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Barton H. Jenks papers

Creation: 1830-1910
Accession: 1852


The Jenks family produced talented inventors over many generations. Between the 1820s and the 1870s the family businesses were the leading cotton textile machine builders in Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, the firm operated a rifle factory as part of the Union war effort. The collection consist of a series of fragments handed down in the Jenks family related to several of their business ventures.


  • Creation: 1830-1910



1.25 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Jenks family produced talented inventors over many generations. The founder of the family in America, Joseph Jenks (1602-1683), was the first skilled craftsman in brass and iron in New England and received the first patent granted in the American Colonies in 1646 for an improved sawmill. He made numerous other improvements in engines and tools.

Alfred Jenks (1793-1854) began the regular manufacture of textile machinery at Holmesburg, Pennsylvania in 1810, having studied under Samuel Slater (1770-1843) in Rhode Island. Jenks moved his operation to Bridesburg around 1819 and expanded from cotton to woolen textile machinery. In 1830 he invented the power loom for weaving checks. He brought his son, Barton Howard Jenks (1825-1896), also a prolific inventor, into the business as Alfred Jenks & Son. By the time of the Civil War the firm was the leading cotton textile machine builder in Pennsylvania. It turned out looms, carding engines, the Jenks cotton spreader, the Jenks fly-frame, the Jenks patent spinning frame and the Jenks cylinder cotton gin. Between 1862 and 1865 the firm operated a rifle factory as part of the Union war effort. In 1865 the textile machine operation was incorporated as the Bridesburg Manufacturing Company with a capital of $1 million. After the war B. H. Jenks turned his attention to other projects, including attempts at develping mining machinery. Jenks lost control of the Bridesburg Manufacturing Company and most of the family fortune by speculating in railroads in the 1870s.

Llywellyn Howard Jenks (1862-1939), the son of Barton Howard Jenks, was a pioneer American refrigeration engineer.

Scope and Content

The papers include an annotated copy of the Bridesburg Manufacturing Company's 1867 trade catalogue, and a series of patent papers relating to Barton H. Jenks' inventions. These include textile machinery, a rock drill, early coal mining machinery and rail straightening machines. Another series contains information on the manufacture of rifles at the Springfield, Massachusetts, Armory, apparently collected in order to copy the operation at Bridesburg.

Real estate papers document the Jenks family's holdings at Bridesburg and in Dodge City, Kansas. Court records document suits between Jenks and the Bridesburg Manufacturing Company. Barton H. Jenks' scrapbooks include letters, orders, technical notes, newclippings and drawings from the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s. There is also a short paper by Barton H. Jenks on cotton manufacturing in the South.

The papers also include documents relating the incorporation of the Baltimore, Chesapeake and Delaware Bay Railroad Company, an unbuilt project of the 1870s.

Access restrictions

This collection is open for research.

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Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Barton H. Jenks papers
Lynn Ann Catanese
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA