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J. & E. Stevens Co.
Foundry Notes by Bob McCumber

FACTORY AREA
There was a house on left west of the office, and a barn behind where horses were kept that were used to pull carts around factory. Another small building along road at the entrance was used as an entrance house (gate).

The main office was in the building with a Cupola on top, the bell was moved from there to a church yard up hill. This building is now used by Horton Brasses Co.

Mr. Frisbee was last superintendent while making banks, then Mr. Leaderer bought the company from Buckley Brothers and Jack Hyland was Superintendent. He gave me all this information. Buckley Brothers bought after WW2.

The Main office had a large wall safe that Horton Brasses Company removed. Behind the main office was the original foundry, in 1843 they made hardware items, no toys or banks. See 1918 picture, this remained until 1975, it was used as storage for working patterns and match molds. Horton tore it down.

I went into this building in 1975 and found match molds and printing cuts still there, gave some back to Horton. All the pictures show this foundry.

Next to the office building, on the left "Iron Toys & Co." was the assembly building, where banks were assembled. There was a large water wheel in the rear that was fed by a series of ponds up the hill, the present location of a white house, there were two ponds up the road from there.

An underground channel from the pond was dammed and undershot to the assembly building and water wheel, than the water went to frog pond through plating room into creek.

This water wheel supplied power for assembly and the adjoining pattern building. There was a rope drive off a track shaft that connected assembly to the pattern building (now "Shipping Crate"), Horton filled in the waterwheel hole.

Behind the pattern building are two wooden buildings, one was the carpenter shop and the other stored boxes. Each bank was packed in a separate box, and the box’s were placed in a larger box for final shipping.

Directly across the road from the office was the assembly and casting preparation building, which was also used for the painting department. This building was destroyed and present structure built. See pictures, 2 story, lots of windows, sign with "J. & E. Stevens Co.". The large main foundry building is still intact but has been added on. Behind foundry was a big steam engine that drove tumbling barrels, air motor for blasting furnace, and air supply for the cubicle. Water from the frog pond channel ran across the road to plating room then to creek.

Past the frog pond and left up the hill, there was a small building along Rail Road track. Pig iron that was melted for bank fabrication came in on freight cars and was unloaded by hand to horse drawn carts, than hauled down to foundry. The old Rail Road tracks are still intact, the picture was from a vantage point on the tracks.

BEHIND THE MAIN FOUNDRY WERE THE FOLLOWING
1.    Adjoining the foundry was a cubicle for melting pig iron. The building surrounding this housed firing material, sand, etc.
2.    Steam engine room to supply power to foundry and rolling room.
3.    Plating room, nickel plating and indian bronze coating for stores, toys and banks.
4.    Rolling room, had large barrels for tumbling all castings and. Stones were put into the barrels to knock off sand and rough edges. All parts were tumbled for several hours, maybe overnight.
5.    Counting room, molders worked by piece, all castings came in for counting and scrapping of defective parts. If the molder should have 900 pieces and only got a count of 885 he would go through the scrap to find if the counter had made a mistake. They were very careful because their pay depended on a full count.
6.    Arched roof building contained working patterns and printing cuts. Small building behind this was the foreman’s office where records were kept.

TYPICAL DAILY ROUTINE AT THE FACTORY
            1.     Molders went to benches to get their assignments for what to cast
                    that day. They would pull out match molds and working pattern and
                    start making forms.

a.    Set up match mold and apply powder, which could give them black lung disease
b.    Insert working pattern and powder.
c.    Install cope and put sifted sand on top of working pattern.
d.    Tamp sand lightly and provide access to gates.
e.    Pick up assembly, turn over and put on a flat board.
f.    Remove match mold and remove pattern.
g.    Re-install match mold, which now has a cavity.
h.    Turn it over and it is ready for pouring.

2.    Molding would prepare dozens of these assemblies and set them on the floor for pourers.

3.    Cubicle crew started first thing in the morning to prepare the melting furnace.

a.    Changed refractory lining every day.
b.    In the bottom of the furnace they put old lumber scrap from the carpenter shop.
c.    Layers of lumber, coke (form of coal), broken-off gates, sprues, and new pig iron.
d.    The wood was burned 2-3 hours and then the coke was lit up, this drove out the moisture and got everything hot.
e.    Turn on big blowers that were driven by their steam engine. which Increased the oxygen and made the iron melt, and temperatures get to 1000 degrees and higher.
f.    The Cubicle attendant was in charge of managing molten metal as it came out. Men take turns moving molten metal from the cubicle and pouring it into molds. If the iron got too cold, they could tell by color, or if the men were slow in coming back for a refill. The cubicle attendant could stop the flow by plugging the outlet by using a rod with a cup on the end to plug the outlet hole.
g.    This work had to be done fast and a lot of helpers were used to move the molds around.
h.    When the days pour was complete, everything left in cupola was dumped. Two swinging doors swung downward to dump all contents. Water was turned on for two hours to cool the cubicle down.

4.    After the molds cooled down, the sand was broken away and the gates were broken off of the castings.

5.    Good castings went to the tumbling room and then to the counting room. An inspector said what was good, the workers received a piece rate.

6.    All castings were cleaned and separated into tote pans. Gates were ground off if they had not broken cleanly. Castings for the left side of a bank would be in a different tote pan than those of the right side.

7.    Parts were piled up outside to be picked up by horse and wagon to be transported to the next processing stage, paint room, drill and tap holes, special jigs for attaching parts, etc. They made their own springs but bought rivets and screws.

8.    Some parts went to plating room.

9.    The furnace crew started preparing furnace for the next day.

10.    Sand processing crew reworked sand for the next days use. Sand had to be perfect so it was sifted to take out drops and particles from the casting process. There was always some burnt sand which was replaced.

12.    Scrap gates and sprues were piled up for melt-down the next day. Coke was piled up near the furnace, as was pig iron and scrap lumber. All this was put into baskets that one man could carry, 50 to 80 lb. each.

This process was repeated every day, usually six days a week. Men made 10 to 20 per hour.

INSIDE THE FOUNDRY
In the middle of the main room was a cubicle where iron was melted. A stairway went up both sides to double doors that gave access to the oven. Bushel basket size containers were used to carry the material to the furnace. At eye level were the air chambers where blowers supplied air to increase the furnace temperature. The spigot that drained molten metal was located at waste level, it would be used to start and stop flow. There was a ramp with a driven cart that could carry material to the cubicle. The whole outside of the furnace had to be relined with refractory brick twice a year, a big job.

This process of melting iron for manufacture of toys & cap pistols was abandoned about 1950. They went to electric and gas furnaces and later to mechanized die cast process.

RECENT HISTORY
Mr. Frisbee was the owner and superintendent through 20’s. Depression and WW2 caused them to shutdown, no iron was available for casting.

Buckley Brothers, two attorneys from New York City bought the plant and hired Mr. Herman Lederer to run the place. They added on to the foundry building in two places, installed a quick melting furnace in the new part and started making cap pistols.

They put in automatic equipment and spent a lot on improvements. Only a few banks were made in the 50’s for a toy fair in NYC, Jolly Nigger and Owl Turns Head.

They changed to a process called shell molding but this was not good for cap pistols. A new line of space age pistols made of aluminum was introduced and sold well. They bought a die cast outfit and machine shop in Middletown Connecticut and used a die casting process which was introduced by Ford or G.M.

By this time cast iron was too expensive for cap pistols. They were doing well with die casting. Later they ran into money and union troubles. Buckley Brothers sold out to Herman Lederer. He continued to run the Company, it did well, volume was good.

Finally the plant shut down in 1959. His girl friend assembled pistol caps in one building for a few years. Lederer got involved with another outfit in Middletown, a textile company.

Prat & Whitney Aircraft wanted that building and Lederer sold out. He made a fortune on the deal. He kept J. & E. Stevens and tried to sell it for many years.

Horton Brasses Company finally bought the original office and the Shipping Crate Company purchased the pattern shop.

Worley & Son (Stephen) leased the foundry for steel fabrication for 18 years and in 1979 bought it for themselves. Worley now owns it.

 

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