S.S. Adams Novelty Company – Neptune NJ History
S.S. Adams Novelty Company – Neptune, NJ
The large soon to be gone white brick factory that overlooks Memorial Drive in Neptune is famously known for being home to the S. S. Adams Novelty company, which manufactured jokes and pranks, for over 100 years. A quick Internet search and look into one of Weird NJ’s magazines yields the history of S.S. Adams so I’m not going to rehash it here but I am going to provide a more in-depth history of the building.
The factory was originally built around 1893, on land donated by James A. Bradley, for the Symphonion Music Box company, a German-based business, in the late 1800s. After the decline of the music box industry, the factory briefly housed the Mackintosh Toffee Company and the Thomas E. Smith Paper Box Company in the early 1900s.
The Federal Waterproofing Concern, better known as the Brunsene Factory, occupied the building from 1909 to 1917.
A Mysterious Death
In September of 1912, a 17-year old boy who worked at the Bradley Beach Train Station, which is situated right across the street from the factory to this day, was found hanging from a tree in the back of the factory. Despite the coroner’s ruling of suicide, his family believed that he was murdered and pressed for a deeper investigation. Nothing further was reported in the news outlets.
The Brunsene Factory moved out in 1917 to relocate to Massachusetts and the building remained unoccupied until 1919, when the Steiner and Son’s Universal Pajama Factory bought the building to serve as a box factory.
S.S. Adams Moves In
I’m not sure how long Steiner and Son occupied this factory but in 1932, it was bought by the S.S. Adams Company, a novelty manufacturer of pranks such as sneezing powder, fake mustaches, disappearing ink, etc. The S.S. Adams company operated in the Neptune plant for over 100 years, originally led by Sam Adams, followed by his son, followed by his grandson.
In about 2004, the grandson sold half of the company to an outsider in hopes to refresh the company. He then went on to start his own business, Monmouth Piano, in another part of the building. I’m not sure how long either the S.S. Adams company or Monmouth Piano stayed in business. An article in Weird NJ Magazine reported the S.S. Adams Company still in business as of 2012.
I’ve always known about this building but never really expressed much interest in it. One afternoon in 2017 I decided that I wanted to take some pictures of myself riding my skateboard in front of it. My cousin had some knowledge of the building so we went together. As soon as we got out of the car and got up close to it, I was in love.
The first thing I saw was a sign that said “Shaftway,” indicating the elevator shaft and it instantly reminded me of being able to the see the elevator shaft when they tore down the original Steiner and Son Pajama Factory in 1999.
I was dying to go inside but I just can’t bring it upon myself to risk trespassing. A couple months later, I found an article announcing the demolition of the building for apartments. The owners wanted to save the original structure but there was too much weathering and other damage. Naturally, I stalked the building every day until I stumbled across the opportunity for an inside look.
Inside, there was play money and other remnants of the S.S. Adams Factory and Monmouth Piano scattered about the first floor, among gears and other factory equipment. Being inside this building was literally a once in a lifetime shot and a dream come true for me, especially because it was once part of the Steiner and Son company! Even if it was just boxes at this location. There was even some pianos still in the building. My favorite part was looking up the elevator shaft. Have a look at my exclusive image gallery: