Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

TOURS sponsored by the Oliver Evans Chapter—Society for Industrial Archeology (list is illustrative, not all-inclusive):

Archives & Artifacts (SIA tour June 7, 2007). Franklin Institute, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Athenĉum of Philadelphia, and American Philosophical Society with Jeffrey Ray (Curator of Collections, Atwater Kent Museum).

Philadelphia Brewerytown (SIA tour June 7, 2007). Ten breweries with "Pennsylvania Brewery Historian" Rich Wagner.

Kensington & Frankford—Textiles, Metals & Beer (SIA tour, June 8, 2007). Luithlen Dye, Ward Elicker Casting, H. Riehl Textile Machinery, Pappajohn Woodworking, Yards Brewing, Cramp Shipyard Machine & Turret House, and Churchville Fabrics with Torben Jenk.

Philadelphia Transit, Past & Present (SIA tour, June 8, 2007). Photographs, maps and illustrations from over a dozen work shops, car barns, substations, depots and terminals, led by Joel Spivak.

Pennsylvania Woven Carpet Mill (SIA tour, 1990).

Rittenhousetown (November 21, 1992). The Rittenhouse family came to Philadelphia in 1690 and established America's first papermaking mill along a small tributary of Wissahickon Creek in what is now Fairmount Park. Come join us as Ms. Radolan leads us on a tour of the sites of recent archaeological excavations, as well as the 1690 House and 1700 House. We will also be able to preview the film "The Fibers of History," and if time permits, participate in a mini-demonstration on early American paper-making.

Simpson Paper Mill, River & Manor Roads, Miquon, PA (February 21, 1994). Simpson's Valley Forge Mill, in Miquon, Pennsylvania, makes premium quality text and cover paper, from high-grade bleached woodpulp fibers. Although Simpson only acquired the Valley Forge Mill in 1980, the site contained buildings that housed papermaking equipment and operations from the 19th century. See the manufacture of high quality printing and writing papers, bleached and unbleached kraft wood pulp, kraft paper and linerboards. The Simpson Paper Company is a large pulp and paper company based in San Francisco with paper making plants in California, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. Simpson's pulp mills are located in California, Texas, and Washington.

U.S.S. John F. Kennedy (April 30, 1994). Two years ago we visited the U.S.S. John F. Kennedy as it was beginning its overhaul in the "Service Life Extension Program." Nearly complete, Richard Chlan from the Navy Yard will let us come back for another look before sea tests.

Cornwell Iron Furnace & Hopewell Iron Furnace (October 15, 1994). Cornwall Iron Furnace (in Cornwall, PA) is a charcoal-fired blast furnace, built in the mid-1700s and operated by the Coleman family for over 100 years until close to the turn of the twentieth century. It is now owned by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and operated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. It contains an impressive wheel assembly, and the casting house and original blowing equipment are still intact, making it one of the most significant iron sites in the western hemisphere. The Site's Administrator, Richard Stratton, an articulate and knowledgeable museum professional, will give us a special tour and explain ironmaking for those who might not have a background in the field. Hopewell Iron Furnace (near Elverson, PA) is also a charcoal-fired blast furnace from the same era as Cornwall. It is owned and operated by the National Park Service. It was largely restored and partially reconstructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s; however, the interpretation is first rate. Also, they will have just completed their annual charcoal burn by then; undoubtedly, the site will still have that lingering colliery smell about it. We will view a short video and our tour will be largely self-guided.

Wayne Mills (February 17, 1992). Wayne Mills has been a family-owned and operated business in textile manufacturing since 1910. Its specialty is now woven tapes, bindings, and light webbings, from one-eighth inch to three inches wide. They have the in-house facilities for bleaching, rinsing, finishing, and processing the material. Only the dyeing is done elsewhere. State of the art technology within Wayne Mills provides a striking contrast for the well-maintained older but smoothly-functioning machinery still in use. Tlose who went on the Wayne Mflls tour during our National Conference (1990), can attest to the fascination and amazement of seeing seemingly endless rows of synchronized weaving machines, and hearing them literally banging out lengths of material. It will be a memory you will not soon forget—and you'll see first hand the derivation of the phrase "bob 'n weave"!

