Builders of Wooden Railway Cars ... and some of other stuff

Chicago Car & Locomotive Works

H.H. Scoville & Sons
Chicago Locomotive Company

We recently discovered advertisements for H.H. Scoville in Chicago city directories for 1889 and 1890. They were located at 250, 252 and 254 So. Clinton St. and advertised: “Manufacturers of Pile Driving Engines, Single and Double hoisting engines from 10-horse to 200-horse power, derricks and stone gang saws. Mining Machinery, Pulverizing, Concentrating And Amalgamating Machinery a specialty.” They also offered the COMET Rock and Ore crusher. Is this a “second Scoville Iron Works?” If you know, would you share the information with us?

The Chicago Car & Locomotive Works had its beginning at Chicago, Illinois, in 1848, when H.H. Scoville entered into partnership with his three eldest sons, Addison, William and Ives to establish a foundry. {304} They purchased a lot at the corner of Canal and Adams streets, near the south branch of the Chicago River, and moved a frame building there that had formerly stood at Randolph and Clinton streets. Then they erected a 50' x 85' brick building and as time went by added other buildings.

When the budding Galena & Chicago Union Railroad needed cars, Scoville & Sons contracted to build them. John B. Turner, president of that road, had a car shipped by schooner from Michigan “as a sample for them to pattern after.” Scoville’s cars were the first to run into and out of Chicago. Soon they were building passenger cars as well as freight cars, {305} and apparently were building cars for other railroads as well. {306}

Chicago Car & Locomotive Works Advertisement

In 1853, Scoville & Sons outshopped the “Enterprise”—the first locomotive manufactured west of the Allegheny Mountains, {304} apparently designed by William Scoville. {319} The next year, the Chicago Mechanics Institute gave him an award for “the best locomotive engine.” {324}

After building a total of three locomotives, “certain individuals became ambitious to organize a large stock company, believing that a much more extensive and prosperous business could be carried on.” {305} On 1 November 1853, the business was incorporated as the Chicago Locomotive Company. {328}

The first officers were William H. Brown (founder, Director and Vice President of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad), President; Sholto Douglas, Secretary; William H. Scoville, Treasurer and Superintendent of the works; and D.R. Frazer, Assistant Superintendent. E.H. Haddock, Robert Foss, and W.H. Brown were Directors. {318}

Authorized capital was $250,000, and quite a number of “leading citizens” became stockholders. But virtually the only stock paid for was the $50,000 subscribed by members of the Scoville family. {320} Because of this, the credit of the new company was not as good as had been that of H.H. Scoville & Sons. {305} This was a big problem at a time when builders of railroad rolling stock were expected to finance the purchases of their customers. {320}

(It is quite possible Hiram’s nephew Charles F. Scoville participated in some way in this new business, as he had just gone to work for the American Car Company of Seymour, Connecticut, when he abruptly departed for Chicago for reasons unknown to his biographers. This likelihood is reinforced by the fact he went to work for the Illinois Central Railroad some time after 1855 when the Scovilles sold out their interests in the Chicago Locomotive Company. He left the Illinois Central in 1871 to establish the car department of Wells & French.)

The corporation completed an additional seven locomotives, for a total of ten. {305} All but two were built for the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad. Other Midwest railroads would not buy from Chicago Locomotive. {321} It is unknown whether it ever built any cars after the contract with the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad.

In 1855, Hiram Scoville retired from active participation in the business, {305} and the Scoville family sold its interests to E.H. Shadduck, one of the original stock holders. Shadduck, in turn, “sold the property to the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad for a yard and terminal. The site is where the present-day Union Station now stands. {321}

Cast of Characters

Hiram Hough Scoville (1795-1879) was born at Meriden, Connecticut, but his family moved to Oran, New York, before he was a year old. There Hiram grew up on his father’s farm and attended the common schools. When he came of age, he decided to learn mechanical engineering, and went to work for a foundry and machine shop at Syracuse, New York. In 1832, he and two friends built a small steamboat and operated it on Lake Cazenovia, then on the Erie Canal. {305}

In 1836/37, Hiram came to Chicago to supervise the building of a marine engine for a lake steamer that was being built there. Due to the financial panic of that year the project was dropped, but Scoville went on to build another, smaller boat, the “James Allen.” {305}

Hiram next became a contractor on the Illinois & Michigan Canal in partnership with Capt. William H. Avery. But in 1842/43 the financial condition of the state of Illinois forced suspension of work on the canal and Hiram withdrew from that partnership. {305}

