#22 Nes Chain Manufacturing Company in York; first building within ACCO Plant
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 #22 in the count down of the Top 50 York County Factories at End of 19th Century is the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company in York. In 1889, the Nes Chain Works began to manufacture chain products in York. In current terms, the location of that plant can be described as the southwest corner of East Princess Street and the Ma & Pa Railroad. I’ve indicated the location of that building, in blue, within the 1937 Aerial Photo.
In 1900, the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company is one of several chain companies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana that joined to form the Standard Chain Company. Through consolidation, the Nes Plant was eventually selected as a location for expansion; buildings start to be added heading west along East Princess Street. At that time a large undeveloped parcel of land still lay to that side of the Nes Plant.
In 1917, more consolidation occurred in the chain industry, the Standard Chain Company becomes part of American Chain and Cable Company. As in the past, the East Princess Street Plant is selected for expansion, to accommodate a consolidation of other plants. Buildings were erected until all available property for expansion (yellow lines on the 1937 Aerial Photo) had been built upon. The following 1957 Aerial View of the ACCO Plant along East Princess Street is from a York Chamber of Commerce publication.
The eventual solution to an aging factory in a confined area resulted in the acquisition of a much larger parcel of land in York Township. After moving to the new ACCO plant, the East Princess Street plant fell into neglect. It was eventually torn down, however one building was saved and redeveloped. Cable House Apartments now occupy the building marked in orange. This 84-unit complex was developed by York Area Development Corporation to provide housing for low-income families.
Continue reading for more on the early history of the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company.
The 10th Factory Inspection Report notes that on March 13th 1899 Nes Chain Manufacturing Company in York has 100 employees; all male. Of these 100 employees, 8 employees are under 21-years old of which 6 are between 13 and 16-years-old. The goods manufactured are recorded as “Chains.”
George Prowell’s 1907 History of York County, PA has this to say about Nes Chain Manufacturing Company in Volume I, Page 760:
In February, 1889, the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company began operations in York. This firm was composed of the late Charles I. Nes and his brother, David Nes. In the year 1900 the Standard Chain Company was formed, which took over, among thirteen other chain manufacturing plants and a rolling mill, these two extensive plants in York, which now employ about 300 men out of a total of 1,200 men employed by the Standard Chain Company.
The “other” extensive chain manufacturing plant in York, referenced by George Prowell, is John C. Schmidt & Company, which will appear at #16 in my count-down, with 120 employees in 1899. Interestingly, Charles I. Nes learned the chain manufacturing trade while an employee of John C. Schmidt & Company for three years.
In 1889, Charles I. Nes, at the age of 26-years-old, set of with his younger brother David S. Nes and established a competing chain making establishment in York. Both chain-making businesses were producing roughly the same products. After 10-years of head-to-head competition, Schmidt’s company was still larger, although Nes’s company had reached a respectable sized and was only 20 employees smaller than the senior firm.
The Standard Chain Company was formed March 14th, 1900; its main offices were located in the Frick Building, Pittsburgh, PA. As a total, all the chain companies joining to form the Standard Chain Company were estimated to represent 70 percent of all the chain manufactured in the United States at that time. York, Pennsylvania, was the only city to have two chain companies join Standard Chain Company and they were two of the larger companies to join; Schmidt’s company was the 3rd largest and Nes’s company was the 4th largest.
Charles I. Nes was a Director of the Standard Chain Company. His local competitor, but now partner, John C. Schmidt also was a Director and was elected President of the Standard Chain Company. J. T. Davis was selected as the General Manager with control over all the plants.
The 1899 York Directory has Charles I. Nes living at 217 East Market Street (this is before renumbering). Besides being proprietor of the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company, he is Vice President of York Milling Company and Vice President of Central Market House Company. Charles I. Nes died May 10th, 1900 at 37-years of age, his wife Lucy and two young daughters Mary and Dorothy survived him.
Location of Nes Chain Manufacturing Company
The 1890 Directory of York, PA, indicates the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company is located at “Rouses Lane, corner M C R R;” i.e. the corner of Rouses Lane and the Maryland Central Railroad. To understand that location one has to know that Rouses Lane, in what becomes the southeastern part of the City of York, is named Rouse Avenue by 1903. Thereafter Rouse Avenue is eventually renamed East Princess Street later in the early 1900s. The York & Peach Bottom Railway had taken on the name Maryland Central Railroad for a short time when the 1890 Directory was published.
The 1899 Directory of York, PA, indicates the Nes Chain Manufacturing Company is still located at “Rouse Ave. and Y S R R;” i.e. the corner of Rouse Avenue and the York Southern Railroad. The York Southern Railroad becomes the Maryland & Pennsylvania (Ma & Pa) Railroad in 1901. The location of the Nes Plant is shown on the following plate from the 1903 Atlas of York, PA; this is 3-years after Nes Chain Manufacturing Company became part of the Standard Chain Company.
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 29 factories provided employment for 2,057 people in York County during 1899.
- #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