The Catasauqua Manufacturing Company

also known as

The Union Foundry and Machine Company

The Northern Iron Company

Catasauqua Rolling Mill of Philadelphia

 

 

Click here to view a schematic diagram, 1878, of the mill layout.

 

The Catasauqua Manufacturing Company was an outgrowth of The Union Foundry and Machine Company begun by John Fritz and three others in 1851. Fritz, who went on to become renowned for his engineering accomplishments, particularly at the Bethlehem Steel Co.,  found the operation to be undercapitalized and spent only a brief period, 1851 – 1854, in Catasauqua.

 

David Thomas purchased the facility in 1863 – some 20 years after Thomas arrived in this country to erect the Crane Iron Works and a decade after the building of his Thomas Iron Works in Hokendauqua.  Initially named the Northern Iron Company, it was renamed The Catasauqua Manufacturing Co. in 1868 and a lengthy period of expansion ensued. The primary facility was located at the foot of Walunt Street – between Front Street and the Lehigh Canal. 

 

The mill contained numerous puddling furnaces – see the schematic diagram. Puddling was a process used to refine iron into steel – puddling preceded the Bessemer process and the open hearth process as a means of reducing the carbon content of iron in order to achieve a product with greater tensile strength.  The adjoining building, named the Merchant Mill in the above drawing, contained rolling mills and bar mills for producing the finished product – including high-strength plate. In later years, this facility became to be operated as the Catasauqua Rolling Mill of Philadelphia.

 

The Catasauqua Manufacturing Co. also built a facility built in Ferndale (Fullerton) which was primarily a rolling mill. In the early 1900s, that mill was operated as the Fullerton Rolling Mill Company of Philadelphia.

 

In addition to David Thomas, long-time friends of Thomas - bothers John and Oliver Williams - were instrumental in the management of the company. During the 25 year tenure of Oliver Williams as General Manager, the company grew to be known as the largest merchant iron mill east of the Alleghenies. (Lambert & Reinhard)

 

After the Panic of 1893, the operation failed and the plant remained idle for a number of years. A new organization was effected in 1907, which was called the Catasauqua Casting Co., and placed under the management of Frederick Conlin, for the manufacture of all kinds of castings. The employees numbered from 100 to 150. It was continued in operation until 1912. Eventually the plant was abandoned and the property sold to the F.W. Wint Company who ran a lumber yard in the area for many years.

 

 

The Union Foundry and Machine Company

Excerpt from Lance Metz, John Fritz, 1822 -1913

With a wife to support, John Fritz sought a position that would offer him a greater chance for financial advancement. Forming a partnership with his younger brother George and two of his brothers-in-law, B.F. Stroud and Isaac E. Chandler, he constructed a machine shop and foundry at Catasauqua, Pa. Catasauqua was at the center of the Lehigh Valley's iron industry area, which had recently become the most productive in America. Knowing that the many ironworks of the Lehigh Valley needed machinery and other products, Fritz's new enterprise seemed to be assured of a steady supply of customers. However, a lack of financial resources doomed this project and by 1854 John Fritz had to once again seek employment.

 

The Union Foundry and Machine Company

Source: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Manufacturing and Mercantile Resources Of The Lehigh Valley, 1881

These works, located at the corner of Front and Pine streets (Ed: The works were most likely located below Walnut St. – one block north of Pine St.) were established about thirty-years ago and in 1869 were purchased by a company, and have since been kept in operation by them. They are situated on Front street, at the corner of Pine, and are convenient to the Central Railroad or Lehigh Canal. The works occupy a considerable plot of ground, upon which are large and necessary building, together with ample   yard room, the whole being supplied with much new and improved machinery fur producing the various specialties of manufacture. The Company are particularly engaged in manufacturing all kinds of rolling mill   work, controlling in this branch of its work a large business from the many mills located in the Valley, possessing very superior facilities, they are enabled to compete in this work with any concern in the Valley; and their productions are known over a wide extent of   country. All the buildings, including machine shop, foundry, blacksmith shop, pattern building, etc., are substantially erected, the whole forming an active centre of industry. In the various departments of the works there are employed thirty hands, and a twenty-horse power engine furnishes the motive power for running the machinery, much of which ingenious and particularly   adapted for the specialty of work for which it is employed.

 

The Company is composed of  several prominent gentlemen, the works being under the direct control of Mr. David Williams, the managing partner, who is thoroughly conversant with the business. The Union Foundry and Machine Company have a well earned reputation for doing first-class, work and are rapidly building up a large trade. They exercise an important influence in the prosperity of the town.  

