Warren Brothers Advertising Booklet

The Warren Brothers Company was established in 1900 by the seven sons of Herbert M. Warren of Newton, Massachusetts. Herbert M. Warren and his five brothers were associated with the asphalt industry as far back as 1847. Indeed, the early generation of Warrens was responsible for pioneering the original application of coal tar and asphalt to many of its common uses, such as roofing, paving, and waterproofing. The younger Warrens, as such, were inevitably reared in the environment closely associated with the paving and asphalt industries. Fred J., Henry, and Herbert Warren were all at one time connected to the Barber Asphalt Paving Company, which their uncle E. B. Warren helped to establish. Similarly, George C., Walter B., and Ralph L. Warren were all connected to the Warren-Scharf Asphalt Paving Company, which was founded by the elder Cyrus, Herbert M., John, and Samuel Warren and was considered the second largest sheet asphalt firm in the United States by 1899.  The seventh brother, Albert Warren, did not directly work in the paving industry, but maintained contact with it throughout his early career (Stone, 1930).

The emergence of the Warren Brothers Company was primarily the result of Fred J. Warren’s invention of an improved variety of pavement. This new bitulithic pavement was unique in that it entailed the use of various gradings and sizes – from dust to over one inch – of crushed stones. When combined, Fred J. Warren found that these stone particles interlocked to produce a more durable and stable paving surface than that created by the standard smooth-surface pavement in use at the time. In combination with the invention of bitulithic pavement, the Warren Brothers also pioneered the design and production of the machinery necessary to most effectively and efficiently install this pavement. These inventions, while significant in and of themselves, were particularly important at the time on account of the growing popularity of the automobile and the consequences of automobile traffic for the condition of city streets (Stone, 1930).

With the formation of the company in 1900, the Warren Brothers immediately established executive offices in Boston and a factory for the manufacturing of pavement on Potter Street in Cambridge. During the first year of operation, the company installed several test areas of the pavement, one of which occurred on Temple Street in Cambridge. By 1901, there were approximately 16,000 yards of bitulithic pavement installed in the country. As traffic conditions evolved during this period, the firm continued to research new ways to improve road durability. By 1910, the Warren Brothers designed an improved type of bitulithic pavement called Warrenite-Bitulithic. This new pavement entailed the use of blended pavement layers that provided underlying stability and structure, as well as a water resistant surface. Warrenite-Bitulithic was a significant success for the company and resulted in several substantial paving contracts across the world. Throughout the early twentieth century, the company continued to expand its business interests, acquiring several subsidiaries, forming several branch plants, and establishing both national and international offices. By 1930, the company was worth nearly ten million dollars, employed thousands of workers, and had installed over one hundred million square yards of bitulithic pavement in thousands of national and international cities (Stone, 1930).

Despite early the inventive and business achievements of the Warren Brothers Company, the firm began to falter by the end of the 1930s. In 1937, after a series of financial missteps, the company was officially granted permission to re-organize under the United States bankruptcy act (Daily Boston Globe, 1947). By 1941, the company had returned to state of solvency and resumed its business expansion over the next two decades (Value, 1966; Daily Boston Globe, 1941). In 1966, the firm was acquired by and eventually merged into the Kentucky-based Ashland Oil & Refining Company (Daily Boston Globe, July 1966). The Warren Brothers’ Cambridge factory was redeveloped under the Kendall Square urban renewal project (Daily Boston Globe, February 1966).

From Cambridge Historical Society website.