Vulcan Iron Works negativescirca 1880s-1943, 1948
Vulcan Iron Works was a producer of mine and industrial locomotives, mine hoists, and other colliery machinery. Vulcan's locomotives were designed for mine, logging, plantation and factory work, including steam, electric and battery models for underground haulage. A large number were sold to strip mine and earth moving contractors. The majority of the collection consists of original negatives (glass plate and film) dating from about the 1880s to 1943. These are builder's photographs, recording the construction of locomotives and machinery, although there are some photographs of the plants themselves (interiors and exteriors), employees at work, the town of Wilkes-Barre, and equipment installed and in service, particularly at collieries in the anthracite fields. About half the pictures are of locomotives and the rest are of mining equipment. There are also 1,340 negatives of drawings and plans, chiefly of mining equipment hoists. The collection also contains about 2,400 copy photographs made to preserve the images on original nitrate negatives which had extensively deteriorated. The collection is organized into five series: Railroad; Mining and manufacturing equipment; Factory, mill, and shop views; Drawings; and People.
- circa 1880s-1943, 1948
- Vulcan Iron Works (Organization)
175 Linear Feet
General Physical Description
7,675 glass plate negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. or smaller. 1,400 negatives : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 2400 photographic prints: b&w ; 8 x 10 in.
Vulcan Iron Works was a producer of mine and industrial locomotives, mine hoists, and other colliery machinery. Vulcan's locomotives were designed for mine, logging, plantation and factory work, including steam, electric and battery models for underground haulage. A large number were sold to strip mine and earth moving contractors.
Richard Jones (1816-1847) founded the Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1849 to produce specialty iron products for the local anthracite coal industry. The company incorporated in 1867. By 1881 its facilities included a machine shop, a foundry, a blacksmith-boiler shop, and a pattern store and office, all located near the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad, and the Pennsylvania Canal. In addition to general machine work, the company made mining machinery, castings, and forgings. Branch shops were built in West Pittston and Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, and in 1888 Vulcan acquired the Wyoming Valley Manufacturing Company, makers of locomotives. This soon became a major part of Vulcan's activities, with the company making all types and sizes of locomotives for domestic and foreign industries. The company did a modest export business to Canada, Latin America, Russia and East Asia.
Vulcan's other product lines consisted primarily of material movement and processing machinery: hoisting engines, shaft cages, bucket elevators, crushers, picking tables and jigs for separating slate from coal, as well as mine fans. Most were sold to coal mining firms in the Appalachian coal fields and to remote operations of firms like Bethlehem Steel that were headquartered in Pennsylvania. It also sold grinding mills and rotary kilns to the portland cement industry that grew up on the southeastern border of the anthracite fields as well as some sugarcane processing machinery in Louisiana and Cuba.
World War I led to further expansion, and in 1919 Vulcan built a steel plant with open-hearth furnaces to supply their needs. By 1929 the company employed about 1,600 persons, manufacturing locomotives (both gasoline and diesel-electric) and electric hoists for mines. The collapse of the anthracite industry in the 1930s destroyed a large part of the company's market, and heavy trucks gradually replaced locomotives in stripping and construction haulage. Locomotive production ended with builder's number 4877 in May 1949. Machinery production continued into the mid-1950s.
Scope and Content
The majority of the collection consists of original negatives (glass plate and film) dating from about the 1880s to 1943. These are builder's photographs, recording the construction of locomotives and machinery, although there are some photographs of the plants themselves (interiors and exteriors), employees at work, the town of Wilkes-Barre, and equipment installed and in service, particularly at collieries in the anthracite fields. About half the pictures are of locomotives and the rest are of mining equipment. There are also 1,340 negatives of drawings and plans, chiefly of mining equipment hoists. The collection also contains about 2,400 copy photographs made to preserve the images on original nitrate negatives which had extensively deteriorated. The collection is organized into five series: Railroad; Mining and manufacturing equipment; Factory, mill, and shop views; Drawings; and People.
The Railroad series has been arranged into four subseries: Locomotives; Equipment; Charts, specifications, and advertisements; and Correspondence.
The Locomotives subseries consists of images of locomotives, mostly side views, either built or serviced by Vulcan Iron works between the 1880s and 1943, with one image dated 1948. Vulcan Iron Works assigned each locomotive they constructed a shop or builder number. These numbers follow the letters “c/n” which stands for “construction number”. The shop/builder number or construction number is then followed by the purchaser. Additional details about the locomotive are included when known, such as the engine number and/or name, as well as information about sales or exports. The dates give in this series are of the date ordered or built, and presumably roughly corresponds to the date the image was taken. If known, a locomotive description is included always in this order: Wheel arrangement (3 part number, e.g. 0-4-0), gauge of track, cylinder bore and stroke (eg. 9x12); driving wheel diameter, and weight.
