A Classification of American Wealth
History and genealogy of the wealthy families of America - Sponsors

 Part 1 : Colonial and Mercantile America  Part 2 : America in the Gilded Age
 Part 3 : America in the Twentieth Century  Encyclopedia of American Wealth

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   Part II-Chapter 11 :  The Trusts  > Steel Kings  :                            « Previous  1 - 2 - 3 - 4  Next » 

     Kings and Princes of Steel 

But among the wealthiest men in the thirteen colonies who were about to declare Independence in 1776, only David Ross (1740-1817) of Virginia built his £100’000+ fortune almost exclusively on his iron plantations, comprising the Oxford Iron Works, the Calloway and Stonewall furnaces, the David Ross forge and furnace, along with 100’000 acres of land and 450 slaves primarily engaged in iron making. The £45’000 Anthony Morris (II) estate of Philadelphia comprised large interests in various iron forges and furnaces, but that fortune was incepted in brewing and enlarged by city real estate.

Nor did this picture change much during the first four decades of the 19th century. Tench Coxe (1755-1824), the U.S. commissioner of revenue (1792-97) and political economist who actively promoted cotton as a staple crop in the South and cotton manufacturing as an industry, bought the 80’000 acres of Pennsylvania coal lands which would make his descendents rich, but he did not actually exploit them. Likewise the great Cornwall ore hill with its iron deposits eventually estimated at $60 million was then acquired by the Coleman and Grubb families, who ran iron forges and furnaces in Eastern Pennsylvania even before the American Revolution.

With the population growth and the development of other manufactures, the needs for ironware (tools, nails, tin plate, fixtures, etc) increased. But the industry got its impetus with the introduction of steam railroads, which required increasing quantities of iron for both, rails and rolling stock (locomotives, cars and wagons). Such goods were first imported from England, but soon American inventors built their own locomotives and pioneering entrepreneurs produced the first American iron rails.

As early as 1825, John Stevens (jr) of Hoboken, the one time partner and later competitor of the Livingstons in river steam-shipping, built a small steam locomotive. In 1829, Peter Cooper built the “Tom Thumb”, a small steam engine for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Three years later, Matthias Baldwin started to produce his “Old Ironsides”, the first of many locomotives for American railroads .

How the Scrantons converted their ill fated nail factory in North Eastern Pennsylvania to manufacture T-rails for the Erie Railroad in 1847 is documented elsewhere in this work . When it was reorganized in 1853 as the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company, with such highly regarded investors as John Insley Blair (from New Jersey) and William Earl Dodge (from New York), the Scrantons’ iron business became the nucleus of a great American iron and (later) steel concern.

Equally successful where the Montour Iron Works of Danville, Pennsylvania, which in 1845 were effectively the first in America to produce T-shaped rails, following the design of John Stevens jr. By the time that firm became the Pennsylvania Iron Works (1860), it employed 3000 people, the largest workforce of any iron producer in the USA. It was owned by the Grove brothers, who opened their “Columbia Furnace” (the first at Montour, Pa.) in 1839 .


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