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S. Morgan Smith Company founded in 1877; News-Comet of East Berlin


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.  Yesterday I explored the years 1871, 1873 and 1874; this post explores the years 1876 and 1877.

In the post yesterday I noted that when Oliver J. Bollinger resigned from the York Manufacturing Company to start his own company towards the end of 1875, Bollinger’s 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.  Smith gathered ideas for improvements from other turbine water wheels on the market and input from local millwrights, such as Jesse Krall, 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.  I’ve shown the patent header and primary cut-away drawing from S. Morgan Smith’s first Turbine Water Wheel patent.

I have seen accounts written that S. Morgan Smith delivered his first Turbine Water Wheel to Amos Jacobs’ grist mill near East Berlin; months BEFORE he got his patent.  If true, I’d say his company was founded in 1876.  However accounts are also written that S. Morgan Smith delivered his first Turbine Water Wheel to Amos Jacobs’ grist mill near East Berlin, the year AFTER he got his patent; i.e. 1877.

In most cases, a start-up company marks the year they are established, by when they have their first customer.  Early S. Morgan Smith product catalogs note “Established 1877,” therefore my first impression was to believe the accounts written that S. Morgan Smith delivered his first Turbine Water Wheel to Amos Jacobs’ grist mill near East Berlin in 1877.

Click on continue reading, following these related posts, to see my discovery proving 1877.

Continue reading … 


I’d seen the middle initial of Amos Jacobs as either C. & G. in various articles.  Being a detail person, I thought it was important to understand which was correct.  I searched for both on Ancestry.com.  Amos Gise Jacobs is the full name of the miller, and using old maps his mill is actually located about a mile southeast of East Berlin, just inside Paradise Township, York County, near the current crossroads of Jacobs Mill Road and Beaver Creek Road.

Ancestry.com has been continually indexing content of old newspapers. An amazing newspaper hit showed up in my search.  The first line of the article: Where and when did S. Morgan Smith install his first turbine?  Talk about an Eureka moment!

Voaden1Voaden2This article appeared in the News-Comet, a newspaper published in East Berlin, PA.  It is a lengthy article published in installments over four weeks during January 1947.  It is also written by a very credible author; Grant Voaden.

Grant Voaden worked as an engineer at S. Morgan Smith from 1925 to 1968.  He is best known for his extensive research of York County mills.  Through a series of events during Grant’s mill searching, he connected with Birdes A. Jacobs, the son of Amos Gise Jacobs.  Birdes recollections about S. Morgan Smith and the original August 1877 turbine water wheel, subsequent service parts and replacement wheel all checked out after Grant Voaden reviewed the companies earliest order books.  Grant Voaden concluded this is the earliest installed S. Morgan Smith turbine water wheel.  There are a few turbine water wheels that S. Morgan Smith installed earlier in 1877, believed to be the original Oliver J. Bollinger design; done for installation experience?

From the News-Comet, a newspaper published in East Berlin, PA, issue of January 3, 1947; page 1:

Fine Local Story In “Turbine Topics”

“Turbine Topics,” issued for and by the employees of S. Morgan Smith Co., York, featured an article in November by Grant H. Voadin, entitled, “First Turbine Installation by S. Morgan Smith at Jacobs Mill.”  Through the kindness of Raymond A. Dietz, editor of “Turbine Topics,” and Mr. Voadin, the News-Comet is privileged to use the featured article.  Birdes A. Jacobs, born February 29, 1872, of East Berlin, furnished most of the information for the article.  He remembers well the visits of S. Morgan Smith to Jacobs Mills.  He worked in the mill from the time he was 12 years old until he was 30.

Where and when did S. Morgan Smith install his first turbine?  What were the earliest beginnings of our company?  At least partial answers to these questions are given in conversation and correspondence which the author has had with Birdes A. Jacobs of East Berlin, Pa., who knew Mr. Smith well and whose father, Amos Gise Jacobs, he is positive, bought Mr. Smith’s first experimental Success Runner.

It was not a complete turbine that was furnished but only a “runner” or “wheel.”  Mr. Smith’s first efforts and patents were directed toward runner improvements.  Later he developed an improved wheel case of his own for the Success Runner and this case with the Runner became the “Improved Success Turbine.”

The wheel case for this first Success Runner was made by O. J. Bollinger of York, a competing manufacturer of Turbines and Mill Machinery.  The order for the runner and some gears and shafting was dated August 1877 and recorded in our Order Book No. 1 by Mr. Smith as follows:  “Amos G. Jacobs, 1 Success Water Wheel, left hand, 18 inch.  1 pair bevel wheels . . . etc.”  Later, in Order Book No. 10 is recorded an order dated May 6, 1892, for “1 Pinion for 18” Success Wheel with Bollinger Case—send by stage coach to East Berlin care Glatfelter’s Store” and below it in red ink “Sent to Marshall Hotel May 13, 1892.”

Continue to next installment of the News-Comet article.

Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts