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Account books of Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. and subsidiary firms

1824-1918 Majority of material found within 1867-1907
 Collection
Identifier: 2414

Abstract

Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. was a major manufacturer of saws and other woodworking tools and one of the largest industrial firms in Philadelphia. The Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. had a number of subsidary companies, these records contain a small number of account books from only three of the firms subsidaries. There are accounts for: the Tacony Fuel Gas Company, the Henry Disston & Sons File Company, Limited, and the Henry Disston & Sons Iron & Steel Works, and an insurance ledger from the Estate of Henry Disston.

Dates

  • 1824-1918
  • Majority of material found within 1867-1907

Creator

Extent

5.9 Linear Feet

Historical Note

Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. was a major manufacturer of saws and other woodworking tools and one of the largest industrial firms in Philadelphia. Henry Disston (1819-1878), the founder of the firm, was born in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, in 1819 and emigrated with his father to Philadelphia in 1833. His father died soon after, and Disston was apprenticed to Lindley, Johnson & Whitcraft, saw manufacturers. The firm failed in the depression in 1840, and young Disston took the tools and stock in lieu of back wages and established his own shop. Disston introduced the Sheffield practice of using crucible steel with the assistance of skilled workers imported from the Sheffield district.

In 1855, Disston brought steel workers from England to open the first mill in the United States devoted to producing steel for saws. A rolling mill was added in 1862. As Disston expanded the line of tools he manufactured and business grew during the 1860s and 1870s.

Disston's sons Hamilton Disston (1844-1896) and Albert Disston (1849-1883) joined the firm in 1865 and 1870 respectively. In 1872 fire destroyed a large part of the original factory, and Disston sought a new location for his works, settling on the village of Tacony, north and east of Philadelphia along the Delaware River. Construction on Disston's new saw works began in 1872 and by 1876, Disston was also building a large number of houses for employees to rent or purchase and contributing funds and materials for the building of schools and churches.

The firm remained under the control of Henry Disston's extended family after his death in 1878. The firm was incorporated under the laws of Pennsylvania in 1886. The Disston family sold the company to the H.K. Porter Company, Inc. of Pittsburgh in 1955. Operated by Porter as a subsidiary, Disston, Inc., the operation was sold to Sandvik AB of Sweden in 1972. It was sold to R.A.F. Industries, Inc., in 1984 and reorganized as Disston Precision Incorporated. The new company still manufactures saws and other flat steel products in custom lots under the Disston brand name in Philadelphia.

Scope and Content

The Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. had a number of subsidary companies, these records contain a small number of account books from only three of the firms subsidaries. There are accounts for: the Tacony Fuel Gas Company, the Henry Disston & Sons File Company, Limited, and the Henry Disston & Sons Iron & Steel Works, and an insurance ledger from the Estate of Henry Disston.

The Henry Disston & Sons' File Company, Ltd. was established in 1877 and made saw filing machinery. Henry Disston & Sons' Iron & Steel Works was an iron and steel works established in 1886. The Tacony Fuel Gas Company, established in 1888, was a municipal utility service for Tacony, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The records in this collection consist of company account books formerly preserved by members of the Disston family.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Materials are stored offsite. Please contact the Manuscripts and Archives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit at askhagley@hagley.org

Related Material

The Disston history (Accession 1567), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Patent and design drawings for saws (Accession 1675), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Atwater Kent Museum, 15 South 7th Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106

Henry Disston and Sons, Inc. photographs (Accession 1994.335), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Additional Description

Provenance

Gift of the Disston family

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
Account books of Henry Disston & Sons, Inc. and subsidiary firms
Status:
Online
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400