Excerpt – Page 683-685



Manufacturer, Man of Affairs


James Thomas, president of the Davies & Thomas Co., Foundry and Machine Works at Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, was born in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 22, 1836. He was a son of Hopkin and Catharine (Richards) Thomas, who were of an old and honorable Welsh ancestry.


Hopkin Thomas (father) was born in Glamorganshire, South Wales, in 1793. His early education was obtained in the public schools of the village in which he lived. When he reached the age of sixteen he became an apprentice in the Neath Abbey Works, near Neath, South Wales, learning the trade of a machinist. In 1834 he emigrated to the United States, landing in Philadelphia, and at once secured employment in the Baldwin Locomotive Works, later entering the shops of Garrett & Eastwick. Leaving these people, he accepted a position as master mechanic of the roads and mines of the Beaver Meadow Railway Company, and while serving in this capacity he displayed remarkable inventive genius. It was through one of his inventions that anthracite coal was first used for fuel in locomotives. One type of coal breaker was also invented by him which is in use to the present day. Likewise he invented and successfully used the chilled cast-iron car-wheel, also the most improved and successful mine pumps and machinery of that day. In 1853 he became a resident of the borough of Catasauqua, and from that year until his death, May 12, 1879, he very creditably filled the position of master mechanic of the Crane Iron Works.


His wife, Catharine (Richards) Thomas, a native of Merthyr-Tydvil, South Wales, bore him the following named children: William R., Mary, who became the wife of James H. McKee; Helen, who became the wife of John Thomas; James, hereinafter mentioned; and Kate M., who became the wife of James W. Fuller.


James Thomas came to Catasauqua, with his parents in 1853. In 1859 he went to Parryville to take the superintendency of the Carbon Iron Works. Leaving there in 1871 he went to Jefferson county, Alabama, and while there held the position of general manager of the Irondale and Eureka Iron Companies. He enjoyed the distinction of having made the first coke iron in Alabama. In 1879 he returned to Catasauqua and formed a partnership with George Davies, under the firm name of Davies & Thomas. This firm was the outgrowth of a small concern which was established in 1865 by Daniel Davies. Shortly after its establishment a co-partnership was formed with William Thomas, and in 1867 the interest of William Thomas was purchased by George Davies, a son of Daniel Davies. They organized under the firm name of Daniel Davies & Son, this firm having been in existence until the death of Daniel Davies in 1876. In 1879 George Davies and James Thomas combined their interests under the firm name as given above, which continued in existence until the death of George Davies in 1894. The following year the heirs of George Davies and the surviving member, James Thomas, took out articles of incorporation under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania with the corporate name of Davies & Thomas Company. The authorized capital stock was two hundred thousand dollars, which was afterward increased to three hundred thousand dollars. The directors were James Thomas, Rowland T. Davies, James T. Davies, George Davies, Charles R. Horn, Rowland D. Thomas, and Hopkin Thomas. The officers were James Thomas, president; Rowland T. Davies, vice-president; Rowland D. Thomas, secretary and treasurer; Charles R. Horn, general sales agent; George Davies, purchasing agent. Their offices are located at East Catasauqua, Pennsylvania, and 26 Cortlandt street, New York City. The plant is classed with the largest in the country conducting general foundry and machine work. The capacity of the foundry is over three hundred tons per day, and the machine shop, blacksmith shop and pattern shop are of the largest capacity in the Lehigh Valley, being equipped with the modern tools for quick and accurate work. The plant covers more than twenty-five acres. The product is sold throughout the United States, Canada, South America, West Indies and all European countries.


Mr. Thomas was prominently identified with every enterprise calculated to promote the prosperity of Catasauqua. He was president of the Wahnetah Silk Mill Company, and director of the Catasauqua National Bank. Through his efforts the borough secured the establishment of the Electric Light and Power Company, of which he was one of the principal stockholders. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and an adherent of the Republican party. Taking a keen and active interest in the cause of education, he served faithfully and efficiently for some years as a member of the school board. Among the political honors he had thrust upon him might be mentioned his appointment as a delegate to the Republican national convention in Minneapolis in 1892.


James Thomas died December 18, 1906, at Catasauqua, leaving a widow and seven children:  Blanch T., wife of C. R. Horn, 2. Mary, deceased, 3. Ruth, wife of W. McKee, 4. Helen, wife of J. L. Hornbeck, S. Catherine Richards, deceased, 6. R. D., resident of Catasauqua, director of the Wahnetah Silk Mill Company, 7. Hopkin, hereinafter mentioned.


Hopkin Thomas was born in Oxmore, Alabama, in 1876. He attended the high school of Catasauqua, whither his parents removed in 1879, and later was a student in the Lehigh University. He was associated in business with his father in Catasauqua, from there was transferred to the New York agency, remaining eight years, after which he returned to Catasauqua and is now general manager of the company. He is affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal church, a Progressive in politics, and a member of Porter Lodge, No. 294, Free and Accepted Masons; Catasauqua Club; Livingston Club.


Go to the James Thomas Biography Page


About The Hopkin Thomas Project


Rev. July 2010