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The place to begin is with a city directory scan, which allows us to trace the careers of Warnick & Leibrandt even before they became partners in the stove trade. The method is simple, and I've used it before ["Looking for the Fougerays," 2012; "Looking for Pleis, Foering & Thudium," this summer]. The city directories tell us quite a bit, but far from everything, and always at least a little after the fact -- directories were compiled in the last quarter of the year and published at the start of the one they referred to, so that, for example, the 1829 Directory, the first in which both men showed up, actually reported where they lived and what they were doing by the end of 1828. Also, of course, directories were only as accurate and up-to-date as the information people mentioned in them supplied, canvassers collectors, and compilers and editors collated. But, bearing those caveats in mind, they are still worth using, particularly in the absence of anything better.
|Charles Ward Warnick, Sr. as a young man|
How many Leib/brandts were there, and which was our guy? Both. His obituary recounts that he was born in Wurtemburg, Germany, in 1801, and came to the United States in 1817. Soon afterwards he began an apprenticeship with another German, John Kohler, who lived on the next block of North Second Street to John Andrew Leibrandt, a skin-dresser (both men were the only entries in the directory with these surnames), who was probably Fred's father. Kohler was an ironmonger, running what he described by the mid-1820s as a hardware store; Leibrandt trained with him as a locksmith, and having "honorably completed" his apprenticeship spent some time working as a journeyman and then moved to Charleston, SC, where he worked at blacksmithing as well as at his original craft. "Having saved a large part of his earnings he returned to Philadelphia and commenced the manufacturing of shutter bolts, and opened a small hardware store in connection with his smithery. By fair dealing and close attention to business he increased his capital so that in 1831 he was able to extend his business, and ... he commenced manufacturing spades and shovels in a small way in addition to his other business." [Isaac A. Sheppard, "Frederick Leibrandt," in National Association of Stove Manufacturers, Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Meeting, New York, February 7th and 8th, 1883 (Chicago: Knight & Leonard, 1883), pp. 63-4. Sheppard was a near-contemporary and a former trusted employee turned fellow Philadelphia stovemaker, i.e. an informed witness.]
Warnick was still plying his trade, at the same address, in 1835, which is presumably where he was when he supplied the most costly decorative features, two marble mantelpieces for the new ironmaster's mansion at Hopewell Furnace in Bucks County. Hopewell was still one of the most important stove makers in the state and nation, enjoying its last period of prosperity (he was paid $78.75 for them -- c. $40-45,000, in modern terms). [Joseph E. Walker, Hopewell Village: A Social & Economic History of an Iron-Making Community (Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1966), p. 90].
|One of Warnick's mantels in situ -- for higher-quality original, see here.|
Two years later Fred. Leibrandt had settled on one address and a new (for him, at least) branch of the metal trades. He lived and had his workshop at 76 North Sixth, and the locksmith (etc.) had turned into a stove manuf[acturer], though in fact he continued his old lines of business alongside the new one. (Another Leibrandt, John, was a stove finisher living on Germantown Avenue.) As his obituary explains, "In 1836 he further extended his business by purchasing castings of stove plates and putting them together. Stove plate castings at that time were made at the blast furnaces in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and were brought to Philadelphia in wagons." Charles had also moved into the "stoves & c." trade, still on the same block of North Front, with his shop at 338 and his house at 376, i.e. he was prosperous enough to live at a separate address from his place of business. By 1839, little had changed: Fred was still at the same address and still a manuf., John was still a stove finisher, but had acquired a tavern too, on the corner of Third and Green, while Charles had moved his business next door, to 336, and himself to Duke above Front. Fred advertised himself as a "stove, spade, and shovel manufacturer" (implying that he still ran a forge as well as assembling castings) and general metalworker -- "Black [hot-forged] and White Smith [i.e. sheet-metal, cold-formed] Work executed on the most reasonable terms, and with the greatest expedition." (p. 390)
|Charles gets older and fatter|
Up until the late 1830s-early 1840s he and Fred had both acquired their stove castings from out-of-town furnaces, like the many other similar small businesses in the Philadelphia stove trade at the time [see this map showing where a leading member of the trade, Powell Stackhouse, acquired his castings in the 1830s]. They would have commissioned or made their patterns (which, as a cabinet maker, Warnick was particularly well qualified to do, as we shall see below), bought and assembled castings, either in their own workshops or by contracting out to some of the city's many stove finishers, and sold the completed product at wholesale and retail. Fred was among Hopewell Furnace's more important customers; they kept the patterns for his F.L. Cannon Stove in 1839. But in 1844, after several years of struggle and decline, Hopewell gave up the attempt to remain competitive with the new urban stove foundries springing up across the northern states, from New England as far west as St. Louis, and took no further orders. This was the context in which some Philadelphia stove makers began to branch out into the foundry business, so that they could supply their own casting needs from inside the city itself. [For Hopewell, see Walker, Hopewell Furnace, pp. 161, 164; Donald A. Crownover, Manufacturing and Marketing of Iron Stoves at Hopewell Furnace 1835-1844 (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Division of History, Office of Archeology and Historic Preservation, 5 Jan. 1970; originally an M. Ed. thesis at West Chester State College, 1969), pp. 124, 134, for Leibrandt and the process by which stove dealers became makers.]
From 1840 onwards directories from every year are available online, and we no longer have two (or more)-year gaps to bridge. Fred moved his business and home to 235 North Second, and Charles stayed put. In 1841 Fred expanded into the next-door property, and also occupied 24 N.W. Market, leasehold premises 34 by 34 feet "well calculated for a Ware-house or for a manufacturing shop, having a good dry cellar," that he used as a stove finishing workshop until the end of 1846. John returned to the trade of blacksmithing, and Charles moved to 154 North Second, i.e. just a block away from Fred, on the other side of the street. North Second had been the heart of the city's stove district since the 1820s, and the best place for a wholesale business, as customers (especially out-of-towners) could visit several potential suppliers most conveniently. A later but very brief company history gave 1841 as the date of origin of the two men's partnership, but there is no evidence for this in the way that they described themselves and their apparently still-independent businesses at the time, though of course we cannot tell how closely they may have begun to collaborate. 1842 brought no obvious change either, except that Fred's second business address was not mentioned, though it evidently still existed.
In fact, 1842 was when these men began to transform themselves from artisan-traders like the rest of Philadelphia's stove makers into manufacturers proper. As Fred's obituary explains, "He found the stove business in its infancy and determined to give it more attention, and in 1842 he became associated with Charles W. Warnick in a small foundry, and commenced the manufacture of cooking and heating stoves." This made them "the first to engage in the manufacture of stoves in the city of Philadelphia," according to the 1897 obituary of the man who joined them as a young clerk in 1847, became a partner in less than a decade, and died as the company's first and thus far only president. [McDowell obituary, p. 184 -- see below for publication details.] The directory only began to pick up evidence of this crucial transformation the following year: in 1843 Fred's details remained exactly the same. Apparently only Charles's had changed: he had acquired a foundry at Tenth and Ridge, and moved house closer to it (to Fifth above Poplar).
|Probable location of Warnick's first foundry at 10th and Ridge -- assuming that though this is a later map (an 1850s survey, published 1862) a building suitable for a small stove foundry is quite likely to have been bought and re-used by another stove maker. The interactive map viewer allows better definition. 10th runs North/South, Ridge Northwest/Southeast.|
So why did Warnick & Leibrandt get the credit for establishing the first stove foundry in the city, and not him? Probably because theirs was a foundry that specialized in making their own stove plate from the beginning, though it also did some jobbing business, and it grew into a large and successful integrated enterprise, whereas Yocom's seems to have been a general jobbing foundry that made some stoves, like many others. Nor did he remain in the business very long: by the early 1850s his City Foundry was a machinery and architectural-iron foundry, and his early interest in stoves seems to have evaporated. W & L therefore impressed their colleagues in the Philadelphia stove trade as the real innovators, even though it is possible that Yocom's example of branching out into the foundry business may have helped inspire them to follow suit.
|The City Iron Foundery from the 1858-60 Hexamer & Locher Philadelphia Atlas, south of Race Street and east of Second Street. This and Warnick's first two small foundries were in neighborhoods allowing little room for expansion. The interactive map viewer allows one to see the setting; the 1877 Hexamer Survey shows a foundry little changed in arrangement, and still in its original, by then rather dilapidated, buildings.|
In 1844 Charles made a brief disappearance from the directory, while for Fred neither his address nor his business description had changed, nor would they by 1845. In 1845 Charles reappeared, still describing himself as a foundryman, but no longer as a sole trader. He was now "& Co.," running the new Philadelphia Stove Works with a foundry on Germantown Road above Sixth to the north of the city center, while he had either moved house again or its address was differently described (Sixth and Little Poplar).
|The site of Warnick's Germantown foundry in an 1862 map, still occupied by a successor firm, Cox, Whiteman, & Cox, which would become the Abram Cox Stove Co. The buildings around the open foundry yard (below) still show quite clearly. The interactive map viewer allows for a wider appreciation of the area in which it sat.|
Who was Charles's "& Co."? The 1846 directory explains it: Warnick's partnership with Fred Leibrandt finally made its formal appearance. Fred's workshop, store, and home was now the company's downtown office and salesroom. Charles had moved house again to live right next to the foundry, convenient for supplying the necessary personal supervision if not especially salubrious.
