Empire China Works Greenpoint

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There were only two porcelain factories that proved economically viable for a number of years. One was the Union Porcelain works on Eckofrd Street and the other was the Empire China works on Green Street.The Empire China Works produced pitchers, bowls, door knobs, cameos, and busts, and this company exhibited its products at the 1876 Centenniel Exposition in Philadelphia. After 1890 this company was known for the porcelain wiring cleats it produced for electric lighting. “Porcelain wiring cleats were not used in the very early days of house wiring. [Electrical workers] simply strung insulated-covered wires along the walls using wooden knobs and blocks of wood to attach the wires and ran them to the center of the room to drop a light down from the ceiling. …By 1891…insurance companies refused to tolerate wooden wiring devices because of the fire hazard. Porcelain wiring devices had to be used to get insurance. This produced a huge demand for porcelain wiring devices with several manufacturers offering to meet the demand. …The first manufacturers of electrical porcelain were Empire China Works in Greenpoint, NY (Brooklyn – 1889) […and] Union Porcelain Works in Greenpoint, NY (Brooklyn — 1890). Others quickly followed their lead. …The business became quite competitive with many companies going bankrupt, buying out others, and later transforming their manufacturing as times changed.

Empire China display Chicago World’s Fair
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tuesday, June 27, 1893
vol. 53, no. 177, p. 15, col. 1
The Empire China Works

Of all the uses to which porcelain has been put since the days of Palessa, none promises greater usefulness than the devices for handling electricity which are increasing wonderfully with the perpetual developments of that latest and most wonderful servant of the race. For a time all electrical insulators not made of rubber were of glass. But glass is brittle, where porcelain is tough, and porcelain being also a vitreous non conductor, is taking the place of the former in the handling, taming, chaining and leading about of the lightning. Factories have sprung up in various parts of the country to meet this demand, of which few, if any, are larger, or more important than the Empire China Works of J. L. Jensen whose exhibit is group 120, class 770 in the department of electricity. Mr. Jensen is an old and prominent resident of the Seventeenth ward or Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, having been an important figure in the business and political life of the town. Twenty years ago he was a police commissioner, and in 1877 and 1878 he was a member of the board of assessors, and has become widely known. In business Mr. Jensen has built up a factory which occupies the numbers from 144 to 156 Greene street, near Manhattan avenue, Greenpoint, seven lots, covering a space 175 feet by 100. The factory has been in operation since 1867, employed largely on hardware trimmings and table ware, its goods of this sort having achieved an enviable reputation in the trade. Since the tremendous development of electricity in recent years, Mr. Jensen has turned his attention largely to electrical appliances and has developed an extensive business in that line. Of its varied branches of manufacture the Empire China works only exhibits its electrical appliances made of genuine hard porcelain. One of their electrical cutouts is shown in the accompanying cut. Other inventions manufactured by this company and shown in their exhibit here are hard porcelain switch cases, hard porcelain insulators, porcelain mouth pieces for speaking tubes and other contrivances no less interesting than ingenious.

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