck by a Manhattan bound subway train at the Borough Hall station "after he had fallen on the track". He fractured his skull and was taken to Brooklyn Hospital. (News clipping courtesy of Peter Cronin, Jan. 15)
1920: 339 Van Brunt, own with morgage, H Robert Demars 65, watchman, public service, J Mary Demars 61, L Robert Demars 24, bank messenger, R Hugh Demars 18, clerk, grocery
1925: 339 Van Brunt, Robert H Demars 70, watchman, Mary J Demars 66 Hugh R Demars 32, patrolman (two families at that address)
1927: Robert H. De Mars born in the 12th Wardage 72, died at 339 Van Brunt. He was a pioneer in the manufacture of overalls. He had retired from that business and was active in the "various departments in the city". At the time of his death he was "attached to the Board of Transportation in Manhattan". Survived by his wife, Mary Jane Quinn De Mars, and three sons, William, Louis, and Hugh and four grandchildren. (BE)
1930: 74th street Brooklyn Hugh R Demars 28, patrolman police department, Johanna Demars 27, Margaret M Demars 0, Mary Jane Demars 72, mother
1936: Mary Jane Demars died in Queens widow of Robert H. DeMars, buried Greenwood (Certificate posted on Ancestry.com by Peter Cronin)
1855 Census: Posted on Ancestry.com by Peter Cronin - Brooklyn, 12th Ward, Demars, Lewis, age --, Canada Laboroer, Dorlinda -- wife, born Ireland, Sarah 7, John Joseph -- Robt 1 - children born Kings County
1860: Posted on Ancestry.com by Peter Cronin - Brooklyn Ward 12, DeMars, Louis, 42, drudge [?] machine, _inda 38, Sarah 12, John 8, Robert -
1863: Civil War Draft Registration, Ward 12 Brooklyn Partition street, Demars, Louis age 44 white, laborer, born Canada
1864 Directory: Demers, Lewis, laborer, h Partition n Richards
1865 Census: Louis Demers 49, born Canada no occupation, Dalinda Demers 39, Ireland, seamstress, John J Demers 9, Robert H Demers 7, Sarah Anne Demers 1?
1866: Demars, Lewis, h Partition n Richards
1868 Directory: Derinda Demars 1868 H[ome] r[ear] Van Brunt n Wolcott Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1868 (only DeMar listed)
1870 Directory: Demars, Lewis h Van Brunt and Wolcott
1870: Brooklyn Ward 12, Dernida Demars 48, keeping house $650, John Demars 18, s m operator, Robert Demars 14, s m operator. (I would speculated that "s. m." indicates a "sewing machine". MLB)
1872 Directory: Demars, Derinda, wid h 339 Van Brunt (only Demars listed)
1873 Directory: Demars, "Louind" wid., h 339 Van Brunt
1875 Census: Ward 12 Brooklyn, Dorinda "Demorest" 52, born Ireland, needlewoman, Robert H "Demorest" 21, son, no occupation, born Kings, Hugh Riley 63, hatter, Margaret Meehan 18, needlewoman Matilda Sawyer (or Sanger) 18, needlewoman
1876 Directory: Demars, "Deborah", wid Louis, h r[rear] 339 Van Brunt
1878 Directory: Demars, John tailor, h 345 Van Brunt (only listing for Demars)
1879 Directory: Demars, John deck hand h 107 Wolcott, and Robert overall manf 339 Van Brunt
1880 Directory : Demars, John deckhand h 107 Wolcott, and Demars, Robert, overalls manufacturer, 339 Van Brunt
1882 Directory: Demars, Deranda 339 Van Brunt Overall mfg., Henry W h 43 Hoyt, John lab, h 343 Van Brunt
1883 Directory: Demars, D. D. Wid, Louis, h 339 Van Brunt and John, foreman, h 358 Van Brunt
1884 Directory: Demars, Derinda D 339 Van Brunt overall mft
1888 directory: Robert H Demars, 339 van Brunt manufacturer (only DeMars listed)
1890: Lain's Business Directory - De Mars, Robert 339 Van Brunt under Tailors
1892: Prominent Republicans who became Democrats as a result of traffic issues: Robert H Demars, manufacturer Brooklyn (The Daily Review Decatur Illinois, St Saint Paul Globe, St. Paul, Minn., and the Western Sentinel Winston- Salem, N. C. and others)
1897 Directory: Demars, H'y E. real estate h 380 Bergen, Rob't H overall mfr. 339 Van Brunt
