I walk by this building/sign every day that I don't ride my bike to work.
I've always liked it because a) it has a great look, and b) it's my last name. After months of seeing this, on an odd whim I set out to research the company. I was secretly hoping to find out that they've long ago folded, and I can one day use the name for a product-based company. I don't know why. I just liked the name, and I was trying to figure out what I could do with it.
In any case, I came across this wonderfully thought out company history section of the still-current Thomas Scientific's website. Founded in Philadelphia in the early 20th century, here's the beginning of the company taken striaght from thomassci.com. Maybe it has to do with my strange obsession with the name, but just look at the picture they paint...
The year is 1900. The world is a different place than the one we know today. William McKinley is the 25th President of the United States. The main forms of transportation are the railroad and the horse. Trips from California to Europe take more than a week. Coal and coal oil are the primary sources of fuel and light. News and communications are received via telegraph and newspapers, and the fountain pen and ball point pen are still to come. The telephone, phonograph, automobile and electric lights are recent inventions. There are no televisions, highways, airplanes, radios, antibiotics, plastics, electronic calculators or computers. The first modern Olympics have just been held in Athens and the only modern professional sports teams were playing baseball in the National League. The newly formed Dow Jones stock average is at 70 and contemporary figures of the day include Enrico Caruso, Leo Tolstoy, Sigmund Freud, H.G. Wells, Pierre Renoir, Queen Victoria, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Marie Curie and Albert Einstein. There are only 83 elements in the Periodic table and most laboratory products are produced in Europe. The source in the U.S. for some of these products is the newly formed Arthur H. Thomas Company.
In 1892, Arthur H. Thomas joined the microscope department of the the James W. Queen Company, a leading supplier of optical and scientific equipment in the 1800's, It is there that he met Mr. J. Edward Patterson, who had joined the company in 1890. After the death of Mr. Queen, the business began to decline, causing many employees to leave for other businesses or to start their own. Some of these businesses were - Williams, Brown & Earle; Leeds & Northrup; Precision Thermometer & Instrument Co.; Philadelphia Thermometer Company; Eberbach & Sons; and Denver Fire Clay Company. In 1899, Mr. Thomas left to start his own company and Mr. Patterson joined Charles Lentz & Sons, who were agents for the Bausch & Lomb Optical Company.
Mr. Patterson would often visit Mr. Thomas and cooperation between the companies continued. This eventually led to a landmark meeting on December 7, 1900 at the Hotel Walton in Philadelphia. In attendance were Mr. Thomas, Mr. Patterson, William and Charles Lentz, along with William Drescher and Henry Bausch of the Bausch & Lomb Company. A new company and partnership was organized and incorporated as the Arthur H. Thomas Company. William Howell, who had also been at the Queen Company, joined the group as head bookkeeper and the company opened its place of business in the Freeman building at 12th & Walnut Streets in Philadelphia. The first customer was Frank J. Keeley.