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Frederick W. Wood papers

Creation: 1867-1943
Accession: 0884


Frederick William Wood (1857-1943) was an executive and engineer in the steel and shipbuilding industries. His papers constitute a major source on the history of the American steel industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The papers are primarily official records of the various companies with which Wood was associated.


  • Creation: 1867-1943



13.25 Linear Feet

Physical Description

39 boxes, 5 volumes, and a quantity of blueprints

Biographical Note

Frederick William Wood (1857-1943) was an executive and engineer in the steel and shipbuilding industries. Wood was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 18, 1857, the son of the overseer of the Boott Cotton Mill. After graduating from M.I.T. with a degree in mining engineering in 1877, he went to work for the Pennsylvania Steel Company as a ladleman's helper. The Pennsylvania Steel Company has been established in 1866 with the financial backing of the Pennsylvania Railroad and had constructed one of the country's first integrated Bessemer rail rolling mills at Steelton, near Harrisburg, Pa. Because local ore supplies were limited, Wood was sent from 1882 to 1883 to prospect and develop ore deposits along the Rio Juragua near Santiago, Cuba. His successful performance led to rapid promotion with appointments as superintendent in 1884 and general manager in 1889. In 1885 he was commissioned to locate a tidewater site where the imported ore could easily be combined with American coal. Between 1887 and 1890 he designed and constructed a large integrated steel mill at Sparrow's Point near Baltimore, along with a company town of over 3,000 people.

In 1891 the Sparrow's Point plant was spun off to a separate subsidiary, the Maryland Steel Company, with Wood as president. A shipbuilding division was added later in 1891. Wood ran the works and introduced a number of important technical improvements. His older brother Rufus was responsible for the running of the company town, which reflected the influence of the Lowell of his boyhood. In 1916 the entire Pennsylvania Steel Company system was sold to Charles M. Schwab's Bethlehem Steel Company, but since Wood was not a major stockholder, he did not profit from the sale. He was allowed to stay on as manager of the Sparrow's Point plant, but he chafed under Bethlehem's supervision and resigned in 1918. He then became vice president of the American International Shipbuilding Corporation and played a major part in the construction and operation of the world's greatest shipyard at Hog Island near Philadelphia.

From 1921 to 1923 Wood was a member of the claims commission of the U. S. Shipping Board. He was connected with the Eastern Rolling Mill Company of Baltimore from its organization in 1919 and was chairman from 1933 until his death in Baltimore on December 23, 1943. In later life he was active in Baltimore civic affairs and was a member of the executive committee of Johns Hopkins University from 1913 to 1943.

Scope and Content

This material represents the career of Frederick W. Wood (1857-1943) in the steel and shipbuilding industries - the Pennsylvania Steel Co., the Maryland Steel Co., later Bethlehem Steel Co., Maryland Shipbuilding Plant, and the American International Shipbuilding Corp. The balance of the papers is personal and miscellaneous.

Drawings and blueprints depict the physical plant of iron mines, steel mills and coke ovens, the layout and buildings of Sparrow's Point, and various steel products, particularly steel ships and a chart on the evolution of railroad rails. There is also a list of ships built at Sparrow's Point between 1892 and 1931.

The Pennsylvania Steel Company series is represented by engineering notes and sketches, agreements, correspondence and reports. The development of the Cuban ore deposits by the Juragua Iron Company, Ltd., the Spanish-American Iron Company and the Moa Bay Iron Company are described in some detail, as is the work leading up to the construction of the Sparrow's Point plant. There are also reports and correspondence on the Steelton company store.

The Maryland Steel Company series is the largest portion of the records and deals with the Sparrow's Point plant when operated by the Maryland Steel Company. It includes organization and title papers, organization charts, maps and drawings and financial and operating statements. The records give considerable information on Wood's technical contributions, including patents for mill improvements, notebooks covering production and tests and descriptions of the organizaton of work. There is also correspondence with salesmen and customers, notes on wages and working conditions and comparative reports on other British and American iron and steel works. There is particularly rich documentation on the construction and functioning of the company town.

Bethlehem Steel Company, Maryland Shipbuilding Plant (Sparrow's Point, Md.) consists of records on the Sparrow's Point shipbuilding plant is primarily concerned with its sale to Bethlehem Steel.

Frederick W. Wood series documents Wood's involvement in the Hog Island project and covers his involvement in the Eastern Rolling Mill Company, local civic affairs and consulting work for several metal mining companies in Latin America, as well as domestic miscellany including letters from his wife Caroline and household bills. Wood's diaries primarily concern business matters.

The Miscellany series Consists of news clippings and tear sheets on the iron, steel and shipbuilding industries.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials


Additional Description

Separated Material

Frederick W. Wood photographs (Accession 1975.330), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Frederick W. Wood papers
L. DalNogare
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA