1609 – 1884
J. Thomas Scharf and Thomas Wescott
In Three Volumes
L. H. Everts & Co.
Excerpt – Page 2258 – 2259
In the spring of 1835 the firm of Garrett & Eastwick (Philip Garrett and Andrew M. Eastwick), manufacturers of stationary engines and light machinery, in Wagner's Alley, below Race Street, undertook to build a locomotive engine for the Beaver Meadow Railroad Company. This firm, not having built locomotives, employed as their foreman Joseph Harrison, Jr., then twenty-five years old, who had been ten years at work as a practical machinist, and for two years had been journeyman in the Norris Works. The result was the building of the locomotive "Samuel D. Ingham," named after the president I of the road. There were some novelties in this engine invented and patented by Andrew M. Eastwick. It was the first upon which any shelter had been placed to protect the fireman and engineman from the weather. A roof was put over them, and this was subsequently improved by placing glass windows in the front and sides, with other conveniences, so that the enclosure was called in time "the cab."
Joseph Harrison, Jr., whose name is so intimately connected with railroad construction and the building of locomotives, was the grandson of a Harrison of New Jersey, who was once a large landholder, but, on entering the Revolutionary army, so neglected his personal interests that when he died, in 1787, he left very little for his family. His son, Joseph Harrison, Sr., came to Philadelphia, when fourteen years old, into the employ of Charles French, the proprietor of a grocery-store. Samuel Crawford bought out Charles French, and Mr. Harrison married his daughter, Mary Crawford, in 1803. The business did not prosper, and, as Joseph Harrison, Jr., has said of himself in his autobiography, when he was born, Sept. 20, 1810, it was at the dark hours of his family history. Obtaining what little schooling he was able to command, he developed a strong inclination for mechanical pursuit, and in 1825 he was indentured to Frederick D. Sanno to learn steam-engineering. Sanno failed, and he was then apprenticed to James Flint, of the firm of Hyde & Flint. In this shop he soon became more proficient, and at the age of twenty, before he was free of his indenture, he was made foreman of part of the establishment, and had under him thirty men and boys. When he was twenty-two years of age he took employment with Philip Garrett, who manufactured "small lathes, presses for bank-note engravers, and the like." In 1833 he went to Port Clinton, Pa., to establish a foundry for Arundus Tiers, with whom his father was engaged as an accountant. This was the end of his varied experience as a mechanician preceding his career as a constructor of locomotives. In 1834 he was employed by William Norris, then engaged with Col. Long in building locomotives on the design of Long. He seems to have considered this part of his professional education rather of a negative character, for when, in 1835, he was engaged by Garrett & Eastwick as foreman, and was entrusted with the designing of the locomotive "Samuel D. Ingham," he says that he endeavored to avoid "the errors with which he had been made familiar." This locomotive proved a success, and led to the construction of others like it.
On Dec. 15, 1836, he married Miss Sarah Poulterer, whom he had met in New York in January of the previous year. In 1837 he became a partner in the firm of Garrett, Eastwick & Co., although his skill and energy were the only capital that he was able to contribute to the enterprise. Two years later Mr. Garrett retired, and the firm took the title of Eastwick & Harrison. In 1840, Mr. Harrison designed for the Reading Railroad an eleven-ton engine, named the "Gowan & Marx," which for its weight was "the most efficient locomotive for freight purposes that had been built anywhere." Two Russian engineers, Col. Melnekoff and Col. Kraft, who were in this country to investigate its railway system, saw this engine, took tracings of it, and introduced it into general use in Russia, where its value led to an official inquiry for its builder. The outcome was that Mr. Harrison was invited to Russia by the authorities, and there, in 1843, he and Mr. Eastwick and the late Thomas Winans, of Baltimore, concluded a contract with the government to build the locomotives and rolling-stock for the St. Petersburg and Moscow Railway. This contract amounted to $3,000,000, it being conditioned that the work should be completed in five years, and should be done in St. Petersburg by Russian workmen or such as could be hired on the spot. The payments were to be made according to the amount of work completed, and government inspectors were to report upon the monthly statements. Official competition was rife in Russia, and it was perfectly well known that the inspectors would indorse any dishonest statement if they were paid for so doing, or, if they were not bribed, would, as Count Bobrinski told Mr. Harrison, wear out the contractors long before their term of contract was ended. But Mr. Harrison was too keen a business man and too competent in his profession to be thus imposed upon. He defeated the schemes of the inspectors, and he and his partners so fairly completed their engagements that they won the confidence of the Emperor Nicholas, and surprised the Russians by demonstrating that works of public improvement could be conducted without peculation or fraud. As an evidence of the Imperial favor, valuable diamond rings had been given to the members of the firm, and Mr. Harrison was made the recipient of the ribbon of the order of Saint Ann, to which was attached a massive gold medal bearing in the Russian language the words " For zeal." This honor was conferred upon him at the time of the completion of the bridge across the Neva, accomplished by the firm during the time of the first contract, which had been extended a year for that purpose.
