Part of the USA Today Network

Top 50 York County Sesqui-Centennial Factories


In 1899, York County celebrated its Sesqui-Centennial; the 150th anniversary of its creation on August 19, 1749, as the first Pennsylvania county completely west of the Susquehanna River. This summary post contains every link to the recently completed series on the Top 50 York County Factories during 1899.

I used employee data from the 10th Report of the Pennsylvania Department of Factory Inspection to rank the 479 York County factories by numbers of employees; #50 has 47 employees, on up to #1 with 510 employees. Employee counts in these reports are from state inspector visits that examined employee records and are claimed to be more accurate than Chamber of Commerce or Manufacture Association publications, which tend to significantly round-up employees counts.

This post provides condensed highlights for the top 10 factories. These highlights are followed by links to all of the 50 top factories during York County’s Sesqui-Centennial.

Yt146#1 A. B. Farquhar, Largest York County Factory Employer in 1899

In 1899, the A. B. Farquhar Company in York was the largest factory employer in all of York County; a position they held continuously for the past fifteen years. Arthur B. Farquhar started working for the predecessor W. W. Dingee & Company in 1856 and become the sole proprietor of this firm in 1862. This post takes the reader through company highlights until the 1951 sale of A. B. Farquhar Company to the Oliver Corporation; becoming the ninth plant in their organization. Eventually Oliver started to consolidate York plant operations to their other plants. By the time White Motor Corporation acquired Oliver Corporation in 1960, all production had been moved out of the York plant; as a result, the York plant was not included in the acquisition by White. For a decade, these buildings suffered demolition by neglect. When the buildings had reached the state of becoming a nuisance, they were taken down about 1970.

Yt148#2 York Manufacturing Company; Ice Making to Air Conditioning

Of the six original founders of the York Manufacturing Company, Jacob Loucks was the sole remaining founder with the company after 1880. Loucks was the individual responsible for getting the company into the ice making business; selling their first machine in 1885. This turned out to be an expensive move that nearly bankrupt both the company and Jacob Loucks; however it was a necessary move, otherwise YORK Air Conditioning may have never happened. From only 50 employees prior to the hiring of Thomas Shipley as General Manager in 1897, the company went through a ten-fold expansion of their workforce in only two years. By 1899, the York Manufacturing Company had skyrocketed to become the second largest factory employer in all of York County.

Yt142#3 Martin Carriage Works; largest West York Factory in 1899

By 1899, the Martin Carriage Works in West York had grown to become the third largest factory employer in all of York County. Milton D. Martin established this company in 1888. This post takes the reader through company highlights until the successor Martin-Parry Corporation moved out of York County in 1946. Most Yorkers know Milton D. Martin today via his bequest establishing the free public Martin Library on the corner of Market and Queen Streets in York.

Yt147#4 P. H. Glatfelter Paper Mill in Spring Grove; Over 150 Years of Paper Making

On December 23, 1863, Philip H. Glatfelter purchased the small Spring Forge Paper Mill at an orphan’s court sale; marking the start of the P. H. Glatfelter Company. By 1899, the P. H. Glatfelter Paper Mill in Spring Grove had grown to become the fourth largest factory employer in all of York County and they continue to be a very successful York County business.

Yt149#5 American Caramel Company in York, with links to Hershey’s Chocolate & Graybill’s

The earliest origins of this confectionery company go back to 1867, when Peter C. Wiest started making caramels in York. The American Caramel Company was created March 28, 1898; when the Breisch-Hine Company in Philadelphia merged with The P. C. Wiest & Company in York. The home office of the American Caramel Company was located in York, PA. By 1899, the York Plant of the American Caramel Company had grown to become the fifth largest factory employer in all of York County. On August 10, 1900, the American Caramel Company acquired the Lancaster Caramel Company from Milton Hershey. Hershey sold his caramel company, deciding more money could be made in the chocolate business; history proves Hershey made the right decision.

Yt137#6 York Haven Paper Company; on the Site of One of the Earliest Canals in America

The population of the town of York Haven took off after the 1885 establishment of the York Haven Paper Company. York Haven was incorporated as a borough seven years later; on December 1, 1892. The York Haven Paper Company might have never been built at this site, without prior ventures that harnessed the hydropower of the Conewago Falls immediately upriver.

Yt133#7 York Rolling Mill in Spring Garden Township; site of a Massive Explosion in 1908

The York Rolling Mill was established in Spring Garden Township three years after the end of the Civil War. By 1899, it had grown to become the seventh largest factory employer in all of York County. After a massive explosion on August 10, 1908, all useable equipment from the site was moved to a Susquehanna Iron & Steel Company mill in Columbia. The remains of the damaged York Rolling Mill building were demolished and the factory was never rebuilt.

Yt135#8 York Carriage Company; becomes site of Pullman Automobile production in York

The York Carriage Company was established during 1889, at 158-160 North George Street in York. That location is presently occupied by the Pullman Building; housing the Pullman Apartments at 238 North George Street. Don’t be misled by the different street numbers; between then and now, the street address numbers changed in York.

Yt130#9 Jacob A. Mayer & Brothers, in North York; Segars by the Million

By the time he was 25-years old, Jacob A. Mayer owned the largest cigar factory in Pennsylvania. By the time he was 33-years old, Jacob had consolidated his business operations in Mayersville; now North York. In 1899, Jacob A. Mayer & Brothers was the #9 factory employer in all of York County; continuing to operate the largest cigar factory in the county.

Yt150#10 S. Morgan Smith Company; Industry Leader in Hydraulic Turbines

Stephen M. Smith received this first Turbine Water Wheel patent on December 26, 1876, while still President of the York Manufacturing Company. Smith retained rights to his new patent, named it the “Success” turbine and contracted with York Manufacturing Company to produce it. Shortly after Smith received his second Turbine Water Wheel patent on December 30, 1879, he resigned from the York Manufacturing Company to start his own company, initially advertised as S. M. Smith, while still utilizing several York machine shops, including the York Manufacturing Company, to manufacture his turbine water wheels throughout the 1880s. Starting in 1881, the use of S. Morgan Smith first appears in directories and ads. In 1890, S. Morgan Smith built a factory to do his own manufacturing; his company became the industry leader in hydraulic turbines.

The following are links to all of the 50 top factories in York County at the end of 19th Century. As a group, these 50 factories provided employment for 6,215 people in York County during 1899.

Reading the HEADLINES; A Quick Index to ALL YorksPast Posts