 

The Union Foundry and Machine Company

Source: Matthews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford, History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Everts & Richards (Lippincott), Philadelphia 1884

 

 These works were established about 1851 by John  Fritz & Brother, the former now superintendent of  the Bethlehem Steel Company. They sold to Messrs. Mickel & Thomas, and the establishment then passed into the hands of David Thomas, who, in 1869, sold to the present company, which is composed of David and Oliver Williams and William Hopkins. They enlarged the works from year to year, and in 1882 found it expedient to purchase an additional and adjoining plot of ground. The company employs about fifty hands and a forty horsepower engine. There is but little variation in the activity at this foundry, work being carried on with few and slight abatements, and it is, therefore, a valuable supporter of the town's prosperity. The company is particularly engaged in the manufacture of all kinds of rolling-mill work, and has a large patronage extending throughout the valley and the surrounding region. A large business is also done in general foundry and machine work, for which, as well as its specialties, the company has a wide and enviable reputation.  

 

 

The Union Foundry and Machine Company

Source: Roberts, et al, History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania, 1914.

The Union Foundry and Machine Co. was started in 1851, by John Fritz and Brother, who established a plant at the southeast corner of Front and Pine streets for the purpose of carrying on a general foundry and machine business, and here the first foundry was put up in the Lehigh Valley for the production of cast-iron columns, which came to be shipped to all parts of the United States.

 

(Ed., The southeast corner of Front and Pine would have been where the Majestic and Savoy Theaters were later located – across Front Street and a block south of where Cata. Mfg. was developed. No maps or evidence showing a foundry or machine shop at Pine and Front Sts. has been uncovered.)

 

The plant was sold to William Michel and David Thomas, and afterward David Thomas became the owner. In 1869 Thomas sold it to Oliver Williams, David Williams, and William Hopkins, and they operated the works successfully till 1882, when they enlarged the buildings to meet the demands of their increasing business. They carried on the plant until 1891; then Hopkins sold his interest to the partners, and shortly afterward they were incorporated with Oliver Williams as president, and his nephew, J. Arthur Williams, as secretary and treasurer. In 1901 they were obliged to locate elsewhere so as to secure larger quarters. They accordingly established a plant along the north side of Race street, between the river and the canal, on 7 acres of ground, and here they carried on business for four years, when the company failed, and Leonard Peckitt purchased the plant.

 

 After the Union Foundry plant remained idle for two years a new organization was effected in 1907, which was called the Catasauqua Casting Co., and placed under the management of Frederick Conlin, for the manufacture of all kinds of castings. It was continued in operation until 1912, when it suspended, and since then the plant has been idle. The employees numbered from 100 to 150.

 

 

From the AISA Directory, 1884:

Catasauqua Manufacturing Company, Catasauqua, Lehigh County. Company organized in 1864. Two mills: Catasauqua Mill at Catasauqua, and Ferndale Mill at Ferndale; 30 single puddling furnaces, 11 heating furnaces, 9 trains of rolls, (one 8, two 10, one 15, three 18, one 21inch, and one 22-inch plate train,) and one 10-ton hammer; product, highest grades of bar, tank, and boiler iron, rolled car-axles, angles, skelp iron, steel boiler and shovel plate, steel tires, steel angles, steel shafting, and merchant bar steel; annual capacity, 30,000 net tons. Specialty, rolled fibrous steel railway car-axles, stronger than iron, more reliable than steel. Brands of iron, " Catasauqua," " Catasauqua Rivet," and " Catasauqua Stay-bolt;" brand of steel, " Catasauqua Fibrous Steel." Oliver Williams, President; John Williams, Secretary; Henry Davis, Treasurer. Philadelphia office, Jutice Cox, Jr., & Co., agents, 22A South Fourth St.; New York office, E. T. Day, agent, 96 Liberty St..

 

 

Catasauqua Manufacturing Company

Source: Matthews, Alfred and Austin N. Hungerford, History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Everts & Richards (Lippincott), Philadelphia 1884

 

This strong and wisely-conducted organization, which has done a great deal for the advancement of the town, came into existence Feb. 20, 1863, under the provisions of a charter incorporating the Northern Iron Company. Its authorized capital was originally one hundred thousand dollars (which sum was subsequently increased to one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, and is now five hundred thousand dollars). David Thomas, the veteran iron manufacturer, was the leading spirit of the company and its official head. Charles G. Earp was secretary and treasurer, and David Eynon superintendent. The company had been organized for the purpose of carrying on the manufacture of armor-plate and rails, and the other necessary machinery were set up for that work. The war ended, however, just as everything was in readiness, and, the demand for the intended output being cut off, the company immediately made the changes needful for producing tank-, flue-, and boiler-plate, and a little later added a sheet-mill.  Business was carried on with varying success until 1860, when it became more evenly prosperous. In that year William P. Hopkins was elected superintendent, and a change was made in the nature of the manufacture, an eighteen-inch bar-iron train and ten- inch guide-mill train being added to the plant. The iron produced at once met with favor from consumers, and from that time the mill has been very successful.  In 1867, Oliver Williams was elected general manager, and John Williams secretary. At that time the output of the mill amounted to about six thousand tons of iron per year.  