Instead, he entered into partnership with his son-in-law, P.W. Gates, to open a small blacksmith and wagon shop on Randolph Street in Chicago. Hiram had suffered severe financial reverses while engaged in contracting on the canal, and young Gates had no capital, so they had to borrow the money to buy lumber for their new building. At the end of the year, a foundry and machine shop was built on the corner of Washington and West Water streets. {304}

The Chicago city directory for 1843 shows “Scoville & Gates, machinists, millwrights, blacksmiths, and founders, s.w. cor West Washington and West Water.” {327}

A Chicago city directory for 1846 lists the partnership’s foundry at the southwest corner of this intersection. {307} The partnership continued for about five years, at which point Hiram sold out to Gates. {304}

Hiram then entered into the partnership with his three eldest sons that became the Chicago Car & Locomotive Works.

In 1855, Hiram retired from active participation in the business, leaving his son Hiram Henry Scoville in charge. {305}

Hiram Scoville was not only a practical mechanic, but an inventor as well. Among his inventions was a cam-motion for self-raking reapers for which he received a patent. {305} He also received a patent for cast iron car wheels (Pat. No. 9121, dated 13 July 1852). {306}

Philetus Woodworth Gates ( - ) was born at _______ . He married Hiram Scoville’s eldest child and only daughter Abigail. {324}

James Addison Scoville (1822-????) was born at Oran, New York. He came with his parents to Chicago in 1836/37. Rather than apprenticing in the metal trades as his brothers apparently did, he may have studied bookkeeping, as the Chicago city directory for 1843 shows “Scoville, Jas. Addison, bookkeeper, Scoville & Gates, bds H.H. Scoville.” {327} At some point he moved to California, as he died there in ????. {324}

William Harrison Scoville (1824-1884) was born at Oran or Manlius, New York. He came with his parents to Chicago in 1836/37, {324} and probably apprenticed with his father at the foundry, for the Chicago city directory for 1843 shows “Scoville, William H., machinist.” {327}

Sometime prior to 1854, William was elected alderman of Chicago’s Fifth Ward. {324}

White {319} says, “William ... had reportedly once worked at the Norris Locomotive Works in Philadelphia. It was his ambition to build an engine in the family shop that would out perform the excellent locomotives produced ... by Walter McQueen.” He was thus the driving force behind the family’s efforts at locomotive building.

Yet, in 1861, William abandoned not only locomotive design but the machinist’s trade entirely, and moved to San Francisco, where he became a manufacturer of candles and glycerine (soap and candles per White. {325}

After 10 years in California, William moved back to Chicago, where he got into the soap business. {324}

Ives Miles Scoville (1825-1912+) was born at Oran, New York. He came with his parents to Chicago in 1836/37,  {324} and probably apprenticed with his father at the foundry, for the Chicago city directory for 1843 shows “Scoville, Ives, blacksmith, Scoville & Gates, bds H.H. Scoville.” {327}

Ives was apparently residing at Oakland California in 1869 {perhaps with brother William? See above), for the Sacramento Daily Union for 17 May 1869, in a column beginning “PACIFIC COAST PATENTS - Following is the official list of patents issued to invertors on the Pacific coast for the week ending May 4th, received by Dewey & Co., of the Mining and Scientific Press:” lists a “Side-hill Plow - Ives SCOVILLE and Hiram H. SCOVILLE (Jr?) , Oakland.” He was still living in Oakland in 1912. {324}

Hiram Henry Scoville (1833-?? ) was born at Oran, New York. His family moved to Chicago when he was four years old. After attending the common schools, he entered into apprenticeship with his father and became a thoroughly practical mechanic. {324} The Chicago city directory for 1843 shows “Scoville, Hiram Henry, apprentice, Scoville & Gates, bds H.H. Scoville.” {327}

When he came of age, Hiram became a partner in H.H. Scoville & Sons in the manufacture of steam engines and general machinery. {305} In 1855, when his father retired, he became sole proprietor of the Scoville Iron Works.

He “went to Denver for several years (1860-1866) but returned to Chicago to organize the second Scoville Iron Works." {306}

For More Information

White, John H. Jr., “Chicago Locomotive Builders,” Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin No. 122, April 1970, pp. 52-60.

While author White is interested in the Chicago Car & Locomotive Works primarily as a locomotive builder, he notes that it did build some railway cars.

09 April 2006

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