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The coffee business started by Dorothy Jones of Boston—Some early sales—Taxes imposed by Congress in war and peace—The first coffee plantation-machine, coffee-roaster, coffee-grinder, and coffee-pot patents—Early trade marks for coffee—Beginnings of the coffee urn, the coffee container, and the soluble-coffee business—Statistics of distribution of coffee-roasting establishments in the trade from the eighteenth century to the twentieth

It appears from the best evidence obtainable that the coffee trade of the United States was started by a woman, one Dorothy Jones of Boston. At least, Dorothy Jones was the first person in the colonies to whom a license was issued, in 1670, to sell coffee. It is not clear whether she sold the product in the green bean, roasted, "garbled" (ground), or "ungarbled".

Soon after the introduction of the coffee drink into the New England, New York, and Pennsylvania colonies, trading began in the raw product. William Penn bought his green coffee supplies in the New York market in 1683, paying for them at the rate of $4.68 a pound. Benjamin Franklin engaged in the retail coffee business in Philadelphia, in 1740, as a kind of side line to his printing business.

"Tea, coffee, indigo, nutmegs, sugar etc." were being advertised for sale in 1748 at a shop in Boston, "under the vendue-room in Dock-Square." Coffee was also to be had in that year at the shop of Ebenezer Lowell in King Street, and at the Sign of the Four Sugar Loaves near the head of Long Wharf.

During the sway of the coffee houses, coffee fell from $4.68 a pound to 40 cents a pound in 1750, and to 22 cents a pound just before the Revolution. As the war came on, however, dealers began to force up prices on a dwindling market. The situation became so serious that in January, 1776, the Philadelphia Commission of Inspection issued a fair-price list, setting an arbitrary price of eleven pence per pound on coffee in bag lots. Persons found violating this price were to be "exposed to public view as sordid vultures preying on the vitals of the country."

Despite this threat, J. Peters in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, wrote to a Philadelphia friend, "I cannot purchase any coffee without taking, too, one bill a tierce of Claret & Sour, and at £6.8 per gall.... I have been trying day for day, & never could get a grain of Coffee so as to sell it at the limited price these six weeks. It may be bought, but at 25/ per lb."

The important part played by the coffee houses of colonial America, beginning with the establishment of the London coffee house in Boston, in 1689, the King's Arms in New York in 1696, and Ye coffee house in Philadelphia in 1700, has been related.

"Females" of ye olde Boston, staging in 1777 a "coffee party" which rivaled in a small way the famous Tea Party in 1773, personally chastised a profiteer hoarder of foodstuffs, and confiscated some of his stock, according to a letter from Abigail Adams to her distinguished husband, later second president of the United States.

Writing at Boston, under date of July 31, 1777, Abigail wrote to John, then attending the Continental Congress at Philadelphia:

There is a great scarcity of sugar and coffee, articles which the female part of the state is very loath to give up, especially whilst they consider the great scarcity occasioned by the merchants having secreted a large quantity. It is rumored that an eminent stingy merchant, who is a bachelor, had a hogshead of coffee in his store, which he refused to sell under 6 shillings per pound.

A number of females—some say a hundred, some say more—assembled with a cart and trunk, marched down to the warehouse, and demanded the keys.

Upon his finding no quarter, he delivered the keys, and they then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into a trunk, and drove off. A large concourse of men stood amazed, silent spectators of the whole transaction.

In 1783–84 the Congress of the United States considered the imposition of a duty on "seven classes of goods consumed by the rich or in general use; liquors, sugars, teas, coffees, cocoa, molasses and pepper; the tax to be determined by the yearly imports."

At that time there was being imported twelve times as much Bohea tea as of all others, but tea consumption was only one-twelfth pound per capita. Total tea imports were 325,000 pounds. "Low as was the importation of tea", says John Bach McMaster, "that of coffee was lower still by a third. Indeed, it was scarcely used outside of the great cities." The average annual coffee imports at that period were 200.000 pounds.