The Germantown Road foundry was built on a fairly small site around a furnace and its huge chimney. If we compare Warnick & Leibrandt's second foundry with their competitor William Cressons's, built and opened in 1846-1847, it is obvious how much more spacious and modern the latter's was, occupying most of a city block and with space to expand for the next forty years. Still, and despite this limitation, the company produced a full line of heating and cooking stoves and hollow ware. It bought most of a page of the directory's advertising section to bring itself and its goods to the buying public's attention. Note that they still offered to do a general jobbing castings business, like Yocom, i.e. though Warnick & Co. was mostly a specialized stove foundry, it still sought the security that diversification could help provide.
|William P. Cresson's Foundry, Willow [later James, now Noble] above 13th Street, August 1847 -- two squat smoking cupola furnace chimneys and a taller one for the blower's steam engine alongside them. The online version enables one to see men charging the cupolas from the outside; piles of pig iron outside the engine house; a molding flask leaning against the wall; a molder pounding sand just inside the door; the modern, well-lit wide-span molding floor; and the horse tram bringing in fuel from the railroad running down the street nearby. |
The Cresson foundry site, in the 1858-60 Locher & Hexamer city map -- occupying by then most of a block bounded by James (now Noble) Street, 13th, Hamilton, and Broad, in the heart of the Spring Garden industrial district and well served by railroads. The interactive map viewer allows a useful zoomable view, even allowing one to read the labels on different parts of the works. Only the moves to the Delaware riverfront and then to the Port Richmond area would give Warnick & Leibrandt a similarly favourable site, with room for expansion. The 1862 ad for Cresson's successor, Stuart & Peterson, shows the site filled in, with the original mid-1840s buildings either replaced or, more likely, absorbed and hidden by extensions.
The following year, the company changed its name again, dropping the "Refined" from its title. Fred's change of status showed itself too: he had moved house to 31 Vine, just a few blocks away from his old store, and though his occupation was still stove manuf., he had no separate business address of his own. That was because 235 North Second was now company premises.
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The company's business grew so quickly that it soon required, and could afford, brand new, much larger facilities. They were not referred to before the Directory for 1848, but in fact they opened in the late summer of 1847, and Warnick & Leibrandt began to use the fairly new design patent system in order to give themselves distinctive new goods to produce. [Joseph A. Barford, "Reminiscences of the Early days of Stove Plate Molding and the Union," Iron Molders' Journal 38:3 (March 1902): 179-182 at p. 181. Barford, b. 1828, recalled his astonishment at the scale and speed of production in the new foundry as compared with any of the old furnaces where he had learnt his trade.]
|In 1861 the firm sold similar oven doors for from 20-45 cents [c. $80-$180] each, depending on style and size (from 6" to 18" wide)|
Over the next few years Warnick became an increasingly experienced stove designer as he added to the firm's growing line of products.
1848 brought further significant changes. The company name changed yet again, giving explicit recognition to Fred (and getting his name wrong in the process -- correct in the advertisement, wrong in the listing, as Leybrandt), as, apparently, did the address, though the engraving still showed the Germantown Road foundry. As we can see, its product line was also becoming broader and more elaborate -- fourteen rather than ten stove types, and a wide range of available sizes to suit the widest possible spectrum of customers. Most of these stoves were still generic kinds -- the Kitchen Companion, Keystone Stove, and James Cook (a model first patented in 1815; see this post for pictures and an account) were the only specifically identifiable models.
After 1848 the old foundry remained open, still owned by the old firm (Charles Warnick & Co.) and featured on their full-page directory advertisement, and Charles continued to live nearby, but the new firm signalled its move to new purpose-built premises downtown, right on the waterfront, at least as modern and extensive as Cresson's. The office, salesroom, mounting (assembly), and warehouse buildings fronting on Beach Street were probably built and ready for business even before the new foundry itself, which filled the space behind them, in September 1847, allowing the company to give up its leases on Fred's old stores and workshop by the end of 1846.
