Guide to the Edgar Thomson Works Letterpress Copy Book, 1876-1878 AIS.1994.03.A

ULS Archives & Special Collections

Summary Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections
Edgar Thomson Works Letterpress Copy Book
United States Steel Corporation. Edgar Thomson Works.
Collection Number
1.0 volume
Letterpress copy book from the Edgar Thomson Steel Works contains correspondence relating to daily business activities, equipment orders, and technical drawings, including chimneys, blowers, pumps, and assorted parts. Digital reproductions are available online.

Preferred Citation

Edgar Thomson Works Letterpress Copy Book, AIS.1994.03A, Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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William R. Jones was born February 23, 1839, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He earned the rank of Captain by leading the 193rd and 194th Regiments, Pennsylvania Volunteers during his service during the Civil War in battles in Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and the storming of Fort Fisher .

Jones' first job was at the Cambria Works in Johnstown, Pa. He worked here for sixteen years, leaving in 1873. His experience with the Bessemer process and in the construction of the Cambria Iron Works Bessemer and Blooming Mill plants led to his hiring as the master mechanic for the Edgar Thomson Steel Works. He rose to become the first General Superintendent of the Edgar Thomson Steel Works, which began its production in 1875. Jones held numerous patents within the steel industry and was well-versed in the most current steel-making technologies and processes of the day. Jones had always been a well-liked supervisor dating back to his Cambria Iron Works days and he was well-liked by the workforce of the Edgar Thomson Works.

Jones died on September 26, 1889 after being involved in a mill accident along with several other workers as they attempted to fix a"hanging" furnace that eventually exploded on the group. Jones, after being hit from the explosion, fell against the rails and injured his head. He died a few days later at the Homeopathic Hospital in Pittsburgh. At least one other worker died that day as a result of the accident. Nearly 10,000 men attended his funeral.

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The Edgar Thomson Works was built in Braddock, Pa., between the then Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad and the Monongahela River to maximize transportation of supplies to and from the Works. Ground broke in 1873 with construction being completed by 1875.

Property was specifically purchased by William Coleman for the construction of a mill. Alexander L. Holley was hired in 1872 to build a Bessemer rail mill by Carnegie, McCandless & Company, later to be known as the Edgar Thomson Steel Company, Ltd. Holley had studied the Bessemer process in England in the 1860s and worked to refine and innovate the process. He used his acquired skills in Harrisburg and in the Cambria Works in Johnstown, Pa. Holley was sought after to build other Bessemer mills. The company backing the project included Thomas and Andrew Carnegie, Henry Phipps, William Coleman, and J. Edgar Thomson, President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who held the majority of shares. Captain William Jones, formerly of the Cambria Works, was hired as master mechanic and rose to the role of superintendent. Great attention was given to the construction of the buildings and how each building would work with each part of the process.

Within one year of its start of operation, the mill was able to produce 32,228 tons of steel rails. The continual innovation in production, equipment, and quality of the rails produced helped the Edgar Thomson Works become a leader in the steel industry.

Upon Jones' death in 1889, the post of superintendent was assumed by Charles M. Schwab.

For an extensive history on the Edgar Thomson Works, see the U.S. STEEL EDGAR THOMSON WORKS HAER No. PA-384.

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Scope and Content Notes

This letterpress copy book contains letters written or dictated by Captain William Jones documenting the operations of the Edgar Thomson Works between February 1876 and July 1878. Much of the correspondence relates to the ordering of replacement parts for the various machines throughout the plant with many accompanied by technical drawings. Also included are two letters concerning the plant’s exhibit at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Of particular interest is a letter to the plant’s general manager, William Shinn, in which he addresses the superior quality of the rails being produced by the Edgar Thomson Works and notes the decline of the iron rail industry. A February 1877 description of the buildings and machines of the Edgar Thomson Works is also found within this book.

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Letters are bound in one volume and organized by date with additional sequential page numbering.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Archives & Special Collections, September 2012

University of Pittsburgh Library System
Archives & Special Collections
412-648-3232 (ASC) | 412-648-8190 (Hillman)
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Access Restrictions

No restrictions.


No copyright restrictions.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Jerry Gaughan on November 15, 2010.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of the collection are available online.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Carnegie Steel Company.
  • United States Steel Corporation. Edgar Thomson Works.
  • United States Steel Corporation.


  • Letterpress copybooks

Geographic Name(s)

  • Braddock (Pa.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Jones, William R., 1839-1889


  • Iron and steel workers -- Pennsylvania -- Braddock
  • Labor
  • Steel industry and trade -- Pennsylvania -- Braddock
  • Steel-works -- Pennsylvania -- Braddock

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Previous Citation

Edgar Thomson Works Letterpress Copy Book, AIS.1994.03A, Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

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Collection Inventory

Letterpress Copy Book 1

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