Governor Bowdoin of Massachusetts introduced chicory into the United States in 1785.

The first import duty, of two and one-half cents a pound, was levied on coffee by the United States in 1789. The principal sources of supply up to that time were the Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Haiti, and Jamaica; and most of the business was in the hands of Dutch and English traders.

What is thought to be the first wholesale coffee-roasting plant in America began operations at 4 Great Dock (now Pearl) Street, New York, early in 1790. In that same year the first American advertisement for coffee appeared in the New York Daily Advertiser. A second "coffee manufactory" started up at 232 Queen (also Pearl) Street, New York, late in 1790.

In the same year, 1790, the government increased the import duty on coffee to four cents a pound. In 1794 the tax was raised to five cents a pound.

In George Washington's household account book for 1793 appears an entry showing a purchase of coffee from Benjamin Dorsay, a Philadelphia grocer, for eight dollars. The quantity is not given.

About 1804 Captain Joseph Ropes in the ship Recovery, of Salem, Mass., brought from Mocha the first cargo of coffee and other East Indian produce in an American bottom.

The first cargo of Brazil coffee, consisting of 1,522 bags, was received at Salem, Mass., per ship Marquis de Someruelas in 1809. Brazil's total production that year was less than 30,000 bags; but by 1871 more than 2,000,000 bags were exported.

Java coffee could be bought on the Amsterdam market in 1810 for 42 to 46 cents. By 1812, there had been an advance to $1.08 per pound. Holland, not Brazil, ruled the world's coffee markets in those days.

When the war of 1812 made necessary more revenue, imports of coffee were taxed ten cents a pound. A war-time fever of speculation in tea and coffee followed, and by 1814 prices to the consumer had advanced to such an extent (coffee was 45 cents a pound) that the citizens of Philadelphia formed a non-consumption association, each member pledging himself "not to pay more than 25 cents a pound for coffee and not to consume tea that wasn't already in the country."

The coffee duty was reduced in 1816 to five cents a pound; in 1830, to two cents; in 1831, to one cent; and in 1832 coffee was placed on the free list. It remained there until 1861, when a duty of four cents a pound was again imposed as a war-revenue measure. This was increased to five cents in 1862. It was reduced to three cents in 1871; and the duty was repealed in 1872. Coffee has remained on the free list ever since.

The manufacture of machinery required in the coffee business began in the eighteenth century. The first coffee-grinder patent in the United States was issued to Thomas Bruff, Sr., in 1798. The first United States patent on an improvement on a roaster was issued to Peregrine Williamson of Baltimore in 1820. The first United States patent on a coffee-plantation machine, a coffee huller, was granted to Nathan Reed of Belfast, Me., in 1822. The first United States coffee-maker patent was issued to Lewis Martelley of New York, in 1825.

First United States Coffee-Grinder Patent
First United States Coffee-Grinder Patent

Charles Parker, of Meriden, Conn., began work on the original Parker coffee mill in 1828.

A complete English coffee roasting and grinding plant was installed in New York City by James Wild in 1833–34.

About 1840, Central America began making shipments of coffee to the United States.

James Carter, of Boston, was granted (1846) a United States patent on an improved form of cylindrical coffee roaster, which subsequently was largely adopted by the trade in the United States, being popularly known as the Carter "pull-out".

The Geo. L. Squier Manufacturing Co. of Buffalo began in 1857 the manufacture of coffee-plantation machinery. Marcus Mason invented his first pulper in 1860; but the manufacture of coffee-plantation machinery under the firm name of Marcus Mason & Co. did not begin in the United States until 1873.

Carter's Pull-Out Roaster Patent
Carter's Pull-Out Roaster Patent

The first paper-bag factory in the United States to make bags for loose coffee, began operations in Brooklyn in 1862.

The first ground-coffee package was put on the New York market about 1860–63 by Lewis A. Osborn. It was known as Osborn's Celebrated Prepared Java Coffee and was later exploited by Thomas Reid as Osborn's Old Government Java.

