Brill Electric Company

Merchant
1910-1924

144 E. Main Street
Spartanburg, SC 29306

FAMILIES: Brill

Harry Harris Brill (1885-1947) was born in South Carolina to German immigrants Rachel Levin (1854-1912) and Wolfe Brill (1849-1898), who arrived in the United States sometime before 1880 and settled in Georgia and later Colleton County. By 1910, he had opened Brill Electric Company at 161 E. Main Street, although it moved to 144 E. Main Street by 1916. He initially lodged at Mary E. Russell’s Magnolia Street boarding house, where approximately twenty other people of varying ages, trades, and backgrounds resided. He married Rhea Heyman (1894-1935) in the mid-1910s and had two children, Pauline Brill and Harry Harris Brill, Jr. Their nephew, Erwin Hertz, also resided with the Brills as a child. Brill closed his business about 1924 and moved to Miami, Florida for ten years. Ten years later the Brills moved to Columbia to live with their son. 

Main image: This 1920s photograph of the Brill Electric Company also features a shoe store owned by the Hecklins. The Brill Electric Company building’s pilasters between each window tell of the company’s diverse wares and offers such as fixtures, wirings, fans, and motors. Image courtesy of the Herald-Journal Willis Collection, Spartanburg County Public Library 

Brill Electric Company, photographed here in the 1910s, was a successful early twentieth-century purveyor of electric goods. The storefront signage’s font emulates the appearance of light bulbs to form each letter. This new electric technology, juxtaposed against a mix of horse-drawn buggies and railcars, illustrates Spartanburg’s growth, progress, and evolution during a time of innovation of which Jewish merchants like the Brill family took advantage. Image courtesy of the Herald-Journal Willis Collection, Spartanburg County Public Library

Advertisement from the Spartanburg Herald-Journal, August 20, 1919.

The Jewish Merchant Project is supported by the generosity of the Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Foundation and the Stanley B. Farbstein Endowment at the Coastal Community Foundation. Longtime members of the JHSSC, Mr. Arnold obm, a merchant himself, and Mr. Farbstein obm were both children of South Carolina Jewish merchants.

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Sylvia Vlosky Yaschik Jewish Studies Center
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