Lukens Steel (March 20 & April 17, 1996). Lukens Steel traces its beginnings to 1810, when it opened as the Brandywine Iron Works and Nail Factory. Today, Lukens Steel is one of the nation's premier steel plants, producing steel plate for bridges, ships, machinery, refinery vessels, and building construction. Come join us as we tour the shops to see the 165-ton electric arc furnace in the melt shop, which converts scrap into steel. From there, we will watch the introduction of metallurgical gases to drive off impurities and then observe the steel being cast into ingots. From there, we will watch the ingots rolled on the 140-inch rolling mills.

Schuylkill Navigation Company, Making the Schuylkill Navigable from Philadelphia to Schuylkill County an the Coal Fields (May 25, 1995). The Schuylkill Navigation Company—with its series of locks, canals, dams and ponds—made the Schuylkill River navigable from Fairmount to Schuylkill County's coal fields. Organized in 1815, this Navigation System functioned, at least in part, into the 1930s. Its heyday was in the mid-nineteenth century, before the railroads took over. It was built before the Erie Canal, was a major factor in coal transport and helped make Philadelphia the major coal exporting port in the world.

"The Keasbey & Madison Co.—and the Development of a Company Town" by Frank J. Russo, Jr. (talk: May 2; tour May 4, 1996). The Keasbey & Mattison Company began in Philadelphia in 1874. Four years later, in 1878, Dr. Mattison moved the company to Ambler to be on the Wissahickon Creek with its plentiful water and mill seats that were available for purchase. He established a company town, which is still evident today (and will be part of the tour). The company helped establish the town's infrastructure, including the Ambler Spring Water Company and the electric company. The company also brought culture to the town by building an opera house, a bandstand, and a movie theatre. The company also purchased the Hope Lodge mansion for industrial purposes, but later sold it to people who restored it. The asbestos plant operated from 1880 to 1962, when it was sold to an English firm. Because asbestosis ultimately became recognized as a deadly disease, the white mountains of asbestos and magnesium on site (which were leeching into the Wissahickon) were covered and fenced off in the 1970s as a toxic site. However, the plant buildings still stand—some now converted to other uses, and old equipment stands abandoned outside. Frank Russo was a founding member of the Wissahickon Valley Historical Society in 1975, and served as its first president. Five generations of his family have lived in the Ambler area, and he recalls playing in the "white snow piles" as a child. He currently teaches as the Silver Springs MArtin Luther King School in Plymouth Meeting.

Industrial Remains Along the Schuylkill River in Phoenixville & Mont Clare (November 9, 1996). We will meet at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area for an overview of the town and its most prominent industry—iron and steel making. By car and foot we will tour part of the town and the remaining structures of the Phoenix Iron Works, as well as sites important to their development such as the Schuylkill River, French Creek, and nearby railroads and bridges. The Phoenix Company began by making only nails, but went on to produce rolled shapes such as rails, some of the first I- beams, and the column which bears its name (several of which can be seen at the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia). During the Civil War they manufactured guns; a wooden derrick from this period remains on site. Phoenix Bridge developed a system for pre-fabricating and pre-assembling bridges to be erected on location with pins securing the parts of the structure. These measures ensured proper fit and reduced the time required and the number of skilled workers and pieces of expensive machinery needed to erect a bridge. After lunch we will cross the Schuylkill to explore the only watered section of the Schuylkill Navigation system other than Manayunk. By use of the river, dams and canals, coal was transported from the Alleghenies to Philadelphia, boosting the city's power in the Age of Steam. The Black Rock Dam, the canal, lock No. 60, locktender's house, and a silting basin will be on our trail. We will also offer copies of the just-published "Without Fitting, Filing, or Chipping—an Illustrated History of the Phoenix Bridge Company" by Professor Thomas Winpenny (Canal History and Technology Press, Easton, PA, 1996).

