Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Nice Ball Bearing, 1902
Hunting Park Avenue & 30th Street, Philadelphia PA

Harold E. Spaulding, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

William Nice, Jr. was born to a longtime Philadelphia family in 1849. After many years of success as a partner of Good & Nice Lumber, he retired in c.1900. Shortly thereafter, Nice was approached by Oliver Knipe of Norristown who needed cash—for it exchanged two patents for pressed steel ball bearings. In 1902, Nice formed the Pressed Steel Manufacturing Company. After William’s death in 1910, h is son Budd Good Nice took over the company and six years later changed the name of the company to the Nice Ball Bearing Company.

Before World War I, the company developed and manufactured a ball thrust bearing for automobile king pins.
1 During the War, the company made them for military trucks and gun mounts and afterwards went back to automotive thrust bearing production. By 1940, 60% of the work was automotive, but during World War II, the company manufactured aircraft pulleys—up to 500,000 per month.

In 1950, the Nice Ball Bearing Company was sold to the Channing Corporation; in 1960, it became a part of SKF Bearings. The operations and machinery were relocated to Kulpsville, Pennsylvania in 1977 and the site in Nicetown was closed down, then sold to the Melrath Gasket Company, the present occupant.

The building is a single-story structure.

1  A king pin is the vertical pin about which a front wheel rotates in steering a car.
2   "History of Nice Bearing Products Division of SKF Industries, Inc."  (Manuscript)

Update May 2007 (by Muriel Kirkpatrick):
In 2006 Philly Self Storage Inc. bought the 137,000-square-foot building at 2901 Hunting Park Avenue, which housed the Nice Ball Bearing Company. Melrath Gasket still leases the west part of the structure. Food Share is located on the east side.