N S Meyer
N. S. Meyer, Inc., 42 E. 20th St. (2007)

N. S. Meyer is a reasonably old company, but this is a comparatively new sign. A number of sources on the internet refer to N. S. Meyer as dating back to the American Civil War or cite 1868 as the date of its founding. The actual story is a bit more complicated. N. S. Meyer was founded in New York City around 1906 by Nathan S. Meyer (1870-1935). However, Nathan Meyer was the son of Simon N. Meyer (1843-after 1910), who established his business in Washington, D. C. (possibly) as early as 1868. I found a reference to "S. N. Meyer, Dry Goods," in a District of Columbia city directory dated 1872. So, the 1868 date is quite possible.

Simon Meyer was recorded in the U. S. Census of 1880, living at 922 7th St., NW, Washington, D.C. His son, Nathan, was ten years and was born in the District of Columbia. Twenty years later in 1900 the Meyers still lived in Washington. Nathan was now 30, and Simon's occupation was "Clothing Merchant." In 1908 Simon Meyer, age 64, applied for a passport, where he stated that he was born 15 Sept. 1843 in Brackenburg, Germany, that he emigrated July 1867, and that he became a naturalized citizen in 1892. Tracing Simon N. Meyer through the District of Columbia's city directories in the 1880s and 1890s, the business seems to have evolved from millinery goods to "gold and silver trimmings" at an early date. In 1885 the business was listed under the subject Regalia. This probably meant that he was selling medals, insignia and other military equipment by this time. His son, Nathan, seems to have had an active part in the business, but the business name was always S. N. Meyer.

Nathan Meyer's New York business, under the name, N. S. Meyer, at 79 5th Ave. in 1906 is described as "Army and Navy Equipment" in its initial listing in the Manhattan telephone directory. N. S. Meyer were in business in New York from 1906 to 2000. This letterhead for N. S. Meyer dates from 1920, when they were located at 103 5th Ave. They were in this building on E. 20th St. the last thirty years, i. e., from 1971 to 2000. In 2000, according to The TMCA News, they were taken over by Vanguard, another military goods supplier.

On Nathan Meyer's death in 1935, his son-in-law, Abner Arthur Ruben (1901-1966) assumed control of the business. Ruben married Nathan Meyer's daughter, Marjorie (born Washington, D. C., 1903). Some time around the early 1940s Abner Ruben changed his name to Abner Raeburn, and it was under this name that his obituary appeared in the New York Times, 20 April 1966, p. 47. Raeburn is described as "chairman of the board of directors of N. S. Meyer, Inc., manufacturers of military insignia." This obituary is one of the sources of the information that N. S. Meyer "began during the Civil War."

A story in New York Magazine (18 July 1994, p. 21) repeats the information that N. S. Meyer "has made medals for the Army since 1868," and indicates that the owner of 42 E. 20th St. was Robert Raeburn. Robert Raeburn is the son of Abner A. Raeburn (born Abner Ruben). Very possibly N. S. Meyer bought the building, maybe around the time they moved here in 1971.

42-48 East 20th Street was built in 1898, and was designed in Beaux Arts style by the prolific apartment house architects/builders Neville and Bagge. As of May 2009 Emporis.com lists 32 New York City buildings designed by Neville & Bagge, dating from 1902 to 1921. Many are apartment buildings on West End Avenue. The West End Preservation Society lists 13 Neville & Bagge buildings on West End Avenue. Another Neville & Bagge design was the Cornwall Apartments located at 255 W. 90th St. on the northwest corner of Broadway. This wide-eyed figure keeps watch over the entrance way to the Cornwall. For many years this building was the home of the Argo Diner, renowned for their splitpea soup. In the late 1990s the Argo was replaced by the City Diner. Neville was Thomas P. Neville, born New York City 1865, died before 1925(?). Bagge was George Arthur Bagge, born Manchester, England, 16 Oct. 1867, died 1958.

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