MFR History of The Phoenix Iron Works

At Phoenixville, Chester county, twenty seven and a half miles from Philadelphia, are one of the oldest, and largest establishments for manufacturing iron in the United States. The works originally consisted of a Rolling mill, and Nail Factory, the power for driving which was derived from the damming of French Creek, just above the present foundry, the old site of the Rolling mill, and date their operations as far back as May 3, 1783.

Engraving of Phoenix Iron Works, Phoenixville, PA, circa 1856

In the year 1827, they came into the possession of Reeves and Whitaker, and during the period of their ownership, a new Rolling mill was built on the site of the present North Mill, and puddling introduced as a process in the manufacture of iron. The old Rolling mill was pulled down, and on its site a charcoal furnace was built in 1838, which again in 1841, was converted into an Anthracite furnace. This was one of the earliest of the experimental Anthracite furnaces, which marked the era of the introduction of Anthracite coal as a fuel in the process of smelting iron. The nail factory of the firm was burned down in 1847, and on its site was erected one of the extensive machine shops now belonging to the Phoenix Iron Company.

In the year 1846, Reeves Buck & Co. became proprietors of the Phoenix Iron Works, and during their proprietorship very extensive improvements were made. They built in 1846, the present Rail mill, the dimensions of which are two hundred and sixty feet by one hundred and sixty feet. Also a new puddling and re heating mill, one hundred and eighty five feet, by one hundred and ninety two feet, with a wing, thirty two feet, by one hundred and thirty feet.
Besides these, they erected new Smith shops, Pattern shops, Foundry machine shop, offices, and warehouses. The offices, pattern, and drawing rooms of the company are probably the most complete of any in the country, and cost we understand, $26,000. In 1855 the firm of Reeves Buck & Co. procured an Act of the Legislature incorporating them as The Phoenix Iron Company, and under this name the present extensive operations of the Works are managed.

During the last four years, the Company have spent a large sum of money in remodeling, and readjusting their Works, and in increasing their capacity, which at this time amounts to twenty thousand tons of railroad iron, and fifteen thousand tons of bar iron iron beams, and girders angle iron, wrought iron columns, rolled railroad chairs, and spikes axles, and many other shapes. Rounds have been turned out of the Merchant Mill, of twelve inches in diameter, and squares up to eight inches, by twenty five feet long.

During the late Rebellion, thirteen hundred wrought iron guns were made at these Works.


Illustration of the Phoenix Iron Works by T.J. Kennedy in 1860

This establishment produces a greater variety of work than any other in the country. In addition to their regular business of manufacturing iron, the Company have lately erected a very extensive machine shop, specially appropriated to framing iron rafters, flooring, and bridge work. This building is two hundred and six feet, by ninety feet, and is filled with tools and machinery of the latest improved styles, suited to the business. The manufacturing of wrought iron columns and beams, for fireproof structures, has become one of their great specialties, and the framing for the roofs, and floors of the new buildings, lately erected by the United States Government at the Frankford and Alleghany Arsenals, which are entirely fire proof, was all made at the Phoenix Iron Works.

This Company also possess three Blast furnaces, capable of turning out about twenty three thousand tons of pig iron per annum. The mills contain twenty four heating, and twenty two double, and twelve single puddling furnaces.


The officers of the Company are as follows: David Reeves, President, Phoenixville; Samuel J Reeves, Vice President and Treasurer, Philadelphia; Robert B Aertsen, Secretary, Philadelphia; George H Sellers, General Superintendent, Phoenixville; George Walters, Engineer, Phoenixville.

From: A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860, by John Leander Bishop, Philadelphia, 1868, Page 478-479
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