The Washington (by the time of the map, Delaware) Avenue plant in the 1858-60 Locher & Hexamer Survey. The survey stopped at the eastern side of the avenue -- apologies for the crude Paint job to fill in the waterfront. The Philadelphia Stove Works's only neighbors were other enterprises also requiring river access and large, inexpensive sites -- coal and lumber yards. The interactive map viewer is useful, as always. The 1862 survey shows how the Works had been hedged in by then through the development of wharves and piers along the Delaware since 1850; the 1875 survey shows the site occupied by the Philadelphia Sugar House, but still owned by Warnick & Leibrandt (Warnick's heirs and the new partnership). The 1877 Hexamer Survey shows how the old buildings were repurposed.
The new buildings show up better in the wonderful colored lithographs executed in the early 1850s by W.H. Rease than they do in the woodcut used in their city directory and other advertisements after 1849, which seems to have been based on them (see below).
This can be examined in much better detail online, but here are the key features:
- Location close to the riverfront, ideal at a time when most goods still travelled by water, including all of a foundry's heavy raw materials (pig iron, limestone, coal, and sand, filling the open storage bins this side of the buildings).
- Absence of neighbours -- helpful though not, in the 1840s, by any means essential for such a polluting industry as an iron foundry -- and room to expand, like Cresson, as well as to store bulky commodities.
- The multistory building (with the bell cupola on top) provided space for finishing or, as it came to be called, "mounting" (assembly of castings into finished stoves) and storage, with, probably, offices and "warerooms" (sales rooms) on the ground floor. This would have been the first part completed, and probably in use some time in 1846 or early 1847.
- Notice the delivery wagon bearing W & L's name. They were mostly wholesalers but also did a local retail trade. The prosperous family in their sleigh, who seem to be about to collide with the wagon horse to horse, are perhaps arriving to look at the newest, fanciest stoves on offer.
When it was finally completed in 1847, W & L's large, integrated new waterfront works was both very functional and also a statement to the company's customers that they were dealing with a credible, up-to-date, efficient supplier. Within five years two small-scale artisan-merchants had turned themselves into one of the leading manufacturing enterprises, not just of the city of Philadelphia, but in their industry nationwide -- not quite in the same league as the largest Albany and Troy firms, but close enough to compete.
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Warnick patented three new stove designs in 1848. The first was for a small "furnace" (a simple cook stove for use outdoors in summer, or even indoors in winter in the houses of the poor, despite its lack of a flue -- it could be placed in an old hearth and use the existing chimney) "for burning charcoal or stone coal," its castings covered with floral and geometric decoration. (See here for Leibrandt & McDowell's 1861 furnace line, this type selling for $1.15 to $2.00 [$450-$800], depending on size.)
|The barrel of the stove was made of sheet iron. As it was entirely plain, it was not worth representing, as only the decorative elements could be patented.|
Warnick's second 1848 patent was for a decorated, wood-fired nine-plate cooking and heating stove in a version of the "Old Philadelphia" style that was already half a century old, but still a staple of any Philadelphia maker's offering to the market.
|The legs are not shown, because they were standard and not patentable. Variations of this design were still on sale in 1861, costing between $2.85 and $8.25 [c. $1,100-$3,300 in current terms], depending on size and style.|
|Design Patent 199, very similar to the oval airtight castings Leibrandt & McDowell were still selling in 1861 for between $2.13 and $4.00 [c. $850-$1,600], depending on size and style.|
The company's new foundry, warehouse, offices, and showroom made their first appearance at the front of 1849's advertising section -- note the mention of the Nine Plate, New Patterns Summer Furnaces, and the Radiator Plates (new patterns), i.e. all of Warnick's recent designs:
|This product line remained stable through 1853 -- or at least they re-used exactly the same ad.|
|This too was still in the 1861 catalogue, costing $2-$4 [c. $800-$1,600 in modern terms] depending on size.|
The continuing expansion of the product line, including an increasing number of new, highly decorated, and unique or at least distinctive (because patented) goods, partly as a result of Warnick's own work, partly through buying the rights to make and sell goods made to other men's patents, marks the firm's rapid growth. The effect of acquiring new production facilities shows in the claims it was now ready to make on its own behalf: they were "prepared to fill any orders with which they may be favored, with despatch" and "on the most reasonable terms." They could now supply what their customers -- individual retail stove merchants from anywhere in the United States accessible to Philadelphia by water and, increasingly, rail transport making their buying visits to the city -- and the wholesalers and jobbers who also served them, wanted: "an assortment," a one-stop opportunity to acquire almost all of the broad stock-in-trade that merchants required, including staple goods and up-to-date patented, branded specialties, from a company with the facilities enabling it to guarantee the volume, prices, quality, and delivery times essential in this competitive, seasonal business.
