Puttin’ on Your Sunday Best

Jesse L. McEwan, Jr. in the late 1890s.

by Anne Motto, Curator of Collections
February 8, 2022

The Best & Co. top hat and cane photographed with Jesse L. McEwan, Jr.

In 1890, Robert McEwan and his seven sons took over the 100-year-old papermaking industry in Whippany. In the following years, they took control of 3 mills, the Morristown and Erie Railroad, and Hanover Brick Company, running these enterprises well into the 20th century. Their successors would go on to form the famous Whippany Paper Board Co.

Jesse Lelend McEwan, Jr. (top photo, 1893-1956), grandson of Robert, was born soon after his family’s arrival in Whippany. He can be seen in a photograph taken in the 1890s donning a Best & Co. top hat and walking stick on the left. He entered the family business and had two sons Jesse L. McEwan III (top photo left, 1918-2014) and John David (top photo right, 1920-1991), also born in Whippany. In 2007, his elder son Jesse donated several matching outfits he and his brother wore as children, including the suits seen in their 1920s family photograph. He also donated items worn by his father as a young boy, like the top hat and cane, many from NYC’s famed Best & Co., founded in 1879.

Below is a selection from that collection. Don’t miss your last chance to see the brothers’ yellow suits on display in A Storied Past: History That Made Morris County only through Febraury 13th!

These navy uniforms (in miniature) were sewn especially for Jesse L. McEwan III and his brother John David.
This Best & Co. suit for a young boy still has a pristine tag on the waistband (below).

Jesse L. McEwan, Jr. in a similar, if not identical, suit as above.
This velvet suit is the only item of Jesse L. McEwan Jr’s in the collection not from Best & Co.
Howeever, in the 1890s, Simpson, Crawford & Simpson was located on 6th Avenue just blocks from Best & Co.
This photograph of a slightly older Jesse L. McEwan Jr. was taken at a Morristown studio and features the same cane as when he was younger.
Best & Co. jacket with insanely soft fur trim and mother of pearl buttons.