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The Belmont Nail Works, 1886

from THE WHEELING DAILY INTELLIGENCER, " Special Natural Gas Edition", September 14, 1886.
View Special Edition in its entirety.


A Leading Representative of the Leading Industry

Few concerns form a more important part of the nail making industry of the Ohio Valley than the Belmont Nail Company's works, located in the Sixth ward of the city on the river front and the Baltimore & Ohio, Pittsburgh, Wheeling & Kentucky and Ohio River railroads, and just across the river from the terminus of the Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling road. The Belmont has the second largest nail factory in the city proper, and one of the two blast furnaces located in the city limits. It is also a third owner of the plant of the Wheeling Steel company, which furnishes its steel for rolling into nail plate.

The Belmont's history dates back to 1849, when E.M. Norton and others withdrew from the Virginia mill, and he and William Bailey, S. H. Woodward, Henry Wallace, C. B. Doty, Holstin Harden, F. D. Norton, William Hay, Hugh McGivern and John Wright formed a partnership under the style of Norton, Bailey & Co., bought two acres of ground from Joseph Caldwell for $1,600, and built a mill with eighteen nail machines. Operations were begun in the fall of 1849 with E. M. Norton as President and Wm. Bailey as Manager. Henry Moore was admitted as a partner about the time the works were completed.


Important improvements introduced in the handling of iron just at this juncture, notably the substitution of squeezers for the old tilt hammer previously used for shaping the bloom for the rolls, the improvement in rolling appliances and the introduction of muck bar piling, make this an auspicious time to establish a nail manufactory. The old Virginia mill waned in importance, the Belmont, under its skilled management and with its new processes taking precedence. After two years of notablesuccess Messrs. Bailey and Woodward and a number of others sold their interest in the Belmont to HenryMoore, and started the LaBelle. The Belmont firm then became Norton, Acheson & Co. Joseph Bell became actively connected with the concern in 1853.


The Belmont continued to grow and prosper until 1860, when it had increased its capacity to 80 machines.

In the year 1863 the partnership arrangement of the mill property expired by limitation, and the mill property was sold at public auction for $127,000, Henry McCullough, of Pittsburgh, becoming the purchaser. The company was re-organized under the title of McCullough, Acheson & Co. M. B. Cox at this time became a member of the company. After a brief existence the title of the company was again changed, and it became Lahr & Co., and this again merged into the title of the Belmont Iron Works, with Henry Moore as President. In the fall of 1865 the title was again changed to the Belmont Nail Works Company, under which operations continued to June 30, 1879. In 1874 it had 110 machines, and was the largest factory in Wheeling and the third in size in the United States.

The company in the fall of 1872 commenced a blast furnace, laying the foundation and suspending further work until the spring of 1873, and owing to the advent of the financial panic, it was not finished until the spring of '74. It is model of its kind in perfection and convenience, standing as it does so near the mill, on Main street, between the Belmont and Riverside mills. To build this furnace the company incurred a bonded debt of $200,000, although while the furnace was in process of construction $180,000 of profits was divided among the stockholders. This and the panic of 1873 affected the mill so that in December, 1878, it suspended operations, and in June 1879, it was sold at trustee's sale to Samuel Laughlin, as representative of the bondholders. The price paid was but $150,000. The new blast furnace alone cost $163,000. Extensive additions had been made to its coal privileges. A syndicate was formed and a new company acquired control and has since enjoyed an era of prosperity not excelled by any nail company anywhere. Mr. A. Wilson Kelly is President and Joseph D. DuBois Secretary. The Board of Directors is composed of such well-known men as Col. Thomas O'Brien, W. F. Stifel, G. C. Hannan, A. J. Clarke, Edward Reid, and the President and Secretary, Nicholas Riester is the company's efficient manager.


Belmont has recently rebuilt and enlarged its nail factory, the factory building being of the most approved material and construction. It has 152 machines, and an annual capacity of 350,000 kegs of steel nails and spikes. Its well known "red head" brand of nails is popular wherever Wheeling nails are sold — that is to say, everywhere. It has one of the most substantial nail plants, the buildings being of iron, and one of the most completely and conveniently arranged concerns of the kind to be found in the country. Its site occupies the entire two squares between Twenty-fifth and Twenty-seventh and Main and Water streets. It was one of the first companies to resume operations after the strike of 1885 and it has in the past year perhaps made more nails than any other Wheeling mill. It manufactures Bessemer pig iron in its blast furnace, and its interest in the Wheeling Steel Company's plant assures it an ample supply of the best material for nails at favorable terms, besides a share in the profits of the steel products, a product growing in importance in this locality so that it bids fair to outstrip all other Wheeling industries in the near future.

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