The Margerison textile family came to Philadelphia from England and continued in related businesses. Two brothers, W. H. (William)and A. E. (Ernest) Margerison began producing toweling in the late 19th century. Another brother, Joseph H. obtained patents in 1903 and 1904 for terry towels and a loom for producing towels (8) The company exhibited at the Philadelphia Sequi-Centennial Exhibition held in 1901. A working loom at the exhibition produced looped terry towels also know as turkish towels. The towel was finished with a chenille border. (1) According to Davison’s Textile Blue Book, the company was known as Columbia Towel Mills, Philadelphia. The possible use of the name Rajah Manufacturing Company was also attempted in 1909 but the name was abandoned (4, 7)
Henry Margerison, patriarch of the Margerison family-portrait hung in the Columbia Towel Mill office. Born 1837, Died 1916
The Martex trade name was first used September 30, 1914. It was registered March 16, 1915. A national advertising campaign lifted the company from that of a regional name to a national presence. That was quite an innovation in the towel business according to Printer’s Ink, a publication devoted to the spread of advertising. (6)
National ads as early as 1916 in Good Housekeeping featured projects one could make using a Martex towel. A “Combing Jacket” is shown. The young lady protects her clothing while combing her long hair. (3)
The company acquired additional production in 1922 with the purchase of John & James Dobson, Inc. of Philadephia in 1922. 2 W. H. Margerison assumed the position of first vice president and general manager while brother A. E. assumed the position of assistant general manager.
National and local newspapers and magazines carried ads for these products. On November 21, 1920, the New York Times ran an ad from Lord and Taylor advertising Martex brand Turkish Towels for $1.00 and $1.25. An ad in New York Times, January 11 1925: Berman’s Linen Specialty Shop at 10 E. 47th St. had “Martex shampoo towels for $4.50 a dozen; large and extra size, $7.50-$16.00” and “Martex face cloths, $1.00 per dozen.” Berman’s claimed that their prices for household linens were 1/3 lower than the lowest city prices. John Wanamaker’s ad in the New York Times on Jan. 3, 1927 advertised irregular Martex bath mats at a reduced price. Berman’s advertised Martex on April 24, 1927. This was the last ad in New York Times Database until 1930. Possibly after the company was sold to West Point, the connection to Berman’s was broken. Hearn’s 14th St. at Fifth Ave. advertized Martex towels for $1.24 and face cloths for 19cents on Oct 12, 1930. A beautiful ad from 1923 with a flowing “Martex” trademark is available for purchase on-line. (7)
The business was sold to West Point Manufacturing in 1928. At about this time, A. Ernest Margerison invested in the expansion of Mojud Hosiery when a new location was sited in Greensboro, NC. At the time of his death in 1954, he was a director of the company. (5)
Martex products are available today (2011) from WestPoint Home.
Clinton County Times, Lock Haven, PA 1925
A. Ernest Margerison 1879-1954
Philadelphia Bulletin (5)
A sincere thanks to George Voehringer for suggesting this page. (7) Special thanks to Kenneth Margerison, Jr. and Kathleen Hendrickson ( a member of the family) for supplying photographs and historical data of the family.
- Austin, E.L. and O. Hauser, Sesqui-Centennial International Exhibition Guide Book, Philadelphia. Found on Google January 16, 2011.
- Printer’s Ink 1922 Vol. 118, p94.
- Good Housekeeping 1916 Vol 64 p 104.
- Davison’s Textile Blue Book, 1913.
- Death notice, A. Ernest Margerison, Philadelphia Bulletin 1954.
- Printer’s Ink, Vol. 113, Oct. 21, 1920 p134.
- Personal correspondence, George Voehringer, Kenneth Margerison, Jr., and Kathleen Hendrickson, 2011
- USPatent 745,112 issued to Joseph H. Margerison, 1903 for “Terry Fabric” and USPatent 770,689 in 1904 for “Loom for Weaving Terry Fabric.”