Library of Congress > Collections with Film and Videos > Inside an American Factory: Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904

About the Westinghouse Works

Map of the Westinghouse interests

By the time that the American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. had filmed the Westinghouse Works in 1904, the Westinghouse enterprise had grown to include many companies both in the United States and abroad. Background information is provided here on three of the companies most prominently featured in the AM&B films: the Air Brake Company, the Electric & Manufacturing Company, and the Machine Company.

The following list of some other Westinghouse holdings and associated companies can offer an indication of how vast the interests of George Westinghouse had become at this time:

The Westinghouse Air Brake Co.
The Union Switch and Signal Company
The Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company
The Westinghouse Machine Company
Westinghouse Church Kerr & Co.
Cooper Hewitt Electric Company
Sawyer-Man Electric Company
R. D. Nuttall Company
Nernst Lamp Company
Pittsburg Meter Company
Canadian Westinghouse Company, Limited
The American Brake Company
The Westinghouse Automatic Air and Steam Coupler Company
The Westinghouse Brake Company, Ltd., London, England
The Westinghouse Brake Company, Ltd., Hanover, Germany
The Westinghouse Company, Ltd., St. Petersburg, Russia
Societe Anonyme Westinghouse, France
The Bryant Electric Company
The Perkins Electric Switch Manufacturing Company
The British Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, Ltd.
The Westinghouse Electricitats-Actiengesellschaft

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The Westinghouse Air Brake Co.

various Air Brake Companies

Originally organized in 1869 to manufacture the air brakes invented by George Westinghouse, the company moved to the larger and more modern plant featured in the AM&B motion pictures in Wilmerding, PA, in 1889. The works for this plant comprised over nine acres of floor space. The works and the yard together occupied approximately thirty acres. In 1905, approximately 3,000 workers were employed, and the output was 1,000 brake sets per day.

The first air brake invented by George Westinghouse revolutionized the railroad industry, making braking a safer venture and thus permitting trains to travel at higher speeds. Westinghouse made many alterations to improve his invention leading to various forms of the automatic brake. By 1905, over 2,000,000 freight, passenger, mail, baggage and express cars and 89,000 locomotives were equipped with the Westinghouse Quick-Action Automatic Brake.

In addition, the company manufactured equipment necessary for brakes, such as a friction draft gear, and also evolved from making the air brake to manufacturing an electro-magnetic brake.

The town of Wilmerding, popularly known as "the home of the air brake," became centered around the workings of the Westinghouse Company, as its fortunes rose and fell with that of the company. The Westinghouse Company even built houses for its employees and buildings for town activities.

The Westinghouse Air Brake Company eventually expanded into foreign areas, opening factories in London, Hanover, and St. Petersburg.

Photos taken from The Detroit Publishing Company Collection also available online courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

(Sources for photos and information: The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905)

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The Westinghouse Machine Co.

Organized in 1881, the Westinghouse Machine Company was devoted primarily to the manufacture of gas and steam engines, turbines and mechanical stokers. The main works were located at East Pittsburgh at a property covering nearly 50 acres. With a working floor space of 20.4 acres, the company employed approximately 3,500 men by 1905.

Some of the company's most notable products were the Westinghouse-Parsons steam turbines in various sizes, the Westinghouse-Corliss steam engines, the Westinghouse gas engines, Marine type steam engines and high speed single-acting steam engines.

Motor-Driven Air Compressor

The uses of this type of equipment were vast. For example, gas engines were used to power interurban railways in Jamestown, NY, and to power a fire service pumping station. Steam engines were used frequently by the railway industry and could be found in the service plants of Boston Terminal Station, the Pennsylvania Union Station in Pittsburgh, and the Union Station in St. Louis. Steam turbines from Westinghouse were also used for the Manhattan Railway in New York.

(Sources for photos and information: The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905)

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The Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company

The main works and branch factories of the Electric & Manufacturing Company

Organized in 1886 as the Westinghouse Electric Company with a force of 200 men, the name of the company later became the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. By 1904, the number of workers grew to 9,000 at the main plant with 3,000 additional employees in branch factories. It became the largest of the Westinghouse companies and was thought to be the largest and most modern workshop in the world at the time the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company filmed its operations. The Engineering Department alone employed 350 mechanical and electrical experts.

The company began building an extensive plant in 1895 in East Pittsburgh on 40 acres of land. The total floor space in the entire plant was over two million square feet. The shop contained a long aisle in the main building "filled with large machines in various stages of construction. This aisle [was] seventy feet in width and 1,184 feet in length, and [was] traversed from end to end by traveling cranes of capacities ranging from thirty to fifty tons each." (Works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1904). The largest aisle, measuring 70 feet across and one-third of a mile in length, was located in the East Machine Shop.

The main function of the Electric & Manufacturing Company was to develop and produce "apparatus for the generation, transmission and application of alternating current electricity." (The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905) The company also produced electric railway motors, producing approximately 75,000 by 1905.

Section where large generators are constructed

Long aisle in main building

Workers winding railway motor armatures

The Electric & Manufacturing Company played an integral role in several notable projects, namely the conversion of Niagara Falls to electric power, the installations of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in New York and the South Side Elevated Railroad in Chicago, and the powering of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. More details on these projects is available under the heading "Projects worked on by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company during this period."

In addition to the plant at East Pittsburgh, the Westinghouse Company had branch works at this time at Newark, NJ, and Cleveland, Ohio, as well as maintaining control over the product of the following companies: Sawyer Man Electric Co., NY; The Bryant Electric Co. and The Perkins Electric Switch Manufacturing Co., Bridgeport, Conn.; and R.D. Nuttall Co., Pittsburgh. The Electric and Manufacturing Company also had plants abroad in Manchester, England; Havre, France; and Hamilton, Canada.

(Sources for photos and information: The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905; Works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1904)

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Working Conditions

The companies that made up the Westinghouse Works prided themselves on being modern and progressive. This opinion is probably what led them to allow motion pictures to be taken of the working conditions in these plants, since they felt that their progressive ideas were in particular evidence there.

MICA Splitting Department

An example of these forward-thinking ideas was the institution of the 9-hour workday and the 55-hour work-week in 1869 in the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, one of the first companies believed to have done this. It was also reputed to be the first company in American industry to adopt half-holidays on Saturday afternoons.

When the Westinghouse Air Brake Company relocated to the suburban town of Wilmerding, the company furthered its image as progressive by instituting a series of measures of welfare work aimed at bettering the working and living conditions of the employees. Wilmerding was clearly a "company town;" the town's fortunes rose and fell with that of the Westinghouse Company, giving the company a sense of responsibility to its employees which it to some degree acknowledged through these programs. The Westinghouse Company also hoped that by offering educational and cultural activities, a better type of employee could be procured and that the attrition rate of workers would lower. These measures included providing buildings, parks, and cultural activities for the town, as well as providing housing and some educational classes.

As mentioned, when it relocated to the town of Wilmerding, PA, the Westinghouse Air Brake Company recognized the need to provide adequate housing for its employees. The company built houses on a tract of land it purchased, then sold the dwellings to employees "at about cost and upon terms which enabled them to pay for the properties in monthly installments extending over a period of ten or fifteen years." The plan was later altered so that...

...the purchaser of any property is required to pay about one-fifth of the purchase money in cash upon delivery of deed. He then executes a purchase-money mortgage, payable in five years, with interest payable quarterly at the rate of 5 per cent per annum. While no requirement is made, it is expected that the purchaser shall reduce the principal of the mortgage quarterly by such payments on account as he may be able to make. This plan enables him, during hard times to keep the transaction in good shape by merely paying the interest, while on the other hand, when good wages are earned, he can discharge such part of the principal of his mortgage as he may desire." (The Wilmerding News, November 23, 1904)

The Westinghouse Air Brake Company was also instrumental in the setting up of educational and cultural institutions through the local Y.M.C.A. The company provided the location for the institution and through it offered courses and activities for its employees.

The relief department of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company was established in May of 1903, its intent being...

woman ...to insure a certain income to employees who might become unfitted for work through illness or injury and in the event of death to pay the beneficiary a stipulated sum. Any employee under 50 years of age is entitled to membership, subject to successful physical examination, but membership is not compulsory. Members contribute according to the class in which they belong, there being five, the class being determined by the wages received, varying from $35 to $95 or over per month, the contribution ranging from 50 cents to $1.50. A member may receive benefits for 39 consecutive weeks, in event of disability extending so long a period. The air brake company is the custodian of the funds, but being such does not benefit the company pecuniarily, as it pays four per cent interest on monthly balances to the credit of the relief fund. The company goes further and guarantees payment of all benefits, and if the money received from the monthly contributions be insufficient to meet the requirements the company makes good such deficit." (The Wilmerding News, Nov. 23, 1904)

Membership during this period was 76% of the total number of employees, according to The Wilmerding News.

The Westinghouse Air Brake Company was not unique in offering welfare incentives to its employees. The trend of offering welfare policies to the employees seems to have been initiated by companies as a way to improve contact between employer and employee in what was an increasingly depersonalized industrial age. Many of the employers that instituted welfare systems also employed a large number of women and children to whom they felt a certain sense of responsibility to provide good working and living conditions. (p. 114, Daniel Nelson, Managers & Workers: Origins of the Twentieth-Century Factory System in the United States, 1880-1920)

The Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company also prided itself on its progressive ideas and touted itself as "the largest and most modern workshop in the world." A promotional book published by the Company in 1904 went into great detail describing the benefits available to workers there:

Winding large rotating and stationary armatures

Much care has been given to the sanitary condition of the shop, and the comfort of the employees has been carefully considered. In the offices and Works an even temperature is maintained by means of the most improved ventilating systems. The shop is lighted by Bremer arc lamps and Nernst lamps; the offices by Nernst and Sawyer-Man incandescent lamps. The Cooper-Hewitt Mercury Vapor lamp is also used for lighting the drawing offices. Several artesian wells in the shop furnish drinking water for the employees. Well-kept wash rooms, coat lockers, and toilet rooms are distributed at convenient points throughout the Works. On the sixth floor of the office building the Company has provided a retiring room and a lunch room for the lady employees in the various offices...

The interest taken by the Company in the welfare of its employees is further shown by the recent erection of the "Casino" at East Pittsburg. Here dining rooms are maintained where meals are served to employees at reasonable rates. For the recreation of the men, bowling alleys and pool rooms have been provided, and there is also a library where technical periodicals, books, and popular magazines are kept on file.

The East Pittsburg Club is another institution managed by the Company for the accomodation of its office employees.

The spirit of cooperation which Mr. Westinghouse and this Company have endeavored to instill into the employees has resulted in the organization of the "Electric Club," the membership of which is composed of apprentices and employees of the various Westinghouse Companies...Lectures of a technical and popular nature are given twice a week. Some of these lectures, as well as items of interest to the members of the Club and to technical men in general, are published in the "Electric Club Journal," edited and managed by members of the organization." (Works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1904)

Blacksmith Shop

Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company also offered training courses to its employees. The course of Ordinary Apprenticeship was available to non-technical men, while the Engineering Apprenticeship was open only to graduates of technical schools and colleges.

The progressive ideas touted by management did not include, however, support of labor unions. By paying higher salaries and offering better working conditions, Westinghouse hoped to keep the unions out of its companies, an end which became impossible to achieve with the rise of unionism in the United States. The response of the Westinghouse Company to unionism during this period is exhibited by the strike which occurred in 1903 at the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Rather than accede to the workers' demands, Westinghouse hired outside workers until the strike was finally called off by the International Association of Machinists. Many of the workers were unable to return to jobs at Westinghouse since their jobs had already been filled by others.

(Photos taken from Works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1904)

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Projects

Worked On By the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company During This Period

At the early part of the twentieth century when the motion pictures of the Westinghouse Works were filmed, the Westinghouse companies worked on several projects which brought them great notoriety. This was especially true of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company which obtained contracts for several highly visible projects, namely the Interborough Rapid Transit Company in New York, the South Side Elevated Railroad Company in Chicago, the Niagara Falls Power Company, and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.

Transformer station of the Niagara Falls Power Company

When the decision was made to convert the Manhattan Elevated Railway from steam power to electricity, the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company was awarded the contract after it designed in competition with other companies a special generator and auxiliary equipment capable of running such a huge installation. The contract eventually awarded called for eight alternating current generators, each having a capacity of 5,000 K.W. along with auxiliary electrical apparatus.

5,000 K.W. generator for the Manhattan Railway, New York

Prompted by the success of the design made for the Manhattan Elevated Railway, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company decided to employ the same type of electrical device for the rapid transit subway being built in New York. photograph of 5,000 K.W. generator for the Manhattan Railway, New YorkWestinghouse supplied nine large generators to power this project, each having an aggregate capacity of 45,000 K.W. The parts for these machines were so large that special railroad cars had to be built in order to transport them from the Westinghouse Works to New York. A promotional book put out by the Westinghouse Company at this time stated that the generators for these two installations were the largest that had ever been built up to that time:

For the conversion of alternating current transmitted at high potential from the main power house to the substations into direct current adapted to operate the motors with which the rolling stock is equipped, the Westinghouse Company provided the largest rotary converters ever made, each machine having a capacity of 1,500 kilowatts. Of this large size of rotary converter there were provided for the Manhattan and Subway divisions a total of eighty, with an aggregate capacity of 120,000 kilowatts. Altogether the installation of apparatus in the stations of the Manhattan and Subway divisions of the Interborough Rapid Transit Company is on the largest scale ever attempted in the field of electric traction...(The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905)

Westinghouse supplied equipment for another elevated railway, the South Side Elevated Railroad in Chicago. For this contract, Westinghouse supplied four 800 K.W. and three 1,500 K.W. Direct Current Engine Type Generators, resulting in what the Westinghouse Company called one of the most economical generating stations in the world.

In 1893, the Westinghouse Company was asked to supply parts for the conversion of the waters of the Niagara Falls into electrical power. The plant erected for this purpose was the first to use units of such a great size to send electrical power out over distances. A book written by the Westinghouse Company described the apparatus used in the Niagara Falls project as follows:

Power house of the Manhattan Railway, New York

Power House No. 1 now contains ten generators of the outside revolving field, vertical shaft type. These ten generators are divided into banks of five each, and each bank has a separate switchboard. Current is generated at about 2,200 volts and a great deal of the service in and around Niagara Falls is served direct at this voltage. photograph of power house of the Manhattan Railway, New York For a part of the more distant Niagara Falls service, voltage is stepped up to 11,000, and for the Buffalo, Lockport, and Tonawanda service, voltage is stepped up to about 22,000. The development has been so rapid that the demands on the long distance service alone now take about two-thirds of the power developed by these first ten machines. It has been necessary, therefore, to build a new power house on the opposite bank of the canal for the large amount of local service which has to be rendered. (Works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1904)

The operation was fully functional by 1895.

Generating station of the Niagara Falls Power Company

For the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904 held in St. Louis, MO, the Westinghouse Company not only had large exhibits set up in the Electricity, Machinery, and Transportation buildings, but also installed four 2,000 K.W. alternating current generators with the necessary auxiliary apparatus for the service plant of the exposition. During this exposition, the Westinghouse Company also ran the motion pictures made by AM&B of the Westinghouse Works daily in an auditorium.