|Warnick & Leibrandt ad. in Lancaster [PA] Intelligencer, 9 Oct. 1849, p. 4, amplifying the information in their City Directory ads by spelling out the number of sizes and variations they made and sold of all their separate models -- seventeen cook stoves, and almost as many heating stoves. This is essentially the same product line as their 1861 Catalogue contained.|
|Charles at the height of his power, though not, perhaps, weight.|
Neither Fred nor Charles had moved house again by 1849, but the Directory contains one significant new entry: W.N. McDowell, a clerk, lived at 7 Shippen (now Bainbridge) Street, in Southwark. This was William McDowell (b. 1824), a young and ambitious man, orphaned in his childhood and leaving school at the age of 11, who started working for the company in 1847 as an entry clerk, replaced Warnick as Leibrandt's partner in 1854 or 5 when Charles had to withdraw because of ill health, and rose to become its president when it incorporated in 1869, a position he held until his death in 1897. McDowell witnessed all of Warnick's early patents, which probably signifies that he was already the vital right-hand man and the administrative core of the firm's tiny management team. Charles probably handled design and foundry management, Fred focused on sales, and William worked alongside him running their very small office staff, for correspondence, billing, and keeping the essential minimum of paper records, but any one of the three could cover for the others if necessary. A functional but flexible division of labor like this was entirely conventional for a small partnership, and especially logical in this case as the foundry and the saleroom, warehouse, and office started out on different sites, and even after the new premises were fully occupied Charles still had the old foundry to supervise too, and carried on living nearby. (See the Abbott & Lawrence post for information about Warnick & Leibrandt's other managerial assistants.)
McDowell's obituary in 1897, fourteen years after his patron and then partner Leibrandt's death, adds more detail about the early life of this founding member of the National Association of Stove Manufacturers (in 1872), whose "career in the stove business covered the entire period of modern stove making." When the orphaned McDowell left school in 1835 he "entered the employ of a dry-goods merchant, in whose esteem he rapidly rose, and who gave him every opportunity to learn the business. When he had attained proficiency he went to Cincinnati, hoping there to engage in business on his own account. Not finding there, however, a suitable opening, he returned to Philadelphia" and started clerking for Warnick & Leibrandt in late 1847, by which time the new foundry was finished and working full blast. [Franklin L. Sheppard, George W. Walker, and George H. Barbour (all stove founders and long-time partners with McDowell in the work of the NASM), "William L. McDowell," National Association of Stove Manufacturers Twenty-Sixth Annual Meeting, Detroit, Mich., 12th and 13th May 1897 (Chicago: Rogers, Pitkin, & Hall, 1897), pp. 184-6.]
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What did W & L make and sell, apart from generic products, and Charles's newly ornamented versions of old standards? Its first new, branded stove in 1849 was Roney's "Economist" cook stove, patented by Benjamin T. Roney of Attleborough, PA in 1845 and awarded a Third Premium at the Franklin Institute Exhibition that year. Roney's was patented as a 6-boiler step-stove with the unique feature of TWO fireboxes, so that it could run on wood, anthracite, or both. (The advantage of the wood fire was that it could be used for "light culinary purposes such as cooking for breakfast, which would be too much delayed by the slow ignition of anthracite coal.") But by 1849 it was advertised as a "flat top," so it must have been redesigned to meet the market's changing requirements. The other was Henry Stanley's attractively designed wood-burning parlor heating stove of 1845, a nice example of which is in the Winterthur Museum:
Parlor stoves like this were evidently worth enough business to W & L for them to commission a new design in 1851 from Frederick Schultz, a local pattern maker (McDowell witnessed this patent too). This was "The Union," bearing patriotic and republican symbols (stars for the original states, shields, wreaths) presumably to celebrate the Union's survival of its latest slavery-related crisis. Ten years later the company was still making and selling it, commending it as "One of the most popular Air-Tight Stoves ever made; several thousand are now in use." [Leibrandt & McDowell Catalogue 1861, p. 66.]