Newcomen Library and Museum in Steam Technology and Industrial History (March 15, ?). We plan to explore the archaeological evidence of industrial remains along the Brandywine in Hibernia County Park. Hibernia Iron Forge operated from the 1790's through the 1870's. For 40 years it was overseen by Charles Brook, brother of the iron master at Hopewell Furnace. Hibernia Mansion has been restored to the turn of the 19th century. Residences of specialized craftsman are strung along the Brandywine. Later industrial use reveals a steam-powered ice house operation utilizing an old dam and a railroad along the creek. One of the ice houses has foundations indicating a structure 300 x 60 feet. The engine house provides evidence for researching the type and size of the steam engine that powered the operations. The afternoon portion of the trip leads our investigations to the Thomas Newcomen Library and Museum in Steam Technology and Industrial History. Here we might find documentation on the kind of steam engine that powered the Hibernia ice house. The North American Headquarters of the Newcomen Society was established in the 1920's on property of the Penrose family. The society honors the work of Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) credited with inventing the first steam engine. The Newcomen library has extensive holdings in books, trade catalogs, and periodicals on steam machinery and technology. The museum houses over 50 electrically operated model and full scale steam engines as well as models of operations such as a Cornish Pumping Engine and 19th century textile mill. This educational and research institution is a must-see treasure for industrial archeology enthusiasts.

The Girard Canal of the Schuylkill Navigation Company (April 17, 1997). Stuart Wells, Gentleman of Douglassville, will share stories about the Girard Canal of the Schuylkill Navigation Company including the Laurel Locks and its Lock Tender's house, Feeder, Lie By, and Price's Culvert; Snyder's Culvert, Birdsboro Lock and its Lock Tender's House and Lie By; Haw's Double Culvert, Sidel's Aqueduct and Allegheny Aqueduct.

Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant and the Biosolids Plant of the Philadelphia Water Department (May 31, 1997). An up close and personal look at how the Philadelphia Water Department treats wastewater. The morning will be spent with Deborah McCarty, Plant Manager, at the Southwest Water Pollution Control Plant, where water from residences, businesses, and stormwater runoff is collected and treated. One must-see feature are the giant Archemedes screw pumps, which dwarf even the tallest human being. The afternoon will be spent at the Biosolids Plant, where Doug Cowley, Sanitation Engineer, will explain how biosolids—such as human waste, food from garbage disposals, and plant material that has fallen into the sewers—are recycled into clean soil-like compost. The Bird Centrifuge, Model 6150 is one piece of equipment that you won't want to miss. The tours will provide insight on the complexity of wastewater treatment, including explanations about the function of the specialized machinery used in all treatment processes.

New Automated Letter Sorting Machines at 30th Street Post Office (November 20, 1997). The drive to automate the processing of virtually all letter mail by 1997 is fueled by the growth of mail volume, the need to make accurate and timely deliveries as America's population grows, and the USPS's commitment to keep postage rate increases at or below the rate of inflation. Total mail volume is expected to rise to 185 billion pieces by the end of 1997, and letter mail volume—both First and third-class—is expected to rise to 125 billion during the same period. Automated equipment that applies a barcode to the face of an envelope or reads a code applied by a customer, using two workers, can process more that 30,000 letters an hour at a cost of $4 per thousand. This compares with a cost of $22 a thousand on mechanized letter-sorting machines, operated by 17 workers, 12 of whom each key to destination sorting bins at a rate of 2,000 per hour. Using the old hand sorting method, each worker can process only 800 letters an hour at a cost of $40 per thousand.

Philadelphia Inquirer Printing Plant and Woodmont, the historic residence of steel magnate Alan Wood Steel (April 18, 1998). Morning tour of the
press room, plate-making, newsprint paper storage and the presses on the new Philadelphia Inquirer printing plant. After lunch let us turn from the grime, heat, noise, and pressure of the factory and follow an iron and steel magnate of the past to his estate high above the Schuylkill River, Woodmont, built and lived in by the Alan Wood family. It is said that Wood placed his 73-acre estate and fine French Gothic mansion where he could overlook his steel mills. The property is now owned by Palace Mission, Inc., an arm of the Father and Mother Divine Peace Mission movement. Adherence to the International Modest Code established by Father Divine requires NO smoking, drinking, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity, undue mixing of sexes, receiving of gifts, presents, tips, or bribes. Dress code requires modesty—no shorts or sleeveless tops, ladies should wear a dress or skirt. After the house tour we will look for remaining evidences of the iron and steel works run by Alan Wood and his descendants, which spanned both sides of the river from Conshohocken to Swedeland, connected by a bridge built to move molten iron from the blast furnaces directly to the open hearths. Alan Wood Steel closed in 1978, causing 3,000 workers to lose their jobs. The company's industrial assets were liquidated at public auction, a first in American business history. We have xeroxes of aerial photographs from the 1970's and several Hexamers to aid us in this exploration.