(Sources for photos and information: Works of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, 1904; The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905)

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About George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse

The various Westinghouse Companies were the product of the mechanical inventiveness and the business acumen of one man--inventor and manufacturer George Westinghouse. This prolific inventor influenced the course of history by enabling the growth of the railroads through his inventions and by promoting the use of electricity for power and transportation. As an industrial manager, his influence on industrial history is considerable, having formed and directed more than 60 companies to market his and others' inventions during his lifetime. His electric company became one of the greatest electric manufacturing organizations in the United States, and his influence abroad was evident by the many companies he founded in other countries.

Born on October 6, 1846, in Central Bridge, NY, Westinghouse worked in his early years in his father's shops in Schenectady where they manufactured agricultural machinery. He served as a private in the cavalry for 2 years during the Civil War before being made Acting Third Assistant Engineer in the Navy in 1864. He attended college for only 3 months in 1865, dropping out soon after obtaining his first patent on October 31, 1865 for a rotary steam engine. Later, he invented an instrument which replaced derailed freight cars on the train tracks and started a business to manufacture his invention.

In April of 1869, he obtained a patent for one of his most important inventions, the air brake. This device enabled trains to be stopped with fail-safe accuracy by the locomotive engineer for the first time and was eventually adopted on the majority of the world's railroads. Previously, train accidents were frequent since brakes had to be applied manually on each car by different brakemen following a signal from the engineer. Seeing potential profit in the invention, Westinghouse organized the Westinghouse Air Brake Company in July of 1869 with himself acting as president. He continued to make many changes in his air brake design and later developed the automatic air brake system and the triple valve.

His industry expanded as he opened companies in Europe and Canada. In the United States, he expanded into the railroad signaling industry by organizing the Union Switch and Signal Company. In this company, devices based on his own inventions and the patents of others were designed to control the increased speed and flexibility which was made possible by the invention of the air brake. Westinghouse also developed an apparatus for the safe transmission of natural gas.

Westinghouse saw the potential for electricity and formed the Westinghouse Electric Company in 1884, later known as the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. He obtained exclusive rights to Nikola Tesla's patents for a polyphase system of alternating current in 1888, persuading the inventor to join the Westinghouse Electric Company.

There was opposition from the public to the development of alternating current electricity. Critics, including direct current proponent Thomas Edison, argued that it was dangerous and a hazard to health. This idea was emphasized in the public mind by New York state's adoption of alternating current electrocution for capital crimes. Undeterred, Westinghouse proved the viability of alternating current electricity by having his company design and provide the lighting system for the entire Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

Westinghouse's company took on another industrial challenge when it was awarded a contract with the Cataract Construction Company in 1893 to build 3 huge generators for harnessing the energy of the Niagara Falls water into electrical energy. Installation on this project began in April of 1895, and by November of 1895 all 3 generators were completed. A year later, engineers at Buffalo closed the circuits that finally completed the process to bring power from Niagara.

Westinghouse signatureWestinghouse made further industrial history by acquiring exclusive rights to manufacture the Parsons steam turbine in America and by introducing the first alternating current locomotive in 1905. The first major application of alternating current to railway systems was in the Manhattan Elevated railways in New York, and later in the New York subway system. The first single-phase railway locomotive was demonstrated in the East Pittsburgh railway yards in 1905, and soon after, the Westinghouse company began the task of electrifying the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad with the single-phase system between Woodlawn, NY, and Stamford, CT.

At the turn of the century, the various Westinghouse companies were worth about $120 million and employed approximately 50,000 workers. By 1904, there were 9 manufacturing companies of his in the U.S., 1 in Canada, and 5 in Europe.

The financial panic of 1907 caused Westinghouse to lose control of the companies he had founded. In 1910, he found his last major concern, the invention of a compressed air spring for taking the shock out of automobile riding. By 1911, he had severed all ties with his former companies.

Spending much of his later life in public service, Westinghouse showed signs of a heart ailment by 1913 and was ordered to rest by doctors. After deteriorating health and illness confined him to a wheelchair, he died on March 12, 1914. With a total of 361 patents to his credit, his last patent was received in 1918, four years after his death.

(Sources for information: George Westinghouse: His Life and His Achievements, 1946; The Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 28, 1987)

(Photo taken from: The Westinghouse Companies in the Railway & Industrial Fields, 1905)

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"A Big Man With a Hundred Thousand Horsepower Inside"

(Excerpt from The Wilmerding News, September 30, 1904)

--George Westinghouse, Controls 25,000 Men--
--THE GENIUS OF THE AGE--
--One Day of His Personal Work in This District--

A big man, with a hundred thousand horse power inside him; a masterful man, with 25,000 men directly under his leadership; a man who controls whatever he touches; an absolute ruler, as absolute as the Czar. George Westinghouse is a trained engineer, an inventor, a manufacturer and a financier. The combination is unique, writes Arthur Warren in the New York Times.

Other men have won high places in commerce and industry, have been, and are, great forces. But they have not worked in his single-handed fashion. They have had strong partners, they have surrounded themselves with men of money. But this man has no partners, and you do not hear his name associated with groups of assistant multi-millionaires. He stands apart like a tower that draws all attention to itself by its altitude, its proportions and position.

