The Beloit Iron Works Columbian Machine
As presented at the 1893 Worlds Fair, Chicago, Illinois
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In 1893, just eight years after the founding of Beloit Iron Works, the firm was asked to exhibit a paper machine at the Chicago World’s Fair, known as the Columbian Exposition. The machine had a full operating crew. It produced printing grades and much of the paper was used at the fair for promotional items. For its participation and exhibiting "very high standards of workmanship and productiveness," the company received the United States Columbian award, shown here. At that time, the machine gained worldwide attention for its progressive engineering.

It is interesting to note a comment made by an Eastern papermaker in 1893 when he heard about Beloit winning the award, "Can you imagine, those Indians out west won a blue ribbon for their paper machine design."

The Columbian, as the machine was named, was 106" wide, 120 feet long, 9 feet tall and operated at 275 feet per minute producing about 10 tons a day. Unfortunately there are no overall photos of the Columbian, just pictures of machine sections.

After the fair, the Columbian was purchased by Nekoosa Paper Company, Nekoosa, Wisconsin, for $19,240! At Nekoosa it produced newsprint. In 1923 the machine was dismantled and moved to Nekoosa’s Port Edwards mill. At that time, the Columbian produced wrapping papers used by butchers and pharmacists of the day.

Over the past 100 years, extensive rebuilds of the machine have been made to remain competitive within the industry. Today, the only original parts remaining from The Columbian are six dryer bearing housing covers, one of which I have here. If we turn to the brochure from the fair, we can see where the covers were used.

Georgia-Pacific Corporation purchased both mills in 1990 and The Columbian is now know as No. 7 Paper Machine, but it lives on in spirit. In 1893, the machine ran at 275 fpm. After its many rebuilds, it now operates over 1600 fpm. A mill spokesperson said it was the fastest of three machines at the Port Edwards mill. It was the first machine produce "Post it Notes" and it produces a variety of paper grades used for greeting cards, annual reports, etc.

In 1991, Georgia-Pacific started up the Ashdown Express, at Ashdown, Arkansas built by Beloit. This machine includes all the major technical advances from Beloit. 

Comparing the two machines:

The Columbian 1893 machine
Cost: $ 19,240
Width: 106" (8'-10")
Length: 120 ft.
Height: 9 ft.
Speed: 275 ft/min
Productivity: 10 tons/day
The Ashdown Express, 1991
Cost $ 625 million
Width" 392" (32'-8")
Length" 638 ft.
Height: 31 ft.
Speed: 4000 ft/min
Productivity: 969 tons/day

The following is an exact copy of the text, with photo reproductions where available, of a souvenir brochure as produced by Beloit iron Works of the 1893 World's Fair Paper, Columbian Exposition. Although in some cases the text may appear "stiff" or not flow as we are used to reading, there has been no attempt to make changes.


In presenting these Souvenir Views of the Paper Machine at the World’s Columbiain Exposition, we are assured that it represents the latest and most advanced achievement in this line of machinery. All patterns are of new design, embodying a improvements known to be desirable, many of which are original, used and controlled by us alone. A Paper Machine being such a long affair, impracticable to illustrate a whole, we show large views at different points, which will give a clear idea of the general design and construction. We build this line of machinery as a specialty, giving our undivided attention and energies to it, and customers will always obtain the latest and most approved. We are constantly making new designs and improvements, and although this machine is the most advanced to date, the next built will be another step forward Constant progress is our aim, and we never expect to reach the position where improvement impossible.

We build all types of Paper Making Machines, both cylinder and Fourdrinier. Our know ledge and experience is always at The service of those interested. Earnest attention will be given to all correspondence, and blue prints or illustrations furnished, which represent the particular machine of which inquiry is made. 

Very respectfully,
Beloit Iron Works
Beloit, Wisconsin, U. S. A.


There has always been many objections to the high horizontal device for imparting a vibrator movement to the wire, and in most cases required bracing and tieing with rods or straps from above before it would effectually do its work. To dispense with these ornamental appendages, n particularly flattering to the ability of the machine builder, heavier and stiffer designs were brought out of themselves strong enough for the duty, but owing to the thrust imparted to frame at such a height the strongest floors were unable to withstand the great leverage without continuous springing. Are other serious objection, the upright shake arm was directly in the way when lifting breast roll to change wire; however, it seemed impossible to devise anything more effective and desirable, and this form c shake has been the accepted standard for years. The Improved Low Vertical Shake overcomes ever objection and disagreeable feature of the old device, exceeds our expectations, and observing the simplicity of the arrangement, all wonder, as usual, "why it was not thought of before." As will b seen, all parts are low near floor, nothing in the way when lifting breast roll, all parts readily oiled an attended, no oil or dirt can be thrown on wire and the floor receiving a direct up and down thrust without the great leverage of the high shake, there is no springing. A firm support, free from vibration secured for the crank, a sure, decided and fixed motion is imparted to the wire.


