J.N. Bonesteel, Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee’s Low Price Leader!

J.N. Bonesteel
Milwaukee, WI

(Compiled by Jon Steiner) (1848-49 Milwaukee City Directory Ad)

J.N. Bonesteel Milwaukees low price leader

The Bonesteel’s first came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1842 from Oswego, New York where Jacob Nicholas Bonesteel (Born 1784 Dutchess, NY, Died 1844 Milwaukee, WI) had a dry goods business. Jacob Nicholas and his family: Getrude his wife (Born 1801, Died 1848 Milwaukee, WI), his sons John Nicholas (Born 1821) and Henery E. (Born 1830, Died 1897), packed up what wares they had and made the trip to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The other two children (William Jacob 1817-? And Margaret Barbara 1819-1904) appear to have stayed in New York.

From the start it appears that John Nicholas started up the dry goods business with an idea of having the lowest prices calling the store Bonesteel’s cheap cash store where there motto was Never To Be Undersold! The store was located at 187 East Water Street.

After his parents death it looks like he never lost a step and continued to grow and operate his business. His business was known as J.N. Bonesteel and Company. I am not sure as to who his partner or partners were, but through the years he did incorporate his brother children in the business. Henry E. Bonesteel (Brother) and Jacob P. Bonesteel were clerks (Later Jacob became a book keeper) in the store as well as Charles H. Bonesteel was a cashier. Business appears to have prospered.

There are only two pieces of stoneware known marked to be from this firm and I am unaware of any other artifacts from this firm. These pieces of stoneware are early possibly early to middle 1840’s and in my opinion definitely from the territorial era.

Bonesteel stoneware
Bonesteel stoneware
( Stamp Reads: 2 J.N Bonesteel Dry Goods & Groceries E. Water St., Milwauke )
Bonesteel stoneware
( 4 gallon size I assume same stamp as shown above)
(Image from www.mrbottles.com)

By 1857 the business name changed to J.N. Bonesteel and Brother (Henry). In 1857-58 the directory shows that John was listed as a lawyer and also a trustee of the 1st. Presbyterian Church (Corner Mason and Milwaukee Streets). Possible declining sales or retirement may be the reason for the city directories in 1860-61 showing John only having an office space at 1 Spring Street possibly a law office.

By 1862 no Bonesteel’s are listed in the Milwaukee city directories. This may be due to the possibility of John moving to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin.

At some point prior to 1914 it appears that that John moved back to New York where he died in Rochester, September 7, 1914.

If anyone has any other information about this firm please contact me!

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