Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

American Machine Works, 1879
Lehigh Avenue and American Street, Philadelphia PA 19133
(northeast corner, west to Philip Street)

Carmen A. Weber, Irving Kosmin, and Muriel Kirkpatrick, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

The building still standing here was erected in 1879 to house the American Machine Works. 1 It reached from American to Philip Street along Lehigh, and went back six bays into the block.  A small extension on Philip Street housed the boiler, engine, and japanning (lacquering) rooms on the upper floors. Owned by a corporation, the company produced fluting machines and fancy hardware. It preceded by a few years Thomas Devlin's National Hardware and Malleable Iron Works built in 1881 across the North Pennsylvania Railroad tracks to the west. 2 Devlin's was still operating in 1925, but the American Machine Company building was occupied by North Brothers manufacturing as early as 1892. 3

A 1908 depiction of North Brothers in a souvenir publication on the founding of Philadelphia showed many additional buildings, sheds, and engine stacks.
4 Their main products were Lightning Gem, Blizzard and Crown ice cream freezers, and various screw drivers and drills. They still made fluting and plaiting machines, and added Christmas tree holders.

In 1916 North Brothers employed 414 people, the number dropped in 1940 to 345, but increased again by 1943 to 375 employees.
5 Today the complex is listed as the Charles Benjamin Building and is utilized as a recycling center.

Update May 2007 (by Torben Jenk):
Demolished. Replaced by a retail shopping center.

1  Hexamer General Survey #1522 (1880) "The American Machine Co.'s Works."
2  Hexamer General Survey #1640 (1882) "National Hardware and Malleable Iron Works, Thomas Devlin & Co."
Hexamer General Survey #2665 (1893) "National Hardware and Malleable Iron Works, Thomas Devlin & Co."
3  Bromley, 1925; and William H. Boyd's Son, Boyd's Business Directory for the City of Philadelphia, (Philadelphia, 1892), p. 503.
4  William W. Matos, Philadelphia, Its Founding and Development, 1683-1908, (Philadelphia, 1908).
5  Department of Labor and Industry, Pennsylvania, 1916, p. 1305; and Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade, Philadelphia, p. 86.