(Some of the following material is taken from BICENTENNIAL SOUVENIR BOOKLET, which is available to purchase at the Berwick Historical Society Carriage House.)
Berwick's 155-acre industrial plant where more than 9,000 workers were employed during World War II originated a century earlier as a foundry in a 25' x 40' building at the corner of Third and Market Streets. The former site of Hotel Berwick.
Mordecai William Jackson and George Mack established the foundry in 1840 to manufacture farm implements. The business they started grew eventually into a manufacturing complex where Berwick workers built a wide range of products that included passenger and freight cars for U.S. and European railroads, subway cars for New York City, streamlined trains, a specially designed high-speed train for Spain, power trains for Russia, and tanks, troop carriers, demolition bombs, and artillery shells for the U.S. armed forces.
In 1843 Robert McCurdy replaced Mack in the firm and the plant was expanded. Fifteen workmen were employed and four horses were used to supply power for the lathes. The partnership was dissolved in 1846 and Jackson continued to operate the foundry alone. He added a blacksmith shop and began to build heavy wagons.
William Hartman Woodin, who manufactured stoves and plows at his foundry in Foundryville, became a partner. With Jackson in charge of shop operations and Woodin directing business affairs, the firm grew into one of the leading companies of its kind in the state. A machine shop was added, an upright steam engine replaced horses as the power supply, and the work force was increased to 25 as the company undertook the manufacture of pipes for the Berwick Water Company. In 1855 the Jackson and Woodin company began its historic identification as a railroad equipment manufacturer, making castings for the Lackawanna and Bloomsburg Railroad Company. Another addition to the foundry was built and the work force was doubled.
In the Fall, 1861, G. W. Creveling, of Espy, placed an order for 20 four-wheel cars for use in his limestone quarry, and the company boarded up a paint shed to serve as the first car shop. All work on that order was done by hand, and production averaged little more than one a week. With the partners seeking ways to increase production, Woodin attended a sale at the car works in Taylorville in Luzerne County and purchased a crosscut saw, a 15-foot one side planer, a tenoning machine, a hydraulic wheel press and other pieces. The equipment was stored until H. S. Mercur of Pittston contracted for 100 cars. They then attached the new machines to an inch-and-a-half line shaft, and this mechanization raised production to five a week.
The company, with 150 employees, was producing five to six eight-wheel coal cars for the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad before a fire totally destroyed the plant the morning of March 17, 1866. The partners decided to rebuild immediately at the same location, soon additions were encroaching on Jackson farm lands. In 1869 the firm employed 550 men.
The partners retired from active management in March, 1872, and their eldest sons, C. R. Woodin and Colonel C. G. Jackson, became president and vice-president, and Garrick Mallory, treasurer of the reorganized Jackson and Woodin Manufacturing Company. Colonel Jackson and C. R. Woodin acquired considerably more than controlling interest by giving their fathers unsecured notes for $60,000 each. Under the agreement the notes were to be liquidated from future earnings of the company. The company's business grew so rapidly that by 1880, when Colonel Jackson died suddenly at the age of 38, he had not only paid back the purchase price of his stock, but be left an estate of more than $900,000.
One of the first actions of the reorganized company was to build the "long switch" to connect the works with the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The switch ran from the main line more than a half mile up a 90-foot embankment to Oak street and then to the rolling mill being constructed at the corner of Third and Oak Streets. The line was extended up Third Street to the main plant on Market Street. There were also connecting lines to the plant additions along Pine Street at Firth and Sixth Streets.
Before the switch was built, finished cars were drawn by horses through Market Street and down the hill with a grade of 400 feet to the mile, to the railroad. A heavy toothed drag and a brake was used to prevent the cars from sliding on the trip down the steep hill.
The rolling mill was organized in 1872 by M. W. Jackson, C. P. Thompson, L. T. Thompson, S. C. Jayne, H. Owen, H. G. Glenn, S. B. Bowman, Garrick Mallery and J. W. Evans. During the panic of 1873 the mill was taken over by the Jackson & Woodin Mfg. Co. enabling the firm to make and shape their iron work which previously had been done by outside firms.
Following the death of Colonel Jackson, the surviving partner assumed responsibility for management of the company. To continue the plant expansion and improvements, the company needed $100,000 of new capital, and Mr. Woodin decided to raise it by associating outside interests in the firm instead of issuing bonds. Mr. Woodin retired in 1892 and Charles H. Zehnder was elected president and general manager at the then-handsome salary of $10,000 a year.
In 1899 American Car & Foundry is formed from the merger of 13 smaller companies. On Charles H. Zehnder's death in 1916, he was succeeded as president by the Jackson & Woodin Company's founding partner's grandson, W. H. Woodin, who had served first as district manager of the Berwick plant and then as assistant to the president at the corporation headquarters in New York City. He was succeeded in Berwick by long-time employee William F. Lowery.