In 1864, Jabez Burns was granted a patent on the Burns roaster which was to revolutionize the coffee-roasting business.

In 1865, John Arbuckle brought out in Pittsburgh the first roasted coffee in individual packages "like peanuts", the forerunner of the Ariosa package.

In 1869, B.G. Arnold started the first big speculation in coffee and for ten years thereafter he was absolute dictator of the American coffee trade.

In 1869, three United States patents on a copper coffee urn lined with block tin were granted to Élie Moneuse and L. Duparquet of New York.

In 1870, John Gulick Baker, one of the founders of the Enterprise Manufacturing Company of Pennsylvania, was granted a United States patent on a coffee grinder which subsequently became one of the most popular store mills.

The first trade mark registered for coffee or coffee essence bears the number 425, with date August 22, 1871, first use 1870, and is in the name of Butler, Earhart & Co., Columbus, Ohio. The words "essence of coffee" appeared on the label. The next coffee mark was registered by Butler, Earhart & Co., October 3, 1871, number 455, first use, 1870. It consists of the word "Buckeye" with a branch of the buckeye (horse-chestnut) tree.

First Registered Trade Mark for Coffee, 1871
First Registered Trade Mark for Coffee, 1871

The next registration for coffee was in the name of John Ashcroft of Brooklyn. It is numbered 533, and the date is November 28, 1871. It consists of an anchor and chain enclosing a star. Ashcroft registered also a design of a coffee pot with the words "Mocha Steam", January 2, 1872.

Today there are nearly three thousand registered trade-mark names used for coffee on file in the United States Patent Office in Washington.

In 1873, Ariosa, the first successful national brand of package coffee, was launched in Pittsburg by John Arbuckle.

In the same year, 1873, the first United States patent on a coffee substitute was issued to E. Dugdale of Griffin, Ga.

In 1878, Chase & Sanborn, the Boston coffee roasters, were the first to pack and to ship roasted coffee in sealed cans. A lead seal was used for the large packages of bulk coffee; the smaller sizes being sealed by the label, which was made to cover the body of the can and to reach up over the slip cover, so as to make a sealed package, to open which the label must be broken.

In 1878, Jabez Burns, the coffee-machinery man, founded the Spice Mill, the first publication in America devoted to the coffee and spice trades.

In 1879, Charles Halstead brought out the first metal coffee pot with a china interior.

In 1880, Henry E. Smyser, of Philadelphia, invented a package-making-and-filling machine for coffee, the forerunner of the weighing-and-packing machine, the control of which later on by John Arbuckle led to the coffee-sugar war with the Havemeyers. Smyser was superintendent at the plant of the Weikel & Smith Spice Company, Philadelphia. Other patents on weighing and package-making machines were granted him in 1884, 1888, and 1891. In 1892, he began to assign his patents to Arbuckle Brothers, some fifteen in all being granted him from 1892 to 1898. He died in 1899.

The year 1880 was notable for the many failures in the American coffee trade, as a result of syndicate planting and speculative buying of coffees in Brazil, Mexico, and Central America.

In 1881, Steele & Price, of Chicago, were the first to introduce to the trade all-paper cans, made of strawboard, for coffee.

In 1881, the New York Coffee Exchange was incorporated, beginning business the year following at Beaver and Pearl Streets. In 1885, the property of the Exchange was transferred to the Coffee Exchange of the City of New York, incorporated by special charter.

In 1884, the Chicago Liquid Sack Company brought out the first combination paper and tin-end containers for coffee.

The year 1887–88 was marked by a big boom in coffee, the total sales on the Coffee Exchange amounting to 47,868,750 bags. Between July 1886 and June 1887 prices advanced 1,485 points.

In 1888, the Engelberg Huller Company of Syracuse, New York, began the manufacture of coffee-plantation machinery.

The Original Arbuckle Coffee Packages
The Original Arbuckle Coffee Packages

In 1891, the New England Automatic Weighing Machine Company, Boston, Mass. began the manufacture of machines to weigh coffee into cartons and other packages; and in 1894, installed in the Chase & Sanborn plant at Boston the first automatic weighing machine in the coffee trade. The New England concern was subsequently (1901) succeeded by the Automatic Weighing Machine Company of Newark, N.J.

