At the time of its inception, the S & F Company was largely indistinguishable from other small-scale brick operations in the Raritan valley. But within a few decades it had far outpaced its competitors in the Raritan area. This early success was to a large extent the result of business acumen, dynamic leadership, and practical experience of its two co-founders: James R. Sayre Jr. and Peter Fisher. These two men formed a partnership in 1850, and this partnership endured for 56 years.
Sayre was an entrepreneur active in lime, cement, and other building materials, and it was he who provided the starting capital. Fisher was the owner and captain of a ship and had practical experience in transportation in New York Harbor. Sayre's understanding of the construction business, Fisher's expertise in delivering products to markets, and their common business philosophy of self-sufficiency was instrumental in making S & F Company a powerful force in the clay industry of New Jersey.
These men practiced aggressive land acquisition, and from humble landholdings of 24 acres in 1850 they increased the company's real estate to almost 2,000 acres by the end of their tenure. This enabled them to secure critical access to high- grade clay supplies along the Raritan River and position themselves well in terms of their competitors. By so doing, they were able to meet the construction needs of the burgeoning metropolitan areas.
Sayre and Fisher had a clear grasp of the importance of diversification in their company's transportation capacity. To this end they secured a fleet of sailing vessels, later augmented by tugs pulling barges. During the tenure of Edwin Fisher, the son of Peter Fisher who succeeded his father in 1906 as the General Manager, the company organized the Sayreville Towing Company and acquired a 600-hp 85-foot steel tug to improve the company's shipping capacity.
At the same time, S & F Company was linked to the Raritan River Railroad by a branch that ran throughout the length of the plant. These men exemplified successful, dynamic New Jersey entrepreneurs of the 19th and early 20th centuries who made a strong contribution to the economic development of the state.