Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ink blotter for Cook, Watkins & Patch memorials


"If a man make a better Mouse Trap than his neighbor, the World will build a beaten path to his Door though he build his House in the Woods!"
That's the phrase printed on this old ink-blotter advertisement for Cook, Watkins & Patch. It's actually a corruption of this passage, which was written by essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"I trust a good deal to common fame, as we all must. If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods."
As you can see, Emerson's passage never even mentioned mousetraps! That might be because he died before what we know as the modern mousetrap was invented.

But I digress. This ink blotter, which features an illustration of some sort of hobo or tinker, is promoting the cemetery memorials produced by Cook, Watkins & Patch. The business office was in Boston, Massachusetts, but the "Technacraft-carved" memorials had their origin in Barre, Vermont.1

Cook, Watkins and Patch was in business from 1891 until about 1985. I came across numerous obituaries for men and women who had worked there as foremen, designers and laborers during the 20th century. The company's beginnings are described in 1913's History of the Granite Industry of New England, Volume 1 by Arthur Wellington Brayley:
"The Firm of Cook, Watkins & Co., 219-223 Columbus avenue, Boston, dates from 1891, at which time John F. Cook and George R. Watkins became associated in business under the firm name of Cook & Watkins, with offices at 120 Boylston street. At the time they operated cutting plants at Quincy and Barre, with offices at Aberdeen, Scotland, and later controlled the output of the Pleasant River Quarries at Addison, Me. They now have a large wholesale business in Barre, Quincy, Westerly, and other New England granites and marble, and are large importers of Scotch and Swedish monuments and Italian marble statuary. Their monuments and statuary are sold to the trade all over the United States, they employing a large force of traveling salesmen for this purpose. Their output is large, and includes everything in their line from the simplest markers to military and other public memorials. The soldiers' monuments at Morgantown, West Virginia, and Bar Harbor, Maine, are examples of their work in that line.

"Mr. Watkins died in 1896, and Mr. Cook carried on the business under the same name, until 1907, when he retired from active business, and Bradford C. Patch took its management. In 1910, Mr. Patch was admitted a partner, and the firm name changed to its present title."

Current granite broker Cochran's Inc. states on its website that, in 1984, it "purchased several sections of the former Cook, Watkins and Patch granite plant for their new location."

One of Cook, Watkins & Patch's longtime employees was designer G. William Patten (1907-1986), who began working with the company in 1924 and whose career is detailed in this post on the John J. Burns Library's Blog.

While the company's memorials will last for centuries and centuries, I can't find very much online in terms of its ephemera. One AbeBooks dealer is offering for sale these items, which were once used by salesmen: "20 LARGE COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS OF TOMBSTONES OFFERED BY THE COOK WATKINS & PATCH, INC. ... Illustrations are 9 x 12 inches and are mounted on heavy cardboard stock 14 x 11 inches. Each illustration shows a single tombstone in a finely landscaped cemetary [sic]. The Illustrations are individual and not bound together, as issued, and were used commercially to sell the tombstones."

Vintage Ads and Books, meanwhile, offers one of the company's catalogs from 1931. It includes a photograph of the E.F. Albee Mausoleum at Kensico Cemetery in New York.


Footnote
1. Some of the company's memorials were almost certainly made from Barre Granite, which I wrote about in this November 2012 post.

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