Baer Bros / Moss
Baer Bros. / Moss Photo Eng Co., 438 W. 37th St. (2003)

The Baer Brothers manufactured paints and bronze powders here on West 37th St. They started out downtown on Cortlandt St. (1892-1905), spent ten years on West Houston St. (1905-1914), then moved to 438-448 W. 37th St. in 1915. Here they stayed for forty years (1915 to 1954). They had factories in Stamford, Connecticut, which probably did most of the manufacturing after 1918/19, although some work likely continued to be done here in New York.

The brothers were Abraham Baer (1872-1959) and Maximilian Baer (1869-1966). They were natives of Oettingen in Bavaria, Germany, and immigrated to the U. S. in 1889 (Max) and 1891 (Abraham). This letterhead for Baer Bros. was at the top of a letter attached to a passport application made by Max Baer in 1922. Renderings of the company's bronze factory and paint factory are found on the back of this letter.

This advertisement for Baer Bros. appeared in Polk's New York City Directory, 1916.

The company slogan was The Paint With The Two Bears 'It Wears' (click for image from 1923).


This ad for Moss Photo-Engraving Co. ran in the Manhattan telephone directory, Oct. 1911. The address on Lafayette St. is the Puck Building, built in 1885-6. Many early listings refer to the Puck Building as located at "Elm corner East Houston." Elm was re-named (and widened) when Lafayette St. was extended south in the early 1900s.

An earlier Moss ad appeared in Trow's New York City Directory, 1890, when the company was located further downtown on Pearl St.

An article in the New York Times, 1 Jan. 1886, p. 5, begins with the rather incredible statement, "No development in the realm of art equals in importance and value the discovery of the process of photographic engraving made by Mr. John C. Moss, President and Superintendent of the Moss Engraving Company." This important discovery was a process "by which a perfect facsimile of any drawing, on steel, wood, or lithographic engraving, old or new, can be reproduced in a very short time and at a comparatively small cost, doing the work with the exquisite finish only possible by means of photography." Moss's engraving company is described in the following terms, "The Moss Engraving Company, using this process exclusively, was formed early in 1880, with Mr. John C. Moss as President and Superintendent; R. B. Moss, Assistant Superintendent; Mrs. M. A. Moss, Treasurer; James E. Ramsey, Secretary, and H. A. Jackson, Assistant Secretary, and from the start has met with remarkable success, so that to-day it is the largest establishment in the world of the kind, employing about 200 persons, who by means of the Moss process do the work of 2,000 engravers, and has produced millions of engravings of every variety and for every conceivable purpose."

The Wikipedia article on John Calvin Moss (1836-1892) begins, "John Calvin Moss (1836-April 8, 1892) invented the first practicable photo-engraving process in 1863. It led to a revolution in printing and eventually to the mass marketing of newspapers and magazines and books which combined photographs and traditional text." Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography (1887-1889) gives the following biography: "Moss, John Calvin, inventor, born near Bentleysville, Pennsylvania, 5 January, 1838. He received a common-school education in his native county, and became a printer, publishing during 1859-'60 'The Col-leaguer' in Washington, Pennsylvania. Meanwhile he became interested in photographic chemistry, and devoted considerable attention to the subject of photo-engraving. He experimented for many years, and finally, while in Philadelphia, obtained a relief plate from which printed impressions could be made. In 1863 he came to New York and continued his experiments in perfecting the process. Having interested various persons in the enterprise, he founded the Actinic engraving company in 1870, and became its superintendent, in 1872 he became the superintendent of the Photoengraving company, which office he held until 1880, when he established the Moss engraving company, of which he became president and superintendent. The present corporation owns the largest plant of its kind in the world, and its work is a substitute for wood-engraving, accomplished by chemical means. Mr. Moss was the first to make photo-engraving a practical business success, and while his methods have never been patented, he is known as the inventor of what is called the 'Moss process,' 'Moss new process,' and the "moss-type process.'"

The National Cyclopedia of American Biography (1901) gives a somewhat fuller biography, which seems to have been modeled on the Appleton's. This is a Google digital book available at

An obituary of Moss from Publishers' Weekly, April, 1892, can be found at

Benson John Lossing, in his History of New York City (1884) includes an extensive portrayal of Moss, including much about his struggles in the early years and the assistance and sacrifice of his wife (Mary A. Moss). This is a Google digital book available at

The Moss Engraving Company received a full page of coverage in Moses King's Handbook of New York City (1893). President of the company at the time of writing was Robert B. Moss, son of John C. Moss. The Moses King article includes, "The business of the company has outgrown its original limits. It now includes electrotyping and art-printing, as well as photo-engraving, and the department of printing is of fully as great importance as is that of photo-engraving. A fully equipped printing-office is a portion of the establishment. Fine art work of all descriptions included in these branches, and particularly such as is required for commercial purposes, forms the bulk of the company's output. A specialty is made of etchings on copper, which are backed up with metal, so that the original plate may be used on the printing-press, together with electrotypes of the reading matter. Another specialty is the preparing of catalogues for manufacturers and merchants, and this has come to be an important branch of the company's business."

King's Handbook includes a photograph of the company's location: 535 Pearl St. at the corner of Elm St. This was their original location. They moved to the Puck Building in 1893 and stayed there until 1914/15. By 1915 they had moved into 438 W. 37th St., where they stayed until the early 1930s. The company's last location in New York City was 460 W. 34th St. (1933-1941).

Robert B. Moss was head of Moss Engraving at the time of his father's death (1892) but apparently only briefly. His last entry in the New York city directory for 1893 indicates that he then lived in South Dakota (in Moss City?). Management at Moss Engraving now came under the control of the father-daughter team of Robert Hornby (1849-1915) and Anna J. Hornby (1876-1944) and the husband-wife team of George Steven Lowes (1869-1943) and Emily Lowes (1876-1954).

Robert Hornby (born in Scotland, Jan. 1849) was an electrotyper with his own business in New York from the early 1880s. The following appeared in Illustrated New York: The Metropolis of To-Day (published 1888): "Messrs. Robert Hornby & Co., the well-known Electrotypes, established their business here in 1881 ... Their workshop comprises a general electrotype foundry ... and employment is given to seventeen skilled and expert hands."

By the time of the Printing Trades Blue Book (1918) the Lowes were president and vice-president at: "Hornby, Robert, Inc. (est. 1886), 438 W. 37th; tel. Greeley 6267. Geo. L. [sic] Lowes, pres.; E. Lowes, v.-p.; Edward Ehrmann, sec.; H. A. Hornby, treas. Electrotypers." In the same directory: "Moss Photo Engraving Co., The (est. 1871), 438 W. 37th; tel Greeley 6267. Geo. S. Lowes, pres.; E. Lowes, v.-p.; Edw. Ehrmann, sec.; H. A. Hornby, treas. Manufacturing photo-engravers."

< previous || next  >      index      map      signs by date      signs by name      see what's new