Who were Billmeyer & Small?
The names are from two individuals who formed a partnership; which launched the company Billmeyer & Small. The individuals were Charles Billmeyer and David E. Small. The illustration is from a promotional advertisement for a railcar built by their company in 1874 for the Eureka & Palisade Railroad in Nevada. This railcar appears as part of a full-page-408 ad in Asher & Adams’ New Columbian Railroad Atlas of 1879 (Boston Public Library).
Billmeyer & Small was an internationally known railcar manufacturer in York County, Pennsylvania. They were there at the very beginning of what Georg R. Sheets called ‘The Rise of Industrial York.’ They were in business from 1852 through the end of the Nineteenth Century and at peak operation, they employed 700 workers. Their principal operations occupied a full city block between North Duke and North Queen Streets in York. They also had pockets of smaller manufacturing operations throughout the city. They added a progressive 185,575-square-foot plant in 1881 along East Market Street that pioneered assembly line production and had a massive lumberyard and finishing mill in Wrightsville.
Today none of the buildings that housed the manufacturing operations of Billmeyer & Small remain. However the homes that at one time were residences of the company founders are still prominent along East Market Street in York. Just a few steps from the Queen Street intersection, to the east one still sees the York House and to the west one still sees the Brownstone Building.
The York House, also known as the Billmeyer House, is a grand example of Victorian Italianate architecture built for Charles Billmeyer. Today it is part of the First Presbyterian Church complex. The Brownstone Building was built for David E. Small; today it is part of the Martin Memorial Library. When built, both of these buildings featured frescos by Costagini and Scataglia, two Italian artists who assisted in the painting of the U.S. Capitol Building.
Billmeyer & Small is alternately know as Billmeyer & Smalls and as Billmeyer & Small Company at various times in its history. After Charles Billmeyer died on November 26, 1875 at 51-years of age, his son George S. Billmeyer was promoted within the company. John H. Small, a brother of David E. Small, had been promoted within the company several years earlier such that the business was known as Billmeyer & Smalls during the early 1870s. Incorporation of the company followed in 1876, when Company was added and the plural of Smalls was dropped. The Billmeyer & Small Company name remained to the end, even after David E. Small died on March 25, 1883 at 59-years of age.
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