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Ferracute Machine Company (Bridgeton, N.J.) Records 1863-1982, (bulk 1937-1963).

INVENTOR NAME: Ferracute Machine Company (Bridgeton, N.J.).

Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630

The Ferracute Machine Company was formed by inventor Oberlin Smith in Bridgeton, New Jersey in 1863, incorporated in 1877, and ceased operations in 1968. This company specialized in metal forming presses.

Initially, Ferracute supplied the makers of tin cans, and by 1891 it offered a full line of machinery for setting up canneries. Ferracute also produced coin presses. A special order of three such presses was installed in the Imperial Chinese mints in 1898 under the direct supervision of Ferracute employee, Henry A. Janvier.

This metal-forming press technology proved vital for stamping out and forming the profusion of lighweight machine parts and consumer goods that came to characterize 20th century industry. Ferracute presses were used to stamp out one-piece pots and pans, as well as parts for bicycles, adding machines, phonographs and automobiles. Orders for presses and dies came from electric companies, Ohio bicycle makers, Eastman Kodak, and the U.S. Mint. Automobile companies such as Cadillac, Chrysler, Ford, Packard and Pierce became substantial customers starting in 1906. Ferracute produced 39 presses for Ford's Highland Park plant in 1910. Ferracute had no in-house sales force but operated through commission agents. Scientific management was implemented at Ferracute by Frederic Parkhurst, a disciple of Frederick W. Taylor, before World War I.

Ferracute was sold to George E. Bass in 1937, and he modernized the plant. During World War II Ferracute supplied the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia, which was engaged in the manufacture of shell casings and airplane components. Ferracute also sold large numbers of military presses to Britain and the Soviet Union. After the war the work force was unionized, and the company began producing non-metal forming machines. However, it continued to lose market share, and the plant was closed in 1968. The assets and rights were sold to the Fulton Iron Works of St. Louis.

The Ferracute Machine Company records are not a complete archive, but rather a series of fragments assembled by Arthur J. Cox for the preparation of a company history.

The administrative papers include samples of executive correspondence, a report on operations, organization charts and lists of Ferracute distributors. Advertising records include drafts of advertisements; press clippings; a company publication, FERRACUTE FIELD (1939-40); and press views for Ferracute ads.

The employee files include material relating to the improved training system introduced by Bass after 1937, as well as apprenticeship agreements, employee's handbooks, and an issue of an employee magazine, HOME FRONT (1945). There are also newsclippings about employees, particularly Vice President Henry A. Janvier.

The history files consist mainly of newclippings and photocopies of articles about Ferracute and its founder Oberlin Smith. There is also a small sample of personal material from George Bass, as well as sketches and schedules of the plant and buildings. The machine tool file contains schedules of the plant and buildings. The machine tool file contains schedules of machine tools used in the plant.

Several files document Ferracute's effort during World War II, particularly its relationship with the Frankford Arsenal, plus a few letters relating to sales to Russia through the Amtorg Trading Corporation. Union materials include contracts and seniority lists. There are 86 patents (1872-1938), primarily for press machinery, as well as some of Oberlin Smith's other patents for such devices as an automatic egg boiler and a drink mixer.

The largest series deals with press work and includes a small amount of customer correspondence, a sample of orders, catalogues, manuals, and numerous sketches and drawings of presses and their products. The records of Parkhurst's time studies include his notebooks (1909-13), along with sample blank forms and charts. Foremen's manuals from the 1940s show the further refinements of the scientific management system.

The miscellany is primarily tear sheets and articles relating to Ferracute and its products. There are also a general ledger (1877-82) and a scrapbook containing ads, letters, shop rules, press cards and catalogues. A second scrapbook is devoted to automatic scales and the development of paper packaging for food. It contains some photographs taken at the Automatic Weighing Machine Company of Newark, N.J., a few of which show women at work.

The microfilm, containing drawings, orders, press cards, payrolls and account books, is in poor condition and is not available for use.

Photographs are serviced by the Pictorial Collections Department.

SUBJECTS:  Industry & manufacturing
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