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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Cox, Whiteman, and Cox's Penn Stove Works -- Philadelphia Stove Makers, 5.

Cox, Whiteman, & Cox's Penn Stove Works, 1853-.

{in progress; edit of 2 Feb. 2018} 

Cox, Whiteman, and Cox, later the Abram Cox Stove Co., were the fifth of Philadelphia's stove-makers, by date of founding, but differed from the firms that came before them in that they were the first to be able to walk into an established stove foundry rather than having to build their own.  1853 was when Charles Warnick gave up the property at Sixth and Germantown Avenue that he had occupied for the previous decade, and the new partnership of Joseph & Abram Cox took it over as the Penn Stove Works.  Twenty years later, they were the fourth largest stove manufacturers in Philadelphia, with an annual production capacity of about 2,000 tons. [Wiley 1874, pp. ##]

The Firm: People and Partners

Joseph Cox was born in New York City in 1819, and by the early 1840s was engaged in stove making with his brother David in Troy, New York, a key center of innovation in design and manufacture.  In 1846 he moved to Philadelphia, and entered the retail stove trade.  [Obit., 1881]  He showed up in the 1847 directory (i.e. late 1846) with a home address but no stated occupation, and in the course of that year he acquired both, as a stove maker at 59 North Second Street in partnership with Edward M. Boughton, doing a retail and jobbing business.  That partnership lasted until some time in 1852, after which Joseph continued as a sole trader, and Boughton disappeared.  

The "Report of the Committee on Exhibitions" at the city's Franklin Institute in 1847 explains the new firm's business: it brought up-to-date Troy stoves into the Philadelphia market, though it may not have been simply a distribution depot for Joseph's brother's firm's stoves -- it exhibited and won awards for other companies' products too, e.g. an "air tight parlor stove for coal, by A.T. Dunham, Troy, N.Y. ... A cast-iron stove, with radiating flues; a very serviceable and good stove" as well as "Pierce's American air tight cook stove, for wood or coal, by Johnson & Cox, Troy, N.Y." [pp. 373-4].  The 1848 and 1849 Exhibitions demonstrated continuing successful efforts by Boughton & Cox to bring Johnson & Cox stoves into the Philadelphia market, and win Franklin Institute endorsements for them.

In 1853 Joseph's older brother Abram, born in 1816 in Schuylerville, Saratoga County, joined him in place of Boughton.  Abram had spent the previous ten years in Troy, i.e. he had overlapped with Joseph there.  At first he worked for the firm of Elias Johnson, Gilbert Geer, and their brother David, which turned into Johnson, (John S.) Perry, and Cox in 1845, plain Johnson and Cox in 1846, and then into Johnson, Cox, and (Joseph) Fuller in 1850.  Abram himself had too much "natural ability and energy" [Obit., 1885] to remain for long as an employee, so in 1847 he branched out on his own in the old Mechanic Street foundry, which he took over from his brother's firm when it relocated to the newer and larger Clinton Stove Works, and remained in business, as a sole trader or eventually in partnership with J.H. Warren and Alex Morrison, until his departure for Philadelphia.

The Cox brothers' experience in the stove foundry business in Troy as well as in the wholesale and retail trade in Philadelphia equipped them well to go into large-scale manufacturing in Philadelphia on their own account.  
They had enough capital to acquire the lease on Charles Warnick's old foundry, as well as the knowledge to run it -- Abram, in particular, was certainly up to speed with modern methods of stove design and manufacture.  He even had direct experience of the design patent system, after taking out two for cook stoves in 1851 (numbers 382 and 383; see below) in partnership with Johnson and Cox, and witnessed by Fuller.

The brothers' partnership was originally just themselves (they lived at the same address as well as working together), but in 1854 they acquired a third member, P.F. Hagar, a Germantown stove maker and dealer, and in 1856 (i.e. by the time of the 1857 directory) their foundry was listed too.  In 1857 they moved to new premises on North Second Street (no. 106), lost Hagar, and in 1858 the lasting partnership uniting the two brothers and John Whiteman began, only to be ended by the deaths of Joseph and Whiteman in 1881.  By that time Abram was seriously ill as well as quite old, but fortunately he had a trustworthy assistant: his nephew Abram Cox Mott, born in Glen Falls, New York, in 1850.  Young Abram had joined his uncles' business in 1865, starting out as a clerk and moving steadily through the ranks to become superintendent by the time of Joseph's death, and vice-president of the corporation formed in 1882 to replace the old partnership and prepare for Abram Cox's own departure from the business, which took place in two stages: Abram C. Mott became president in 1884, and Abram Cox died in 1885.