All his interests, it is true, are in company form, incorporated; but he controls the companies and his word is the law that governs their energies. These organizations afford the most conspicuous example of one-man power in the industrial world today. They are not American enterprises only; they are international. There are nine manufacturing companies of his in the United States, one in Canada and five in Europe--two of the latter being in England, one in France, one in Germany and one in Russia. In New York there is also a great company of contracting engineers. In Pittsburg there is a financial company, and in London another...This business system is imperial in plan and operation. It is a world-encircling empire with an absolute monarch at its head...

Stephenson taught us how to move a railroad train; Westinghouse taught us how to control its movements, and he made modern railway traffic possible. We could not travel at the speed we do, nor operate the long and heavy trains, without being able to regulate their movements perfectly and instantly. The Westinghouse brake is the device by which the end is gained. Wherever there are railways you will find this brake...

Having shown the world how to stop a train, he next undertook to show when to stop it. He invented signaling systems and formed a company to manufacture them.

Applying electricity to signaling work, he was led further afield. Electricity fascinated his imagination. He began to experiment with it in other directions, and fitted up a laboratory for research work. In 1885 or 1886 he organized the Westinghouse Electric Company, which has outgrown all its other undertakings....

Everybody said he was reckless. That didn't matter. Then they tried to stop him. He increased his efforts. Experts, competitors, scientific men, at home and abroad, prophesied failure. As he didn't fail they filled the air with cries of "public danger." Prohibitive legislation was invoked in a dozen States (or were they 22?) on the ground that by the use of the alternating current the risk to human life and property would be so great that the system should be forbidden by law. But Westinghouse went on and succeeded; the opposition spluttered and died, and for years past the great developments in electrical work have been through the alternating current systems.

He organized an engine-building company, built steam engines, gas engines, and was the first man in the United States to undertake seriously the development of the steam turbine. He acquired the Parsons turbine patents for America. He organized an incandescent lamp company, the Nernst Lamp company, and a company for manufacturing the Cooper-Hewitt lamp. He will organize a company without more ado than another man will make over eating his breakfast. I have known him at the breakfast table buy a copper mine, send a man to Europe to investigate a newly announced electrical discovery, and give instructions for a series of experiments to be made in some entirely new direction.

A big man with a hundred thousand horse power inside him! He has more physical endurance than any 10 of the 25,000 men in his employ. He is always working, except when he sleeps, and he is a good sleeper. When one thing is accomplished another is begun. The successes do not chain his interest. Achievements attract him, so he is ever doing some new thing, and thus his undertakings multiply. Once, when he sold a property at a price that would have been a snug fortune for another man, I heard him say: "This will give me a little ready cash to conduct such and such experiment." He probably has expended a quarter of a million on these experiments, and one of these days a new industry will spring from them.

A typical Pittsburg day with him is of this order:

Breakfast comes at 7:30, and invariably there is someone staying in the house with whom he can talk business, otherwise there is always the telephone. After breakfast there is a railway journey of several miles to the Westinghouse works. He takes them in the order of their accessibility; first, the machine company, where the engines came from. This concern began with steam engines; then it added gas engines to its output after years of experiment, and now it adds to these lines the steam turbine, also after years of test. He walks through the shops, watches the progress of special work, watches tests, sees how things generally are running. He interviews the management, makes suggestions, asks questions--searching ones--calls for blueprints, ascertains the money value of orders and deliveries, and before you, if you are a layman, can take breath he is out of this place and into another--the gigantic works of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company.

This place is too vast for even his exhaustless energy to traverse physically every day. Mentally he surveys it at all hours. But the buildings are so huge--experts say they are the largest machine shops in the world--their two-story floor space so vast, and the variety of operations and of things produced so numerous, that he must confine his visit to a specific section for a specific purpose, or there would be no end to his journeying. As it is, you marvel how, out of this infinte variety, proper parts arrive at a stated time at a certain place, where they are put together and form a new machine--a Niagara generator, a pair of motors for an electric car, a mighty machine for driving the trains in the New York subway.

There is a Westinghouse railroad, several miles long, connecting the several works, carrying castings and supplies, delivering the mechanisms that are made, and giving opportunity for experiments with cars and trains and systems of electric distribution. Mr. Westinghouse orders a train and supervises a test of his latest device for simultaneously operating and controlling all the motors on the train, or he orders out the car on which are fitted the new single-phase alternating current motors, which, it is said, are going to change the practice on all electric roads. He consults with his manger of works, his chief electrician, chief engineer, the head of the commercial end of the organization, and any number of others. And then he goes to the brass works, where also there are tests of new devices.

After luncheon he will visit the Westinghouse foundry, his newest establishment at Trafford City, a little town just building up beyond Pittsburg and named with a certain reference to Trafford Park, Manchester, England, where the British Westinghouse works were built two or three years ago.

Then he goes back by railroad to town 15 miles or more, to his own office. In the evening, there will be a dinner pary. Perhaps some distinguished scientist is present, or visiting engineer or railroad president or European ambassador. If there be none of these it is a business dinner of half a dozen, or maybe a dozen and a half, of his principal men, and things that could not be talked about during the day are discussed.

