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Manufacturers Index - Washington Iron Works

Washington Iron Works
Newburgh, NY, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Steam and Gas Engines

Last Modified: Jun 25 2014 7:48PM by joelr4
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This firm was established by Newburgh industrialist Homer Ramsdell in the early 1850s as a maker of boilers, steam engines, rail-car wheels, sawmill machinery, etc. By 1865 the Works covered twenty acres and the monthly payroll was $60,000. By the late 1860s the firm was in financial difficulty. They ceased operations in late 1869, and remained shuttered for about a year until the business was acquired by steam engine designer William Wright, who operated the business as William Wright & Co. Mr. Wright had already been using the Works to manufacture his patented engines.

At the time Washington Iron Works closed, the superintendent was the respected George M. Clapp; before that it was Samuel Stanton. The business manager was Luther C. Ward.

Information Sources

  • From ads in 1866 issues of Scientific American and 1869 Manufacturer & Builder.
  • From the September 1870 issue of Manufacturer & Builder is this note:
    The Washington Iron Works, which suspended operations last year, have not as yet been able to complete the reorganization of a company. A more desirable locations for works of this character can not be found in this State, and as the management of the concern will probably be entrusted to Mr. G. M. Clapp, there can be no question of its success when again under way.
  • A listing in the 1874 work, Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States, reads as follows: "Washington Iron Works - Proprietors, Gray & Noyes. Location of works, Washington, District of Columbia. Steam engines, boilers, etc." This appears to be an unrelated firm of the same name. Caveat lector.
  • The book Newburgh: Her Institutions, Industries and Leading Citizens, ed. John L. Nutt, 1891, mentions Washington Iron Works several times. Steam engine designer-builder William Wright—who would go on to establish the Dixon Engine Works—contracted with the Washington Iron Works early in his career to manufacture his patented engine designs; that was in 1866. In 1870 he organized William Wright & Co. and took over the business of the Washington Iron Works.
  • The book Newburgh, by Kevin Barrett, 2000, has the following:
    Homer Ramsdell... was a pillar of Newburgh's business and industrial development. In 19th century Newburgh, his family was quite powerful and rich, sometimes feared, but always respected. Homer Ramsdell owned the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry, the Denning Point Brickyards in Beacon, the Washington Iron Works, and he controlled all the railroads that came through Newburgh as the president of the Erie Railroad.
    Elsewhere in the book, Washington Iron Works is mentioned as one of the firms formed during the period of 1851 to 1855.
  • An online bookseller has a listing for an undated flyer from Washinton Iron Works for "Heavy Economist Planer and Matcher". Frank & Co. of Buffalo, NY, made an "Economist" line of planers and matchers; perhaps Washington Iron Works was reselling products from that company.
  • The “WASHINGTON IRON-WORKS", having decided to make a specialty to a great extent of the manufacture of Wright's Patent Variable Engine-Cutoff Engine will dispose of a portion of their present stock of tools. Orders solicited for their Improved Steam Engines with Wright's Patent Variable Cut-off; also Portable and Stationary Slide-valve Engines, Steam Boilers of all descriptions, Lane's Patent Saw-mills Grag's Patent Cotton Press, Improved Cornmllls. and general Machinery. American Artisan, 10 Jul 1867, pg. 13
  • American Steam Engine Builders: 1800-1900 by Kenneth L. Cope, 2006 page 251
  • Steam Power on the American Farm by Reynold M. Wik, 1953 page 254