Kings and Princes of
Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown Pa., emerged in 1854 from the conversion
to coke of a number of charcoal iron furnaces, who belonged to George S.
King, Peter Schoenberger and some partners. Because the original promoters
could not repay their creditors, the firm of Wood, Morrell & Company was
organized in Philadelphia to take over and operate the furnaces. This firm
was headed by Charles Wood and Daniel Johnson Morrell (1821-1885), who moved
to Johnstown as general manager of the iron works .
it was to John W. Fritz (1822-1913), a son of German immigrants, who was
brought-in as general superintendent of the works by David Reeves, a partner
of Wood and Morrell, that Cambria owes its early success. A practical man,
who had already acquired experience at James Hooven’s Norristown Iron Works,
John Fritz devised the concept of the three-high rolling mill, which solved
the problem of tear and brittles of rail production. As the financial
situation of the company was critical, Fritz had a hard time winning the
owners for his innovation though.
Edward Y. Townsend, another partner of Wood and Morrell, supported the idea
and convinced the other owners. The three-high rolling mill worked fine at
Cambria and when he left the company in 1860, to take over as general
superintendent and chief engineer of the Bethlehem Iron Company, Fritz had
made Cambria the most efficient U.S. rail producer, with a workforce of
1948, second only to the Montour Iron Works .
an entrepreneur, Daniel J. Morrell also played a part in the introduction of
Bessemer steel making in the USA. In 1856, he allowed William Kelly to
experiment his pneumatic process at Cambria, with the only result of an
explosion, locally dubbed “Kelly’s fireworks”. But Morrell remained
convinced of the steel-making process and in 1862, together with shipping
magnate Eber Brock Ward and expert iron maker Zoheth Durfee, he purchased
the Kelly patents and built a steel mill at Wyandotte, Michigan. From these
efforts resulted the first (experimental) American steel rails, rolled in
the North Chicago Rolling Mill in May 1865 .
the same year (1865), Alexander Lyman Holley, who had acquired the American
license of the Bessemer process in 1857 defeating Zoheth Durfee, finished a
steel plant for [John A.] Griswold and [John F.] Winslow at Troy, New York.
This set the stage for a violent legal dispute between the holders of the
American rights to the Bessemer process [Holley, Griswold and Winslow] and
the organizers of the Kelly Pneumatic Process Company [Ward, Durfee, the
Cambria Iron Company, and two other firms including Park Brothers & Company
from Pittsburgh) .
complexity of the Bessemer steel patent situation in the USA at that time
was increased by the fact that both operating units, the Wyandotte plant and
the Troy works, infringed on the respective patents of their owners’
opponents in the dispute. The Kelly process was experimental only and thus
the Wyandotte plant had been built along the basics of the Bessemer process.
But the Kelly Pneumatic Process Company acquired the American rights to
Robert Mushet’s patent on the use of spiegeleisen, a pre-requisite to the
successful production of Bessemer steel on an industrial scale. Thus, none
of the contenders could do without infringing the patents of the other side .
> Steel Kings :
2 - 3 -