Conover’s Cash Store News collection now open to readers

This iconic 1878 Second Empire-style structure located at 87 E. Main St in Chester, NJ, was originally built as a pharmacy for Dr. Smith English Hedges. Following his death in 1892, it passed to Alonzo Green who took over operation of the drugstore and leased the empty space to longtime business associate George E. Conover (1826-1875). Mr. Conover established the Conover Press here in 1898, and he would later operate a painting and wallpaper business from the same building, and ultimately a general store. For many years, George lived in the apartment above the business with his wife, Harriet “Hattie” Chapman Conover, and their son Herbert T. Conover.

Conover’s Cash Store, located on 87 E Main St in Chester, NJ, as it appeared around 1919. Green’s Pharmacy and the Chester Post Office operated out of the same building.

In addition to operating the printing press, George partnered with Alonzo P. Green to organize the Chester Local Telephone Company, which connected two lines from the drug store to the train station at Muskrat. From 1901 to 1905 Green and Conover built this system out to the neighboring towns of Parker, German Valley, Middle Valley, Crestmoor, Vernoy, and Califon, before selling the business to Lebanon Telephone Company in 1910.

Members of the Chester Cornet Band, ca.1916.

In Mr. Conover’s spare time, he played in the Chester Cornet Band, which appeared in parades at Chester, Newark, and Newton from 1915-1918. He also served on several civic boards, including Washington Camp No.8 and on the Chester Carnival Committee. George E. Conover died on October 8, 1942 at age 78, and was buried at Chester Congregational Cemetery; his wife Hattie Chapman Conover died in 1946. Both the general store and drug store closed after George Conover and Lon Green’s deaths in the 1940s; however, Hattie and George’s son Herbert took over operation of the Conover Press, which he ran until 1970.

The premier issue of Conover’s Cash Store News, including a letter from the front lines of World War I France, December 1918.

Mr. Conover began publishing Conover’s Cash Store News in 1918 to promote his new general store, Conover’s Cash Store. During an era when many residents bought groceries on credit, the monthly news sheet heavily promoted “cash and carry” as a means of spending more of one’s money on products and less on interest payments. The News also featured  columns dedicated to local news, household hints, trivia and jokes, and a healthy amount of advertising for his grocery and printing businesses. One long-running series was Herbert T. Conover’s, “The Story of Chester” that recounted the town’s history from European settlement through the early 20th century, and it ran from the January 1920 through the July-August 1921 editions.

February 1920 edition of Conover’s Cash Store News, that asked if shoppers were satisfied paying higher prices at businesses that profited selling on credit.

While it only ran for a few years, the news sheet offers insight into one successful early 20th c. Morris County business. The finding aid to Conover’s Cash Store News is available here, and researchers interested in viewing the collection may contact the History Center to request an appointment.