American Paper Products and Poor Henry's Brewery (June 4, 1998). We will revisit the American Paper Products company in Kensington, in operation since 1929 supplying cardboard tubes to the textile industry. At one time 95% of the production went to companies within a two-block radius, now American Paper is one of very few operations in the area. When members last visited (before 1990) tubes for firecrackers were being made. We will then go into Northern Liberties to tour the micro brewery established in the old bottling plant of the Henry F. Ortlieb Brewing Company. After the tour those who are interested might enjoy eating in the restaurant. There are a number of reasonably priced appetizers, soups, sandwiches, burgers and pasta as well as steak, chicken and seafood entrees. If you can't attend the afternoon tour, the managers at Poor Henry's have agreed to make a later tour. So join us for dinner around 5:30 and tour the brewery afterwards.

MAFCO Licorice Plant (June 23, 1998). Join us at one of the few licorice root extraction factories in the world, MAFCO Worldwide Corporation, in Camden, NJ. We will witness a processing plant that has changed its manufacturing methods very little during its nearly 100 years of production. The licorice plant—one of nature's more fascinating—has a root that, when processed, yields 50 times the saccharinity of cane sugar. The Spanish were the first in the Western world to extract the brown juice for export. When their fields were depleted, a British company, MacAndrews and Forbes—established in 1850 to import "Spanish juice" for the English confectionery market—tapped into the natural licorice regions in the near East to process the Oriental Licorice root. This strain of the plant yielded twice the sweetening power of the Spanish variety. When licorice flavoring gained significant use in the tobacco industry, American processing plants entered the fray. MacAndrews and Forbes established a processing plant in Newark, NJ, in the 1870s, and through acquisitions and mergers, took over the plant in Camden, which was constructed in 1900 as a state-of-the art facility. With the growing tobacco industry, MacAndrews and Forbes became a leading world producer. Today licorice extract is used as flavoring in tobacco, in confectionery and for the drug industry. By-products include cut root as mulch, paperboard, structural insulating board, and foamite.

Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Museum and Bethel Bridge Lighthouse (May 29, 1999). Opened in 1829, the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal connects the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River. Shortly after the Canal was built, the increasing demands of trade and commerce led to the installation of a steam engine and pumphouse to combat loss of water in the locks. After more than 150 years of operation, the C & D Canal has evolved considerably. Today, the Canal is one of tile world's busiest electronically controlled waterways. Forty percent of all ship traffic to Baltimore uses the waterway. The Canal is the sole major commercial navigation waterway in the U.S. built during the early 1800s that is still in use. Housed in the historic pumphouse, the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Museum contains models of old ships that once traveled on the waterway, including the James Adamis Floating Theatre; fossils that were uncovered in digging the canal, historic photographs, and a pair of two-story Merrick steam engines that were used to fill the upper level of the canal. The boilers were a type designed by Oliver Evans in 1814 for high-pressure steami engines. The OE-SIA tour will also include a walk to the nearby Bethel Bridge Lighthouse, a 30-foot replica of the lighthouse that once alerted boats to the low-clearance swing bridge at Betlhel. Mr. Jack L. Shagena, P.E., will be our tour guide at the C & D Canal Museum and through Chesapeake City's historic district. Mr. Shagena is a resident of Chesapeake City and the former chair of the town's Historic Area District Commission, as well as the former president of the Chesapeake City District Civic Association. In addition to publishing several articles and a video oil Chesapeake City, Mr. Shagena currently is writing "The Steamboat invented," with a chapter oil Oliver Evans.

Delaware River waterfront boat tour (May 19, 2002). Join us for a boat tour to hear about the natural, social, and industrial history of the Delaware River and the riverside communities from the late 1660s to today. Narrators will describe the early topography and natural resources including the long-dredged-away Smith and Windmill islands, the Cohocksink Creek and "our ignorant shades [shad] are excellent fish... They are so plentiful that 600 are drawn at a draught" [William Penn, 1683]. The causes and consequences of man's alterations to this landscape will be covered including the development of the waterfront for shipping and shipbuilding, the spectacular rise and decline of the shad fishing industry controlled by the Fishtovm families, and the canalization and later sewerization of the creeks. You will also hear the origins of riverside names like Point No Point and Gunner's Run. We will pass the ancient ferry landings including Shackamaxon Pier and Cooper's Point and hear about the bountiful harvest that was ferried across the river to supply the rapidly growing Philadelphia market. Early settlements will also be pointed out and described including the Swedish settlement surrounding 'Old Swedes' church, Gloucester in New Jersey, and the Great Elm in Shackamaxon where William Penn met with the Native Chiefs in 1681. You will hear about the early settlers including the early 18th-century seafarers from the Caribbean, many of whom went on to become leaders of the colonial govemment, followed by successive waves of European who arrived through the Immigration Station at Washington Avenue. Shipbuilding was a huge industry along the Delaware River—from needles for sails, through anchors, to entire ships for foreign navies—and we will pass the sites of Humphrey's Shipyard, the Navy Yard, New York Ship, Cramp Shipbuilding Company and the subsidiary enterprises. We will also go alongside the SS United States, giving you an up close look at the sleek hull that earned her the trans-Atlantic speed record. Coal was brought by train through the Port Richmond Coal Depot and we will pass the huge generating stations where it was burned to create electricity. You will hear about Henry Disston and the community he planned and built to expand his saw manufacturing operation in Tacony.

Industrial Sites in Berks County—Bahr's Mill, Boyertown Museum of Historical Vehicles and the water-powered saw mill at the Daniel Boone Homestead ( April 13, 2002). Imagine discovering a mill with all the equipment, materials, patterns, and samples left in place as if the workers had just walked away for lunch. This was the situation at Bahr's Mill in Gablesville, which features operational belt-driven 1870's woodworking machinery and houses a complete 4-story power train with lineshafts and wooden and metal gears. Craftsmen produced spokes for local carriage and early auto
companies, as well as ax handles, baseball bats and wooden hay rakes. The mill is part of a complex of buildings including a master's house and barn, a saw mill and a country store. The grounds show evidence of several mill races and abandoned stone wheels indicate the mill was once used to grind both linseed oil and grain. There is a large overshot water wheel made entirely of white oak felled on the property. A cable drive system from the cupola provided power to the barn for threshing. Lisa and Lawrence Reber are preserving the machinery and have established the nonprofit Bahr's Mill Preservation Society. After lunch we will visit the Boyertown Museum of Historical Vehicles now housed in the former Boyertown Auto Body Works plant, a business that developed from a carriage works. Mr. Paul Hafer directed the company and spearheaded its change into a museum with a collection telling a remarkable story. In the 1920's Mr. Hafer drew the plans that produced a truck body in the shape of a milk bottle for a local company. He will speak to us about his long association with the company and its products. The museum houses two remarkable collections: carriages, automobiles, trucks, bicycles and motorcycles built in the area, and electric vehicles from around the world. Then we will visit the Daniel Boone Homestead in Birdsboro where we will see the recently restored 18th century water-powered sawmill in operation.

Philadelphia Gear Corporation.

Breweries in Northern Liberties.

Conrail's Coal an Iron Piers on the Delaware.

Henry Disston's Keystone Saw Works in Tacony.

Fairmount Water Works.

Richmond Generating Station.

Sites along Mill Creek in Gladwyne.

Globe Dye Works.

Fort Delaware.

Train trip on New Hope & Ivyland Railroad from Warminster to New Hope.

Conowingo Dam across the Susquehanna River.

MOD VII Chiller at the University of Pennsylvania (May 19, 2004)

The Old Mill in the Great Valley.

Zintners Candies.