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The Merrick Gallery and the Standard Horsenail Corporation

On March 29, 2008

The Merrick Art Gallery – unlike many of the attractions in and around New Brighton, Pennsylvania – keeps winter  hours that make a visit easily accomplished even on a cold Sunday afternoon.  It is also conveniently located near at least two fine pubs with darts.  From the look of the town and the talk of several bartenders, New Brighton is in the midst of difficult times; a fact which makes the presence of The Merrick Art Gallery both surprising and laudable.

The Merrick Art Gallery
1100 Fifth Avenue
New Brighton, Pennsylvania

Endowed in 1880 by Edward Dempster Merrick, the gallery holds a large but not particularly first rate collection gathered by Mr. Merrick on his extensive travels throughout the United States and Europe.  The most interesting facet of the gallery is actually not its artwork but the way in which the artwork is displayed: very much in the European tradition with paintings clustered in multiples all along its long, high walls.  The collection also benefits from the natural lighting available through the ceiling skylights of the second floor, although more could be done with that asset.

What is more than first rate is the gallery’s contribution to arts education in the New Brighton area.  The Merrick Art Gallery offers a wide range of classes for adults and children as young as five.  In addition, the museum has an ongoing program to support local artists and to bring travelling art shows to the Merrick.  During a time when many economically challenged communities have had to cut back or totally eliminate arts funding, The Merrick Art Gallery has stepped up and provided a much needed way for people to have access to the arts.  I highly recommend that when in Brighton you make The Merrick Art Gallery one of your stops.

The Merrick family fortune was built on the manufacture of horseshoe nails.  Charles Merrick brought the Standard Horse Nail Corporation to New Brighton in 1882 and in New Brighton it has remained ever since.

Standard Horse Nail Corporation
1415 Fifth Avenue
New Brighton, Pennsylvania

In 1914 Standard Horse Nail sent the largest shipment of horse nails in history to Bethlehem Steel, a record that number that still stands and, at least as far as Bethlehem Steel goes, will stand in perpetuity.  Adapting to change Standard Horse Nail began manufacturing keys in addition to nails in the early 1900s and continued to do so until the 1960s when it stopped making nails.  Now, in addition to keys, Standard Horse Nail makes pins of all sorts as well as other fasteners.

The current factory stands on the same land and uses some of the same buildings that the original Standard Horse Nail Corporation used in the late 1880s.  Together Standard Horse Nail and The Merrick Art Gallery speak to the difference the commitment of one company and one family can mean to a town like New Brighton.

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