["Abram C. Mott" in Ellis P. Oberholzer, Philadelphia: A History of the City and Its People, a Record of 225 Years (Philadelphia: S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., ####), Vol. 4, pp. 230-232. 

* * * 

Unlike some of their local competitors,  Cox, Whiteman, & Cox do not seem to have advertised in the press.  But this does not mean that they did not figure there, and their several appearances in Pennsylvania papers over the next few years provide the outline of a narrative of the early years of the firm, and also an idea of what it was about the everyday life of a small manufacturing business that might qualify as newsworthy at the time.

(1) "Fires," Philadelphia Press 12 June 1860, p. 2.  

Their "manufactory" caught fire as a result of a spark from the cupola, causing $150 worth of damage [c. $62,000 in current money].  Foundries were always burning down -- the close proximity of plenty of dry wood (molding flasks, patterns) and sources of intense heat was always a big risk, and helps explain the preoccupations of insurance surveyors in the Hexamer reports.  The article adds that the building was owned by a Jacob Carrigan.  Interestingly, Carrigan and a John Whiteman of Philadelphia were both trustees of Dickinson College in 1846.  Carrigan was a Philadelphia merchant -- an artisan metal worker (a silver-plater) who became owner of a saddlery hardware store; he was a prominent Methodist layman, protectionist Whig, and, by the late 1840s, a dealer in anthracite and an investor in canal and railroad companies.  [The other biographical snippets are all the products of a Google Books search of C19th texts too.]  

This helps explain the low barriers to entry into the foundry business for Joseph Cox and partners -- they could rent their initial premises, not buy; but I do not know whether Carrigan already owned the foundry while Warnick & Co. occupied it, i.e. did Warnick & Liebrandt enjoy the same easy route from small merchant into manufacturer in the mid-1840s as their successors a decade later, or did Carrigan buy the property from them?  Probably we will never know, but my guess is that Warnick & Leibrandt owned and built the foundry, and Carrigan later acquired it.  This is just based on the timing of his branching out beyond the hardware business into a range of other investments.

Catalogue of Dickinson College for the Academical Year 1846-47 (Carlisle, PA: Herald Office, 1847), p. 3.    

(2) "For Sale and To Let," Philadelphia Press 23 Jan. 1863, p. 4: 

"THE LARGE Iron Foundry now occupied by Cox, Whiteman, & Cox to rent. Possession 1st April. Inquire 520 ARCH Street, second story."  This gives us a time for the opening of the new foundry.  Calling the old foundry "large" is a bit of realtor's traditional licence.  It was small, which was why they were leaving it.

(3) "Moulders Wanted," Columbia [Pa.] Spy 7 March 1863, p. 3 -- 

"THE Stove and Hollow Ware Moulders employed  by the undersigned have struck for the control of our Shop after having received an advance of prices.  We now offer employment to Moulders at liberal prices, and guarantee them constant work.


N.B.  Young men, with any knowledge of the business, taken under instructions, and paid liberally." [ad first posted 28 Feb. 1863].

This is interesting.  Cox and partners opened their new, larger foundry at just about the worst time they could have, in labor relations terms.  The dislocation of trade at the outset of the Civil War had caused stove foundry operators a massive headache -- the South provided Philadelphia stove makers with one of its major markets -- but there was a silver lining: the resulting layoffs and unemployment disrupted the Iron Moulders' Union, though less so in Philadelphia than elsewhere, to the point where it almost disintegrated.  However, by 1863 business was booming, prices were rising fast, labor markets were tight, and the 400 stove molders of Philadelphia's Local 1 were spearheading the rebuilding of the national union, as well as pursuing their own aggressive agenda.  [Grossman, pp. 43-44, 55-62]  