This pump was furnished by the old and well-known firm, The Pusey & Jones Company, Wilmington, Delaware. It is positive in suction, easily driven, durable in construction, and more than one hundred in successful operation. The plungers are brass cased arranged to give a :continuous suction; rubber ball valves, noiseless and reliable. The pump is complete within itself and only requires to be bolted to the floor.



Working on the same general idea of convenience, facility in operating, practical utility, and to overcome a number of objections in the old standard housing, this was designed, on which we have received letters patent. It is a radical departure from anything heretofore built, and so marked and general are the praises and reception it has met that already others are attempting to construct housings on the same lines. The main body is of the box pattern, the strongest form known. The casting containing box for upper roll extends down inside engaging with a horizontal screw passing through main body below, on one end of which is a lever, in proper position to operate when standing on the floor, and by working this lever backward and forward, one man can with ease raise top or both rolls of the widest machines. Another valuable feature is, all of the housing is below the upper face of the roll, thus permitting the body of doctor to extend forward over housing, allowing "broken stuff" to be pulled off endwise without obstruction and no danger of dropping down on felts, also the paper felts and wire are in full view. The doctor and vibrating mechanism is imparted to doctor by worm and gear movement, the most satisfactory arrangement yet devised, will last practically a life time free from breakage and with little wear. To facilitate changing felts, the lower box is removable without touching a bolt, after bottom roll is raised a short distance.


The same features of convenience, safety and strength are embodied in this as in the Double-Deck Section. To accomplish this, an entirely new design was adopted. The stands supporting paper rolls, instead of projecting directly upward from frames, curve around, and find support back of felt roll stands. This allowed frame to be designed very open opposite that rt of Dryer where felt leaves it, thus operator is enabled to grasp paper without reaching under frame or encountering any obstruction whatever, also the paper "end" can plainly be seen some distance below point where it leaves the felt. In this view is also shown the Steam Regulator. The paper passing over upper roll, if too or too damp, contracts or expands, thus closing or opening valve. In this manner the steam supply to dryers is automatically controlled by the paper itself.


The main features attained in designing this portion of the machine are, convenience, safety, ample strength, plainness yet graceful and pleasing to the eye. These points are covered to a greater degree than any design yet produced. The operator is able to grasp the paper without leaning over or reaching around the framework and retaining it until passed well over top dryer, not being obliged to exercise caution and relax hold the moment paper is taken by top felt, which is the case with all other frames having supports for top felt frame joining at these points. An important plan, heretofore overlooked, has been adopted in the distribution of metal to prevent side sway; the feet on foundation being made very wide crosswise, and all moldings very deep rather then shallow and thick, which has been the common practice, and granted that the latter will require as much iron, which is not true, the very important feature of "stiffness sidewise" cannot be obtained. All felt rolls are iron, shrunk on to the heads and well riveted. Journals of steel, running in stands with removable gun-metal bushings. Joints between frames accurately planed, bolted together with turned bolts passing through reamed holes, making framework as rigid as if one continuous castings Several original improvements have been introduced, among which are the self oiling dryer boxes and double heads on dryers; the former is simple yet the results many and desirable; the dryer journals being constantly and copiously lubricated, no attention required except filling the reservoir at long intervals, no oil running down dryer heads or frame and a and a saving of at least one-half in expense for lubricant and wear boxes. The double or false head (patent applied for) is secured to main head leaving an air space between. This effects savings in steam by reducing condensation, also reduces radiation and removes in a measure the disagreeable heat always about this portion of a paper machine.


This view showing a section of double-deck dryers and a small portion of those single-decked, will give a clear idea of the construction and appearance of the entire dryer section on back side. In these times of close competition, and the desire and necessity of ever increasing the running speed to swell production, accurate, high-grade workmanship is of paramount importance, otherwise the present high speeds cannot be attained and produce market paper. Heretofore rough cast gears have been used by all builders both for slow and high speed machines; on former they perform the work in a satisfactory manner, but on the latter, requiring large diameter gears, experience dictates they are not the test practice, for a round, uniform gear cannot be cast owing to the uneven shrinkage the iron when cooling, and the more or less distortion of the mold when drawing pattern, ramming the sand, etc. have introduced Cut Dryer Gears, rims turned and teeth cut from the solid, producing a gear that is accurate and perfectly round, one that will run smoothly, quietly and transmit a uniform motion to the dryers. All gears are thoroughly covered with cast iron guards securely supported to main frames, eliminating the possibility of the shocking accidents that have often occurred. A corrugated cast iron "walk" of ordinary height runs along single-deck section and an elevated one full length of double section, provided with brass rail; this also is a new and original addition with us, which once used will be found very convenient and indispensable, as it enables the operator to reach all parts above, even while machine is running, obviating the dangerous use of ladders or climbing. All vertical supply and exhaust steam pipes are fitted with brass compensating joints.


Both the Breakers and Finishing Stack of Calenders were built by the old and celebrated manufacturers of chilled and dry sand rolls, the Farrel Foundry and Machine Co., Ansonia, Conn, U. S. A., who operate the largest roll plant on the continent, furnishing as they do all paper machinery builders of note in the United States. The housings represent their latest and best effort, being very strong, simple and convenient. By means of patent lift rods of flexible wire rope or chain fastened at the end to screws and the other end clamped to side of- frame, operated by hand wheels above, one or more rolls may be raised or lowered when not in use, or removing gibs from boxes may be swung out without disturbing the others. When not in use the ropes may be detached if desired The’ system of triple compound levers is very simple and strong. A very ingenious and effective attachment in connection with the weight levers, will meet with the cordial approval of all operators, which by turning a hand wheel the weight levers with the weights may be raised at same time on both front and back easily and quickly.


This is a heavy, substantial machine. Main frames have, wide feet extending well inside, moulding also very wide. Main shaft large, supported at ends by boxes bored out. Each drum has lateral adjustment, accomplished by screw and hand wheel, carrying a bronze yoke. Drum gears behind have wide face and strong at roots to withstand the heavy shocks when revolved to engage in river; to further obviate breakage, the box back of driving pinion slides on a planed surface, and is held up to work by a steel spring behind. "Friction sheaves are large diameter and wide face, providing ample wearing surface for friction blocks. Large stop pins entering carefully reamed holes on both front and back, insure rigidity and freedom from trembling; these stop pins are disengaged by same lever that operates friction pulley behind which revolves reel; it stopping. automatically. Subjected severe strains and shocks starting and stopping while carrying a great weight of paper, careful attention has been given its design and construction, that it may successfully perform the work require without the constant breakages and annoyances usually attending light, carelessly constructed and hastily designed reels. (The lever at the right operates calender friction-clutch and is not part of the reel.)


This machine conforms to the general design followed throughout, the main supporting frames having one solid central web, deep moulding, wide bases projecting inside and planed on the bottoms To further insure stiffness and prevent side swaying, they are securely tied together by a ast iron cross-brace with ends bolted to planed spots on frames. The main drum is a fine, hard iron cast shell accurately ground and polished, heads bolted to same; shaft passing through entire length, with polished brass hand wheel on front end. Lower slitters are large size, double-edge band type; the band being steel hardened, secured to cast iron heads by screws; these are made to template and may be renewed by purchasing new bands only. Upper slitters are the celebrated Bess patent which are fast replacing all others The guard board is cast iron planed on top and designed so it nay be sprung up in center; it is adjustable in every direction and may be taken out without disturbing position of supporting stands. Carrying rolls are made of seamless brass tubing shrunk on to heads and riveted. Journals of steel running in boxes fitted with removable gun-metal bushings. The entire machine is low, convenient to operate, and all parts easily accessible.


This large view of one section will give a clear idea of that part of Driving Train which is located on the floor, the same combination being used to drive independently the couch rolls. first press, second press, dryers and calender. The entire driving arrangement is evolved from the well-known Marshall system, with a number of alterations and improvements. Though seemingly a simple combination of gearing, and pulleys, there is an important underlying principle that must be closely followed if a successful Train is the result, that will run easily, quietly, free from jar, with uniform motion, and requiring only narrow belts. Experience has taught that wide belts running on taper pulleys are to be avoided as they climb badly, producing enormous strains on the shafting and friction pulleys, the sure and speedy result being excessive wear, "wabbling" pulleys, jumping and jarring gearing, and a driving train continually requiring repairing, and one that cannot possibly be made to work satisfactorily. The bevel gears are mortise, accurately planed; hubs of friction pulleys bushed with bronze, with an oil chamber between it and cast hub, holes through bushing allowing oil or grease to reach all parts of bearing, oil chamber connected through hub outside to patent grease cups. All friction pulley grips operated from front side of machine. Collars at boxes back of gears are wrought iron shrunk on to’ shafts, one for each end of box, the hubs of gears doing no collaring, but can be adjusted as may be required without disturbing shafting or boxes. We cannot too strongly proclaim the merits of our double corner pedestal, originally brought out by us. and now copied by a number of other builders. It is one solid casting with broad bases curving around directly back of each gear to receive boxes, thus making it self contained, extremely solid, and by virtue of its form relieving floor from the jar and heaving unavoidable where supports are independent, bolted together with ties, or boxes not close to gears. Boxes on all pedestals are the Pillow Box type, planed on the bottom, tops planed and also bottom caps, insuring solid bearing full length of cap, and permitting bolts to be screwed down tightly without springing and bearing unevenly on shaft. All lined with strictly "Genuine Babbitt" or will be furnished, if preferred, cast iron, bored out and smoothly reamed. Another important feature not found on any other "Train": all bevel gearing on floor turn outward or away from each other, thus accidents are impossible from catching clothing or operatives or breakage from anything dropping on them,. often before starting, wrenches, bolts, or the like, are carelessly left in such places.


The back of the Beloit Iron Works, Worlds Fair Booklet contained several pages of paper industry advertisement. This ad describing slitters is typical of the ads.




The building and exhibiting of this machine at the Chicago Worlds Fair is credited in part for the increase in business activity in the years following the fair.