The greatest of the later contracts with the Russian government was that of Aug. 25, 1850, to maintain for twelve years the movable machinery of the St. Petersburg and Moscow road. The parties to this contract were Mr. Harrison, Thomas Winans, and William L. Winans, the latter having bought the interest of Mr. Eastwick in the contract of 1843 previous to its completion.
Mr. Harrison returned from Russia to Philadelphia in 1852, to enjoy the rest and the wealth to which his labors had entitled him. Here he built his splendid mansion on South Eighteenth Street, and collected in it the paintings and other works of art that are everywhere known in critical and popular circles as the Harrison gallery. The erection of the mansion was something that he gave his personal attention to, and hidden within the walls are many ingenious devices to insure stability and economize space that he originated. He invested heavily in real estate, and the failure of his plan to concentrate all the railroad termini in the city at one point, and combine with a union depot commodious hotel accommodations, was a source of much regret to him. In 1860 he spoke with sorrow of the non-success of this and other projects which he had formed to benefit the city, and insisted that his motives had been misconstrued. He talked of going abroad for many years to reside, hoping that on his return to Philadelphia his ideas would be better appreciated. Before sailing, however, he had the pleasure of witnessing the practical and successful operation of the safety boiler designed by himself, and which marked a distinct era in the construction of boilers. It was a vast improvement as regarded safety and the pressure of steam that could be carried upon the common wrought-iron boilers. It is a well-established fact that its inception precluded all the forms of sectional safety boilers that subsequently came into vogue. Much of the detail of the machinery needed to produce these steam generators was perfected from 1860 to 1863, while Mr. Harrison was in Europe.
In 1863 he returned and erected a factory for the production of his boiler, evincing mechanical ingenuity of the highest order in the arrangement of this establishment. Toward the close of his life he turned his attention to recording some of his thoughts and experiences. After writing some verses, entitled " The Iron Worker and King Solomon," designed to impress his children's minds with "the value of what is but too frequently thought to be very humble labor," he published a folio volume of over two hundred pages, containing this poem and some fugitive pieces, accompanied by his autobiography, and many incidents of life in Russia, with the leading particulars of the invention of the Harrison boiler. He wrote a paper on the part taken by Philadelphians in the invention of the locomotive, an account of the Neva bridge in Russia, and a paper on steam-boilers. For what he had himself done to insure safety in boilers he was awarded the gold and silver Rumford medals by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, on May 30, 1871. On July 15, 1864, he was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. He was also a member of other learned societies, but, with the exception of a few papers read by him, he did not take an active part in the business of any of them. During the latter part of his life he was connected with the Protestant Episcopal Church. He died March 27, 1874, after a lingering illness. He left a wife and seven children, — William, Henry, and Annie, who were born in this country before he went to Russia ; Alice McNeil, Marie Olga, and Theodore Leland, born in Russia; and Clara Elizabeth, born in America after their return.