In the winter of 1862 their efforts seemed to have forced their employers to concede a 10 percent wage increase, but in fact the foundrymen were just keeping their plants active, building up a large surplus stock, and delaying the confrontation with their men until the best time, the middle of winter.  All but two foundries (one of them probably Isaac Sheppard & Co.'s, given that its owners were all former molders and union activists; the other North, Chase, and Thomson) agreed to do battle, and each pledged a $10,000 [$24 million] stake to be forfeited if they withdrew.  The above advertisement was part of the resulting campaign, which involved: attempts to get employers nationwide to blacklist Philadelphia molders -- because the usual way in which striking or locked-out union members survived a strike was by leaving town and working elsewhere; out-of-town recruiting for replacements; and bribery ("liberal prices") to local union men to break ranks and return to work.  They also tried to increase the labor supply by breaking the union's restrictions on the training of large numbers of cheap younger workers, misnamed "apprentices". [Grossman, pp. 65-66]

(4) "Legal Intelligence. Court of Common Pleas -- Judges Thompson and Ludlow.  Master and Apprentice -- Construction of Moulders' Indentures," Philadelphia Press  2 Nov. 1863.

An interesting case, explaining why the Iron Moulders were so opposed to employers' hiring as many "apprentices" as they liked, because it was just a way of securing cheap labor and flooding the market with half-trained competition.  Paul T. Bowen, aged about 16, had been bound by his mother to an apprenticeship with Cox, Whiteman, and Cox "to learn the trade, art, and mystery of Stove Moulding."  The firm agreed to give him work "at such times as their foundries may be in blast," i.e. there was no guarantee of support, or indeed training; simply a schedule of payment while he was learning the  job by doing it.  For his first three months he would get $3.50 a week, when a skilled workman's minimum was supposed to be $10 [Grossman, p. 23].  After that he would get half as much per piece as a journeyman's rate for 11 months, 5/8ths for the next 14 months, and 3/4ths for the remaining 9 months of his "apprenticeship."  Bowen must have broken his contract -- whether simply by finding a better job elsewhere, or perhaps by going on strike -- and the company was prosecuting him for it as a criminal act under Pennsylvania law.

The judges invalidated the agreement, because it was so one-sided and exploitative.  A master was supposed to stand in loco parentis, but there were explicit and "peculiar" terms making it clear that this was just an employment contract in disguise: the company was "not to be responsible for any acts done or committed by [Bowen] during such times as he is not at work, nor are they to be under any expense for medicine or medical attendance, it being fully understood that [he] is under the guardianship of his mother."  There was "no express covenant for maintenance, nor do the masters agree to give the apprentice any education."  All of the risks of employment were thrown on the young man's shoulders, with none of the compensating protections that gave a good master the right to be able to resort to law to compel his apprentice's loyal service.  "[S]hould the furnace go out of blast and he at the same time be afflicted with sickness, [he] may starve or die."

This is a revealing illustration of the clash of values between the judges, with their attachment to the ideals of an older artisan economy as enshrined in the laws of the Commonwealth, and the behavior of the company, for whom the relation between masters and men, even adolescents, was simply one of money in return for labor, when required, and obedience.  In this case, the older mutualism won, and Paul Bowen walked free.  In the molders' trade, though, all that stood between employers and their ability freely to exploit young workers, and thereby weaken the bargaining power of skilled men, was the strength of the union, greatly depleted as a result of the long and fruitless 1863 strike.

(5) "A Dastardly Act," Philadelphia Press 24 Dec. 1863, p. 4:

Samuel Cline, an employee of Cox, Whiteman, & Cox, had been attacked a couple of evenings before Christmas near York Road and Susquehanna.  A pint of sulphuric acid was thrown over him by an unknown assailant, "burning his head, face, and clothing in a shocking manner.  Mr. Cline is a worthy and harmless workman, and has a large family dependant upon his labor.  His complete recovery is beyond possibility.  The only cause assigned is that he was not a member of the 'Moulders' Union.'"

Even more clearly than the Bowen case, this horrific incident was part of the bitter aftermath of what was by then a failed strike.  The union had raised a $13,000 fighting fund from local sympathizers back in the Spring, and its (initially 200) strikers engaged, as they had during the battles of the mid- to late-1850s, in forceful picketing at places of work, intimidatory gatherings outside scab workers homes and lodging houses, and payment of travel expenses to encourage out-of-town strikebreakers to quit and go home.  But all of these efforts failed -- the strike almost wiped out the local union, though it also cost their employers because of "incompetent workmen and a terrific labor turnover" [Grossman, p. 21].   