1899: Robt. H. De Mars, 339 Van Brunt street. Under Pants and Overalls (Locomotive Firemen's Magazine: 1899, Volume 27)
1899: Trow's Business Directory, Overalls and Drawers Demars, Robert H 339 Van Brunt
1889: Brooklyn City Directory:
1900 Directory: Demars, Harry w. real estate 176 B'way, N. Y. h 380 Bergen, Jas. mechanic h 73 Pres't, John Mechanic, h 107 Pres't, Louis, h 97 Wolcott, Mary h 45 Pres't, Rob't H, overalls, 339 Van Brunt
1902: Demars, H'y W agt h 380 Bergen, Louis F coremaker h 87 Wolcott, Rob't H clk h 87 wolcott, Rob't tailor 339 Van Brunt
1903: "Mr. De Mars" was listed as a manufacturer of overalls and sack coats at 339 Van Brunt. Kentucky Jean pants/trousers and a Kentucky Jean sack coats were standard sailors and laborers wear in Red Hook in the late 1800s early 1900s.
1903: De Mars. R. H. 339 Van Brunt Overalls 1 [number of changes ordered by the Bureau of Factory Inspection] (Annual Report on Factory Inspection, Issue 18 By New York (State). Bureau of Factory Inspection)
1903: De Mrs., Rob't H. overalls 339 Van Brunt
1905: 339 Van Brunt, De Mars, Robt H, 51, manufacturer, Mary J, 47, Dorothea, 20, William H, 18, clerk, Louis, 16, glass work, Robert 9 Hugh R 3, Dorothea D mother, 78,
1906: Probate of Dorothea D. De Mars
Listed her children Robert, John Joseph and Sarah Seeley.
1906: OVERALLS AND DRAWERS MANUFACTURER Demars, Robert H. 339 Van brunt
(Also listed - Sweet Orr & Co, 141 Roebong)
1905 and 1906: Board of Elections Borough of Brooklyn, Third Election District ED 17, 339 Van Brunt,clothing store
In a 1923 Brooklyn Standard Union remembrance of Old Red Hook it was stated that overalls were manufactured in Red Hook by Bob and John DeMars on Van Brunt street long before "Sweet-Orr, Keystone or any other of those other firms were in existence." It also mentioned J. M. Oberhoffer at Van Brunt and Coffey streets.
James Orr, senior member of the "Swett", Orr & Co,. overall factories in Wappinger's Fall, New York and Newburgh died at his home age 79 in 1899. A pioneer in the business he amassed a large fortune. He was survived by his wife and four children.In a 1952 remembrance of Old Timers in Red Hook H. Joseph Greaney recalled that at the turn of the century Demars "Kentucky jeans shop" was right next to Myles McKeon's funeral parlor.
The 1886 map shows a 25 foot wide wood frame structure with two wood outbuildings at 339 Van Brunt. It is pretty much the same in 1916.
In 1952 it was mentioned that the DeMars were making "Kentucky Jeans". In fact, it is more likely that the material they were using to make the overalls was Kentucky Jean" (no "s" at the end).
In 1908 the Dictionary of Men's Wear defined Kentucky Jeans as "a superior quality of jeans". Further it defined "Jean" as "a stout, round-twilled cloth, either all-cotton or cotton warp with wool filling; of various grades and finishes; used primarily for working trousers."
"A fabric with a cotton warp and a wool filling and in which a sateen weave is employed so that the cotton warp is almost entirely on the back is called a satinet or Kentucky jean."Kentucky Jenas had a hard twisted cotton warp - the treads upon which the fabric was woven. The weft (or filler threads) seems to have varied. Clothing made from Kentucky Jeans was very popular among blacksmiths, laborers, farmers and working men in general. It 1885 was even recommended for artists. Its contents varied but the finest and most expensive Kentucky Jeans was made from wool. In the late 1880 pants made from Kentucky Jean was sewn with heavy linen tread, frequently lined with muslin and reinforced with a canvas bottom (or seat). Kentucky Jean was also made into coats, jackets and suits. Colors were generally dark.