In the Manuscripts and Archives Department there is a microfilm copy of a ledger book containing purchaser information. This information has been transcribed and where locomotives were identified by their construction numbers, the detailed information from the ledger has been copied into the description in this inventory. Unfortunately not all of the images of locomotives are identifiable, there were some that could not be matched to the purchasing information contained in the ledger. In these cases as much information about the locomotive has been supplied in the inventory.
The Locomotives subseries is primarily arranged by “c/n” number, which is roughly chronological. The images of locomotives without “c/n” numbers appear chronologically within the “c/n” arrangement.
Equipment subseries are images of parts for locomotives and are in alphabetical order. There are images of air compressors, boilers, cylinders, drive gears, drive wheels, frames, motors, pipes, and wheels. The materials date from 1908 to 1942.
Charts, specifications, and advertisements subseries consist of drawings of parts, equipment specification sheets, and print advertisements. The specification sheets are for boilers and locomotives, mostly from competitors of Vulcan Iron Works. There are several charts showing standard nuts, screws, and staybolts and charts calculating horsepower or maximum stress. The advertisements are mostly for Vulcan Iron Works, though there are some for competitors products. The material is arranged in alphabetical order and date from 1909 to 1926, with one image dated 1936.
Correspondence subseries are negatives of letters written by various purchasers to Vulcan Iron Works. The letters are primarily testimonials, though some are inquiries. The letters date from 1909 to 1921 and are organized alphabetically by sender.
Mining and manufacturing equipment series makes up about half of the entire collection. The images of equipment have been organized alphabetically and date from 1899 to 1943. The most represented pieces of equipment are hosits and cement kilns. The images of hoists are largely electric hoists and hoist engines, when known, additional details have been included such as the purchaser or horsepower (HP). The images of cement kilns include accessories such as cradles, creoles, gears, drives, rollers, and bed plates. There are images of cement kilns awaiting shipment and in operation. There are many images of engine stops, specifically Nicholson’s automatic engine stop.
Other mining and manufacturing equipment pictured in this series includes: air compressors, boilers, breakers, breaker rollers, Briquette press and machinery, cages, carriages, castings, coal chutes, conveyors and shaking conveyor/chute, corliss engines, crushers, drums, fans, dryers, fans, filters, gears,lime hydrators, molding, pipes, pumps, roller mill, sheaves, and valves. There are images and drawings of sugar machinery and cement machinery.
Factory, mill, and shop views series are images of the facilities at South Wilkes Barre, Tamaqua, Wyoming Valley, West Pittston, Buttonwood, and Hanover. There are both interiors and exteriors of various shops and offices. There are also images of the surrounding neighborhood homes, businesses, and industrial sites. The images date from 1901 to 1942.
The Drawings series contains negatives of blueprint drawings. The drawings include dates, purchasers, addresses, and descriptions of machinery. Some drawings have shop order numbers. There are 1,340 drawings from 1892 to 1930.
The drawings have a two part coding separated by a dash. The first number refers to the subject and the second number forms a chronological series. The materials have been arranged into subseries by subject according to the number assigned and then appear in order by the second part of the coded number.
The drawings primarily cover Vulcan’s mining equipment such as, cages, drums, engines, elevators, hoists, and sheaves. There are some drawings of locomotives, frames, and gears. The Drawings are divided into sixteen subseries by subject which is designated by the first part of the assigned number. The Link Belt Co. drawings subseries is the only set of competitor drawings included in this series.
People series is a very small group of images of employees and workers, either at work of at various outings or events. These images date from 1917 to 1942 and are in alphabetical order.
Existence and Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
This collection is open for research. Glass plate negatives DO NOT CIRCULATE.
Language of Materials
The Vulcan Iron Works negatives were received in 1964. Index cards were created by Hagley staff to identify the negatives. By 1971, about 2,400 photographs were printed from the original negatives (nitrate) and then the original negatives were disposed of due to extreme deterioration. Most of these were duplicates, however, 102 drawings were unsalvageable, 69 were from the subseries “Hoists and accessories for hoists”.
The negatives were assigned negative numbers by the Vulcan Iron Works company, they are numbered 0 through 19793 and are roughly chronological. There were a small amount of negatives which were unnumbered, for ease of use they have been numbered 19800 onward.
The negatives physically remain in negative number order. Box numbers and negative (or “item”) numbers are listed in the finding aid inventory. The collection is intellectually arranged by subject, but the negatives have not been physically moved to reflect this.
33 nitrate negatives were discarded due to being severely damaged. Digital surrogates were made prior to discard. Each digital object includes an unedited scan of the image, as well as an edited scan that has been altered to improve image quality and mitigate interference from damage.
- Vulcan Iron Works (Organization)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Vulcan Iron Works negatives
- Laurie Sather
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: