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William M. Henderson papers

Creation: 1847-1893
Accession: 2267


William M. Henderson (1831-1904) was a mechanical engineer and inventor who spent most of his career in Philadelphia. The papers consist of two items: a scrapbook, which pertains to Henderson's career and inventions, and an atlas of twenty-nine plates of Bessemer and rolling-mill machinery.


  • Creation: 1847-1893



30 item(s)

Biographical Note

William M. Henderson (1831-1904) was a mechanical engineer and inventor who spent most of his career in Philadelphia. Henderson was born April 16, 1831 in Edinburgh, Scotland to Thomas Henderson (1800-1847) and Jessie Murray (1803-1870).

His first recorded employment was as a mechanical engineer for the London & North Western Railway in 1847. By 1857, he had emigrated to America and was working at the Union Works of Baltimore. Here he patented a slide valve and a force pump. There followed a few years builing railroad bridges and similar works in Chile, but by 1865 he had settled in Philadelphia and formed the partnership Brinton & Henderson, pump manufacturers, doing business as the Philadelphia Hydraulic Works. This firm was succeeded by William M. Henderson & Co.

Henderson invented a hydraulic brake for railroads around 1873 and formed a separate company to manufacture it, although it quickly lost out to the Westinghouse air brake. By the late 1870s, Henderson's interest had turned to steel-making, partuclarly in the blowing engines used in the Bessemer process and the engines and other machinery of rolling-mills.

In 1857, Henderson married Rebecca Tagart (1837-1897) in Baltimore, Maryland. They had Jessie Murray (1859-1915), William Claude (1861-1903), Virginia (1867-1952), and Helen Weston (1871-1956). Henderson died May 5, 1904 in Pennsylvania and is buried in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.

Scope and Contents

The William M. Henderson papers consist of two distinct items: a scrapbook containing items from 1847 to 1893, and an atlas of twenty-nine plates (circa 1879) of Bessemer and rolling-mill machinery, showing installations at a number of important European steel works. The scrapbook contains letters, prospectuses, advertisements, magazine articles and drawings pertaining to Henderson's career and inventions. It also contains a clipping on his son, William Claude Henderson (1861-1903) and an 1876 "Centennial Chorus" by his daughter Jessie M. Henderson (1859-1915). Some letters are in Spanish.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

William M. Henderson papers
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
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Revision Statements

  • 2020: Ashley Williams

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA