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

Harlan & Hollingsworth - Page 3

At the Chicago Railway Exhibition of 1883 one of the exhibits was an eight-wheeled passenger car built in 1840 for the Tioga Railroad, by the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company. It had been in service from that time up to the date of the exposition, and its arrangements showed that marked progress had been made in its construction, although it lacked a number of useful modern improvements. The National Car Builder, in noticing it, said

The seats are of the same pattern as the common seats of to-day. Their frames are iron and their arms of walnut, the upholstering being plain and of leather. The body of the car has the following dimensions, viz.: 8 feet 4 inches by 6 feet 4 inches by 36 feet. The timbers are about the same as those put in to-day, excepting that the end sills are mortised into the side sills. The body is supported by no springs aside from the ordinary rubbers in the pedestals. On the original trucks, which served for twenty-eight years, the wheels were outside of the bearings. The car is fitted with the ordinary freight drawbar and chain brakes. The only ventilation afforded is that by means of a 10-inch flue in the centre of the car. Light is supplied by two candles, one in each end of the car. There are no closets, lavatories, or water coolers in the car. One stove is furnished in the winter. A curious feature about the windows is that they do not raise, the panels between the windows being raised instead. This feature is, we believe, still to be found upon some other roads. This antique car originally cost $2,000, and has a recorded mileage of 1,100,000 miles.


Morris Run car of Harlan & Hollingsworth

By 1889 the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company employed 1,500 workers, paid $1,000,000 in wages, and had 50 buildings occupying 43 acres.

By the end of the 1800s, Harlan & Hollingsworth was Wilmington’s largest employer as well as one of the country’s leading shipbuilders.

In 1899, Henry G. Morse, president of the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company, resigned to establish his own shipyard -- New York Shipbuilding Corp. -- farther up the Delaware river at Camden, New Jersey.

In the late 1890s, Wilmington began to experience a gradual decline in many of its established industrial firms. Succumbing to the "merger and acquisition mania" sweeping through America, several industries in Wilmington were either merged or acquired by other companies. Among these was the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company, which was taken over by the Bethlehem Steel Company.

Harlan & Hollingsworth Advertisement


Bethlehemethlehem Steel, Harlan Plant?
- or -
Harlan & Hollingsworth Corporation?

In 1899, the directors of the Bethlehem Iron Co. formed the Bethlehem Steel Company, a holding company, which immediately leased the properties of the Bethlehem Iron Company. In 1901, Charles Schwab, president of United States Steel Corporation, purchased control of the Bethlehem Steel Company. The Bethlehem Iron Company ceased to exist and Bethlehem Steel took its place. Schwab merged the Bethlehem Steel Company with the newly formed (1902) United States Shipbuilding Company. The shipbuilding company failed and after many lawsuits and a congressional investigation, Schwab organized the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in New Jersey in 1904, to succeed the United States Shipbuilding Company.

Authorities say (variously) the Harlan & Hollingsworth Company was —

— merged into United States Shipbuilding upon its establishment in 1902.
— acquired by Bethlehem Steel in 1904.
— acquired by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company in 1904 (it was organized in 1902).
— acquired by Bethlehem Steel Co. in 1905.
— became part of Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1906.

The Delaware Department of Transportation website says

The Bethlehem Shipbuilding Company acquired the Harlan & Hollingsworth property in 1904. Renaming it the Harlan Plant, Bethlehem began a two-year modernization of the facilities, increased ship construction, and introduced steel railcar construction.

And there are several other references to the Harlan Plant of Bethlehem Steel on the internet.

Yet the Bethlehem, PA website reprints an historical sketch of the Bethlehem Steel Company that first appeared in the Souvenir History Book of The Borough of South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, issued in connection with the semi-centennial celebration Oct. 3-9, 1915, that says

The Bethlehem Steel Corporation now embraces the following plants, and their full operation employs about 30,000 men:
*   *   *
This Company, located at Wilmington, Delaware, builds principally merchant vessels, ferry boats, etc., though it has built torpedo boats and destroyers for the United States Navy. It has also a large car shop, and its passenger cars are well and favorably known in South American, China, and other foreign countries.

And we find several other mentions of the Harlan & Hollingsworth Corporation dated as early as 1908.

Both Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation Ltd. and United States Shipbuilding Company are listed as holdings of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation as of 1920, but though there is mention that subsidiaries of the company operate ... shipbuilding plants ... at ... Wilmington, DE,” there is no mention of either a Harlan Plant or a Harlan & Hollingsworth Corporation. Perhaps this indicates that Harlan & Hollingsworth was actually a subsidiary of either Bethlehem Shipbuilding or United States Shipbuilding rather than directly of Bethlehem Steel.

*     *     *

In 1906, Harlan & Hollingsworth produced 43,016 tons of shipping, compared to 15,617 for Jackson & Sharp and 48,671 for Pusey & Jones, the other Wilmington manufacturers of iron and steel shipping.

The 1st World War returned Wilmington to prosperity as munitions works, ship builders, and foundries went into action.  Harlan & Hollingsworth built 70 ships during the 1st World War and continued to manufacture ships until 1926, when the glut of vessels constructed during the 1st World War finally made such efforts economically unfeasible. The shipyard reopened in 1942 and built 400 landing craft during the 2nd World War. The Dravo Corporation, a Pittsburgh-based barge and crane manufacturer, acquired part of the shipyard and built barges and small ships until 1964.

But railroad car production continued apace, building a great many cars during the early 1920s, and continued until 1940, though parts were manufactured until 1944.


09 April 2006

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