JOSEPH HARRISON, JR.
A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
IN view of the interest and importance at the present time of everything which relates to the development of railroading, it is well to remember what has been done in America to lay the foundations of the locomotive industry, and, therefore, we feel that it is desirable to recall the extent to which the design of the modern locomotive is indebted to the work of Joseph Harrison, Jr., although it is now more than thirty years since he passed away.
Joseph Harrison, Jr., was born in Philadelphia in 1810, and acquired his mechanical training in the old-fashioned way, for he was indentured as an apprentice in the art of machine making at the age of fifteen years, these indentures being with F. D. Sanno, who had a small machine shop in Philadelphia, and with James Flint, who owned a more pretentious establishment. During his apprenticeship he attended night schools and studied assiduously, and after the expiration of his apprenticeship he worked in various shops in Philadelphia, the most important one being that of Philip Garrett.
The famous run of George Stephenson's "Rocket" was made at Rainhill, England, in 1829, and it did not take long for the locomotive- building industry to reach America. By 1833 Col. Long and William Norris were beginning the manufacture of locomotives in a small way in Philadelphia, and young Harrison entered their shop, which at that time employed only thirty men.
In 1835 Mr. Harrison entered the employ of Messrs. Garrett & Eastwick, locomotive builders, and became a member of the firm of Garrett, Eastwick & Co. in 1837.
Up to this time all the locomotives built either in Europe or America had but a single pair of driving wheels, and the tractive effort was necessarily very limited. Attempts had been made to use more than one pair of driving wheels, but the difficulty of distributing the load upon the drivers had caused such machines to be unsuccessful. In 1837 Mr. Harrison undertook to design a locomotive with four driving wheels, using a bogie truck in front, and making the first use of the equalizing lever to insure the equal division of the load upon the two axles. The "Hercules," built in 1837, a replica of which was included in the historical railway exhibit made for the Chicago Exposition in 1893, was thus the first successful application of the equalizing lever to the locomotive engine, a feature which is at the present time the means by which the "decapod" and other heavy types of modern locomotives are possible. This invention was patented in 1838, and in 1839 Mr. Garrett retired, and the firm of Eastwick & Harrison continued the construction of locomotive engines of the new design.
In 1840 the remarkable performance of one of the new locomotives, on the Reading Railroad, attracted the attention of a commission of engineers sent from Russia by the Emperor Nicholas I., the object of the visit of the Russian engineers being to secure the most desirable design for the rolling stock of the new railway between St. Petersburg and Moscow, the road-bed of which was then about completed under the supervision of Major George Y. Whistler, U. S. A., who acted as consulting civil engineer for the railway. The result of this incident was the visit of Mr. Harrison to St. Petersburg and the closing of an important contract by him with the Russian Government for the entire equipment of the road with locomotives, freight and passenger cars, etc., as well as the equipment and organization of complete repair and construction shops at Alexandroffsky, near St. Petersburg. This contract, made in 1843, was followed by a second one, extending from 1850 to 1856, and under both of these Mr. Harrison acquired a large fortune. In addition to these railway contracts, Mr. Harrison undertook, and successfully completed, the iron arch Bridge of the Annunciation across the river Neva, this being the first permanent structure by which the two portions of the city were united, and replacing the fragile pontoon bridges which had formerly been used. For his successful and satisfactory completion of these various undertakings Mr. Harrison was decorated by Nicholas I. with the Order of St. Ann, besides receiving numerous other tokens of the friendship and esteem of the Emperor. The second railway contract was ultimately extended to 1862, and in this portion of the work, including the operation of the St. Petersburg & Moscow Railway, there were associated with Mr. Harrison Messrs. Thomas Winans and William Winans, of Baltimore.
Upon his departure from the United States for Russia Mr. Harrison disposed of his American patent for the equalizing lever to Mr. M. W. Baldwin, of Philadelphia, who employed it on all his succeeding locomotives, and thus introduced it into the development of locomotive engineering in America. The engines designed and built by Mr. Harrison in Russia were wholly different in construction from those of the same period in other parts of Europe, resembling very closely those known as the American type, using two or three driving axles and having a swivel truck in front.
In addition to his part in the development of locomotive engineering. Mr. Harrison did much to advance the construction of sectional steam boilers, the multiple-sphere sectional safety boiler bearing his name, and formerly very extensively used, having been patented by him in 1859. The Harrison Boiler Works, founded by him in Philadelphia for the manufacture of this boiler, is now actively engaged in business, manufacturing a number of important and successful steam specialties.
After his return to the United States Mr. Harrison resided in Philadelphia until his death, in 1874, being one of its most eminent citizens, a patron of the fine arts, and interested and active in the welfare of his native city. In addition to his decoration from the Russian Emperor, Mr. Harrison received the Rumford Medal for his efforts to secure safety in the generation of steam, and was also awarded medals at the London International Exhibition of 1862 by the Franklin Institute and other industrial organizations.