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Whitaker Iron Co. — Crescent Mill, 1886


- from The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886.
 

The Crescent Mill


WHITAKER IRON COMPANY.


The Crescent Mill's Steady Growth — An Extensive and Complete Sheet Mill.


There is no establishment in the Wheeling district, or indeed anywhere, which shows more sustained prosperity than the works of the Whitaker Iron Company, located on the south bank of Wheeling creek in the heart of the city. Founded in 1854 by the Crescent Iron Manufacturing Company, the works in 1862 passed into the hands of the present proprietors, who, in 1875, were incorporated under the name of the Whitaker Iron Company, George P. Whitaker, of Maryland, President, N. E. Whitaker, of Wheeling, Secretary and General Manager. The Whitakers were experienced, driving people. The war and flush times succeeding it gave the country a taste of a real iron boom, of which the Crescent mill had its full share. In the rushing year 1863 the works were pushed to their utmost capacity turning out rails for the Union Pacific Railroad. The manufacture of rails was abandoned in 1872, and the entire plant was converted into a sheet iron mill, added to from time to time as business increased and inventive genius devised new and better machinery and methods. The works now run exclusively on iron, black and galvanized, for which they have a capacity of 10,000 tons per annum.


A LARGE CONCERN


The works consist of a main building 100x500 feet, the forge department 50x150 feet, the galvanizing department 50x150 feet, and the warehouse 40x170. In addition to these there are extensive metal yards and stables. The whole forms an industrial establishment of a very imposing appearance and of very great relative importance in the industries of Wheeling.

There are fourteen double puddling furnaces, equaling twenty-eight single furnaces; four heating furnaces; fourteen sheet and pair furnaces, and twelve annealing furnaces. There are seven sheet mills, a mill being what constitutes the rolls necessary for finishing iron for each separate crew of workmen, the seven mills embracing ten pairs of rolls; one pair bar mill rolls, called the bar mill; one pair muck rolls, called the muck mill, and one rotary squeezer. To keep these mills in motion thirteen steel steam boilers and eight engines are necessary. All the latest improved machinery for shearing the iron and removing scale can be seen in the works. About four hundred men are employed, who make good wages, and the fact that the mill has run steadily the past eleven years speaks well for the management. No strikes have ever interfered with the running of the Crescent and the most cordial relations exist between employer and employe.


CAR ROOFING IRON


Recently there was added to the other extensive departments of the Crescent one of the completest and most extensive plants for the manufacture of car roofing to be found anywhere. The Chicago Car Roofing Company, the leading concern of its kind in the United States, which had long been purchasing iron here, paying freight on it to Chicago and there finishing it into roofing iron, conceived the idea that it was rather wasteful to pay freight on the iron to Chicago while the operations done there could as easily be carried on here. Accordingly the company acquired a site from Mr. Whitaker on the creek bank adjoining his sheet mill, and erecting a large mill, moved its machinery and appliances here, and opened work on a large scale.

This company's plant embraced a patented galvanizing operation which simplifies this work and enables the coating of an enormous amount of sheet iron with zinc in a short time. A complete corrugating mill was also part of the works. Recently the Whitaker Company acquired control of this entire plant, and is operating it in conjunction with the sheet mill with increased capacity, the trade having been increased to considerable larger proportions since the change of owners.

Before the introduction of natural gas the mill enjoyed excellent advantages for fuel, the coal coming directly from the mines down an incline on an elevated track into the mill, where it was dumped from the wagons into the coal boxes.


DELIGHTED WITH GAS.


Speaking of natural gas Mr. Whitaker said he was delighted with it. He could not say too much in its favor, for its advantages could not be overestimated. "There is no question about its making a better article of iron," said Mr. Whitaker. "No sulphur comes in contact with the iron as it is put through the various processes from the raw to the finished state. It cannot but help but add to the durability of the product. Yes, it will throw many men out of employment. That is to be regretted, but I entertain no doubt but that it will ultimately result in good to the men whom it will now place at a disadvantage. The sewing machine, when it was invented, met with the same obstacles as natural gas, it being alleged that it would destroy labor and throw thousands of women who worked with the needle into destitute circumstances. It has just been opposite. More women find work in garment-making now than before the introduction of the sewing machine.New styles, patterns, designs, were added to the list of fashions as fast as the improvements would admit of, and even faster, for there is always a demand now for operators on sewing machines. The same objections were raised to the threshing machines. What would the flail do now? No, natural gas will open up new enterprises. New manufactures will constantly be added to our varied manufactured articles and a demand for labor greater than heretofore will be the result."


