The first sugar refinery in New York City was opened on Liberty Street in 1730 by Nicholas Bayard. Most
raw sugar was imported to the colonies from overseas and the city was soon a center of sugar refining
largely because of the port and the high local demand for sugar. The industry attracted such prominent
families as the Livingstons, the Bayards, the Cuylers, the Roosevelts, the Stewarts, and the Van Cortlandts.
In 1857 William Havemeyer and Fredrick C. Havemeyer formed Havemeyer, Townsend and Company on
South 3rd Street in Williamsburg, where undeveloped land, a deep-water harbor, and abundant cheap labor
soon attracted other refineries. After the sugar industry in the Gulf states was destroyed during the Civil
War, sugar refining became concentrated in the city where the port had become the largest in the country,
the transportation system was extensive and banks were numerous. Sugar refining was the city's most
profitable manufacturing industry from 1870 until the First World War; 59 percent of the country's imported
raw sugar was processed there in 1872 and 68 percent by 1887.
Because of Intense competition refineries in the city tried to fix prices in 1882. Their failure to do so led
Henry o. Havemeyer in 1887 to form the Sugar Refineries Company (known as the Sugar Trust) to control
the price of sugar and the labor pool. The trust consolidated most of the major refineries in Brooklyn. After
being ruled illegal in 1891 by the state supreme court the trust was reorganized by Havemeyer, who
incorporated the American Sugar Refining Company in New Jersey and retained headquarters in the City
on Wall Street. In 1900 Havemeyer eliminated the little remaining competition in the region by
consolidating the surviving refineries in the city into the National Sugar Refining Company of New Jersey.
The American Sugar Company engaged in a protracted legal battle with the federal government over its
control of the trust during which its share of the cane market fell from 53 to 32 percent.
The struggle ended with a settlement in 1922 that allowed the firm to remain intact but forced it to refrain
from unfair business practices, and as competition revived, the firm ceased to dominate the industry. After
the Depression, the sugar refining industry declined in the city as alternatives to sugar and modern
technology were introduced.