Guide to the Records of the Harbison and Walker Refractories Company, 1894-1986 (bulk 1894-1904)

Digital Research Library, University Library System

Summary Information

Repository
Detre Library & Archives, Heinz History Center
Title
Records of the Harbison and Walker Refractories Company
Creator
Harbison and Walker Refractories Company (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
Collection Number
MSS#7
Date [inclusive]
1894-1986
Extent
2 cubic feet
Language of Materials
The material in this collection is in English.
Abstract
Harbison and Walker Refractories Company was founded as the Star Fire Brick Company of Pittsburgh in 1864, by a group of eleven Allegheny County residents. The original works was located at 22nd and Railroad Street in the heart of the Strip District. These records primarily include daily correspondence between refractory sites, financial statements, production cost ledgers, shareholders reports and meeting notices as well as publications which focus on silica and firebrick making, specifications, price listings, and other technical literature. Later pamphlets, catalogs, and reports relating to their extensive research findings as well as the notes and manuscript copy of The History of Harbison and Walker Refractories Company are available.
Sponsor Note
This finding aid has been encoded as a part of the Historic Pittsburgh project a joint effort of the University of Pittsburgh and the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Funding for this portion of the project has been donated by the Hillman Foundation.

Preferred Citation

Records of the Harbison and Walker Refractories Company, MSS#7, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania.

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History

Harbison and Walker Refractories Company was founded as the Star Fire Brick Company of Pittsburgh in 1864, by a group of eleven Allegheny County residents. The original works was located at 22nd and Railroad Street in the heart of the Strip District. By September 1865, using the clay from the mines at Bolivar, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County, the first bricks were produced. The increased demand for bricks prompted the company to enlarge their operations in 1874. The company later bought property across the railroad from the site of the original Star Fire Brick Works. In January 1875, Hay Walker purchased interest in the company and renamed the company Harbison and Walker. Mr. Samuel P. Harbison, who played an active role in the company activities from its foundation was not satisfied with the clay mined at the Bolivar mines and found a better supply at Benezet, Elk County, Pennsylvania, where the Company bought 350 acres of land. The increasing network of railroads made it feasible to transport the clay directly to Pittsburgh from other parts of Western Pennsylvania.

The company was enlarged significantly between 1882-1902 following the demand for brick products. In 1882, the works purchased the Escanaba Furnace Company and Cascade Iron Company as well as twelve other firebrick companies. The Woodland Works purchased in May 1884, (previously the Woodland Firebrick Company of Woodland, Pennsylvania) was the first works of Harbison and Walker to manufacture brick outside of the Pittsburgh works. Woodland had its own clay supply which alleviated the cost of shipping in clay by freight from Benezet (Elk County), Clarion (Clarion County), and elsewhere in Pennsylvania. The Woodland Works became the model for practice and final authority in brick making at Harbison and Walker and produced its own brand of brick. In March of 1894, The Cambria Works in Blandsburg (also known as the Figart Station on Bell's Gap Railroad) became another major works acquired from the Cambria Fire Brick Company. By September 1896, The Widmere Works was built near the town of Curwensville, Pennsylvania, in Clearfield County, and began operation in early 1897.

In the Twentieth Century, Harbison and Walker continued to buy refractories throughout Pennsylvania. The Mt. Union Silica Works property and stock was transferred to Harbison and Walker in 1900. In the same year, they acquired No 1 Works at Clearfield. As a result of expanding the Clearfield Works the Engineering Department developed, headed by Mr. Reif, who later became President of Harbison and Walker. In addition to there plant acquisitions, the Hay Station Works at 22nd Street in Pittsburgh was constructed to replace their old plants with a new building on the banks of the Allegheny at the old Hay Station. In July 1902, Harbison and Walker bought all the stock of nine more refractories companies. With these mergers and purchases, Harbison and Walker expanded their capacity significantly and by September 1903, the Company owned over 30,000 acres of fire clay, coal, and ganister lands in Pennsylvania.

In 1903, labor trouble developed at Harbison and Walker which lasted about two years. The labor unrest began with a strike at the Clearfield Works in mid-1903, and then spread to several other refractories. On November 2, 1903, Mr. J.A. Boyd of the Cambria Works, Blandsburg, Pennsylvania, Cambria County, received word about the strike situation and wasadvised by Mr. Reif to hire Captain Clark and some of his men. Captain Clark had gone through strikes in the Houtzdale area during the Molly McGuire Days and came highly recommended. The applications for commission were sent out to the Governor of Pennsylvania on November 7th to initiate Clark and his men as Coal & Iron Police. This gave Captain Clark and his men the protection of the State of Pennsylvania to carry out the wishes of the Company against striking workers.