(6) "Relief for the Sufferers by the Great Fire," Philadelphia Press 15 Feb. 1865, p. 5:

Cox, Whiteman, & Cox gave $50 of $125 donated to sufferers from a conflagration at Ninth & Washington Streets.

(7) "Special Notices. The Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon acknowledge the following contributions to their fund" Philadelphia Daily Evening Bulletin 6 June 1865, p. 1:

Cox, Whiteman, & Cox gave $10.

(8) "Robbing His Employers," Philadelphia Daily Evening Bulletin 17 Feb. 1868, p. 8:

The watchman, Thomas Johnson, at Cox, Whiteman, & Cox's new foundry was caught by a policeman in the act of stealing his masters' goods.  He was driving away in a wagon with a keg of oats, a keg of corn, 50 ft lumber, and other saleable items.  He was freed on $1,000 [c. $250,000] bail.  

(9) "List of Patents issued from the United States Patent Office for the week ending June 15, 1869, and each bearing that date," Philadelphia Daily Evening Bulletin 16 June 1869, p. 1:

J.R. Rose & Edward L. Calely, assigned to Cox, Whiteman & Cox, for the body of a heating stove, Design Patent 3549.


(B) Plants:

The Sixth and Germantown Avenue foundry in an 1862 map.  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. 

From G.F. Hopkins's 1875 Philadelphia Atlas -- note how much of the block remained undeveloped, for outdoor storage etc. The 1862 Samuel L. Smedley atlas showed the block empty -- see Interactive Map Viewer.  See also this zoomable 1874 map, showing a railroad siding direct into the works.

The Hexamer Survey of the Penn Stove Works in 1878 -- The 5-storey building on Dauphin was built in about 1870, possibly replacing a smaller original; the rest in 1862.

(C) Products:

Design Patent 382 -- the "Irving Airtight" Cooking Stove, 1851

Design Patent 383 -- The Domestic Air Tight, 1851.
It looks as if the design may have been sold (assigned to) a New York City maker.

Cox, Hagar & Cox and Cox, Whiteman & Cox (hereafter CWC) left little other trace in the public record throughout the 1850s and early 60s, except for many more new design patents bought from Philadelphia's leading pattern makers, Garretson Smith and Henry Brown (DP#830, 1856 -- "The Gem," a neatly decorated cast-iron heater; DP#1133 and DP#1167, 1859, plates for two part-wrought heaters; and DP#1622, 1862, for a "Complete"-style stepped cooking stove, "The Monitor."


The scale of production in their original foundry cannot have been very large.  The output of a stove foundry was not just limited by the size of its workforce and the amount of iron it could melt and pour in a day, i.e. the capacity of the cupola furnace, but also by the amount of room for storage of raw materials, molding flasks, and patterns; for cleaning, finishing, and assembling ["mounting"] castings; and crucially, the space on the molding floor for making molds and setting them out until they were poured.  And the Germantown Road foundry was small -- the site was approximately 80 x 100 feet.  

Cox, Whiteman & Cox's product range was accordingly narrow -- much less than Leibrandt & McDowell's or Abbott & Noble's at more or less the same time -- but even so the company rapidly outgrew its premises.  Some time in 1862 the partners bought a whole block 500 x 122 feet at American and Dauphin, about a dozen blocks east of their original site and right on the Reading Railroad tracks.  It was large enough to accommodate most of the company's continued expansion for the next several decades.  The 1878 Hexamer Insurance Survey allows us to see that the foundry's molding floor alone was more than 50 percent bigger (165 x 75 feet) than the entire original site, which was given up.  




Abram Cox Stove Co., [Illustrated Catalogue] (Philadelphia: The Company, 1892).

Abram Cox Stove Co., American & Dauphin, Philadelphia, c. 1890-1910, Warren-Ehret Company Photographs, and Lansdale, PA,

Abram Cox Mott bio --

Tony DiDomizio, "Ever Wonder?The Reporter (Montgomery Co., PA) 15 July 2006.

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