One of these is available for sale on Ebay right now, looking a bit the worse for wear but still asking $1,000, though in 1861 you could have bought one for $3.75 to $8, depending on the size (which weighed about as much in an average blue-collar worker's budget then as c. $1,500 to $3,200 now, so perhaps it is a bargain):
By that time Charles had patented his last two designs, both in 1850 -- the first for another small portable furnace, plainer and more purely functional than his 1848 effort (interestingly, this insignificant design had no fewer than FOUR joint patentees -- Charles, Fred, and also James G. Abbott and Archilus Lawrence, two of their managerial associates who were soon to be proprietors of another new, large Philadelphia stove foundry); the second for the most important item in any stove maker's product line by mid-century, a good-looking wood-fired "square cook" with a large oven and four boiler holes in a flat top plate. Curiously, Warnick antedated the patent year cast into his stove to 1848. The firm had been advertising "Complete Cooks" since at least 1849, and flat-top Roney patent stoves since 1849, so one possibility is that Charles was finally getting around to patenting a design that had turned out to be a good seller and which, until 1850, he had merely been claiming to be patent-protected. This was not entirely sharp practice: the 1842 Design Patents Act permitted designers to take out patents on goods which had been on sale for up to a year.
Two years later they acquired another couple of decorative heating stoves, the "Penn Radiator" and a gothic, floral air-tight cannon stove with mica windows, from local pattern makers, in this case Garretson Smith and Henry Brown, the city's leading artisans in this line of work:
|In 1861 the Penn Radiator was still on sale for $6.50 to $9.00, depending on size -- c. $2,600 to $3,600, in modern terms, i.e. it was an upmarket product.|
Stoves like these represented literally the top of the company's product line -- the most stylish goods that they sold.
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Why did Warnick stop devising new patentable designs himself after 1850? We will never know for sure; one possibility is that Philadelphia now had enough good, specialized stove pattern makers that he no longer needed to, and his firm was successful enough that he could afford not to. Warnick & Leibrandt were not alone in this respect, outsourcing the task of new stove design. The first generation of stove founders in the city, notably including William Cresson, did their own designing and took out their own patents -- 29 in the period 1846-1851, averaging about 5 per year. But after that, once Philadelphia acquired a group of specialized designers, stove founders came to rely on them instead, and were supplied with an increasing flow of new ideas in return. Between 1852-1860 the number of design patents increased to about 14 per year.
But another explanation is simply that Warnick was becoming unwell. He was now a wealthy man, but also a morbidly obese one, and began to withdraw from active business. 1851 was the last city directory in which his old firm (Charles Warnick & Co.) continued to appear, together with its Germantown Avenue foundry, as well as the newer partnership. Once the old foundry was given up, Charles moved to live on the same street as Fred, a few blocks away from their new works (probably by horse-car rather than walking distance, certainly for Charles).
Initially W & L consolidated on their waterfront site, but they rapidly outgrew it and bought another a mile and a half to the north-east, still near the Delaware but probably with better rail connections, on Gunners Run (the old Aramingo Canal), which was fully occupied by 1854. (Insurance surveys between the mid 1860s and the late 1880s consistently report that the oldest buildings on site dated back to 1850, but these may already have been there when they bought it, and repurposed for foundry use.)
|The Philadelphia Geohistory Network's interactive map viewer allows one to read the above screenshot more clearly, and also to trace the site's development through time, until its present state -- obliteration under I-95 (the Delaware Expressway)'s access ramps. The original building -- all that shows in this map, which must have been surveyed some years earlier than its publication date -- was built along the southern side of the last block of what is now Girard Avenue. By the mid-1860s it was occupied by a foundry, pattern shop, machine shop, and storage space. Note the text in the 1854-1855 advertisements, below, which only refer to "another large Foundry and Finishing Shop," i.e. this range of buildings, on the right hand side of the following lithograph.|
The company's new premises were also the subject of a lithograph by W.H. Rease, probably executed soon after the buildings were complete.
This can be examined in much better detail online, but here are the key features:
- Location right on the Aramingo Canal, ideal at a time when most goods still travelled by water, including all of a foundry's heavy raw materials (pig iron, limestone, coal, and sand).
- Room to spread the two foundry buildings quite far from one another. Foundries had a nasty but understandable habit of burning down. W & L now had two separate molding shops, probably one for heavier stove and other castings, the other for lighter stove plates and hollow ware, so that a fire in one of them would not knock it out completely.
- The multistory building (with the bell cupola on top) between and adjoining the two molding shops provided space for finishing or, as it came to be called, "mounting" (assembly of castings into finished stoves) and storage, with, probably, offices and "warerooms" (sales rooms) on the ground floor.