After three or four days like this in Pittsburg, his private car is connected to a Pennsylvania express train, and eastward he goes. If it's Friday night and winter he goes to Washington and passes Saturday and Sunday at his home there. If it is spring or summer or autumn his destination is his country home at Lenox, in the Berkshire Hills. On Monday his car takes him to New York, and there his work is chiefly financial, and his office at 120 Broadway the center of negotiation.

Here this industrial sovereign sits on his American throne. When he goes abroad he issues his decrees from the Westinghouse Building in London. And he goes abroad twice a year..."

(Photos taken from The Detroit Publishing Company Collection also available online courtesy of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.)

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Life in Wilmerding

The Ideal Home Town

(From The Wilmerding News, September 2, 1904)

Wilmerding, as Described by the Pittsburg Sunday Leader--Its Advantages and Shortcomings as Viewed by an Outsider--Credited With Being the Leading Center of Socialism of the Peaceful, Sane Variety--Reporter Selects His Prominent Citizens.

How Wilmerding is viewed by outsiders is aptly told in the following article, which appeared in the Pittsburg Leader of last Sunday:

Arrival of the Workmen

"Wilmerding, the Ideal Town," would not be a misleading title for the little industrial center of 5,000 inhabitants fourteen miles from Pittsburg on the Pennsylvania railroad.

No other town in Allegheny county can show such a beautiful park or such broad acres of closely cropped lawn, green as the sward of Old Erin. It is this park and the big expanse of emerald carpet that helps so materially to give the town its ideal appearance. From the lawn rises the beautiful and artistic building occupied by the Wilmerding Y.M.C.A. and the general offices of the Westinghouse Air Brake company. Fronting the park with its trees, shrubbery and charming walks is one of the stately Wilmerding school houses. The ensemble effect is like that of a college town, the Y.M.C.A. and office building representing the college, the school house a lecture hall, the lawn a great campus and the park an academic grove.

Nor is this picture altogether visionary, for there is actually a college flavor imparted to the life of the town by the Tonnaleuka club and the Y.M.C.A.

The first named is composed almost entirely of the more enlightened and prominent men employed by the great Westinghouse plant which forms the sole industrial basis of the place. Electricians, engineers, clerks, surveyors, heads of departments and mechanics are found in the ranks of this organization, a delightful fellowship pervading the whole. Many of the members are college graduates, coming from such standard schools as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Yale, Harvard or University of Chicago. The features described, however, do not constitute the sole basis for the superiority of Wilmerding as an attractive residence quarter and as a town in general. The streets are excellently paved and kept as clean as can be and the business buildings erected of late bear the stamp of beauty as well as being perfectly adapted to their uses. The residence streets, particularly Marguerite Avenue, are beautiful with well kept shade trees and lawns and are lined with handsome, substantial houses. There are many artistic front yards in Wilmerding, thanks to the broad minded policy of the Westinghouse interests in offering annual prizes for the best examples of this kind. The company sets a signal example itself in the beautifying of the spacious grounds around the big office building. There are rows of magnificent plants of all kinds and beds of beautiful collas, all maintained in faultless condition by expert gardeners.

The perfect blending of the utilitarian with the artistic in Wilmerding is patent to even the dullest witted observer, and it may be mentioned that there are quite a few other towns in the county that could follow Wilmerding's example. The park covers one square and was given to the town by the Westinghouse company with the proviso that it should be used for park purposes alone. The company beautifies it and does all the work of landscape gardening and keeping it in order, the borough paying the bills. In the center of the square a steel tower lifts its lofty proportions bearing four big arc lamps which bathe the pretty green in a silvery haze. There are miniature hills surmounted by charming groves, winding paths, and great beds of beautiful flowers.

Socialism is Strong

In yet another respect is Wilmerding distinguished from its sister boroughs of the county. It is a strong hold of socialism, not militant socialism, such as is sometimes linked with anarchy and violence, but the peaceful, sane variety. William Adams, borough assessor, is recognized as the most prominent and influential Socialist (the word "leader" not being recognized by true Socialists). The party is second strongest in Wilmerding, being exceeded in this respect by the Republicans. The Democrats rank third. According to Adams there are now about one hundred Socialists. So far the followers of Eugene V. Debs (he being the Socialist nominee for President of the United States) have elected an assessor, William Adams, and a justice of the peace, but in time it is believed the party will seat a burgess. Adams says that many of the voters not professing Socialistic beliefs cast their ballots with the party, thus swelling its strength.

There is universal complaint among the Wilmerding business men as to the industrial conditions prevailing there. Of the 4,000 men employed by the air brake company in normal seasons, only one-half find work at present, as the force has been cut down owing to reduced orders for air brakes from the railroads of the country. The town has this misfortune, that it depends almost exclusively on the big works, three-quarters of its bread winners finding employment there, so that naturally when business is slack there is slack in the town, also. The laying off of men, together with the reduction in wages and the increased price of living, have produced this unsatisfactory state of affairs. There are a number of the best business locations in Wilmerding to rent, whereas two years ago room could scarcely be had for love or money. Such periods, however, have occurred ever since the town was laid out, in 1889.

