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Manufacturers Index - Thayer, Houghton & Co.

Thayer, Houghton & Co.
Worcester, MA, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Wood Working Machinery & Metal Working Machinery

Last Modified: Mar 3 2011 8:51PM by joelr4
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A. & S. Thayer began at Court Mills in 1845, where they employed ten men in the manufacture of engine lathes. These were an improvement upon the lathes then in use, and attracted much attention among machinists. A. & S. Thayer moved from Court Mills into Allen & Thurber's Pistol Shop, which stood just south of Merrifield's engine-house, and was burned in 1854. They occupied the south-end basement, while Samuel Flagg & Co. occupied the north end. They afterwards moved into the Dr. Heywood building, in Central Street. While there, Sewall Thayer died. Upon his death, Alexander Thayer associated with Hannibal Hamlin Houghton and Edwin C. Cleveland. They moved back into the pistol-shop, and remained in Union Street till the fire, when they removed to Washington Street (the location of the Allen Boiler Works in 1889) and continued in business until 1857, when Mr. Cleveland retired. They continued the business at the Washington Street shop until the breaking out of the war, or a little later, and were employing about one hundred and fifty men, and making some of the finest tools in the country, when the business was bought by the New York Steam-Engine Company, and continued a short time under that name, when it was moved to Passaic, N. J., and finally went out of existence.

This business was a partnership of Alexander Thayer, Hannibal Hamlin Houghton, and Edwin C. Cleveland. It began as the shop of I. S. Chapman, where Houghton was an employee. Alexander and Sewall Thayer bought the business and operated it as A & S. Thayer. Houghton remained as an employee for some years before leaving for Goddard, Rice & Co. where he designed machinery, including a sewing machine. Houghton then joined the Thayers' business as a partner on Sewall's retirement. The "& Co." was Edwin C. Cleveland, who was reportedly making machinist's tools (though we only have hearsay evidence on this). In 1854 the partners had over 40 employees.

On 14 June 1854 a fire destroyed the shop, but the business resumed at a new location. Cleveland left the partnership in 1857 and went into the manufacture of cloth-finishing machinery under his own name.

In 1862 Thayer, Houghton & Co. went out of business and the assets were acquired by the Stover Machine Co. of New York, also known as New York Steam Engine Co. The Thayer, Houghton & Co. name seems to have disappeared at that time. Manufacturing continued under the Stover and New York Steam Engine names until 1877 when the factory closed for good.

Houghton had a diverse career after selling his machinery business. He co-founded a trust company, served as alderman, and invested in real estate. He also opened a new machine shop under his own name ("H. H. Houghton"). Thayer stayed with the New York Steam Engine Co. for a couple of years but then left to go work for the as New Haven Manufacturing Co. He died in 1895.

Thayer, Houghton & Co. is listed here because they made a patternmaker's lathe. Although they apparently made machinist's tools and machines, they seem to be almost completely forgotten.

Information Sources

  • A document on the Assumption College website says of the 1854 fire, "Thayer, Houghton, &Co., machinists' tools; loss $20,000. Insured for $7,500, Metropolitan Boston; at $2500 in Franklin." It also indicates that 45 were put out of work at Thayer, Houghton.
  • History of Worcester and Its People, by Charles Nutt, provided much of the history here.
  • Wiley's American iron trade manual of the leading iron industries of the United States lists, for Worcester, "H. H. Houghton—machinery and machine tools."
  • The EAIA's Directory of American Toolmakers does not list this firm or any of its principals. Likewise, Kenneth Cope's Makers of American Machinist's Tools does not list this firm or its principals.
  • Kenneth Cope's American Planer, Shaper and Slotter Builders has an entry for the New York Steam Engine Works of New York, NY and Worcester, MA:

    Formed about 1860 to make steam engines, the firm began the manufacture of lathes and other machine tools in 1862 when it purchased the assets of THAYER, HOUGHTON & CO. Production of the Thayer, Houghton line of machine tools, including crank shapers (Fig.1), continued under the management of Alexander Thayer (1812-1895).

    Thayer left in 1864 to join the NEW HAVEN MFG. CO. Alfred B. Couch (1829-1888 was then appointed superintendent and general manager...

  • Lawrence B. Romaine's A Guide to American Trade Catalogs 1744-1900 lists a 12-page 1861 E. C. Cleveland illustrated catalog of cloth-finishing machinery. The catalog was in the collection of the Baker Library at Harvard University.
  • A patent search for Houghton came up dry. Likewise, searches for the Thayers were unsuccessful. A search on E. C. Cleveland turned up three patents related to cloth-making; the patents provide his first name, Edwin.
  • Correspondent Ed Jarvis provided the information that the company went out of business in 1862, was bought out by New York Steam Engine Co.and closed in 1877.
  • Industrial Worcester by Charles G. Washburn 1917, Davis Press