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Manufacturers Index - Levi Houston Co.
Last Modified: Oct 2 2018 12:01AM by Jeff_Joslin
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Levi Houston was a superintendent at H. B. Smith Machine Co. In 1873 he left and moved to Montgomery, PA, where he opened a foundry and machine shop. In short order he was making endless-bed planers under the name of Houston, Smith & Co. The identify of "Smith" is uncertain. H. B. Smith is an obvious possibility, but that seems a bit unlikely because Houston, Smith & Co. was in direct competition with H. B. Smith & Co. In any event, Houston, Smith & Co. was renamed to Levi Houston Co. in 1877 or 1878.

Levi Houston died in mid-1892. The business continued for a few years under the ownership of his daughter, Celia Houston. The Levi Houston Co. was one of the eleven companies that merged in 1897 to form the American Wood Working Machine Co.

Information Sources

  • Ad in the May 1889 issue of "The Wood-Worker". "Levi Houston's pat. improved wood-working machinery. Blind rabbeting machines, planers, matchers, molders, sandpapering machines, stickers, tenoners, mortisers, sash dovetailing machines, etc., etc."
  • Below are a couple of extracts from an 1892 book, "History of Lycoming County Pennsylvania", available online at usgennet.org.

    A machine shop was started about 1870 by a stock company, but it made slow progress until Levi Houston came in 1873 and took charge of it. Possessed of fine executive abilities, and being very active, Mr. Houston soon built up a large and profitable business. Having purchased the plant he enlarged it from time to time, until it attained its present large size. The remarkable growth and prosperity of the Montgomery Machine Shops have been the wonder and admiration of all. His trade does not only cover the United States and Canada, but extends to all foreign countries where woodworking machines are used—even to distant Australia. Mr. Houston employs over 250 hands and the most cordial relations exist between the two. Two years ago he erected a large brick planing mill near the shops. These, industries have been a great advantage to the borough.

    LEVI HOUSTON, capitalist and manufacturer, was born in Enfield, New Hampshire, August 21, 1835, son of John and Judith (Cox) Houston, both natives of New Hampshire. He left his native town when, he was twelve years old, moving with his parents to Manchester, New Hampshire. He received a common school education, in the schools of Enfield and Manchester, after which he learned the machinist trade in the Amoskeag machine shops at the latter city. After having charge as foreman in a department of a machine shop in Lawrence, Massachusetts, for four years, he returned to Manchester and was in partnership with his father in a blacksmith shop for one year. He was then employed as superintendent of a department of the H. B. Smith’s Wood Working Machine Works at Lowell, Massachusetts, for seven years, after which he was transferred to Shrevesville, afterwards known as Smithsville, Burlington county, New Jersey, where he worked for this party another, seven years. In 1873 he came to Montgomery, Lycoming county, and started a foundry in a building 45x60 feet, and also a shop 45x100 feet. From that beginning his enterprise has grown to its present capacity; it is the largest individual plant of the kind in the United States, employing 250 men, and the products are shipped to all civilized countries on the globe. In 1888 he added a planing mill, 75x150 feet, two stories high, together with two drying kilns, 20x80 feet. The present borough of Montgomery owes its growth and prosperity to Mr. Houston, as he, started his business in that place when there was scarcely any town at all. In 1890, he erected a new hotel at Montgomery, which is one of the finest in the county. He also established a mercantile house in that place in 1881, and has since done the leading business of the community, under the firm name of Houston & Company. Mr. Houston is a Republican in politics, but in late years he has taken no active interest in political matters. He was first married in 1858, to Miss Celia Fredericks, a native of Massachusetts, who died in 1866. To this union was born one son, Harry Houston, who was drowned at Montgomery in 1873, when he was seven years old. He was again married, in 1867, to Miss Louisa Mirick, a native of New Hampshire, and to this union have been born two children: Celia Mirick, and Pauline Mirick. Mr. Houston has a residence in Williamsport and also in Montgomery, living alternately at these places, winter and summer. He is what may he termed a self-made man, beginning his business life with $2,500, which he had earned by diligent application at his trade; this amount has been judiciously invested and has grown to large proportions. He is the owner of much real estate, and is well known as one of the most philanthropic and liberal men in Lycoming county. Since the foregoing was written, Mr. Houston has died, his death occurring on Wednesday morning, July 27, 1892.

  • Information on Houston's daughter running the business after his death comes from the lawsuit Furst v. Armstrong (see points 9 and 10 on page 351).