When the A.C. &F. Company was formed, the Berwick plant was the largest car building facility in eastern U.S., with from 2,000 to 2,500 employed.
Berwick's "big boom" began in 1902-1903 when the new corporation responded to the railroads call for a freight car of all-steel construction to carry coal. The plant expanded. Demand for steel freight cars exceeded the plant's capacity, and expansion continued. There was an unusual demand for labor that was soon filled by immigrants from central Europe who found their way to Berwick in large numbers.
The steel freight car was followed by development of the all-steel passenger car, and the ACF Berwick plant delivered the first all-steel car to the New York City subway system in 1904. The first all-steel passenger car for a railroad was built the following year, and passenger car shops were erected to meet mounting demands. Employment increased to 5,500 in 1907, and during 25 working days in November of that year 2,550 cars were built, an average of 102 per work day.
During World War I the Berwick plant produced gun carriages, artillery repair trucks, and three-inch shells in addition to railroad equipment. Employment averaged 5,632 in 1913, dropped to 3,062 in 1915 and then peaked at just under 5,500 for three years. By 1921 the average had dipped to 1,979 and except for the World War II years, employment fluctuated sharply as the nation was gripped by the economic depression and railroad equipment manufacturers saw an erosion of business that matched the decline in the use of rail facilities.
In the Spring of 1939 ACF was one of several firms receiving war department inquiries about building combat tanks. The engineering and estimating departments in Berwick began work on 2,663 separate drawings, and on September 28, ACF was one of eight firms submitting bids. Five days later the company received on order for 392 M2A4 light tanks to be built in Berwick. The first tank was delivered 16 days ahead of schedule, and on August 14, 1940, the company signed a contract for 627 M3's, an improved model.
Berwick produced its 1,000th tank August 2, 1941 and celebrated wit a parade and ceremony as ACF President Charles J. Hardy officially turned the tank over to Maj. Gen. Burton O. Lewis, chief, tank section, ordnance department. The following Spring, ACF workmen were congratulated by a British general who told of a British brigade, quipped with Berwick-built light tanks, that held off two German panzer divisions in a dawn-to-dusk battle.
Berwick workmen built a total of 15,224 'Honeys' as the light tanks were known in North Africa and on Pacific beachheads, attaining a production rate of 36 a day. Additionally, complete sets of armor plate and machine parts were sent to St. Louis where 1,810 tanks were built, and British orders for spare parts were also filled. The Berwick plant was the only tank builder that produced its own armor plate, a necessity because the two existing suppliers could not meet deadline requirements. Production reached 6,000 tons a month. In addition to providing protection for the crew, the armor plate served as the frame for the tank, and close tolerances were required to provide a perfect fit.
One wartime job that utilized the company's railroad equipment capabilities was that of designing and building power trains for Russia to restore heat, light and power for bombed-out cities. Each of the 63 trains built and shipped to the Soviet Union included two boiler cars capable of burning the lower quality grades of Russian coal, and eight cars with portable power units and connections for steam and water pipes and power lines.
After World War II a specially-designed streamlined train, the Talgo, was built for Spain as the company resumed manufacture of rail equipment. However, during the Korean conflict the Berwick plant again turned to war material production, building the T-43 and T-49 heavy motorized personnel carriers often called tanks. These units were tested on the borough's newly acquired test track instead of on the Orangeville highway where units built during World War II were tested.
William Hartman Woodin (May 27, 1868 - May 3, 1934) was a U.S. industrialist. He served as the Secretary of Treasury under Franklin Roosevelt in 1933.
Woodin was closely involved in Jackson and Woodin Manufacturing Company. His father, Clement Woodin, preceded him in the presidency of the company and his grandfather, also named William Hartman Woodin, was an early partner in the company. Jackson & Woodin grew under this combined leadership to become the largest railroad freight car builder in the eastern United States, and was one of 13 companies that merged in 1899 to form American Car and Foundry Company (ACF). Woodin stayed on with ACF for a while after the merger. Woodin worked up through ACF management to become president in 1916. He was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from 1927 through 1932.
Woodin resigned as Secretary of the Treasury at the end of 1933 and died in May 1934.
Woodin, a Republican businessman, was a major contributor to Roosevelt's campaign in 1932. He served as Treasury Secretary from March 1933 until he resigned effective December 31, 1933. Because of his poor health, for much of his tenure, Under Secretary Dean Acheson served as Acting Secretary of the Treasury.
Despite his illness, Woodin was involved in major decisions that the brand-new Roosevelt Administration took to combat the Great Depression.
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