In 1893, the first direct-flame gas coffee roaster in America (Tupholme's English machine) was installed by F.T. Holmes at the plant of the Potter-Parlin Company, New York.

In 1893, Cirilo Mingo, of New Orleans, was granted a United States patent on a method of aging green coffee to give it the characteristics of green coffee stored in a confined space for a long period. The operation consisted in placing layers of green coffee between dry and wet empty coffee bags, and permitting the beans to absorb eight to ten percent of the moisture in a period extending from six to sixteen hours. This was one of the earliest efforts to mature and age green coffee in the United States.

In 1894, the business of the Pneumatic Scale Corporation, Norfolk Downs, Mass., had its start in Quincy, Mass. where the first pneumatic weighing machine was installed by the Purity Dried Fruits Cleansing Company. In 1895, the Electric Scale Company was organized to build the machines, the subsequent development of this line of packaging machinery for coffee being directed by the Pneumatic Scale Corporation, Ltd., which succeeded it.

In 1895, Adolph Kraut introduced the German-made grease-proof lined paper bags for coffee to the American coffee trade. That same year, Thomas M. Royal, of Philadelphia, began the manufacture in the United States of a fancy duplex-lined paper bag for coffee.

In 1896, natural gas was first used in the United States as a fuel for roasting coffee.

In 1897, Joseph Lambert, Vermont, first introduced to the coffee trade a self-contained coffee roasting outfit without the brick setting required until then.

In 1897, the Enterprise Manufacturing Company of Pennsylvania was the first regularly to employ an electric motor to drive a coffee mill.

The overproduction of coffee began to be so serious a question by 1898, that J.D. Olavarria, a distinguished Venzuelan, proposed a plan for the restriction of coffee cultivation and the regulation of coffee exports from countries suffering from overproduction. In this same year, the bears forced Rio 7's down to four and one-half cents on the New York Coffee Exchange.

In 1898, Edward Norton, of New York, was granted a United States patent on a vacuum process for canning foods, subsequently applied to coffee. Others followed. Hills Brothers, of San Francisco, were the first to pack coffee in a vacuum, under the Norton patents, in 1900. M.J. Brandenstein & Company, of San Francisco, began to pack coffee in vacuum cans in 1914. Vacuum sealing machines to pack coffee under the Norton patents are now made by the Perfect Vacuum Canning Company of New York.

About 1899, Dr. Sartori Kato of Tokio, who had invented a soluble tea in Japan, came to Chicago and produced a soluble coffee (introduced to the consumer in 1901) on which he was granted a patent in 1903. In 1906, G. Washington of New York, an American chemist living in Guatemala City, produced a refined soluble coffee which was put on the United States market three years later. The full story of soluble coffee in America is told in chapter XXXI.

The first gear-driven electric coffee mill was introduced to the trade by the Enterprise Manufacturing Company of Pennsylvania in 1900.

In 1901, there appeared in New York the first issue of The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal, devoted to the interests of the tea and coffee trades.

In 1900–01, Santos permanently displaced Rio as the world's largest source of supply.

In 1901, the American Can Company began the manufacture and sale of tin coffee cans in the United States. In this year Landers, Frary & Clark's Universal coffee percolator was granted a United States patent; and Joseph Lambert, of Marshall, Mich., brought out one of the earliest machines to employ gas as a fuel for the indirect roasting of coffee. It was in 1901, also, that F.T. Holmes joined the Huntley Manufacturing Company, of Silver Creek, N.Y., which began to build the Monitor gas-fired direct-flame coffee roasters.

In 1902, the Coles Manufacturing Company (Braun Company, successor) and Henry Troemner, of Philadelphia, began the manufacture and sale of gear-driven electric coffee grinders.