One of the things that is attracting foremost attention at present is the new electric light company, backed entirely by Wilmerding capital. This is the United Electric Light company, Henry Harris, president. According to the latter the formation of an independent illuminating company was absolutely necessary because of complaint against the service and the rates of the Monongahela Light, Heat & Power Company.

Mr. Harris says that the new company will be ready to start business by September 10.

The company is capitalized at $50,000, divided into shares of $100 each. The following men of Wilmerding constitute the board of directors: Henry Harris, president; B. F. Stedeford, secretary; W. J. Hally, treasurer; Edward Geiss, L C. Rockefeller (no relation of John D.), George Wasmund and John J. Shenkel.

[man on train]

The borough is well off as far as public utilities and improvements are concerned. With the work of street paving now in hand every foot of street will have been paved in the near future. Fire brick is the material used, the paving being of the most finished sort. All the streets are sewered and practically all are lighted by arc lamps. There is a very efficient police force of five officers, much more than the average borough of this size maintains, four being on at night and one in the daytime. The volunteer fire department is equally efficient , consisting of about 40 members with a hose cart and ladder truck. The fire laddies are paid by the hour when called out. William J. Dick is chief of the company.

Good water is furnished by the Pennsylvania Water Company and there is plenty of gas for fuel and light. An excellent feature of improvements in Wilmerding are the fine paved sidewalks.

The borough has a neat frame building on one of the principal streets. It is said there is no shadow of graft existing in the government of the town, both council and the borough officials working in complete harmony for what they think is the best interests of the town. The officials are as follows: Burgess, R. J. Pounds; treasurer, P. W. Morgan; tax collector, J. H. Cunningham; assessor, William Adams; solicitor, S. M. Myers; chief of police, ordinance and health officer, H. F. Davenport; and borough secretary, William McCurdy. These gentlemen constitute council: John Boyle, president; H. H. Welsh, Jr., George Munro, W. T. Toohill, George Hugo, Thomas Campbell and Thomas Holland. Financially the borough is in good condition. The tax rate for borough purposes is 10 mills and for school the same. The assessed valuation for 1904 is slightly over $2,000,000. Frontage on the main business streets is held at $100 a foot, the lots being 74 feet in depth in some instances. The borough is not overburdened with bonds.

Well Provided Educationally

In both education and spiritual lines Wilmerding is in the [van]. There are two large schools, one of sixteen and the other of eight rooms, but so rapidly does the place grow that another temple of learning will soon have to be built. The school house fronting the park is one of the handsomest as well as largest in the county. Prof. W. G. Gans is principal of the schools. High school pupils are sent to the Union High School, in Turtle Creek. There is only one school district in Wilmerding, although it is divided into three wards. The school board is composed as follows: Richard Bostock, president; Christopher Horrocks, secretary; Jas. Mason, Dr. F. L. Muth, Jackson Kerr and Hugh Young.

Seven denominations are represented in the churches of Wilmerding--Roman Catholic, the largest in point of membership; Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian; United Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and United Brethren. The last named congregation is building a new church in Wall borough, adjoining Wilmerding, so will soon abandon its present house of worship.

houseWilmerding is fortunate in having few foreigners and negroes of a low type among its population. On the contrary, the standard of intelligence and conduct in general is unusually high, for the air brake works employ skilled mechanics and other men of more than ordinary mental acquirements. The great majority of the bread-winners draw good wages, so then in prosperous times no town presents a livelier or more contented appearance than Wilmerding. So substantial has been the growth of the town that within the last year or two whole rows of dwellings have been built across Turtle Creek to the northwest of the main part of the borough. Along the creek is the Pennsylvania railroad, which runs numerous trains stopping at Wilmerding. During the last year the company built at great expense a fine brick-lined tunnel affording access from the station under the tracks to the main part of the town. Between the tracks and the creek are the great works of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, and its neat, handsome office building, in which the superintendent and others stay. Other officials and an army of clerks have their quarters in the big castle-like structure opposite the park, noted previously.

The people of Wilmerding and the Turtle Creek valley in general do not have to depend entirely on the Pennsylvania railroad, for there is a trolley line to this city via McKeesport. This is a branch of the Pittsburg Railways company. The trip from Pittsburg to Wilmerding consumes about an hour and a half, while the train covers the distance in half an hour.

At diverse times efforts have been made to form a single large borough by consolidating Wilmerding, Turtle Creek and East McKeesport, but political opposition has always stood in the way. The entire Turtle creek valley, from East Pittsburg to Pitcairn, however, forms one homogenous settlement of 30,000 people, a remarkable industrial community, in the precincts of which are some of the greatest plants in the world. It is altogether probable that within a decade all these populous suburbs of Pittsburg will be taken into the city to help make the Greater Pittsburg of truly imperial proportions so long strived for but so persistently defeated through political influence.

In politics Wilmerding has been generally Republican, although, as mentioned, the Socialists have scored minor victories on several occasions.

Among the leading men of the borough may be mentioned: Henry Harris, tailor; W. L. Hankey, druggist; John C. Boyle, president of council; R. J. Pounds, burgess; T. S. Patch, H. D. Patch, J. H. Cunningham, tax collector; B. F. Stedeford, councilman; Richard Bostock, president of the school board; Prof. W. G. Gans, W. J. Hally, hotel proprietor; P. W. Morgan, banker, and others. The head officials of the air brake works do not live in Wilmerding.

