Mills of Trout Run, Pennsylvania
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Click here to go directly to October 19, 2007 update.
Author's note: The Paper Mills of Trout Run, is presented in four sections, the page you are reading, The biography of W. C. Hamilton, The 1921 Riverside Mill Booklet, and the Author's visits to Miquon, PA. We urge readers to open the links in the order they are inserted to maintain continuity of the story. Link alerts are in red text.
Click Any Image for an enlarged View of The Trout Run Area
This story originally had the title "The Paper Mill at Lafayette Station, Pennsylvania." As the story unfolded it became obvious that the story was more than that. It was difficult to separate the activities of great American figures such as William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, General Lafayette and the industrious people that populated Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties in the early years of America. Then there were the lesser known people like Anthony Newhouse, Jacob Hagy, E. R. Cope, William C. Hamilton and the many that contributed to their success through the years, thus the new, more inclusive title, "The Paper Mills of Trout Run, Pennsylvania."
Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties are rich in American history, crisscrossed by the footprints of people that appear bigger than life: Benjamin Franklin, William Penn, George Washington, Lafayette and the many great people that are familiar to us through our early childhood school text books. Although this story takes place in Montgomery County, it is about the people of Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties and the contributions they made to our society. Most of us recall their contributions to early American history. This story however, is about their contributions to the American paper industry. Some of the great historical figures mentioned above are players in the story of "The Paper Mills of Trout Run."
According to the Historical Society of Montgomery County, papermaking was a Pennsylvania monopoly right up to the end of the 18th century. By 1879, there were 53 paper mills within range of the Philadelphia market. By 1806 there were 62 in the state, 14 of which were in Montgomery County. Most made paper by hand, one sheet at a time.
The Paper Mills at Trout Run is a story well suited for historians to ponder. The mills were, by the nature of the topography of the area, paper mills destined to be trapped in time. The banks of the Schuylkill River at Lafayette Station were steep, rolling almost down to the river's edge. This left only a small area economically suitable for manufacturing. Accessibility to the mill site by horse drawn carriages and in later years by motor vehicles was limited due to the steepness of the very narrow, winding roads leading from Ridge Pike to the Trout Run Creek area. While it appears an unlikely site to establish a paper mill, Trout Run Creek being able to provide the water necessary for making paper, determined the location of the paper mills in the area. As a consequence, in the 20th century, as paper machines became increasing larger they required a great deal of real estate and resources, limiting the possibilities of economic expansion of the Hamilton mill complex to meet the production pressures of its competitor mills with their behemoth paper machines. The larger, newer paper machines were 2 to 3 times wider than the largest paper machine in the Hamilton mill (116") and sometimes longer than a city block. They required the driving of piles for sound foundations to support the heavy machines and a great amount of available natural resources and outside supplies to sustain their high productivity rates. However, this did not stop the owners, managers and workers of the W. C. Hamilton Riverside Mill. If there was a limitation, they didn't seem to be aware of it. With their eight relatively small, narrow, low production paper machines they competed in the world markets against the huge machines of the new age by producing papers of outstanding quality. The Hamilton Paper Company's unique trademark (patterned after an American Indian name for William Penn) was widely recognized as standing for superior quality.
Lafayette Station and the W. C. Hamilton Paper Mill (also known as The Riverside Mill) and its predecessors no longer exist today but are alive and well in the annals of American and paper industry history and as part of the buildings in a new commercial complex at Trout Run that replaced the mill. (River Park). Here now, is the story of The Paper Mills at Trout Run as we have put it together. Our story by necessity is brief to suit this modern information medium called The Internet.
Some day, hopefully in the near future, others will tell the complete and interesting story of the people that produced paper at the Trout Run Creek site. It is a story worth telling, a story of people, industry, and pride that typifies the greatness of the country we call the United States of America. Paper was made at the Trout Run Creek site for 250 years (1746 to 1995) from the early Newhouse mill and the Hagy mill that made paper by hand, a sheet at a time, to the Cope mill that introduced the first fourdrinier machine to the area, and thus the start of the mechanization of paper manufacturing in Montgomery County, and then the W. C. Hamilton & Sons Riverside mill and its successors, Weyerhaeuser Corporation and Simpson Paper Company who inherited the traditions of the Hamilton Mill.