During World War I, a shortage of labor prevented Harbison and Walker to run at full capacity. Harbison and Walker employees gained by having seven advances in wages between 1916-18, doubling their wages. In the Summer of 1919, Mr. Croft retired as the president of Harbison and Walker.

Harbison and Walker Refractories Company has been an innovative leader in both research and manufacturing of refractory materials throughout the history of the Company. They were the first refractory company to use and develop the continuous tunnel kiln in the United States for the burning of silica. In 1909, the company began operating its own chemical and testing laboratory at the Hays Works, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and provided numerous publications of refractory practices and technology. With the need for better products and production methods to compete in the refractories market, Harbison and Walker built the two million dollar Harbison and Walker Company Garber Research Center in 1959. This research center contained the most advanced equipment at that time for the development and testing of refractory products. Many of their smaller refractories have closed in the past decade, such as the Clearfield Works, but almost all of the larger Works are still producing bricks. The Company continues in the 1990's as a world leader in refractory products with branches operating in the United States, Canada, and South America.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Harbison and Walker Refractories Company records are housed in four archival boxes and are arranged in three series. These records primarily include daily correspondence between refractory sites, financial statements, production cost ledgers, shareholders reports and meeting notices as well as publications which focus on silica and firebrick making, specifications, price listings, and other technical literature. Later pamphlets, catalogs, and reports relating to their extensive research findings as well as the notes and manuscript copy of The History of Harbison and Walker Refractories Company are available. While these records are not comprehensive for the span of the dates contained, they provide a number of significant groups of records. These include: correspondence 1894-1903; financial and business records, 1953-1969; and catalogs, 1894-1911. The greatest concentration of material from the records appear to provide a great deal of information on the formation of the original Harbison and Walker Refractories and its relationship with its subsidiary companies. Also included are the audio cassettes of an oral history interview with Edward T. Hile, former Vice President of Harbison and Walker.

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Arrangement

Series have been designated for working correspondence, financial & business records and for publications.

The Harbison and Walker Refractories Company records are housed in four archival boxes and are arranged in three series.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Digital Research Library, University Library System Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, Spring 1999

Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
library@hswp.org

Revision Description

 Converted from EAD Version 1.0 to EAD Version 2002 July 1, 2006

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

Property rights reside with the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permissions to reproduce or publish, please contact the curator of the Archives.

Acquisition Information

Acc#1987.0073

These materials were received in one accession.

Gift of Edward T. Hile (Records, former Vice President of Harbison and Walker Refractories Company) in 1987.

Processing Information

This collection was processed byMicahel D. SherboninFebruary 1988.

Records rearranged and inventory rewritten by Julia A. Pretti on January 9, 1993.

Revision and rearrangement for the encoded version of the finding aid provided byClay Redding in February 1999.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Basic Brick Company (Johnstown, Pa.)
  • Cambria Fire Brick Company (Blandburg, Pa.)
  • Cascade Iron Company
  • Clearfield Fire Brick Company, Ltd. (Clearfield, Pa.)
  • Clinton County Fire Brick Company (Mill Hall, Pa.)
  • Escanaba Furnace Company
  • Frederick-Munro Company (Farrandsville, Pa.)
  • Isaac Reese and Sons Company (Manorville, Pa.)
  • Mt. Union Silica Works (Mt. Union, Pa.)
  • Philipsburgh Fire Brick Company (Philipsburg, Pa.)
  • Star Fire Brick Company (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Wallacetown Fire Brick Company (Wallacetown, Pa.)
  • Woodland Firebrick Company (Woodland, Pa.)
  • Harbison and Walker Refractories Company

Geographic Name(s)

  • Allegheny County (Pa.) -- Businesses
  • Clarion County (Pa.) -- Businesses
  • Clearfield County (Pa.) -- Businesses
  • Elk County (Pa.) -- Businesses
  • Westmoreland County (Pa.) -- Businesses
  • Strip District (Pittsburgh, Pa.) -- Businesses

Personal Name(s)

  • Croft, Harry W.
  • Garber, Earl A.
  • Harbison, Samuel P.
  • Hile, Edward T. (d.1985)
  • Lewis, James Edward
  • McClosky, James E.
  • Walker, Hay
  • Walker, Hepburn
  • Walker, Charles Samuel

Subject(s)

  • Bricks -- Pennsylvania
  • Clay industry -- Pennsylvania
  • Coal industry -- Pennsylvania
  • Refractory materials -- Pennsylvania

