#26 New York Wire Cloth Company in York; Original Home of the Christmas Eve Factory Whistle Concert

Workman at the New York Wire Cloth Factory in York, PA (From page 152 of York Pennsylvania, A Dynamic Community Forges Ahead, Published by the York Chamber of Commerce, 1957)

Workman at the New York Wire Cloth Factory in York, PA (From page 152 of York Pennsylvania, A Dynamic Community Forges Ahead, Published by the York Chamber of Commerce, 1957)

In my post Late 1800s Factory Inspection Reports Assist in Identification of an East Prospect Photo  I wrote about finding these reports in the State Library of Pennsylvania.  For this series on the Top 50 York County Factories at the end of 19th Century, I’m using data from the 10th Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Factory Inspection.

The 10th Factory Inspection Report is for the Department’s year ending October 31st 1899.  I ranked the 479 York County factories by numbers of employees; #50 has 47 employees, on up to #1 with 510 employees.  In the coming weeks, on Monday and/or Tuesday, I’m counting down to the top employer in York County at the end of 19th Century.

At #26 in the count down of the Top 50 York County Factories at End of 19th Century is the New York Wire Cloth Factory in York.  The photo shows a workman attentively making wire cloth in this factory; likely to be used as insect wire screening.  Most Yorkers, however, know the New York Wire Cloth Factory at 441 East Market Street as the original home of the Christmas Eve Factory Whistle Concert.

A variable pitch factory whistle has been used to play a Christmas Eve concert since 1925.  With the recent closing of the York Plant of the New York Wire Cloth Company.  Metso (successor to Factory #40 in my count down) stepped in and moved the “concert” whistle to their factory in York.  The York tradition of Christmas Eve Factory Whistle Concerts will continue.

 

 

The insect screen business originated with the weaving of haircloth.  Haircloth was made from horses’ tails and linen.  In the mid-1880s, the leading producers of haircloth formed a monopoly and the price of haircloth went sky high.

A Yorker, John Eisenhart, decided the answer to the haircloth monopoly was to weave thin strands of metal wire; instead of haircloth.  Eisenhart established the York Wire Cloth Company in 1888 as a local factory on East Market Street; producing wire cloth for insect screening.

Also in 1888, independently, Francis J. Root founded the Hamilton Wire Company of Hamilton, New York using the same technique that John Eisenhart had utilized.  Within the next four years, Mr. Root acquired and merged his company with three other wire weavers: P.S. deWitt & Sons of Brooklyn, New York; Homer Wire Cloth of Homer, New York; and lastly York Wire Cloth of York, Pennsylvania.

In 1892, Francis J. Root renamed the merged companies the New York Wire Cloth Company.  By 1898, all manufacturing operations were consolidated into the York, Pennsylvania factory; with the corporate offices remaining in New York City.

The 10th Factory Inspection Report notes that on March 13th 1899 the New York Wire Cloth Company in York has 90 employees; 35 male and 55 female.  Of these 90 employees, 3 employees are between 21 and 16-years-old.  The goods manufactured are recorded as “Wire Cloth.”

Section of 1903 Atlas of York, PA, Plate 17 (Green Annotations and Blue Building Shading by S. H. Smith, 2013)

Section of 1903 Atlas of York, PA, Plate 17 (Green Annotations and Blue Building Shading by S. H. Smith, 2013)

This section of the 1903 Atlas of York, PA shows the 1903 buildings (shaded in blue) of the York manufacturing operations of The New York Wire Cloth Company.  For many years this was their only manufacturing facility, however by the mid-1900s additional facilities were purchased or built.

The Agricultural and Industrial Museum of the York County Heritage Trust displays the following photo of the New York Wire Cloth Company airplane.  This Beechcraft D18S likely logged many miles between the corporate offices in New York City and the factory in York, PA.  Note the lettering on the lower part of the airplane’s tail:  New York, N.Y. & York, PA.

New York Wire Cloth Company airplane, a Beechcraft D18S (2013 S. H. Smith Photo of a display at The Agricultural and Industrial Museum of the York County Heritage Trust)

New York Wire Cloth Company airplane, a Beechcraft D18S (2013 S. H. Smith Photo of a display at The Agricultural and Industrial Museum of the York County Heritage Trust)

The present New York Wire web site contains these historical notes about production of their products:

A low carbon steel was the first metal used for manufacturing industrial mesh. The early 1900s saw the introduction of new metals for mesh including bronze and galvanized steel.  New York Wire also developed the first bar looms and was the first producer to use bobbinless looms, allowing for continuous feed of wire and increasing production speed. This process made it possible to weave electro-galvanized wire successfully. In 1915, New York Wire patented the electro-galvanized mesh process that produced mesh with a greater life cycle at a lower cost.  This process became the standard for over 30 years.

In 1933, New York Wire introduced the first successful aluminum mesh.  It had greater weathering characteristics and stayed cleaner than other metals.  In 1954, New York Wire introduced the first high-speed wire weaving looms in the world.

A review of my count down, thus far, of the 50 top factories in York County at the end of 19th Century follows.  As a group, these 25 factories provided employment for 1,663 people in York County during 1899.

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About Stephen H. Smith

Stephen H. Smith is a design engineer who worked at York International Corp. for 33 years before retiring several years ago to research and write books full time; his second career. The initial emphasis was on family history when he won a national award during 2002 for his first book “Barshingers in America.” Positive feedback and that award were influential in his decision to retire early from engineering and start a retirement career.

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