Click here to read story update October 19, 2007 Re: Professor John Cairns, Jr.
Voices From The Past - The Riverside Mill - The Beginnings (1)
(This section was written in 1884)
Lafayette is the name of a station a mile below Spring Mill, on the Norristown Railroad. An extensive paper-mill was built here in 1856 by Mr. Cope, of Germantown, who carried on the business for several years. It is now (1884) owned and operated by W. C. Hamilton & Sons, who employ about one hundred hands. The census of 1880 gives one hundred and thirty-nine inhabitants. In 1858 there were but four or five dwellings and the roads of a grist-mill that had been propelled by a stream (Trout Run) that empties here into the Schuylkill.
The Riverside Paper Mill owned and operated by W. C. Hamilton & Sons is situated at Lafayette Station on the Norristown Branch of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and also at about the same distance from the station of the same name on the Schuylkill Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The mill was built in 1856-57 and first put in operation in the latter year by E. R. Cope, previously of the firm of Magarge & Cope paper manufactures. When the Riverside Mill was first put in operation W. C. Hamilton (the present owner) had a small interest in it with Mr. Cope, and also employed as the mill manager, a position in which he continued for about six years, when the connection was severed.
Click here to read the biography of W. C. Hamilton.
The Paper Machines 1856 - 1881 (1)
(This section was written in 1884)
On the 1st of October, 1865, Mr. Hamilton, who, in the meantime, had been employed in the paper business elsewhere, purchased the entire Riverside Mill property and stock. The farm attached was afterwards purchased by him. At the time of his purchase the mill was equipped with one sixty-two inch foudrinier machine, one washer and two beater-engines, one set of super-calenders and the other machinery necessary for manufacturing book and envelope-papers. The capacity was then one and one-fourth tons in twelve hours. Its motive-power was furnished by a Corliss steam engine of one hundred and fifty horse power, and another engine of twenty horse power for driving the paper-machine. The mill building was of stone, two stories high, with basement, as it stands at present, (in 1856) surrounded by the several buildings, all of stone, which have since been added to the establishment at different times.
In 1872 an additional building was erected on the north side, about seventy by eighty feet in size, the lower part for use as a calendering and finishing room and the upper part for storage. At the same time, another building of about the same dimension was added on the south side for a bleaching room, and a third building, three stories high, and about thirty by fifty feet, for the storage of stock. Beside these additions to the mill establishment, twelve dwelling houses were built for occupation by the workmen. To the equipment of the mill Mr. Hamilton then added a second Fourdrinier (sixty-five inch) machine, with a corresponding addition to the other machinery of the mill, bringing its capacity up to five tons in twenty-four hours. The motive power was also increased by the addition of another engine and boilers. For ten years succeeding that time the mill was in operation to its full capacity, a great part of the time running night and day.
The First Riverside Mill Paper Machine - 1856 (2)
E. R. Cope brought the first fourdrinier paper machine to Montgomery County that produced paper in a continuous form. There are no sketches, photos or details of that paper machine however enough historical information exists to make a sound judgment on the origin of the machine and what it may have looked like.
It is generally accepted that the first Fourdrinier paper machine on the American continent was built by Bryan Donkin of London, and installed at Saugerties NY, October 24th, 1827. In December of the same year, another British built machine was started at North Windham, CT. This machine was erected by George Spafford who after that experience, started the firm of Phelps & Spafford. Phelps & Spafford in the following year designed, and built a machine for Amos D. Hubbard of Norwich Falls, CT. Some say the machine was a copy of the Donkin machine erected by George Spafford at North Windham, CT. Regardless, it was the very first American fourdrinier paper machine built and erected in America. Following the financial panic in 1837, Phelps & Spafford failed and was reorganized as Smith & Winchester Company.
The better known Pusey & Jones and Merrill & Houston (Beloit Iron Works) companies did not build their first paper machines until 1862. Another well known builder, Bagley & Sewall built their first paper machine in 1889. This leaves two known sources capable of designing and building paper machines in the year 1856. Bryan Donkin of London or Phelps & Spafford in America. It is reasonable to say that very few machines were imported from Britain after 1850. Machines imported into the U. S. from Britain came via a third country, usually France, and were difficult to purchase due to the complexity of the process and the high shipping costs from Europe. By process of elimination the builder of the first Cope machine in all probability was the American firm of Phelps & Spafford . Speculation: yes! - Probability: high! For more details of the early American machine builders go to The American Builders.
The sketch at left is a rendering of an 1820 Donkin paper machine. It is reasonable to assume that the machine installed in 1927 at Saugerties NY was similar to this rendering. Museums and history articles show many views and sketches of paper machines of this period all following this general construction.
This photo is an 1838 vintage Bryan Donkin paper machine (reportedly, the first paper machine in Norway). This represents the paper machine technology in the early 1800s. It is probably similar to that erected by George Spafford at North Windham, CT. With some minor changes it may also be similar to the paper machine delivered to E. R. Cope in 1856. To see more details of this era machine go to The Bryan Donkin Photo Gallery.
The Riverside Mill Paper Machines - 1882 (1)
(This section was written in 1884)
In 1882 further extensive additions were made to the power and equipment of the mill. An eight hundred and fifty horse power Porter & Allen engine was put in, also an eighty horse-power Corliss engine and eight Babcock & Wilcox boilers. A third Fourdrinier machine (eighty-six inches) was added, and the mill was furnished with new shafting throughout. By these improvements and additions the capacity of the mill was increased, and brought to its present figure, fifteen thousand pounds in twelve hours. The product is fine book, card and envelope-papers. The offices of the firm of W. C. Hamilton & Sons are at the mill and at 1001 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.
Their is sound evidence that corroborates The Riverside Mill installing a new paper machine in 1882 and an additional machine 10 years later. The paper machine data sheets, (sheets 1 & 2), of the Pusey & Jones Company of Wilmington, Delaware, list the following entries:
March. 1881, P & J furnished a fourdrinier paper machine, with an 88" wire, 2 presses, 2 calenders and (12) 36" dryers to the W. C. Hamilton and Sons, Riverside Mill, Manayunk.
March. 1890, P & J furnished a fourdrinier a paper machine, with an 80" wire, 2 presses, 2 calenders and (9) 48" dryers to W. C. Hamilton & Sons above Manayunk.
Click the image at left for an enlarged reproduction of a listing of the Hamilton & Sons Paper Mill as published in the 1905 Lockwood Directory
The Riverside Mill Paper Machines - 1921 (3)
On July 1, 1921 the Riverside Mill published a book describing their mill operations. 350 copies were distributed. One book, numbered 280 was issued to John Czapala an employee of one year. The birds eye view of the Riverside Paper Mill on the left is excerpted from the Riverside Mill book mentioned above. The book contains 27 historical photos and sketches with detail descriptions of each phase of papermaking operations in at Riverside Mill in 1921.
Click here to review the contents of the Riverside book.
Fast Forward to 1942 (4)
Post's Paper Mill Directory of 1942 has the following entry for the Riverside Mill.
Hamilton, W. C. & Sons, Inc. (H. H. Hanson, Pres..; Lane Taylor, Sec. - Treas.; Joseph H. Dunton, Sales Mgr.; Robt. S. Paugh, Supt.; E. N. Poor, chief Chem.; W. R. Bell, Pur. Agt.) Address, Miquon, Montgomery Co. Riverside Mills. Shipping point, Miquon. Seventeen beaters, six Jordans and one 64-in. (57-in. sheet), one 82-in. (72-in sheet), one 86-in. (78-in sheet), one 91-in. (81-in. sheet), one 100-in.. (92-in. sheet) and one 116 in. (103-in. sheet) Fourdriniers. Width of super-calenders, 39 and 45-in. Electric and steam. Bond, ledger, offset, papeteries, text, weddings, writing, map, blue print, meter, and specialties. Machine and air dried. 175,000 lbs. 24 hours.
Author's note: Although this accounts for seven paper machines, information when personally visiting the Trout Run area indicates their were eight paper machines in the W. C. Hamilton mill.
