JACOB RETTBERG was born in 1841. He came to Camden after the Civil War. The 1869 City Directory shows that he was building, selling, and repairing wagons as 11 and 15 Market Street. He soon had concentrated his business, which he named the West Jersey Wagon Works, at 15-17 Market Street. By 1880 he and wife Margaret had moved to 102 Linden Street. Around this time he hired a young man from Philadelphia, Rudolph Preisendanz, who moved to Camden by the middle of 1880. He also may have been involved in assisting John Dugan, who also lived at 102 Linden Street in 1880, in opening up a boarding stable and livery on Front Street south of Linden Street.

During the 1880s Jacob Rettberg's business continued to prosper. He moved to Collingswood NJ in 1890. Late in 1891 he acquired a building on the northwest corner of Delaware and Market Street. At this property he concentrated on the sale of wagons that he manufactured and repaired at 15-17 Market Street. To put it in the context of the 20th century, Jacob Rettberg opened up what we would call a new car dealership. 

Jacob Rettberg maintained both facilities through at least 1893. By 1897 he had sold the West Jersey Wagon Works to his protege, Rudolph Preisendanz, and concentrated on his sales operation. By 1906 Jacob Rettberg had retired, and had moved back to Camden, residing in a home at 1114 Mechanic Street.

Jacob Rettberg died in 1907, and was buried at Harleigh Cemetery. His wife Margaret Rettberg passed away on January 26, 1913.

Although Rudolph Preisendanz would pass away in 1908, his sons carried on the business, transitioning from the construction and repair of wagons to the construction, repair, sales, and installation of commercial truck bodies.  The business the Jacob Rettberg founded in the 1860s lasted into the late 1930s. 

Jacob Rettberg was a member of Mozart Lodge No. 121, Free and Accepted Masons. He was elected to a one-year term as the lodge's master in 1888.

Historical and Industrial Review of Camden, N.J. - 1890


THERE is no one in Camden whose name is better known in connection with the manufacture of wagons than is Mr. Jacob Rettberg. Establishing in 1864, for over a quarter of a century he has been identified with a high class of work in this important line, and has won for himself a reputation of which he has every reason to feel justly proud.

He occupies a salesroom 28x100 feet in dimensions, at the N. W. corner of Delaware avenue and Market street, where are displayed at all times the best products of modern skill in wagon building, in its every branch, except extremely light work, which is not handled at all.

Within a stone's throw of the salesroom and office, directly up Market street, at Nos. 15-17, are the spacious workrooms, 100x35 feet in dimensions, where all the goods handled are manufactured, ten competent and skilled workmen being constantly employed.

Personally, Mr. Rettberg is an extremely popular gentleman, both in social and in business circles. He is still in the prime of life, and has apparently many years of useful citizenship before him.


Jacob Rettberg's Carraige Showroom

Photo dates after 1900. Jacob Rettberg later also sold his carriage showrooms (he called them "ware rooms") to Rudolph Preisendanz. Wagon below belonged to Samuel Smith, who had an ice business at 220 Cooper Street