Stuart Dean - Beginnings
The history of the Stuart Dean Company begins with one man, Edward (Ed) J. Degan. Born October 16, 1893 at 45 Catherine Street in New York’s Soho neighborhood, Ed was the youngest child and only son of Irish immigrants Edward and Margaret Mary (nee Stewart) Degan.
In 1904, at the age of eleven, Ed left school in order to work and help support the family. In 1917, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy and served through the end of World War I. Shortly after returning from the service, Ed met and soon married Anna Green, with whom he would have seven children.
Ed Degan was a born entrepreneur, and like many of his kind during those difficult times, he got his education the hard way. He launched (and closed) half a dozen different businesses over a ten-year period. The business concepts ranged from miniature golf courses to radiator covers to concentrated orange juice.
In 1932, Ed met with a representative of the Dupont Corporation at the site of the construction of the Empire State Building. Dupont had recently developed the first clear synthetic lacquer coating. Shortly after this meeting, Ed and his financial partner, Calvin Perry, formed the idea of creating a new company. This firm would specialize in the field of applying the new Dupont product on architectural metals (specifically brass) to prevent corrosion. They decided to name the company “Stuart Dean” after their mother’s maiden names (Ed switching to the more “American” spelling —Stuart, and away from the original Irish spelling—Stewart). Shortly after the founding of the company, Ed bought the balance of the business from Calvin Perry, becoming sole owner.
1932 was not a good year for business. One in four Americans was out of work. Ed worked relentlessly for most of the next seven years to stay afloat as the Great Depression dragged on. Day in and day out, he pounded the pavement of New York City, preaching the virtues of Dupont synthetic coating to commercial office managers and chief engineers alike. The close relationship between the two companies can be seen in Stuart Dean’s original logo, which bears a striking resemblance to that of a certain chemical company in Delaware.
In 1937, during the Depression’s lowest point, Stuart Dean narrowly avoided bankruptcy. However, In 1939, business took a dramatic turn for the better from a most unexpected customer, the Soviet Union. The USSR constructed an enormous steel statue of the “New Soviet Man” for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. Cleaning and coating that statue was an enormously successful project. Stuart Dean was finally on firm financial ground.
As the company moved into the 1940s, the next generation of Degans moved into the business. First, eldest son Edward III and son Gerard, then sons Eugene, John (Jack), and George. In March of 1954, at 60, Ed suffered a massive stroke and died. Eugene Degan, his eldest surviving son (Edward III was killed in combat during WWII) succeeded him as CEO. Jack Degan would succeed Gene in 1980.
In 2012, Stuart Dean is proudly celebrating its 80th Anniversary. Over 20 of Ed Degan’s descendants presently work for Stuart Dean, though they are vastly outnumbered by the rest of the Stuart Dean “family,” with over 450 supervisors, salespeople, and managers that make up the bulk of the company. All are committed to ensuring the continuance of Generations of Excellence.