- In the open space between the main buildings is the steam engine house, providing power to drive the fans providing air pressure to the cupolas in the foundries either side, probably by buried pipes.
- The fourth chimney, on the far right, is above what was by 1865 the machine shop, which seems to have had a small steam engine (see the steam vent pipe in the front wall) for powering the simple machines used in cleaning and polishing castings, and other machine tools.
- The other, plainer multistory building was probably a warehouse, workshop for flask and pattern making (woodworking, so ideally not carried on in the same building where metal was melted and poured), and perhaps fireproof space for pattern storage.
- Notice the charging ramps leading up to the cupolas. Only the right-hand furnace is in blast, and men are wheeling their barrows up the ramps. In the foundry yard and on the waterfront, notice the piles of sand and coal, the stacks of pig iron, and, around the central steam engine house, an untidy assembly of wooden molding flasks.
- As the following image, taken from the front cover of the firm's 1861 Catalogue, makes clear, the site's capacity for expansion was rapidly utilized, with more buildings and additional furnaces crammed into what had been open space a very few years earlier. By this time there was no further mention of the 1847 plant, though it remained the property of the old partnership (W&L), Warnick's heirs and Leibrandt, until at least 1877.
- An undated Hexamer Insurance Survey from the late 1860s shows this stage of the plant's development, or a little later, and allows one to see the exact functions of the different buildings at that time by zooming in.
- There is one curious feature of the Hexamer site maps, the second of which is dated (1873): it looks as if the grand main building, including the cupola, was an early casualty of the firm's expansion. Perhaps the movement of its office and sales room to a prime downtown location (the corner of Second and Race Streets) in 1860 meant there was no further need for these on site, and the space was more valuable for additional foundry capacity. Or perhaps the grand main building, so reminiscent of the 1847 plant, was never actually built, merely planned, and included by engravers at the partners' request? There is no sign of it even on the 1860s survey.
- There were further surveys in 1879 and 1887, showing continuing development, but reporting a workforce of unchanging size and composition -- 210 men and 40 boys. According to an 1874 report on the entire stove industry, Leibrandt & McDowell had by then an annual production capacity of 2,750 tons/27,225 stoves, more than double the industry average, ranking them thirteenth-largest stove maker (of 217) in the United States, and second largest (after Isaac A. Sheppard & Co.'s Excelsior Stove Works, almost twice as big at 5,000 tons) in Philadelphia itself.
|The 1887 Hexamer Survey -- the upper part of the print (not shown) is the detailed building plan.|
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The retirement of its founder did not seem to harm the business he had established. Its 1854 and 1855 advertisements chart its continuing growth and development (1855's was identical to 1854's, save for the change of company name):
What is worth noticing here? Not so much the usual claim about "the best assortment ... in the country," which their local competitors echoed, as the fact that they were already settling into what would become the stove industry's normal marketing practices, the introduction of a new range of patterns almost every season. They were also extending the practice of advertising their leading products by name rather than just type and starting to develop brands or trademarks in order to help them stand out among the industry's hundreds of nearly identical products. "Lady Washington" seems to have been a brand name covering a small family of attractive new, presumably female customer-friendly parlor stoves and heaters for the heart of the middle-class home.
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Charles's death almost seems like a good place to end this narrative, because what he left behind was a firm not much more than a decade and a half old but one whose size, organization, and production and marketing techniques were typical of the emerging stove industry of which it was already a significant member, reorganized during his and Fred's careers as stovemakers around integrated, quite progressive proprietary firms like theirs.
But there is a bit more to be said. First of all, the company seems to have managed a common problem of proprietary enterprises -- the exit of a partner, arranging succession -- quite well, particularly by promoting and including McDowell, but also by adding to the partnership from outside after Warnick's death. From 1857 on there were four partners -- John A. Sheble and George G. Shoch joined the two insiders. But these new men do not seem to have lasted very long -- Sheble dropped out of the partnership by 1859, and Schoch by 1860. It is difficult to be sure about what they may have brought to it during their comparatively brief membership -- Sheble, b. 1813, had been a partner in Sheble & Lawson (the Fairmount Fork Works) since 1851; Shoch described himself as a stovemaker, and had been a partner in Hill & Shoch, warm-air furnace and cooking range manufacturers, since 1853. At a guess, Sheble brought capital and business experience, and Shoch technical expertise and an addition to the product line -- notably the Franklin, still on sale in 1861, and "the most popular Range ever sold in this city. There are several thousand of them in use, and their operation gives the very best satisfaction. It has a fine Oven, and abundant facilities for boiling." In 1861, their "sale ... continue[d] unabated."