A Condensed History of The Trout Run Mills (5)
River Road runs from Conshohocken to Roxborough along the Northern side of the Schuylkill, with wooded hillside on one side and the river on the other. Certainly an out of the way location for a manufacturing plant. At the point where Trout Run Creek empties into the Schuylkill River is a site where paper has been manufactured since 1746. (until the W. C. Hamilton & Sons mill closed in 1995).
In 1746, a man by the name of Anthony Newhouse built a paper making mill on the Trout Run site. The Newhouse complex, 54 acres in all, included a house, a stone barn and the paper mill. At the time, paper was made by hand, one sheet at time and required a great deal of water, something that Trout Run Creek provided. The main raw material used in papermaking was rags, which were boiled in large vats to make a stock. Molded screen frames were dipped into the vat to make paper.
The papermaking business was a money-maker, and Newhouse made money. Newhouse had a close business relationship with Benjamin Franklin that helped Newhouse's profits. Franklin, a Philadelphia printer at the time sold rags to Newhouse, who in turn sold paper back to Franklin. When the Colonial Assembly chose Franklin to print its money, Franklin chose Newhouse to supply the paper.
After Newhouse made his fortune, he sold the paper mill to Jacob Hagy and retired to a townhouse in Germantown. Historical society records indicate that Franklin continued as a customer of the mill and that business expanded. By 1764, Hagy had added another paper mill and a sawmill on Trout Run. He ran the mill until 1792. Edwin Cope, a Philadelphia businessman bought the property and business in 1756, put up a new building and installed the new papermaking machines. By 1758 the mill employed 30 workers and produced 3,000 pounds of paper per day.
Cope hired W. C. Hamilton who started in the paper business at 11 years old. By the time he was employed by Cope, he had 36 years experience in papermaking. Hamilton remained with Cope for 6 years, leaving in 1762. He returned in 1765 to purchase the mill complex at Lafayette Station. The mill then became known as the W. C. Hamilton Company. (1)
Under Hamilton, new machines were added that increased production. With the increased volume, the water supply from Trout Run was no longer sufficient, so the company obtained a lease on Bubbling Springs in Spring Mill at the end of Joshua Road. Water was piped to the plant at Miquon.
Production at the plant continued to increase during the 20th century to the point that an onsite post office was built in 1918. The company favored calling the post office Lafayette based in a story that General Lafayette had stayed at the owner's home, Miquon House, during the American Revolution. That suggestion was rejected by the postal authorities in favor of Miquon, one of the Indian names for William Penn.
In 1961 The W. C. Hamilton & Sons Paper Mill became a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Company until 1980 when the plant was purchased by Simpson Paper Company.
In a mill sell-off, Simpson closed the W. C. Hamilton & Sons Mill in 1995. At the time the mill closed it employed 275 workers and produced 155 tons of paper a day.
The mill property was acquired by a Philadelphia developer in 1998 and turned into "River Park" a business community.
Click here to tour the Trout Run Mill Sites with the author.
Update October 19, 2007:
Click here to read an article describing employment in the W. C. Hamilton Paper Mills in the 1940's by John Cairns. (Now Professor John Cairns Jr, University Distinguished Professor of Environmental Biology Emeritus and Director Emeritus, University Center for Environmental and Hazardous Materials Studies)
(1) "Bean's 1884 History of Montgomery Co, PA." pages 624, 625 and 1148.
(2) Information developed in concert with Oyvind Haugen of Norway.
(3) Information courtesy Ben Arnold of Metso Corporation.
(4) Post's Paper Mill Directory, 1942 Edition, pages 289-290.
(5) Philadelphia Inquirer article, April 23, 1995 issue, titled "Once Upon a Time" by Joseph S. Kennedy, Inquirer Correspondent.
Thanks to Frances Morrison who maintains a website named " A Short Overview of Montgomery County PA, 1834." Frances was most helpful in directing us to information about the Riverside Mill at Trout Run Creek.
Click here to review the Historical Chronology of the Paper Mills at Trout Run
Special thanks to Penny and David Brodie of Lafayette Hill, PA for their valuable assistance in preparing this article. Click here to read the author's visits to Miquon and meet Penny & David.
This article researched and composed for the Internet by Luigi Bagnato, April/May, 2001. Please direct comments to Luigi Bagnato
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