In 1858 Woolen goods manufactured in Philadelphia included: Cassimeres, Satinets, Kentucky Jeans, Shawls, Flannels and Linseys.
"If every man was required to have a couple of jumpers and a pair of overalls made of strong cotton-stuff, like Kentucky jean, or denim, they would work with greater freedom, and save their more expensive clothing"1885:
BLUE KENTUCKY JEAN. (A. M. M.) Kentucky jean is better known as blue denims or blue hickory shirting in the drygoods stores, where it is known as the goods used for workingmen's shirts, "jumpers" and overalls. It commends itself to decorative art work on account of its texture, color, inexpensiveness, and the fact that it softens into a pleasant blue by repeated washings. Ask for blue denims and you will easily obtain it."
In 1886 Men's Kentucky Jean pants sold for 75 cents.
In 1895 the Montgomery Ward Catalogue advertised Kentucky Jean by the yard. Prices per yard ranged from 10 cents to 40 cents for the "all wool".
IN 1897 Sear Roebuck advertised
"Wool Filled Kentucky Jeans, the Triumph brand, 27 inches wide, a good firm cloth aud will give utmost satisfaction to the wearer, colors light and dark gray , medium brown and black. Per yard 80.21 No. 22611The 1903 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs listed garments of Kentucky Jean that included, men's and boys's coats, pants and knee pants.
In the pre Civil War South, Kentucky Jean was a course homespun cloth made of a blend of cotton, flax and burlap.
339 Van Brunt Street
1876: Real Estate Record July Brooklyn, Van Brunts st. one one-story frame shop 25X35 cost $250; owner, Mrs Demkest, 339 Ban Brunt street.
Sweet, Orr & Co. - a competitor of Demars
"Overall Factory was established in the fall of 1871 by the present firm, which is composed of Clayton E. Sweet, James Orr and Clinton W. Sweet for the manufacture of overalls, sack coats and jackets. Operations were commenced on the west side of the creek on an upper floor of Stevenson & Barlow's tin store with less than a dozen machines and operators. But the excellence of their goods soon created a demand which necessitated increased facilities and substitution of steam for foot power. Consequently the works were removed in 1872 to the building on Mill street occupied by the Chronicle office. But these humble quarters were soon outgrown, and the building with its subsequent additions is now 100 by 112 feet, the rear and main portion, including the operating rooms, being three stories high, while the number of machines has increased to 195, and the number of operators to 300, fully two-thirds of whom are females.UNION MADE - Sweet, Orr & Co.
Robert H DeMars - courtesy Peter Cronin, January 2015|
Louis, William, Hugh and Robert Demars - courtesy Peter Cronin, January 2015|
Van Brunt and Walcott - New York Public Library
339-345 van Brunt street north of the N. E. corner of Wolcott. No 345 is the peaked roof frame structure at the corner. May 18, 1935. P. L. Sperr
345 is on the N. E. corner of Van Brunt at Walcott.
The two story building at the extreme left of the image is 339 Van Brunt.
The 4 story brick building is not numbered but can bee seen on the 1903 map below with the cut ins. On this map wooden frame buildings are rendered in yellow and brick buildings are rendered in red. the building on the north of 339 is also brick according to the 1903 map.
|Van Brunt and Walcott - New York Public Library -Map <|
|While this image depicts a shoe factory, the situation would have been similar in the overall factory.|
Female workers in a shoe factory in Lynn Massachusetts circa 1895, Library of Congress
Library of Congress
Library of Congress|
Library of Congress|
Joseph Zotique La Joie 1899 - in his overalls
Demars Death Records
Demars was an unusual name in Brooklyn in the mid 1800s to mid 1900s.
DEMARS DOROTHEA D. 1890-06-2619422186+NYC Death Index DEMARS in Kings County:
Louis age 53, 1870, Jane 1892 age 1, Matie T age 1 day 1884, Sarah A age 5 1898, Marie T age 51, 1910, Henry W age 83, 1915, John J 62, 1915, Dorothea, 31, 1916, Robert 39, 1917, Robert L 25 1922, Robert H 73, 1927, Arthur 50 1929, Harriet 75 1942
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