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Collection Inventory

Series I Working Correspondence 1894-1973 1894-1903   1 box

Scope and Content Notes

The working correspondence is arranged chronologically and contains incoming and outgoing correspondence from Harbison and Walker (at the Star Fire Brick Works) and later from administrative offices at the Farmers Bank Building in Pittsburgh. The internal correspondence is primarily sent to and from the Harbison and Walker works at Cambria, Woodland, and Clearfield in Central and Western Pennsylvania. The correspondence mainly deals with the founding and growth of the company as well as the daily workings of the Company. Topics under discussion contain all aspects of company work including brick construction costs, employee relation issues from Christmas gifts to hiring strike breakers for the labor unrest that hampered the Company's activities in the early part of the century. While there is a wide range of topics covered by the correspondence on employee relations, there is relatively little information on the greater question of the labor disputes from 1903 to 1905. Correspondence after 1903 deals primarily with general announcements from the main office to its subsidiaries. The vast wealth of the correspondence primarily documents both the financial cost of brick production and the actions taken by the Company to purchase other refractories and property.

  boxfolder
 May-August 1894 11
  folder
 September-October 1894 2
  folder
 November-December 1894 3
  folder
 1895 4
  folder
 1899-1902 5
  folder
 January-August 1903 6
  folder
 September 1903 7
  folder
 October 1903 8
  folder
 November 1903 9
  folder
 1905-1941 10
  folder
 1942-1973 11

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Series II Financial/Business Records 1894-1969 1953-1969   1 box

Scope and Content Notes

The Financial and Business records are arranged alphabetically by folder title and contain financial statements, brick production statistics, and materials relating to the Company's shareholders and board of trustees. These records are primarily printed records for the use of Harbison and Walker staff and shareholders and the bulk of these materials date from 1953-1969. The wide variety of these records provide only a snapshot of greater Company operations at various periods in the post-World War II period. Lacking are any substantial financial records prior to World War II and any comprehensive runs of financial records. Financial information for the early history of the Company may be found in the working correspondence (series I).

  boxfolder
Asset Sheets 1900 21
  folder
Brick Production Figures 1918-1953 2
  folder
Financial Statements and Board of Directors Minutes 1967 3
  folder
Financial Statements 1967 4
  folder
Monthly Production Cost Books 1900-1917 5
  folder
Mortgage Statements 1901-1902 6
  folder
Organizational Charts 1956-1961 7
  folder
Production Cost Book 1913-1933 8
  folder
Production Cost Ledgers 1894-1899 9
  folder
Production Cost Sheets 1898-1941 10
  folder
Profit/Loss Statements 1918-1953 11
Net Income Statements 1968-1969 
  folder
Research Studies 1951-1961 12
  folder
Shareholder Meeting Notices 1949-1967 13

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Series III Publications 1894-1968   2 boxes

Scope and Content Notes

The Publications are arranged in two sub-series (company catalogs and historical/information publications) and are arranged within each sub-series alphabetically by folder title. These publications provide not only a closer examination of the Harbison and Walker Company, but of the whole refractory business in Western Pennsylvania.

Subseries A: Catalogs 1894-1911   1 box

Scope and Content Notes

The company catalogs include publications dealing with clay & silica brick sizes, shapes, prices, quality standards and designs for various coke ovens offered for sale by Harbison and Walker. Most of the Catalogs in the records are from 1894-1911.

  boxfolder
Firebrick (2 catalogs) 1902-1909 31
  folder
Firebrick and Study of the Blast Furnace 1909-1911 2
  folder
Firebreck for Boiler Settings 1911 3
  folder
Firebrick Sizes and Shapes 1894 4
  folder
Price List for Refractory Products 1960 5
  folder
Refractory Pocket Manual 1956 6
  folder
Silica Firebrick and Silica & Firebrick Sizes & Shapes 1911-1937 7
  folder
Yearbook -- Silica and Firebrick 1916 8

Subseries B: Historical and Informational Materials   1 box

Scope and Content Notes

The historical and informational publications include numerous published and manuscript works which examine both the history and operations of the Company. Included are the manuscript and notes for the book, The History of the Harbison & Walker Refractories Company, by James E. MacCloskey, Jr. Material designated as informational includes a wide range of publications intended for shareholders and staff: staff directories, published annual shareholders reports, promotional materials and newsletters to staff from the company ("Let's Find Out More About It").

  boxfolder
Address and Telephone Directories 1925 1964 41
Annual Shareholders Reports 
  folder
 1903-1954 2
  folder
 1959-1966 3
  folder
History of Harbison and Walker 1937-1967 4
  folder
History of Harbison and Walker -- Research and Developement 1943-1959 5
  folder
"Let's Find Out More About It" Newsletter 1952 6
  folder
List of Refractory Companies and Locations and Dissolved and Merged Refractory Companies 1930-1968 7
  folder
Promotional and Advertising Pamphlets 1942-1960 8

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