This firm, dating back to 1825, is one of the earliest woodworking machinery makers we have found. In 1862, its proprietors were Charles J. Leeds and Thomas L. Leeds. Charles' father, Jedediah Leeds, was a predecessor, and may have been the founder. In 1874 the business had 250 employees. The business survived into the 1890s, and probably for longer than that.
In its earlier days it was known as the Leeds Foundry. That name likely persisted for their manufactory long after the business was renamed to Leeds & Co.
- Listed in the 1874 work, Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States: "Steam engines, boilers, sugar machinery of all kinds, saw-mills, gins, grate bars, and ordinary castings. Established in 1825. Employ 250 hands.
- A web search revealed that Leeds & Co. issued banknotes.
- A web site dedicated to Civil War artillery lists this company as the maker of "3.3-inch Confederate bronze field rifles" and "6-pounder Confederate bronze field guns". Another page on the same site has the following listing: "Leeds & Co.: New Orleans firm which apparently made a single 8-inch Columbiad, which burst, and from then on produced bronze field calibers until fall of the city in April, 1862. Charles J. and Thomas L. Leeds, proprietors. Several 3.3-inch caliber bronze cannon were manufactured. One example is located in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia. From O.R. Series I, Volume 6, Serial No. 6, page 621-6."
- An auction site lists the proceeds of a recent sale: "A New Orleans Cast Iron Sugar Kettle (lot 732), 19th c., marked “Leeds & Co. NO”, brought $4,600.00."
- Co-proprietor Charles J. Leeds was later the mayor of New Orleans (1874-1876). According to a page on the web site of the New Orleans Public Library,
"Charles J. Leeds, the thirty-third Mayor of New Orleans was born in Stonington, Connecticut in 1823. His parents were Jedediah Leeds and Mary Stanton who moved to New Orleans from Connecticut in the early part of the 19th century.
"Upon his father’s death in 1844, he became partner in the Leeds Foundry which was established in 1824, at the corner of Delord and Constance Streets. It was in this foundry that the principal piece of artillery was made that was used by the White League in their battle with the Metropolitan Police. Some years later this foundry changed hands and Mr. Leeds accepted a position as Secretary of the Carondelet Canal and Navigation Company. He was a man of means and position and respected for his ability and public spirit."
- According to the New Orleans Public Library, the Leeds Foundry Warehouse, built in the 1850s, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
- An 1851 New Orleans city directory that is no longer available online lists Leeds & Co. as a foundry located at the corner of Foucher & Delord.
- An 1886 New Orleans city directory lists several employees of Leeds & Co. A site with an 1881 New Orleans city directory is no longer online, but the content can still be found at the Internet Archive.
- Greg Lambousy of the Louisiana State Museum provide us the following list of the chief New Orleans foundries of the 19th century.
We have been unsuccessful in finding out more information on most of these firms, but it is likely that some of them made woodworking machinery, especially sawmills, shingle mills, and related gear. Please contact us if you can provide any information at all on any of these firms!
- Armstrong Foundry
- Drummond, Doig, & Co.
- John Clark Foundry
- Daniel Edwards Iron Works
- Leeds Foundry
- Novelty Iron Works
- Shakespeare Iron Works
- St. Louis Foundry