Wednesday 15 April 2015

Hamm & Biscuits

A cookbook always offers great ideas and techniques but today’s artefact holds the recipe for Kings County business connections.

The advertisement at right comes from the 20th Century Tiger Tea Cookbook. The book is filled with recipes, remedies, and advertisements for foodstuffs, including this ad for “Philip N. Hamm Biscuits” of Moncton, NB. The name of the manufacturer—and the history of his company—demonstrate the unique family connections that existed between so many of New Brunswick’s prominent merchants at this time in our history.

Philip Nase Hamm was a son of Matthias Hamm, a merchant who worked at the store of Philip Nase in Indiantown (Saint John West). Matthias Hamm was not just Mr. Nase’s clerk – they were brothers-in-law as Philip Nase had married Elizabeth Mary Hamm in March of 1847. Philip Nase’s diary entry for April 1, 1854 records the details:

I took Matthias Hamm, my wife’s youngest brother, in partnership in Business at I. Town, he having been acting Clerk with me since March 8/49.

Matthias worked as Philip Nase’s clerk until the summer of 1854 when an epidemic changed things for both businessmen; from the Nase Diary July 1854:

Cholera set in at St John and vicinity, proved most fatal in Portland, St. John Co. Inhabitants left Portland and Indiantown in hundreds for the surrounding country, we closed store and left for Nerepis where we remained three or four weeks at the end of which time I purchased my Father’s farm at Nerepis, sold stock to Mr. Hamm and Wm. G. H. Nase, brother and brother-in-law, and moved on the farm, 1st Sep /54.

Philip Nase would remain in Nerepis for twelve years while Matthias Hamm ran Nase’s store. Not until 1867 would Nase return to Saint John, buying the store back from Matthias Hamm to run the business with his growing family as P. Nase & Sons.

Matthias Hamm, meanwhile, was growing his own family; his son Philip Nase Hamm was born in November 1862 and, as you can guess, the son was named for Matthias’ brother-in-law and business partner. Along with his names, young Philip Nase Hamm seemed to inherit the business acumen of both the Nase and Hamm merchants. Philip N. Hamm worked with his father for several years and then began his own business, the Philip N. Hamm Moncton Biscuit Works.

The Biscuit Works advertisement is a wonderful moment captured in time: from the crossed Union Jack and Red Ensign flags at its top to the image of the powerful steam engine, Philip N. Hamm was sending a careful message – this was a company prepared for the new demands of a proud, growing community. The list of biscuit offerings alone – a list whose final items states “And 100 other” options – shows that this is a businessman prepared for its customers.

The most telling feature of the advertisement for many New Brunswick consumers, however, would have been captured most clearly in the owner’s name – a union of two merchant histories that were well known and respected throughout the region.

The Diary of Philip Nase (1836-1885) quoted above was recently transcribed and printed by the Kings County Historical Society with the kind permission of the Nase family. It is a wonderful document, capturing over fifty years of business, political, and place history along the Lower Saint John River. From the first steamship trip up the river each year, to Abraham Lincoln's assassination, to intimate details of New Brunswick village life, Nase captured it all!
Copies of the book are available for purchase from the Kings County Museum for $20.

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