As a result of the agitation for some way to deal with the overproduction of coffee, the Pan-American Congress, meeting in Mexico City in 1902, called an international coffee congress for New York in the fall of that same year. It met from October 1 to October 30; but at the close, the problem seemed no nearer solution than at the beginning. In 1906, Brazil produced its record-breaking crop of 20,000,000 bags, and the state of São Paulo inaugurated a plan to valorize coffee.

In 1902, the first fancy duplex paper bag made by machinery from a roll of paper was produced by the Union Bag & Paper Corporation. It was of sulphite fiber inside, and glassine outside; a style afterward reversed, so as to have the glassine the inner tube.

In 1902, the Jagenberg Machine Company, Inc. (absorbed by the Pneumatic Scale Corporation in 1921) began the introduction to the trade of the United States of a line of German-made automatic packaging-and-labeling machines for coffee. Subsequently, the Johnson Automatic Sealer Company, Battle Creek, Mich., became well known as manufacturers of a line of automatic adjustable carton-sealing, wax-wrapping machines, package conveyors, and automatic scales. Among other automatic weighers that have figured in the development of the coffee business, mention should be made of The National Packaging Machinery Company's Scott machine, of E.D. Anderson's Triumph, and of Hoepner's Unit System.

In 1903, as a result of overproduction in Brazil, Santos 4's dropped to three and fifty-five hundredths cents on the New York Coffee Exchange, the lowest price ever recorded for coffee.

In 1903, also, there was granted the first United States patent on an electric coffee-roaster, the patentee being George C. Lester of New York.

In 1904, green coffee prices on the New York Coffee Exchange were forced up to eleven and eighty-five hundredths cents by a speculative clique led by D.J. Sully.

In 1905, the A.J. Deer Co., Buffalo, N. Y. (now of Hornell, N.Y.) began the sale of its Royal electric coffee mills direct to dealers on the instalment plan, revolutionizing the former practise of selling coffee mills through hardware jobbers.

In 1905, F.A. Cauchois introduced to the trade his Private Estate coffee maker, a filtration device employing Japanese filter paper. Finley Acker, of Philadelphia, obtained a patent the same year on a side-perforation percolator employing "porous or bibulous paper" as a filtering medium.

In 1906, H.D. Kelly, of Kansas City, was granted a United States patent on an urn coffee machine employing a coffee extractor in which the ground coffee was continually agitated before percolation by a vacuum process.

In 1907, P.E. Edtbauer (Mrs. E. Edtbauer), of Chicago, was granted a United States patent on a duplex automatic weighing machine, the first simple, fast, accurate and moderate-priced machine for weighing coffee. Eight others followed up to 1920.

In 1907, the new Pure Food and Drugs Act came into force in the United States, making it obligatory to label all coffees correctly and causing many trade practises to be altered or thrown into the discard. The most important rulings that followed are referred to in more detail in chapter XXIII, telling how green coffees are bought and sold.

In 1908, the Porto Rico coffee planters, presented a memorial to the Congress asking for a protective tariff of six cents a pound on all foreign coffees. Hawaii and the Philippines, also were to have benefited by the protection asked for. The Congress failed to grant the planters' prayer. This appeal for protection was repeated in 1921, when the Congress was asked to place a duty of five cents a pound on all foreign coffees.

In 1908, J.C. Prims, of Battle Creek, Mich. was granted a United States patent on a corrugated cylinder improvement for a gas and coal coffee roaster of fifty to one hundred and thirty pounds capacity designed for retail stores. This machine was acquired the year following by the A.J. Deer Company, and was re-introduced to the trade as the Royal roaster.

In 1908, Brazil's valorization-of-coffee enterprise was saved from disaster by a combination of bankers and the Brazil Government. A loan of $75,000,000 was placed, through Hermann Sielcken of New York, with banking houses in England, Germany, France, Belgium, and America. The complete story of this undertaking is told in chapter XXXI.

