F.B. Whittle Hardware, Butler NJ

Once upon an era, every town and village had a hardware store. In many instances, it was also the general store, post office, and community center where men would discuss the matters of the day.

F.B. Whittle Hardware building
Whittle Hardware, shortly after closing in 2001

Frank B. Whittle was born in England in 1860, and (presumably with his family) came to America in 1870. He lived in Sussex, where he had a position with the Lawrence Hardware Company. He met and married Harriet Beemer and had a daughter, Edith, in 1886.

Apparently an upstanding citizen, Whittle was at various times the Borough Clerk, the Registrar, and chief of the fire department.

In 1905, the company incorporated, with S.F. Quince and Frank Whittle, “former employees of the firm”, as the incorporators.

According to a trade magazine’s report, “The company is intending to open a branch Hardware and plumbing establishment at Butler, N.J.”

Frank and his family moved to Butler, where he opened the branch store downstairs from the Butler Opera House. A fire in December 1906 destroyed the Opera House and several nearby structures. He was fortunate that a sturdy three-story brick building had been recently finished at 208 Main Street. This became the new home of The Lawrence Hardware Company, which sold plumbing, hardware and heating supplies. He ran this store until 1915, when he moved to Pompton Lakes to open another branch store.

Still interested in local affairs, he was at some point elected mayor. In 1921, he bought the store and ran it under his own name.

Correspondence with Lamson & Goodnow, a Massachusetts cutlery company.

He remained in Pompton Lakes until 1923 when he sold the business and, the following year, organized (and was president of) the F.B. Whittle Hardware Company. Soon after, he purchased the Butler store. It was operated under his name until the store closed in 2001.

Whittle Hardware as most of us remember it.

Frank B. Whittle died in 1928, but the store stayed in the family. Edith Whittle had married Irvin Shorter in 1905, and their son, Donald, took over the store. It was run by the Shorter family until the late 1990s. The store was sold, but closed permanently in 2001.