Christiana Machine Company recordsCreation: 1877-1929 Creation: Majority of material found within 1877-1915
The Christiana Machine Company is a small, general purpose machine shop and foundry located in Christiana, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Their records cover the operation of the company under the Broomells and Burnham from 1877 to 1915 and are typical of the records of a small machine shop.
- Creation: 1877-1929
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1877-1915
- Christiana Machine Company (Organization)
36.3 Linear Feet
The Christiana Machine Company is a small, general purpose machine shop and foundry located in Christiana, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Established in 1834, the foundry was unsuccessful until purchased by Isaac Broomell in 1862. Six years later, Broomell and his sons Edward and Henry contracted with Nathan F. Burnham, an machinist and inventor of York, Pa., to manufacture an improved water turbine that Burnham had invented, and the firm began to specialize in small power plants suitable for rural mills. In the fall of 1877, Burnham and the Broomells became equal partners, and the partnership was restyled the Christiana Machine Company in 1878. Burnham's sons, Frank and William, organized Burnham Bros. of York to sell the turbines that Christiana manufactured. Christiana soon began manufacturing steam engines, flour mills, saw mills, and boring and turning mills. The firm concentrated on Southern markets for small mills through a network of wholesalers, millwrights, and suppliers.
The Broomells bought out Nathan F. Burnham's interest in January 1889 and eventually severed their connection with Burnham Bros. In the same year, Henry Broomell patented an improved version of Burnham's turbine. The firm was incorporated in 1902. The Broomells failed to adapt to the shifting demand for larger hydro plants, and as the Southern market contracted after 1900, they turned to both the Mid Atlantic States and the South American export market.
Between 1900 and 1915, the company also turned to providing gears, shafting, and other elements of power transmission systems for factories in Philadelphia and New York. This involved off-the-shelf standard sizes as well as special batch jobs for individual factory engineers and subcontracting work for larger manufacturers. In 1915, the Broomells sold the firm to Charles Bond of Philadelphia, a more successful founder and machinist, and the company became a subsidiary of the Charles Bond Company.
Orders and customer correspondence form the bulk of the archive and are arranged alphabetically by year. Given the primitive nature of the filing system, there are numerous misfiles and inconsistencies.
Scope and Content
The records cover the operation of the company under the Broomells and Burnham from 1877 to 1915 and are typical of the records of a small machine shop. Correspondence illuminates the company's place in a larger network of competitors, customers, suppliers, millwrights, engineers, dealers in mill supplies, and the larger firms for which Christiana acted as subcontractor. Work for the Bergen Point Iron Works and Dietz Engineering included valves for the Panama Canal. Inbound lettrs often include blueprints and sketches of parts being fabricated to order. The outgoing correspondence in letterpress copybooks is more informative, describing the Broomells' stormy relationship with the Burnhams, reaction to customer complaints, finances, and some of the internal workings of the shop, including the use of apprentices.
Many of the incoming letters and orders have decorative letterheads featuring engravings of plants or products.
Language of Materials
Gift of the Lanaster County Historical Society
See also MSS 2496 for additional information on Christiana Machine Co.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Christiana Machine Company records
- Christopher T. Baer
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