Tea: Steeped in Bristol’s History
by Cate Murway
Within the historic residential neighborhoods of Bristol on the Delaware, the community is punctuated with a currently resurging attractive walking district of fine stores, excellent schools, vibrant houses of worship and a history that fits the Borough to a “tea”.
A partnership formed by Edmund N. Grundy, William H. Grundy, and Richard Campion, under the name of Grundy Brothers & Campion opened a mill, built in 1876 for the manufacture of woolen goods and worsted yarns.
When the William H. Grundy & Co. mill was in full operation, hundreds of local residents were employed as dilligent piece workers, many of them immigrants who came to the area to try to make a better life.
After the Grundy Industrial Complex’s career as a textile mill, an extremely successful operation for milling, storage and power, part of the complex was used to warehouse the National Tea Packing Company inventory.
Today these “National Register of Historic Places” buildings are significant as visual landmarks and reminders of the industrial apex, as well as the resurgence of manufacturing activity and the continuation of local employment.
The property reveals fascinating layers of history and culture; a suggestive time capsule, fully documented, representing an unbroken chain from its primary construction.
Marvin Hirschhorn, Horace Mann ‘44/ NYU worked in his family’s business in the Bronx, the National Urn Bag Company. The company's original focus was to supply the tea leaves and the cloth urn bag for large teapots, urns and industrial equipment to hotels, restaurants and clubs. Tea urns were designed to heat and hold hot water for larger quantities. They would be filled with the boiling water to produce a tea drink using the drip brewing method. The urn bag could be washed and used again.
In August 1920, Benjamin Hirschhorn and his brother Louis filed a USA patent application for a ‘tea cartridge’. The patent for a tie down reinforced infusion bag was issued to Marvin’s father, Benjamin Hirschhorn on July 22, 1919.
“A holder for tea leaves or analogous use, consisting of a small pocket provided with a terminal flap and constructed of open-mesh fabric and having a longitudinally-extending stiffening means, a transversely-disposed and laterally-projecting bendable fastening means secured to the terminal and closing flap thereon.” U.S. Pat. No. 1,310,796
Inventor: Benjamin Hirschhorn Issued: Jul. 22, 1919
The bag was made from a textile fabric gathered at the top by string, with a tag at the end to act as a handle.
Marvin’s late Uncle Louis was the mechanic in the family and he was responsible for designing and building the equipment to make the teabag after his dad invented it. The first bags were of a gauze porous fabric and then, paper with a heat seal and a staple.
His Uncles Charles and Max joined in the family business.
The company always provided the highest standards of quality, consistency, and effectiveness.
A 4-lane road was being built through their property and they relocated their trade packers private label tea business to Northern Blvd. in Long Island into a building formerly occupied by the Hellmann’s Mayonnaise Company.
Benjamin and Mary Hirschhorn sent their son, Marvin out as a location scout when union issues arose.
Their business was already expanded into San Francisco and the goal was to find an additional location far enough out of NY, yet allowing them to still easily service the NY area. Marvin looked in Burlington, NJ and in Bristol.
In the late 1940’s, he located “the white elephant”, the Grundy Mill, complete with 8 acres total, stables and garages and they moved the National Tea Packing Company to Bristol in 1950. They joined a teamsters union out of Trenton, NJ when they moved to the Borough.
The late Louis Silverstein, who was also involved in textiles and bequeathed $5 million to launch the Silverstein Pavilion at HUP was an original partner in the ownership of the building but he never moved in. They purchased it for $1.00 a square foot.
The Grundy building had been empty for almost a decade. The only elevator had a cable running in through the ceiling and out the floor, and functioned with a tug, slowly chugging down the shaft. It was probably built in the early 1900’s.
The mill didn’t really need an elevator. The wool was hauled on the canal, hoisted to the top floor and the products as they were finished were dropped through the floor chutes.
Senator Joseph R. Grundy had left all of his equipment.