Capital would have been essential to the new partnership, as the older foundry remained the property of the previous one, and even after his death Warnick's numerous family continued to require an income from it (Warnick left between eleven and thirteen of his fifteen children alive at his death, the oldest 31, the youngest newly born). His oldest son, William F., born 1831, probably needed funds to enter business in his own right, too -- in 1853 he reported his occupation as "founder," i.e. he was probably working in the family firm, but from 1854 onwards he was a stove maker and dealer with partners of his own. In 1860, Leibrandt & McDowell, by then down to a two-man partnership again, seem to have bought him out, and at the same time provided themselves with a much better located office and sales headquarters right in the heart of the wholesale stove district rather than down on the waterfront. Dealers would, they said, "find a large collection of STOVES of the most approved patterns. Tinned, Enamelled, and plain Hollow-ware, comprising an assortment second to none in the country." [Philadelphia Press 9 Aug. 1860, p. 3.]
|The Leibrandt & McDowell Downtown Offices and Salesroom, 1860-.|
This is where the company was based when they prepared for the 1861 season by publishing a lavishly illustrated catalogue displaying all of their many stoves, ranges, and hollow ware, so that we can check the validity of their claim. There were engravings and, unusually, prices for everything L & McD was making and selling by then. Details of all of the very numerous models in the catalogue are contained in this accessible spreadsheet, allowing us to analyse the product line's size, shape, and character.
Something that is obvious, even without detailed scrutiny, is that almost all of the stove types mentioned in W & L's earliest advertisements were still in production a dozen to fifteen years later, i.e. their product line became established very quickly, and then their "assortment" grew as a result of regular additions and very little pruning. Most of the named models referred to in the advertisements above or covered by Warnick's patents (all, by 1861, long expired) and those the company bought in the early 1850s were still on sale -- the "Cook's Favorite," for example, evidently lived up to its name, there in the advertisement for the 1846 season and still there, together with seven other models from the 1848 season, including the James, Complete, and Keystone cook stoves, Cannon Stove, and Salamanders, and a dozen more from 1849.
How do we explain this? Partly, perhaps as a result of the conservatism of the Philadelphia market, in which many different stove types had been established for decades. But it is also a reflection of the flexibility of the stove industry's production system, and the limited economies of scale available in foundries that remained dependent on manual skill and human effort for the next several decades. Once a wood or iron pattern had been made, the cost of keeping it available for use was minimal, and if there was a continuing demand for a stove, Warnick & Leibrandt were evidently happy to satisfy it.
This was before the stove market became mature, and in fact saturated, after the Civil War, and companies began to experiment with planned obsolescence, the introduction of new models every year, and the rapid deletion of (and withdrawal of after-sales support for) old designs. During this earlier period, one of the advantages of leaving old, simple stove types and models on sale was that they assisted with the task of broadening and deepening the market: the old styles were cheap, entry-level products.
Among cook stoves, for example -- the foundation of any stove maker's product line -- W & L sold 22 models with boiler holes 7" in diameter (the most popular size). The cheapest were both small (just two boilers) and old styles, and cost between $3.50 and $5.75; among 4-boiler stoves, older styles sold for $8 or $9, with the new ones costing up to $12.75. Keeping old styles in production therefore enabled the company to extend its market to include small and poor households, who would otherwise have had little choice apart from buying second-hand.
The other striking fact about the company's product line is its breadth and variety. The company sold more than a hundred distinct models by 1861, most of them available in several different sizes, and many of them available in various permutations (e.g. for burning wood, coal, or both; or as parts, for the buyer to assemble, or finished). For example, among cook stoves there were 32 models, made in an average of four but up to eight sizes, some of them with extras like "Summer Hearths" (allowing a limited amount of cooking, using little fuel, and producing much less heat in the kitchen) or large hot-water reservoirs attached. This is what an ideal "assortment" consisted of -- something for almost every imaginable buyer, including quite specialized pockets of demand (consumers in the Anthracite District, masters of small vessels looking for a galley stove, southern plantation owners...). And even when (rarely) W & L dropped a model from production it was still prepared to supply "repairs" (replacement parts), e.g. for the old "Philadelphia Complete" for 5 cents a pound, as part of the implicit contract between the firm and the buyers of its durable goods, which were meant to last.
[There may be more to extract from the spreadsheet, but not right now!]