 

In 1864 a rolling-mill had been erected at Ferndale, just below Catasauqua, by the East Penn Iron Company, under the charter of the Eastern Iron Company, and its name subsequently changed to the Lehigh Manufacturing Company. In 1868 this mill was leased and in 1872 sold to the Catasauqua Manufacturing Company. Edward Edwards was elected superintendent in 1868, and has ever since retained that position. It is due to him that it be said that not only has the mill been successfully managed by him, but that the little working community dependent upon it has largely felt the value of his influence.  The product of the Ferndale Mill is bar and skelp iron, and, like that of the original mill at Catasauqua, it stands in high favor. Both mills have been added to almost even year, until they have reached a very large capacity, the output in 1882 being over thirty-six thousand tons of iron, valued at about two million dollars. The company employs about six hundred men, and the average monthly pay roll reaches the sum of twenty-eight thousand dollars.  The substantial character of the company was indicated during the period of the panic, when the works were never shut down, except for brief intervals because of strikes.  

 

David Thomas served as president the greater part of the time from 1863 until 1879, though the office was also administered by Samuel and John Thomas, his sons, during that long period. On Mr. Thomas' resignation in February 1879, Oliver Williams was elected president, and he now holds that position.  About the same time Henry Davis, who had been with the company from the start, was elected treasurer.  

 

 

Catasauqua Manufacturing Company

Account by Burkhart and Gemmel

The Catasauqua Manufacturing Company was originally incorporated on February 20, 1863 as the Northern Iron Company, for the manufacture of armor plate for war vessels and rails and traded as the Catasauqua Manufacturing Company. The company was capitalized at $100,000, which afterwards increased to $500,000. David Thomas was elected president, with Charles G. Earp, secretary and treasurer; and David Eynon, superintendent. A mill was erected along the canal, north of Pine Street. Also in 1863 David Thomas purchased building lots from Paul Faust. The company constructed 24 company homes, known as Puddler's Row. The homes faced Front Street and Railroad Alley, between Arch Street and Almond Alley.

 

Just as the plant was readied to start production the Civil War ended. The mill changed to the manufacture of tank and boiler plates, afterward adding sheet-iron. In 1866 William P. Hopkins was elected superintendent. A change was made in the nature of the manufacture, when an eighteen-inch bar-iron train and a ten-inch guide-mill train were added to the plant. In 1866 Oliver Williams, a long-time friend of David Thomas, returned to Catasauqua and was appointed general manager. His brother, John Williams, served as secretary. The company's facilities consisted of Mill A.

 

In 1864 a rolling mill had been erected at Ferndale (Fullerton) by the East Penn Iron Company, under the charter of the Eastern Iron Company, and its name subsequently changed to the Lehigh Manufacturing Company. In 1868 this mill was leased and on October 1, 1870, sold to the Catasauqua Manufacturing Company for $100,000. This became known as Mill B. Edward Edwards was elected superintendent of the Ferndale plant in 1868. The Ferndale plant produced bar and skelp iron.

 

David Thomas served as president  from 1863 until 1879, though the office was also administered by Samuel and John Thomas, his sons, during that period. On David Thomas' resignation in February, 1879, Oliver Williams was elected president. About the same time Henry Davis, who had been with the company from the start, was elected treasurer.

 

In 1882 the total production of the two mills was 36,000 tons, with 600 employees; and the estimated value was $2,000,000. A small mill was erected south of Mill A near Pine Street, which was named Mill C, and another was erected north of the Ferndale plant, which was named Mill D. Combined, these four mills had the largest assortment of merchant bar rolls east of the Allegheny Mountains.

 

During 1892 a severe and prolonged strike caused a cease in operations and with the economic turn down, caused by the Panic of 1893, the company failed. The Catasauqua plants were dismantled and the property later became part of the F.W. Wint Company. The Ferndale plant was sold to James W. Fuller, who organized the Lehigh Foundry Company.

 

 

The Later Years

 

Following are notices regarding ownership and finances that appeared in the journal The Foundry in the early 1900s.

 

September, 1903

 

March, 1904

 

March, 1905

 

June, 1906

 

 

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Rev. May 2015.