The Power House next to the complex had supplied power to the plant and possibly most of Bristol. They rented some of the area for the manufacture of fiberglass dinghies and chemical products.
At the time of the 1950 atomic bomb scares, the government stored enough water, food and medicine in their basement to take care of 3,000 people.
The tea company used all 7 stories of the Grundy building and their original equipment with one operator could produce12-15,000 teabags a day, using the tea that arrived from India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The tea importers contracted gardens for each “flush” and the product was delivered in 40-foot containers that would hold about 40,000 pounds.
The tea needed to be cut in uniform size for the tea bags.
Marvin set up an office for a week in the Keystone Hotel on Bath & Otter Streets to take applications for the 160 men and women they needed in order to start their business.
“I did every job in the place except clean the bathrooms.”
He smiled and shared, “Three things you need in business: employees, suppliers and customers. Take care of those three and you’ll do alright.”
This manufacturing site had been a home to fully integrated textile firms, defense contractors, a bottling plant, the Carlton Plastics firm and now the tea blending operations.
Harry W. Baumgarten, the founder and chairman of Majestic Mills, Inc. came and rented space. His son, Frederic H. Baumgarten now owns the Grundy Commons complex.
The Hirschhorns sold their business to Coca-Cola in Linden, NJ in 1960.
The Coca-Cola Company then acquired Minute Maid and along with it Tenco, a manufacturer of instant coffee and tea that were sold by food stores and other distributors under their private labels.
Their trusty classic industrial
Toledo scale remains as part of the history.
It commands a corner in the
Carol Willson Studio One located on Floor "3N".
Recognition of the past is an important part of history's cultural origins and a significant source of Bristol’s endless fascination.
The Grundy Commons complex buildings have been coated with the fine sheen of historic status.
RMN [Radioman] Seaman Petty officer third class (PO3) Marvin and his late twin brother, Sherwin enlisted together in WWII. He spent a year in the western Pacific Ocean on Guam, the southernmost of the Mariana Islands in 120-degree heat. Marvin witnessed the atrocities committed by the Manchurian Japanese Army.
His brother was an electricians mate Petty officer third class (PO3) aboard a reefer ship that transported perishable commodities to the troops.
When Marvin returned from active duty and ventured to Bristol with his National Tea Packing Company, he and his wife, Gloria rented a home in Croydon “with inside plumbing” from the Holgate family. They took pleasure in the festive Saturday afternoon gatherings with neighbors, taking part in the food, music and fun.
Two years later, they moved their family of three children to Melrose Park and lived there for 27 years.
When the children had grown, they moved into a “lovely building” in Center City before finally relocating to the senior complex in which they now reside.
Marvin likes to cook “simple things, a good pork chop is better than what is served elsewhere.” He loves tea, but never in a bag! Straight brewed for him.
Boating had been his life for 40 years; the “best place was the Chesapeake Bay”.
He had to give it up, “got to the point where I had to grow up.”
Travel is still always in the picture. They will visit his 88-year-old sister, Lillian who resides in FL.
They thoroughly enjoy their three grandchildren, ballet dancer, Liza Sky Sherretta; U of Pitt student, Aubrey Zoe; and tennis athlete Benjamin.
The history of tea is long and complex, spreading across multiple cultures over the span of thousands of years and historic Bristol on the Delaware is a part of the story.
Grab a chair. Pour yourself a cup - it’s packed with antioxidants and flavonoids!
Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
HIRSCHHORN MARVIN, on Dec. 20, 2015. Beloved husband of Gloria (nee Golden). Loving father of Carrie (Steve) Sherretta, Susan Andres and Eric (Jerri) Hirschhorn. Adored grand-father of Aubrey, Liza and Ben. Relatives and friends are invited to Graveside Services Wednes-day 12:30 P.M. precisely Shalom Memorial Park. Contributions in his memory may be made to a charity of the donor\'s choice .www.goldsteinsfuneral.com