Dining Hall, Casino

The Tonnaleuka club has a large [club] house on Marguerite Avenue, the handsomest street in the town. It was organized three years ago last May for the purpose of providing desirable boarding quarters for the many young Westinghouse employees, the boarding house keepers of Wilmerding having become too independent and careless of the needs of their patrons to suit the men's taste. The Glen hotel building was secured from the Westinghouse company, the latter granting six months rent free to help the project along. About 25 members joined the club. The aim was not to form a club pure and simple, but simply to provide desirable meals and living quarters. So it comes about that the big hotel building is composed of living rooms, a dining room, smoking room and other quarters, to the number of 28 or 30, but no bar room, library, billiard room, bowling alley or other features of the ordinary club of the better class. There is indeed no need for a library, as the Y.M.C.A., a square away, has an excellent one. Men of all professions and callings are members, some being on the active list and others on the associate list.

Tonnaleuka, or Tonaluca, as it is sometimes spelled, was the Indian version of the name of the paymaster of Braddock's army, Tony Lucas, who, tradition has it, buried some gold and other treasure in a hill in the Turtle creek valley, after Braddock's awful defeat in 1775. Many people have expended time and treasure searching for this wealth, but to no avail. History fails to substantiate the story, as it is on record that the French secured the money chests and even Braddock's private papers. According to the tradition, Lucas was guided to a cave by a young Indian girl, where the money was emboweled. The girl died and was buried in the hill near the treasure, it is said.

Mechanics and artisans of all kinds mingle with clerks, surveyors, draughtsmen, and officials, there being a delightful good fellowship in the club. At the third anniversary of the organization's existence last May, a fine banquet was given in the club house. A. B. Little is president of the club.

The leading social and recreation force in Wilmerding is not the Tonnaleuka club, however, but the Y.M.C.A. It is organized especially to meet the needs of the employees of the various Westinghouse companies. The great work it is doing is largely possible through the generosity of the same, the air brake company being especially generous in that it provides the home for the association and in many other ways co-operates with employees in making the association work successful.

A prominent feature of the work is the gymnasium and its classes of boys and girls under the tutelage of C. H. Burkhardt, physical director. Mr. Burkhardt will leave on September 1 for one year to take a post-graduate course in physical culture instruction in Milwaukee, at the end of which time he will return and take up his work in the Y.M.C.A.

The gymnasium is the best equipped in the valley. It is 32x61 feet, well lighted, and ventilated and equipped with the latest apparatus. There are classes in fencing for both men and young women, tennis courts, basket ball grounds, on which teams of the association play and other features that add to the enjoyment of life in Wilmerding. Special work in fencing and wrestling is carried on. Adjoining the "gym" locker rooms are shower, needle, and bowl baths. There are two excellent tennis courts for the use of members at the corner of Westinghouse avenue and Florence Street. Facilities for vaulting, jumping, shot putting, etc., are to be found there. Cross-country runs are arranged weekly during the outdoor season and jaunts are taken to places of interest in various directions.

The association carries on an educational work of ambitious scope, [prising] departments such as lectures, practical talks, clubs, evening classes, library and reading room. In the library are more than 2,000 volumes, including many books on technical subjects. Included in the course of study is one on the general principles underlying the construction and operation of the air brake. All the parts are studied by aid of the stereopticon and sectional parts. Other subjects are electricity, machine design, penmanship and correspondence, bookkeeping, geometry, algebra, arithmetic, grammar, shorthand and typewriting, vocal culture, English for foreign speaking men, etc.

manCourses of lectures are conducted by the association and attractions such as concerts, soloists, comic lectures or readings, etc., are given. A game room, together with a chess and checker club, are features. In the parlor is a grand piano and many easy chairs, while the walls are beautified with pictures. There are about 160 different students in the evening school, requiring the services of nine instructors, who teach about a dozen branches of study. The gymnasium is often crowded beyond its capacity. Of course the religious side of the association's work is not neglected. Every Sunday afternoon, at 3:30, services are held. There are bible classes, a social study club and Sunday school classes.

The membership is divided into classes to conform to the ages of members, juniors, intermediates and seniors, while the girls' section is distinct in itself. Altogether the Y.M.C.A. is doing a noble and uplifting work among all classes and ages in the pretty air brake town.

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Spelling Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is an important industrial city at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in southwest Pennsylvania. The French built Fort Duquesne at this site in the mid-eighteenth century but it fell to the British in 1758. The following year, British forces occupied the site and named it Fort Pitt in honor of the then-Prime Minister. The city was incorporated as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1816.

According to information provided by the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the h at the end of the word was inadvertently dropped during a printing of the act incorporating the city. The spelling Pittsburg was used for years, even by the United States Post Office. The motion pictures and documents presented in this online collection date from the Pittsburg period. The spelling Pittsburgh was officially restored in 1911.

In this online presentation, Pittsburgh is spelled both ways. When we quote an original document or present a film title as copyrighted in 1904, we use the spelling of the time: Pittsburg. The new texts we wrote in 1996 spell the name Pittsburgh.

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