The Dissolution of the House of H. Muhr’s Sons
Philadelphia, Pa., Aug. 16. —The dissolution of the firm of H. Muhr’s Sons, which was announced in the last issue of The Circular, makes an end to one of the most conspicuous monuments of business courage and enterprise that has ever been known in Philadelphia. The partnership between the three brothers who comprise the firm was merely verbal, and expired Jan. 1st. The business, however, was continued unchanged until a few weeks ago, when a consultation was held and it was decided to dissolve the partnership and to place the affairs of the firm in liquidation.
Simon Muhr, the oldest of the three brothers, has interests in various financial institutions and in outside investments that will occupy the greater part of his time. Jacob and Philip Muhr, owing to their wide knowledge of the jewelry trade, will, it is thought, continue in that line of business. Neither of them, however, has as yet announced his intention whether to retire or not. Any new embarkation in business on the part of any one of them will, in all probability, be on a scale considerably less cumbersome than that of the previous firm, the great calls that the business made upon the time and thought of the partners being given as one of the reasons for dissolving the firm.
The business owes its foundation to Henry Muhr, the father of the three brothers. He was born in Hurban, Bavaria, in 1813, and at first was destined by his parents to be a Rabbi. He chose a trade, however, and at 16 went to Cologne, there to apprentice himself to a watchmaker. Six years at the bench, and he was a finished jeweler, and started in business for himself. For ten years he kept a shop at Hurban, coming to America in 1853. He opened a shop on Vine St above Front, and later entered into a short partnership with Harry Friedburger at 6th and North Sts. Having bought out Friedburger he moved again to a smaller establishment, on 2d St., between Race and New Sts.
In 1860, the business having prospered, it was taken to a more pretentious home, at 160 N. 2d St. Six years later the property next door was purchased. The house had opened a field for itself by selling to very small dealers throughout the State, and had also sent out a drummer or two, young Simon Muhr being one of them. Growing business made necessary another move in 1869, and the factory, still very small, but busy and promising nevertheless, was installed in a building on Franklin place, between Market and Chestnut Sts. The salesroom was still on 2d St., and remained there until 1878, when it was moved to its present location at 629-631 Chestnut St.
The dignity of a factory and salesrooms in different places seems to have given the business a big impetus, and four years had not elapsed before a larger factory was found necessary. The establishment was placed at 4th and Race Sts., where, in 1876, it was completely destroyed by fire. Tools and machinery were ruined forever, but the factory, in less than a week, was started again in the Tatham building, 5th St. below Walnut. It was while here that an attempt at diamond cutting was made, but the experiment failed, and the firm returned to its old system of having a buyer stationed in the gem markets. New York and Chicago offices were also opened in 1884. In 1885, another move being necessary, Simon Muhr built the Muhr building, at Broad and Race Sts., of which at first only two floors were occupied. In five years the whole building was occupied and has remained so to the present time.
Henry Muhr died in 1892, and the firm was then composed of his three sons. Simon Muhr, the oldest, was born in Hurban in 1845, being brought to this country at the age of eight, and receiving his education in the public schools. At 15 he entered his father’s shop as an apprentice, and was put on the road in 1863, five years later. He was admitted to an interest in the business in 1865. Jacob Muhr was born in Philadelphia in 1855, and after a public school education, entered the factory, in 1873. Three years later he became a member of the firm, and has since then largely influenced the success of the house by his judicious management of the purchase and sales department. In Philip, who was born in 1860, his father saw artistic instincts, and the boy was accordingly educated in Europe. He returned in 1887, and was immediately placed where his training could be used to best advantage—at the head of the immense factory. He became a member of the firm one year later. Joseph Muhr, another son and a member of the firm for several years, died some years before his father.
An estimate given recently placed the annual business of the house at $2,000,000, and the value of the Muhr building, owned by Simon Muhr, at not less than $300,000. The contents of the factory are probably worth $250,000.
Source: The Jewelers' Circular and Horological Review - 22nd August 1894