Old Village Master Painters, Ltd ~ a Division of C. Schrack & Co est 1816
Old Village Master Painters is a division of Christian Schrack & Co - The Oldest Varnish Makers in America - and is owned and operated by Edwin IV (Ed) and E Hutter Stulb V , the 5th and 6th generations of the Stulb family involved in the paints and finishes business. C. Schrack & Co was part of the birth of the painting industry, which began in Philadelphia, and may have been the first to sell specialty paints. Joseph Stulb was apprenticed to Christian Schrack in 1831, became his partner 1848 and took over the company upon Schrack's death in 1854. It has remained in the Stulb family for 6th generations.
Emilie Stulb Magowan - shown here with grandfather Edwin Stulb III - is also a 6th generation Stulb and leads the Old Village Design Studio™. Emilie and her team create unique and beautiful specialty finishes for our clients.
C. Schrack & Co.
(This history is excerpted from The Historical Society of Pennsylvania-Collection 2080, C Schrack & Co. Records.)
Christian Schrack established C. Schrack & Co, The Oldest Varnish Maker in America in Philadelphia, PA in 1816. Mr. Schrack had originally established himself as a carriage maker and gained a reputation not only for his carriages but for the fine quality of his varnishes. His new venture was the first to produce and sell varnishes and finishes, thereby starting an entire industry. The company has been in the Stulb family since 1854 and in continuous operation since 1816.
In 1831, Mr. Schrack apprenticed 8 year old Joseph Stulb. Stulb, upon Christian Schrack's death in 1854, purchased the company and it remains in the Stulb family today.
Christian Schrack was born about 1790 in Philadelphia to Catherine and Abraham Schrack, who were inn keepers on High Street. Christian later married Catharine and they had at least 3 children. His daughter, Sarah, was born in 1811, married David Pearson, and passed away in 1845. Christian and Catharine had at least 1 other son and daughter but their names have, unfortunately, been lost to history. Two descendants: Christian Schrack - who was probably the son of Christian's son - was born in 1840 and was employed by the company in the late 1800's, and; Welling Schrack, whose relationship to the founder is not clear, was born in 1829 and worked for the company for most of the nineteenth century.
Mr. Schrack, by his early twenties, was known in Philadelphia as a premier carriage maker. Carriage makers, at that time, also mixed their own finishes and Schrack soon came to be known not only for his carriages but for the high quality of his finishes. In 1816, he exited the carriage business and started C. Schrack & Co. as a manufacturer of paints and varnishes. The entry in the Philadelphia City Directory for the new venture read "Christian Schrack, coach painter, oil and colour store, 80 North 4th Street." Manufacturing was done at another house at 317 Branch Street with the works powered by a horse on a treadmill.
Schrack, in 1828, donated funds for the construction of St. Matthew's Lutheran Church at 4th and New Streets.
The demand for Schrack's varnishes, paints, lacquer, turpentine, whiting and other products grew along with his customer list which included numerous local and remote coating-consuming companies such as George Wetherill & Bros, the Philadelphia Prison, Delaware shipbuilders, the Baldwin Locomotive Company, the Pennsylvania Iron Works, as well as French carriage makers. and various local churches.
This demand led Mr. Schrack to take on an apprentice.
Joseph Stulb was born in Germany in 1822 and emigrated to the US shortly after. He became apprenticed to Christian Schrack in 1831. In addition to his training as an apprentice, Schrack also sent the young man to night school - and in 1848 made him a junior partner in C. Schrack & Co.
Joseph was married to Mary Ann with whom he had 7 children (Edwin Hutter Stulb, Joseph S., Theodore, Robert, Catherine,Emily, and Mary), 2 of whom would later play key roles in the company.
Mr. Schrack continued to perfect his products throughout the 1830's and 40's and expanded his markets into the Midwest and Northeast US, and into Canada. The uses for the products evolved as customers began to apply varnishes and paints to building interiors and exteriors, and to the new railroad cars.
In 1852 the company renovated the original store which was renumbered from 80 North 4th Street to 152-158 North 4th Street, and upgraded the original horse-powered works on Branch Street with a modern steam engine and color grinding plant. The company also had a "stable" property at Dilwyn Street. In 1860 a new plant was built at 28th and Girard Avenue.
Christian Schrack passed away on February 7, 1854 and left his company in the capable hands of Mr. Stulb, who officially purchased the company which is still in the Stulb family today. Management of the company, at this time, included Samuel K. Felton, Alfred Stulb (brother?), and Welling Schrack.
During the Civil War, the company expanded its product offerings to include window glass, palette knives and goods imported from Europe, but the "national affair" brought on inflation and sales declined. Townsend Willits, who had previously worked at the company, was brought back into the firm as a clerk and then promoted in 1865 when Samuel Felton left to start a new varnish business with Conrad Rau and Edward Sibley. Felton, Rau, Sibley & Co. continued to maintain a business relationship with C. Schrack & Co. into the twentieth century.
At this time, Townsend Willits was a vestry man at, and the Stulbs attended, St. Matthew's Lutheran Church whose construction Christian Schrack had contributed to. Mr. Willits was also treasurer for the Northern Home for Friendless Children, which many orphans of the Civil War called home. (Joesph's oldest son - Edwin Hutter Stulb - was named after Edwin Hutter, the pastor of St. Matthews and co-founder of the Northern Home.)
Joseph Stulb, Welling Schrack, and Townsend Willits led the company through several critical periods in the 1870s and 1880s.
Girard Avenue Fire
C. Schrack & Co. began to expand into Europe and other parts of the US following the end of the Civil War, but was dealt a severe financial loss with the burning of Girard Avenue varnish factory in July 1870. Following the fire, the company opened a new manufacturing plant at 15th and Mickel Streets across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in Camden, NJ. Welling Schrack took over this part of the operation.
Shortly after the Girard Avenue fire and the company's expansion into New Jersey, Joseph's 24 year old son Edwin joined C. Schrack & Co. as the 2nd generation of Stulbs in the varnish and paint business. A 2nd son,Theodore became a sales person for the company in 1875, and a third, Joseph S. joined the company in the 1890s.
On November 23, 1898, Joesph Stulb, head of the firm for over 45 years and apprentice to the founder "died suddenly of heart failure". Following his death, his sons Edwin and Joseph took over management of the firm while Theodore left to pursue other interests. Less than a year later, C. Schrack & Co. would experience its second fire.
Fire at the Camden Plant
A deadly and financially crippling explosion and fire occurred at the company's Camden facility in early August, 1899. One employee, Henry Upjohn, was killed despite attempts by Christian Schrack Jr. to save him from the blaze. The company was not insured and lost 50,000 gallons of varnish and $25,0000. These losses forced the the company to write letters to their customers explaining their "dire financial situation" and asking for payments on all open accounts.
The Stulb brothers survived this catastrophe and at the beginning of the twentieth century the company was becoming as well known for its paint as for its varnish. The company employed about 12 men in sales and manufacturing and built new factories at 15th and Federal Streets in Philadelphia, and at 15th and Carman Streets in Camden. The company's client list included Lit Brothers and John Wanamaker retailers in Philadelphia, and the Winnipeg Piano Company. The birth of the automobile industry opened up new markets for the company's products.
Brothers Edwin. and Joseph, in 1911, decided to "mutually dissolve their partnership" with Edwin purchasing Joseph's shares to become the sole owner of C. Schrack & Co. The older generation of leaders Townsend Willits and Welling Schrack were replaced by John Dexter, JM Nyce, and Joseph Hutton. Edwin also brought his 2 sons into the business.
Edwin Stulb Jr was also renowned as a fisherman...
Edwin H. Stulb passed away on September 2, 1920 and left the company to his wife Ada and his two sons Joseph R. and Edwin Jr. Joseph was a graduate of Germantown Academy, a Freemason, and a member of the Union League and the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
At some point after 1945 the original building at 152 North 4th Street in Philadelphia was demolished and the company was relocated to Fort Washington, PA just north of Philadelphia.
Edwin Stulb III was born in Philadelphia in 1922 and graduated from Germantown Academy, class of 1940. He served in the U.S. Army during WWII, saw action on D-Day, earned a purple heart and was awarded the Légion d’honneur by France. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution in Philadelphia and a member of the Union League in Philadelphia.
Edwin III worked for - and later became president of his family business - for more than 53 years, through most of the 1900s. Mr Stulb passed away in 2015. He is seen here with his son Edwin Stulb IV who carried the family business into its 5th generation.
5th and 6th Generations
The addition of Ed Stulb's (Edwin Hutter Stulb IV) son Hutter (Edwin Hutter Stulb V) brings the 6th generation of the Stulb family into the business. The company now includes Old Village Master Painters, Ltd and The Old Village Design Studio™.
We'll have more on our history soon...