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The Saw-Book Quarterly

Jun 25, 2009 5:50 PM | 0 comments

It is my good fortune to purchase, when funds allow, new items for the Brooklyn Collection. Among our ever-growing sub-collections is a group of trade catalogues from Brooklyn businesses, and I was happy to find three of them in a recent offering from a well-known bookseller.

The Saw-Book Quarterly January 1903

The most striking was this booklet bearing the subtitle Saws--Their History, Manufacture and Use, Continued. The cover image of a phoenix rising from a flaming ruin clearly announces what must have befallen the company of Joshua Oldham and Sons.  Sure enough, the booklet tells the whole story of the disaster in vivid detail. On December 11, 1901, the factory's buildings on 26th Street in Brooklyn were completely destroyed by fire.  "The circular saws, from forty to seventy-four inches in diameter, were stored in a dozen different piles and on two sides of the square pillars fifteen feet apart, and resting on the heavy cross-girders.  These saws kept their places long after the roof had fallen; as the girders burned slowly away the saws fell one by one into the fiery abyss below, keeping up a constant chime."

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle confirms the story.  The company rebuilt, and by the end of 1902 they were able to write: "From the first day of March this year, to date, our output has been greater than in any previous year's full business."

A trade catalog this is not, but its unsigned cover art and gripping content make it a first-rate piece of business-related ephemera; at the same time it shines a spotlight on a little-known industry in an obscure corner of Sunset Park.