#15 Wrightsville Hardware Company; top Wrightsville employer in 1899
In 1899, the Wrightsville Hardware Company had been manufacturing hardware and iron novelties for 19-years. The #15, in the post headline, signifies that in the year 1899, there were only fourteen companies containing a work force of more employees in all of York County.
This is a southeast view of the Wrightsville Hardware Company factory from the corner of Water Street (lower right) and Lemon Street (lower left) in the southern part of Wrightsville. The factory extended between Water Street, on the west; Lemon Street, on the north; Willow Street, on the south; and the Susquehanna River on the east.
A line-up of products, produced by Wrightsville Hardware Company around the turn of the last century, can be seen in this advertisement, appearing in the May 1903 issue of the trade publication, The House Furnishing Review.
Every issue of the House Furnishing Review also reviewed a few catalogues of their advertisers. On page 361 of this same issue, the Wrightsville Hardware Company catalogue was reviewed as follows:
Among the interesting trade publications which has found its way into the Review office is the illustrated catalogue of the Wrightsville Hardware Company, of Wrightsville, Pa., iron founders and manufacturers of hardware, house furnishing goods, and toys. The first section of the book is devoted to builders’ hardware, followed by a line of bed castors, draw pulls in a variety of patterns, paper files, anvil paper weights, calendar stands, meat pounders, shelf brackets, tobacco cutters, Mrs. Best’s sad irons, Troy polishing irons, hat and coat hooks, hatchets, hammers, can openers, fish scalers, and other handy house tools, sundry garden and carpenters’ tools and a long list of toy irons, tools, jack stones, etc. The book is most tastefully gotten up, and will be forwarded by the firm on application.
A few items appearing in the ad, that were not mentioned in the review, include: iron penny toys of all kinds, tack hammers, bird cage hooks, clothes line hooks, coffee pot stands, dumb bells and boot jacks. Continue reading for more details about the Wrightsville Hardware Company.
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 #15 in the count down of the Top 50 York County Factories at End of 19th Century is the Wrightsville Hardware Company in Wrightsville, PA. The 10th Factory Inspection Report notes that on March 1st 1899, the Wrightsville Hardware Company has 130 employees; 124 male and 6 female. Of these 130 employees, 7 employees are under 21-years-old. The goods manufactured are recorded as “Hardware & iron novelties.”
George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County contains additional details about the Wrightsville Hardware Company. Quoting from Volume II, page 457:
The Wrightsville Hardware Manufacturing Company was established in 1880, with Colonel Magee as president, and George K. Shenberger as secretary and treasurer. It was capitalized at $5,000, and conducted at first on the co-operative plan. The first foundry building was 50 x 60 feet in dimensions, and employment was given twelve molders. The original building has given place to modern brick structures, and today  about two hundred and twenty-five men are employed. During the first year the output was valued at $17,000; now it reaches to $260,000. Although Mr. Henry McElroy did not become manager until 1893, he had virtually been in control of the business since 1888.
The Biographical Sketches section of John Gibson’s 1886 History of York County, PA (pages 74 through 80) and Volume II of George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, PA (pages 436 and 457) contain information, resulting in this list of the Wrightsville Hardware Company organizers:
- Henry Birnstock, born November 4, 1837
- David Detwiler, born January 27, 1818
- Andrew J. Duden, born January 25, 1841
- George D. Ebert, born December 24, 1824
- Daniel L. Hoke, born August 22, 1849
- Capt. Frank J. Magee, born December 8, 1837
- Henry McElroy, born December 25, 1837
- John W. Minnich, born January 16, 1849
The following illustration shows the Wrightsville Hardware Company buildings on a 1909 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. This map provides type of building construction, Yellow for Wood Frame and Red for Brick are dominant, and gives general usages of each individual building.
Penn State has many of the older Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps available on-line at this link. These cover Pennsylvania, although they are primarily restricted to urban areas.
The link, to go directly to the map containing the Wrightsville Hardware Company, is here; then select Sheet 5 in the right column. This allows one to zoom-in to see greater detail or look at other areas of Wrightsville.
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 36 factories provided employment for 2,836 people in York County during 1899.
- #15 Wrightsville Hardware Company in Wrightsville; 130 employees
- #16 John C. Schmidt & Company in York; 120 employees
- #17 Celestino, Costello & Company in York; 114 employees
- #18 Holtzman Manufacturing Company in York; 114 employees
- #19 York Wall Paper Company in York; 101 employees
- #20 Wells Whip Company in Wellsville; 100 employees
- #21 Billmeyer & Small Company in York; 100 employees
- #22 Nes Chain Manufacturing Company in York; 100 employees
- #23 Variety Iron Works in York; 100 employees
- #24 Oppenheim, Oberndorf and Company in York; 98 employees
- #25 Industrial Sewing Company of Glen Rock; 96 employees
- #26 New York Wire Cloth Company in York; 90 employees
- #27 Peter C. Fulweiler & Brothers Cigar Factory in York; 89 employees
- #28 York Safe & Lock Company in Spring Garden Township; 89 employees
- #29 Keystone Farm Machine Company in York; 87 employees
- #30 J. E. Williams & Company in York; 85 employees
- #31 Acme Wagon Company in Emigsville; 80 employees
- #32 Columbia Embroidery Works in Wrightsville; 80 employees
- #33 Hanover Silk Company in Hanover; 75 employees
- #34 George A. Kohler & Company Cigar Factory in York; 74 employees
- #35 Weaver Organ & Piano Company in York; 71 employees
- #36 York Knitting Mills in York; 67 employees
- #37 D. F. Stauffer Bakery in York; 66 employees
- #38 LaButa Cigar Factory in York; 65 employees
- #39 A. F. Hostetter Cigar Factory in Hanover; 64 employees
- #40 Broomell, Schmidt & Company Factory in York; 62 employees
- #41 William H. Raab Cigar Factory in Dallastown; 59 employees
- #42 Edwin Myers & Co. Cigar Box & Lithographic Works in York; 56 employees
- #43 Paragon Cigar Factory in York; 54 employees
- #44 York Cracker Bakery in York; 53 employees
- #45 Penn Heel & Innersole Factory in Hanover; 52 employees
- #46 George W. Gable Cigar Factory in Windsor; 50 employees
- #47 Charles P. Ketterer Wagon Factory in Hanover; 50 employees
- #48 National Cigar Manufacturing Company in West Manchester; 50 employees
- #49 George W. Hoover Wagon Factory in York; 48 employees
- #50 David S. Detwiler Cigar Factory in Wrightsville; 47 employees