A SCHEME FOR COAL DIGGERS.


"But," Mr. Whitaker, "what will these men do in the meantime?"

"That is a question I am not prepared to answer other than so far as our men are concerned. I have suggested the organization of a co-operative company for the purpose of mining and selling coal to private consumers. It is likely some such scheme will be consummated. They urged our running the mine, as they had no capital to change the mines by building coal chutes, screens, &c. We had no desire to enter into competition with city coal banks, as were materially benefitted by while their condition was the reverse; and feeling kindly toward the men who had been with us so many years, and the most cordial relations always existing, we proposed to build all necessary chutes, furnish them with mules, cars, &c., which will no doubt be accepted. This at least will put our miners in a position as good as, it not better than, before the introduction of natural gas into our mills.


GOOD THING FOR THE TOWN.


"The gas is a great thing for most of your employes, isn't it?"

"The gas was hailed with delight by the men employed at the furnaces. So you see while some suffer others are benefitted. The sulphur and smoke from coal were annoying, and no doubt unhealthy. With natural gas all this is obviated. No grate bars are to clean, no clinkers to knock out of the furnace, the sulphur and smoke almost stifling the men in performing this work. In addition, there will be a great saving in furnace building. There are so many advantages that gas has over coal in the manufacture of iron that they cannot be enumerated. Wheeling is certainly fortunate in securing the new fuel. It means the continuance and increased output of her present manufactories, and unquestionably the erection of many more."

The Company finds its market throughout the United States and in South America, and wherever its product goes it stands with the best. Mr. N. E. Whitaker supervises closely every department, though each is in charge of a competent man. He is one of the best informed of American iron masters. Within a year he has purchased and now operates in connection with the Crescent a large steel works at Beaver Falls, which establishment iss in charge of Mr. Edwin C. Ewing, of Wheeling, long connected with the Crescent.

There is no establishment in the Wheeling district, or indeed anywhere, which shows more sustained prosperity than the works of the Whitaker Iron Company, located on the south bank of Wheeling creek in the heart of the city. Founded in 1854 by the Crescent Iron Manufacturing Company, the works in 1862 passed into the hands of the present proprietors, who, in 1875, were incorporated under the name of the Whitaker Iron Company, George P. Whitaker, of Maryland, President, N. E. Whitaker, of Wheeling, Secretary and General Manager. The Whitakers were experienced, driving people. The war and flush times succeeding it gave the country a taste of a real iron boom, of which the Crescent mill had its full share. In the rushing year 1863 the works were pushed to their utmost capacity turning out rails for the Union Pacific Railroad. The manufacture of rals was abandoned in 1872, and the entire plant was converted into a sheet iron mill, added to from time to time as business increased and inventive genius devised new and better machinery and methods. The works now run exclusively on iron, black and galvanized, for which they have a capacity of 10,000 tons per annum.


A LARGE CONCERN


The works consist of a main building 100x500 feet, the forge department 50x150 feet, the galvanizing department 50x150 feet, and the warehouse 40x170. In addition to these there are extensive metal yards and stables. The whole forms an industrial establishment of a very imposing appearance and of very great relative importance in the industries of Wheeling.

There are fourteen double puddling furnaces, equaling twenty-eight single furnaces; four heating furnaces; fourteen sheet and pair furnaces, and twelve annealing furnaces. There are seven sheet mills, a mill being what constitutes the rolls necessary for finishing iron for each separate crew of workmen, the seven mills embracing ten pairs of rolls; one pair bar mill rolls, called the bar mill; one pair muck rolls, called the muck mill, and one rotary squeezer. To keep these mills in motion thirteen steel steam boilers and eight engines are necessary. All the latest improved machinery for shearing the iron and removing scale can be seen in the works. About four hundred men are employed, who make good wages, and the fact that the mill has run steadily the past eleven years speaks well for the management. No strikes have ever interfered with the running of the Crescent and the most cordial relations exist between employer and employe.


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