Protective Ventilator
Protective Ventilator Co., 110-114 W. 32nd St. between 6th and 7th Aves. (2008)

Established 1869
Protective Ventilator Co
Ventilation for Every Purpose

These signs came to light in March 2008 when demolition started on the building to the immediate east, 106-108 W. 32nd St. New York City Dept. of Buildings records indicate that plans were filed for a new building at 106-108 W. 32nd St. in 1910. Protective Ventilator moved from 129 Fulton St. to 110 W. 32nd St. in 1910. This sign, then, dates from 1910. The older sign, above, probably reads Alliance Press. If so, it dates from 1907, when Alliance Press moved to this address.


The Protective Ventilator Co. was also known as the Bracher Ventilator Co. and it seems to have been formed in the mid-1870s to manufacture a window ventilating apparatus that used patents secured by the hat manufacturer, Thomas William Bracher (1842/43-1899). Bracher's patents for "Improvements in Ventilators" were issued 1874 (Patent Nos. 156,791 and 157,148), 1875 (Patent No. 171,345), 1876 (Patent No. 178,103) and 1877 (Patent No. 195,335). The initial patent, secured with George Havell of Newark, N. J., was for an improvement in the design of a wheel in ventilating devices. The improvement in the wheel allowed it to turn "with the least possible friction," and allowed ventilators to be made of various sizes, which could be used in windows, walls, hats, and caps, or, "in any position or point where a ventilator is desired." Patent No. 171,345, dated December 21, 1875, is specifically applied to ventilators designed to be placed in windows: "My invention consists of a novel combination and arrangements of parts ... which tends to arrest the passage of dust through the ventilator, while but a very small hindrance of the ventilation ... is thereby occasioned." An accompanying drawing shows a ventilator placed at the base of a window such as to bring air from the outside while trapping dust and such (click for image).

Bracher's obituary in the New York Times, 22 Nov. 1899, p. 7, reads, "Thomas W. Bracher, fifty-six years old, an inventor and manufacturer, died Monday at his residence, 331 West Eighty-Sixth Street, after a brief illness. He was born in Ohio, and was educated in the public schools of this city. During his business career he obtained patents on thirty different pieces of machinery and articles connected with and used in the hatter's trade. About eighteen years ago he established factories for the manufacture of his specialties in Stockport, Denton, and Luton, the hat manufacturing centres of England, with offices in London. One of the most important of his inventions was a machine for stitching the leather sweatbands in hats, which in England is called Brachering among the trade. At the time of his death he was working on a machine designed for cutting velvet in curves, and putting a selvage on it. Anxiety and overwork in connection with the invention had much to do with causing his fatal illness. He was a member of the Lotos, Colonial and Barnard Clubs. He leaves a widow, two sons, and two daughters."

Thomas W. Bracher is found in the U. S. Census of 1870 living at 101 Waverly Place between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue. He is also in the 1880 census, now at 63 Washington Square South. No occupation was recorded in the 1870 census, but in 1880 he was described as a hatter. He was born in Ohio, and the earliest evidence of his presence in New York is an IRS tax assessment in 1865 reading, "Thos W. Bracher, 113 Bway, Manufacturer" (the tax was $3.33). He appears in New York city directories initially as a printer at 125 Grand St. from 1869 to 1871, then in 1874 at 77 Greene St. In 1877 the business at 77 Greene St. is described as "ventilators," the earliest appearance of this term connected either with Bracher or Protective in New York.

After 1878 entries for Thomas W. Bracher indicate that he concentrated on his profession as a hat manufacturer. Descriptions of the business include "sweatbands," "skivers," "hatter's goods," "hatsweats," "hat materials," "bands," "trimmings," and "hats." Entries for Protective Ventilator Co. from 1878 to 1900 show a different address from Bracher's. The name James H. Hummel (1840-1913) is associated with the ventilator business first at 153 Fulton St. (1881-1899), then 129-133 Fulton St. (1899-1910), and finally 110 W. 32nd St. in 1910. This ad for Ventilation of Every Description was published in Lain's Brooklyn City Directory for 1889.

Side-by-side ads for Bracher and Protective appeared in the Trow Business Directory of Greater New York, 1903.

Sweet's Indexed Catalogue of Building Construction for the Year 1906, published by the Architectural Record Co., contains a description of the Protective Ventilator Co. This work is available on Google Books. At this time they were located at 129-133 Fulton St.

This page from Trow's New York City Business Directory, 1906, shows both Bracher Ventilator Co. and Protective Ventilator Co. at 129-133 Fulton St.

Protective Ventilator was located here on 32nd St. from 1910 until around 1916/17. The business moved to E. 23rd St. and later to W. 53rd St., W. 52nd St., 710 11th Ave., 17 E. 129th St. and 310 W. 92nd St. before closing in the late 1950s. From 1913 until it closed, Protective Ventilator Co. was owned by John C. Brady (1889-1972). Brady was born 6 Jan. 1889 in New York City and died April 1972 in Albany, N. Y. The addresses 17 E. 129th St. and 310 W. 92nd St. appear to be residential in nature. During this period (1932 to 1959) Brady seems to have run the business from his home. Manufacturing had probably stopped being part of the business by this time.

This ad for Ventilators of Every Description was published in Polk's New York City Directory for 1916. At this time Protective was located at 330 E. 23rd St. The business name was Protective Ventilator & Screen Corp., which was used during the year 1915 to 1934. The "reputation of 47 years" would place their origins in 1869, but it is difficult to substantiate any connection with ventilators earlier than the mid-1870s.


Alliance Press was begun in 1882 by the Rev. Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843-1919), founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, a Presbyterian evangelical movement. Alliance Press published literature connected with the group's evangelistic mission. Alliance Press also functioned independently as a commercial printer, offering standard printer services (the sign mentions binding, embossing, designing, and linotype composition). Albert Simpson's obituary in the New York Times (30 Oct. 1919), reads in part, "Born in Canada and educated in Toronto College, Mr. Simpson was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry in 1865 and came to this city in 1881. Six years later he founded the Christian Alliance, combined afterward with the International Missionary Alliance, of which he was president until his death. In addition to sending out hundreds of foreign missionaries he conducted a vast amount of relief work among the poor. To prepare workers in these fields he maintained at Nyack the Missionary Training Institute and the Institute for Training of Home Workers... There was almost no end to Mr. Simpson's religious activities. He was editor of the Alliance Weekly and proprietor of the Alliance Press Company."

According to the chronological highlights on Simpson gave up all business affairs after suffering a stroke in Feb., 1918, and donated the Alliance Press to the Board of Managers of the Christian & Missionary Alliance at that time.

Alliance Press was located in this building from 1907 to 1938. They seem to have gone out of business around 1941.


The Protective Ventilator sign bears the signature H. H. Upham & Co. They were sign painters in business from as early as 1858. For more than 60 years (from 1891 until the 1950s) Upham were located at 508 West Broadway. At the top of 508 West Broadway, as of July 2008, one could still make out the letters "H UPHAM &" (click for image). An ad for Upham appeared in Science magazine 15 April 1892. The address at the time was 54 South 5th Ave., which is the same building as 508 West Broadway (South 5th Ave. was re-named West Broadway around 1895, and the buildings were re-numbered at that time). Two brass plaques on the front of the building give the date Upham was founded and the date 508 West Broadway was erected. Andrew S. Dolkart writing for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation describes the building as: "a Romanesque Revival style building constructed of ironspot Roman brick and trimmed with rock-faced brick and terra cotta ... designed in 1891 by Brunner & Tryon, one of the most prestigious firms in New York" (

In 1875 Henry H. Upham, along with John Garrett and John Tully, secured a patent for "Improvement in Wire Signs and Banners." The patent application included this illustration with Upham's name in a wire sign.

The 1880 U. S. Census (non-population schedules) recorded H. H. Upham, Painters with $8000 capital and raw materials valued at $18,500. They employed as many as 49 workmen and an average of 39, and paid annual wages of $14,300. Skilled workers were paid $2.50 a day and ordinary laborers $1.25. The business operated full time 12 months of the year, and sales in the past year totaled $69,000.

H. H. Upham & Co. were described as follows in the New York Times, 18 Aug. 1885, "Among the houses engaged in painting and house decorating in this city none are more widely known or highly distinguished for the excellence of their work than the firm of Messrs. H. H. Upham & Co. The shops of this firm occupy the large building [at] Nos. 250 and 252 Canal-street, and their office and showrooms are at No. 641 Broadway. This firm have been engaged in business since 1858, and make a specialty of house painting and interior decoration. They are also large makers of signs, with which they have supplied the leading houses of the city. The members of the firm are practical and experienced men of business and well worthy of public patronage."

In its later days (possibly as early as around 1904) H. H. Upham was run by Louis I. Haber (1858-1947) and his sons, Ferdinand Irving Haber (1883-1965) and Harold Edgar Haber (1885-1969). Louis Haber's obituary (New York Times, 22 Oct. 1947, p. 29) specifies that he joined H. H. Upham in 1876, but it is as a collector of manuscripts and rare books that he is described by the Times: "book, manuscript and autograph collector and treasurer emeritus of the Grolier Club... At an early age he commenced to collect rare manuscripts and books and he joined the Grolier Club in 1885, a year after it was formed. Later he was its treasurer. At his death he was an honorary member and the oldest member in years of affiliation."

This ad for H. H. Upham Ecce Signum is taken from the Trow New York City Directory, 1884, when Upham was located on Canal St. This one House Established in 1858 is taken from Moses King's Photographic Views of New York, 1895, when Upham was located on South Fifth Ave. (West Broadway). Google Books shows a photo 54 South Fifth Avenue in King's Photographic Views. This ad from 1915 shows the West Broadway address.

A photograph of the H. H. Upham Building is found in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York. This is dated ca. 1975, and is a photo by Edmund V. Gillon, Jr., who did the photographs in Margot Gayle's Cast-Iron Architecture in New York (1974).


The Alliance Press sign bears the signature J. H. H. Van Hoven. This company was described in The Painters Magazine and Paint & Wallpaper Dealer, Jan. 1914, as follows, "John H. H. Van Hoven, Inc., 42 East Ninth street, New York city; painting and decorating and sign makers. G. M. Rainey started this business at 10 Clinton place, in 1865, when it was taken over, on January 9, by Van Houten and Van Hoven. This firm continued until October of the same year, 1885, when John H. H. Van Hoven took over the business. In April 1913, it became John H. H. Van Hoven, Inc., with John H. H. Van Hoven president and Irving H. Van Hoven secretary and treasurer." The men referred to were John H. H. Van Hoven (ca.1865-1950) and his son, Irving Hoffman Van Hoven (1890-1968?). Irving H. Van Hoven, born Brooklyn, N. Y., 25 August 1890, registered for the World War I draft in 1917 when he lived on West Nelson Ave., Rutherford, New Jersey, and was employed as a sign painter and interior decorator at John H. H. Van Hoven Inc., 42 East 9th St., New York City. The company was located at this address on W. 9th St. from 1901 to 1955.

This advertisement for Van Hoven appeared in the Phrenological Journal and Science of Health, June, 1892. The address in this ad mentions 83 Clinton Place as well as Eighth St. According to Kevin Walsh's Forgotten New York Street Necrology "West 8th Street used to be known as Clinton Place in the 1800s." I found the name Clinton Place on only one map (dated 1857-62) in the New York Public Library's digital collections. The street was called both Clinton Place and Eighth Street on this map. Other maps from around this same time named the street Eighth Street. The company was located at 83 Clinton Place (8th St.) from approximately 1892 to 1897. Number 83 W. 8th St. was located three doors west of 5th Ave. The G. M. Rainey mentioned as the original founder in 1865 was Gouverneur Maurice Rainey (ca.1830-1884). He is listed as a sign painter in New York city directories from 1860 to 1885. Also, there is a G. M. Rainey, a portrait painter, in the 1880 U. S. Census, living in Oneonta, Otsego County, New York. One internet source identifies G. M. Rainey of Oneonta with Gouverneur Rainey and says that he died 24 Dec. 1884...


For many years 110-114 W. 32nd St. was the headquarters of Willoughby Camera Stores, Inc., a retail and wholesale camera business. In 1986 there was a sign on the west wall for Willoughby's (see the next image).

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