In 1909, Ludwig Roselius brought to America from Germany the caffein-free coffee which for several years had been manufactured and sold in Bremen under the Myer, Roselius, and Wimmer patent. In 1910, the product was first sold here by Merck & Company under the name of Dekafa, later Dekofa, and in 1914, by the Kaffee Hag Corporation as Kaffee Hag.

In 1911 all-fiber parchment-lined Damptite cans for coffee were introduced to the trade by the American Can Company.

As a result of preliminary meetings of Mississippi Valley coffee roasters held in St. Louis in May and June, 1911, when the Coffee Roasters Traffic and Pure Food Association was organized, a national association under the same name was started in Chicago, November 16–17, 1911. The complete story of the growth of this most important coffee trade organization in the United States is told in the next chapter.

In 1912, the United States government, after having examined into the valorization enterprise, brought suit against Hermann Sielcken, et al., to force the sale of valorized coffee stocks held in this country under the valorization agreement.

In October, 1914, the first national coffee week to advertise coffee was promoted by the National Coffee Roasters Association.

Merchants Coffee House Memorial

On May 23, 1914, the Lower Wall Street Business Men's Association unveiled a bronze memorial tablet set in the wall of the nine-story office building occupied by the Federal Refining Company on the southeast corner of Wall and Water Streets, the former site of the Merchants' coffee house. This is the building where The Tea and Coffee Trade Journal had its offices for nine years before moving to 79 Wall Street.

Merchants Coffee House Tablet
Merchants Coffee House Tablet
Bronze marker, placed May 23, 1914, on the building occupying the site of the old coffee house

Seth Low, introduced by William Bayne, Jr., president of the Lower Wall Street Business Men's Association, gave an interesting sketch of the history of the coffee house. Abram Wakeman, secretary of the association, spoke, followed by Wilberforce Eames, of the American history division of the New York Public Library.

After the flag that veiled the memorial tablet had been drawn aside, attention was called to a bronze chest which was hermetically sealed, and in which had been placed papers and other documents reflecting the life of New York today. The chest was given over to the keeping of the New York Historical Society, with the understanding that it was not to be opened until 1974, which will be the two-hundredth anniversary of the union of the Colonies.

It was from the Merchants' coffee house that the letter of May 23, 1774, was written in reply to the Committee of Correspondence in Boston. The letter suggested a "Congress of Deputies" from the Colonies, and called for a "virtuous and spirited Union." The coffee house is consequently regarded as the birthplace of the Union.

Recent Activities

A second national coffee week was held in October, 1915, under the auspices of the National Coffee Roasters' Association.

In 1916, the Coffee Exchange of the City of New York changed its name to the New York Coffee and Sugar Exchange, to admit of sugar trading.

In 1916, the National Paper Can Company of Milwaukee first introduced to the trade its new hermetically sealed all-paper can for coffee.

In 1916, Jules Le Page, Darlington, Ind., was granted two United States patents on cutting rolls to cut and not grind or crush corn, wheat, or coffee. This idea was incorporated in the Ideal steel cut coffee mill subsequently marketed by the B.F. Gump Company, Chicago.

In 1918, the World War caused the United States government to place coffee importers, brokers, jobbers, roasters, and wholesalers under a war-time licensing system to control imports and prices.

In 1918, John E. King, of Detroit, was granted a United States patent on an irregular grind of coffee consisting of coarsely grinding ten percent of the product and finely grinding ninety percent.

The most notable event of the year 1919 was the inauguration by the Brazil planters, in co-operation with an American joint coffee trade publicity committee, of the million-dollar campaign to advertise coffee in the United States.

In 1919, as a result of frost damage, and of an orgy of speculation in Brazil, prices for green coffee on the New York Exchange were forced to the highest levels since 1870; and a new high record was established for futures, twenty-four and sixty-five hundredths cents for July contracts.

In 1919, Floyd W. Robison, of Detroit, was granted a United States patent on a process for aging green coffee by treating it with micro-organisms, the product being known as Cultured coffee.

In the spring of 1920, there was held the third national coffee week, this time under the auspices of the Joint Coffee Trade Publicity Committee.

Coffee Pot