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Founding Year for S. Morgan Smith Company

Copy of part of an Internet page at www.ehow.com (1871 highlighted by S. H. Smith, 2014)
Copy of part of an Internet page at www.ehow.com (1871 highlighted by S. H. Smith, 2014)

In a previous post, I noted that S. Morgan Smith Company begat four current York County Companies and asked what year the company started.  I have seen or been told 1871, 1873, 1874, 1876 or 1877 as the year the company was established.  Company histories on the web sites of the begats do not agree; PCC uses 1876 and Voith Hydro uses 1877.  In this post, I’ll explore the years 1871, 1873 and 1874; tomorrow I’ll explore the years 1876 and 1877.

This is a copy of part of an Internet page at www.ehow.com; it indicates S. Morgan Smith’s company was founded in 1871.  This can be classified as an occurrence where people overlooked the fact that the first product that S. M. Smith manufactured was his patented washing machine; they simply recalled he began his manufacturing career in the early 1870s, with which they inferred an earlier year when he established his Company.  The picture utilized is incorrect; the turbine water wheels, that S. Morgan Smith produced, were not as shown.

1871Smith2However the utilization of the year 1871 is not entirely Danielle’s error.  The year 1871 has showed up in references for well over 100-years.  This clipping is from page 122 in Volume 1 of the Encyclopedia of Pennsylvania Biography, published in 1914 by John W. Jordan, LL.D.; Librarian of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  Whenever I see an obvious error in early publications, I like to see how far back I can trace the error.  Many times a guess in an earlier publication, such as a county history, turns into a precise statement of face in biographical sketches such as this one.

Following this list of related posts, continue reading for S. Morgan Smith Company sources and exploration of the early years that are floating around for its establishment.

Continue reading … 


A Biography of S. Morgan Smith appears on the following part of an Internet page at www.pacivilwar.com; it indicates S. Morgan Smith began his work with water-wheels in 1871.

Copy of part of an Internet page at www.pacivilwar.com (1871 highlighted by S. H. Smith, 2014)
Copy of part of an Internet page at www.pacivilwar.com (1871 highlighted by S. H. Smith, 2014)

As noted at the bottom of this biography, the source is John Gibson’s 1886 History of York County, PA.  This biography is a word-for-word copy of S. Morgan Smith’s Biographical Sketch appearing on page 46 of Gibson’s 1886 Biographical Sketches.

S. M. Smith was in the manufacturing business by himself in 1871, however he was making washing machines instead of water-wheels.  Sources are: his 1870 washing machine patent (a washing machine with that patent and marked “S. M. Smith, York, PA” is in the Agricultural & Industrial Museum), York, PA directories listing him as a patentee of the Success Washing Machine and ads in York, PA newspapers where he asks people to address Success Washing Machine orders to S. M. Smith, York, PA.  I have found no sources to substantiate S. M. Smith working with turbine water wheels until he was exposed to them through the establishment of the York Manufacturing Company.

In 1874, S. M. Smith was a founder and selected President of the York Manufacturing Company, which took over the manufactured of his patented washing machines; in fact he signed over the rights of his patents to the York Manufacturing Company as a buy-in to the new company.  Similarly Oliver J. Bollinger signed over the rights of his turbine water wheel patent to the York Manufacturing Company as his buy-in to the new company.

When Bollinger resigned from the York Manufacturing Company to start his own company towards the end of 1875, his original 1870 Turbine Water Wheel became an orphan within the York Manufacturing Company.  S. M. Smith stepped in and took charge of this product.  Throughout 1876, S. M. Smith worked on improving the Turbine Water Wheel and applied for a patent on those improvements.  From those efforts, Stephen M. Smith was issued his first Turbine Water Wheel patent on December 26, 1876.

Even though S. M. Smith established his own company to produce turbine water wheels in the 1876/1877 timeframe, he remained President of the York Manufacturing Company through June 1878 and did not leave the company entirely until 1880.  The few times I’ve seen 1874 noted as the date S. Morgan Smith was established is due to people incorrectly combining York Manufacturing Company and S. Morgan Smith Company.

Sources of information on S. M. Smith’s involvement with the York Manufacturing Company is within York Company archives; these were all shipped to Johnson Controls headquarters in Milwaukee after the 2005 acquisition.  However The Legend of York International, by Jeff Rodengen includes referenced information from these York International archives.

Copy of part of a WorldCat Internet page from www.worldcat.org
Copy of part of a WorldCat Internet page from www.worldcat.org

Each time I’ve given my talk on the early years of York Manufacturing Company, I get nearly as many questions about S. Morgan Smith’s company; which will be the subject of a future talk.  I’ve heard that S. Morgan Smith was established in 1873, i.e. before his involvement with York Manufacturing Company in 1874.  This listing on the WorldCat is the only Internet place I’ve found 1873; implying S. Morgan Smith was established that year.

I believe this listing refers to holdings at the York County Heritage Trust.  They have 1873-1877 and 1878-1881 Ledgers of S. M. Smith.  I’ve read that these ledgers contain information on all of S. M. Smith’s business concerns, and are not restricted to any one company; although I do need to check these ledgers out personally.

Copy of part of a Smithsonian Internet page
Copy of part of a Smithsonian Internet page

Another significant source might be early S. Morgan Smith company archives, which were donated to the Smithsonian following the Allis-Chalmers acquisition.  I had first seen this source while putting together the York Manufacturing Company talk.

This is the information on that collection from a Smithsonian Internet page.  This is a sizable collection: 23 cu. ft.; 88 boxes, covering the first 24 years after the company erected their first factory in 1890; thus covering the last 14 years of S. Morgan Smith’s life and the time of tremendous growth in his company.

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts