Margaret E. Burden Proudfit.

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the utmost ease. A buyer may send a shoe of peculiar pattern,
and one which would puzzle a blacksmith to make, with a
secret private mark upon it, accompanied by an order. His
order, no matter if it amounts to 1,000 tons, will be delivered
to him exactly to his pattern; any possible variation in a single
shoe in the whole consignment requiring a microscope to dis-
cover it. It is done in this way : A plaster cast of the pattern
shoe is carefully taken, and this plaster cast is used instead
of the ordinary wooden pattern for making the sand mold in
which the iron die is to be cast. By this means the cast-iron
die, when placed in position in the machine, possesses the ab-
solute counterpart of the original pattern, even including the
unknown secret private mark. In precisely the same way the
creasing can be made of any desired form or shape, and the
nail holes can be as easily made of any desired angle. As
soon as the horseshoe comes from the second die (plenty of
water is always dripping from the machine), it is carried off
to the storehouse on an endless chain, and by the time it ar-
rives there is comparatively cool. The storehouse is a large
circular building, composed of radiating bins, with just open
space enough in the center to allow a horse and wagon to
turn around. Every bin has its own size and shape of shoe,
the bins holding in the aggregate no less than 7,000 tons of
finished shoes. The plant at present in use turns out about
600 tons of horseshoes per week; but the Burdens are putting
in new plant which will just double the capacity of their pro-


duction, and will shortly have another storehouse complete,
which will double their storage capacity. Those who are fa-
miliar with the length of time it takes a blacksmith to make
a horseshoe by hand will appreciate the capabilities of the Bur-
den horseshoe machine, when I say that it turns out ordinarily
from sixty to seventy shoes a minute, and can turn out as
many as ioo a minute. These horseshoes are sold largely in
every State of the Union at a mere fractional advance on the
price of the best horseshoe iron, and, indeed, in the eastern
States they are sold at the same price. They wear better and
longer than hand-made shoes, from the simple fact that the
iron from which they are made is better prepared than the
ordinary best horseshoe iron. In fact, horseshoes made by the
Burden machinery are about as superior to hand-made horse-
shoes as are pins or needles made by machinery to those made
by hand. During the war the horses and mules of the gov-
ernment were all shod with these shoes, and the quartermaster
used almost invariably to report that when the rebels made a
raid on their stores, the first things they went for were boots
and shoes, clothing, and Burden horseshoes. New York Times.


The Immense Iron Mills of H. Burden & Sons
A Mile of Manufacturing Buildings The
World's Great Water- Wheel Horseshoes
for More than Twelve Millions of Horses
Acres of Wonderful Machinery Startling


The ancient Greeks and Romans were accustomed to ascribe
their successes to the agency of the gods. Their knowledge of
working in metals was imparted them, it is said, by Vulcan, the
deified instructor of men in metallurgic arts. Marvelous stories
are related of his giving Alcinotis, king of the Phaeacians, gold
and silver dogs which guarded the royal palace, of his making
the golden maidens who served him, and whom he endowed with
reason and speech, and of his presenting to Minos, king of Crete,
the brazen man, Talus, who each day thrice compassed the island
to protect it from the invasion of strangers. Fire, the great agent
employed in the reduction and working of metals, they said, was
withheld, at first, from man through the kindness of the gods,
but that Prometheus, another fabled benefactor of man, stole it
from Heaven, in a hollow staff, and brought it to earth.

Beliefs such as these, for centuries, were grafted on the minds
of men. Then came a disturbing period of transition, in which
men began patiently to investigate the secret laws of nature and
to solve and intelligently explain the manifold complexities of the
elementary substances. Having learned, in part, the peculiar
chemical combinations of minerals, an advanced step was then
made in applying this derived knowledge by certain novel proc-
esses to uses beneficial to man. Startling facts were discovered
in this new field of applied chemistry and mechanics more astound-
ing than the fabled contrivances of Vulcan ; passive elements were
transformed into active agents whose energetic forces were made
obedient servants of the directive will of man ; and splendid pyro-
technic spectacles were looked upon with inquisitive eyes and
their tell-tale flames interrogated to solve the intricate problems
of their chemical colorings.

In those vast museums of science and art, for such are the
various buildings of the iron and steel manufacturing companies
in the southern part of this city, are to be seen unsuspected won-
ders of elemental combination and operative machinery. As one
wanders through these extensive structures covering many acres


of ground, and views the flaming furnaces and fiery crucibles, the
immense rolls and ponderous hammers, the great boilers and
powerful engines, the toiling groups of brawny men and the
ubiquitous and observant superintendents, he is almost persuaded
to believe that he is looking on a scene of magical enchantment
rather than upon a real spectacle of organized labor and curious
mechanisms. A thousand questions arise in his mind in regard
to the peculiar circumstances which gave rise to this grand en-
ginery, who were the men that contrived these ingeniously con-
structed machines with their wonderful effective action, and
what must be the quality and the quantity of the products of these
great manufactories annually.


To comprehend clearly the growth of the several branches of
this local industry, it would be well, just here, to advert to the
early history of the manufacture of iron in this city. It should be
known that the waters of the Wynantskill have, for more than
200 years, been utilized as motive power by persons living along
its declivitous banks. Its limpid current was first made to turn
the rude water-wheel of a saw-mill erected by the early Dutch
settlers. In 1674 this mill was purchased by Wynant Gerritse van
der Poel, from whom the creek received its name. More than a
century afterward, in 1789, David Defreest, or De Forest as he
was then called, built a fulling-mill, where now is the water-mill
of the Albany and Rensselaer Iron and Steel Company, a short
distance east of the bridge, near the terminus of the horse rail-
road. A flour mill was erected in 1796 by Thomas L. Witbeck,
on the site of the Bessemer Steel Works. By an agreement with
David Defreest, he was permitted a water privilege by building
from the Wynantskill to his mill a " trunk made of joice boards
and plank," and to " raise the fulling-mill dam and flume belong-
ing to the said David Defreest." In 1807, John Brinkerhoff re-
moved the fulling-mill and erected in its place a nail factory.
John Converse and several copartners, in 1809, obtained two
water-power leases eastwardly of the property occupied by John


BrinkerhofT, and erected a rolling and slitting-mill at the upper
fall. This establishment was in 1813 further enlarged, and be-
came the property of the Troy Iron and Nail Factory Company,
which was represented in the persons of Ruggles Whiting, John
Converse, Nathaniel Adams, E. F. Backus, and Henry W. Dele-
van. As stated in the act of incorporation, it was the purpose of
this company to manufacture bar iron, steel, nail-rods, hoop-iron,
iron-mongery, and sheet copper, and forming and making all kinds
of machinery, tools, and implements. The company had a capital
of $96,000, the stock being divided into sixteen shares of $6,000.
Besides manufacturing an excellent quality of cut nails, this com-
pany also made iron shovels and spades in large quantities. This
mill, which was under the superintendence of John Converse, had
only a pair of rolls in operation for rolling out and slitting the
imported iron into nail and spike-rods, and a few machines for
cutting nails. The revolution of the rolls must have been neces-
sarily slow, for the motion given them was by a pair of water
wheels, one at each end, connected to them as if upon a single
shaft. The ground still eastward of this and now covered by
H. Burden & Sons' reservoir dam, was in 181 2 leased by Smith
Cogswell, for the erection of a gun factory.


The coming of Henry Burden from Scotland, where he had
been educated in engineering and drawing, to the United States,
in 1819, at the suggestion of our Minister at London, who gave
him letters of introduction to the Hon. Thos. H. Benton, the Hon.
John C. Calhoun, and the Hon. Stephen Van Rensselaer, was
an event of no little importance to the manufacturing interests of
this country. To this distinguished inventor one of Troy's leading
industries owes its successful development and distributed bene-
fits. It was in this city that his persistent thoughts framed the
peculiar imagery of those wonderful contrivances which have
rendered his name famous and their productions notable through-
out the United States and in England. It was here that his di-
rective energies and executive ability mastered the numberless


difficulties which beset this particular industry in the early years
of its incipiency, and gave it a prominent position among the iron
manufactories on this continent. It was not a desire of making
money by the sale of patent rights or of royalties that Henry
Burden's mind brooded for years over plans and methods for
producing by machinery those triumphs of his skillful devising,
but to furnish his mills with economical and useful contrivances
by which he could increase the facilities of production and lessen
the expense of manufacturing the articles made here, for many
years, by hand. When in 1822 he came from Albany, where he
had been engaged, at the suggestion of Stephen Van Rensselaer,
in making agricultural implements, to Troy, and took the superin-
tendence of the Troy Iron and Nail Factory, not only was the
machinery in the little wooden mill of the company imperfect in
its action, but the water power of the Wynantskill was insuffi-
cient to supply constantly the wants of the manufactory. He at
once applied his technical skill in discovering better mechanical
methods of making nails and the means of increasing the supply
of water in the Wynantskill.


In 1820, before coming to Troy, he invented the first cultivator
used in the United States. The first problem which taxed his in-
ventive mind, after his connection with the Troy Iron and Nail
Factory, was the construction of a machine for making spikes.
This idea was suggested to him by his daily inspection of work-
men, in the mill, slitting spike-rods, which were made into bundles
weighing fifty-six pounds and afterward forged into the required
size by hand. In a very short time his studious mind devised a
machine for manufacturing wrought nails or spikes, for which
he secured a patent May 26, 1825. Like all inventors, he en-
countered considerable opposition at first in introducing his ma-
chine-made spikes into popular favor. There was a prejudice
among shipbuilders against them that was not easily changed, for
it was their belief that they were almost worthless when com-
pared with those made by hand. For a new and useful improve-


ment in the machinery for manufacturing wrought nails or spikes,
he obtained a second patent, dated December 2, 1834. This last
modification was a change in the first machine for making counter-
sunk railroad spikes for flat rails, in use for tracks on the first
built railroads in the United States. In the winter of 1835-36,
Henry Burden visited England, and while there learned that
the much used flat rails would likely be superseded by the " T '
and " H " rails then coming into favor, and that also a different
kind of railroad spikes would necessarily be used. On his return
home he reconstructed his machines, and began the manufacture
of the new hook-headed spikes. In 1836 he filled his first contract
for this kind of railroad spikes, with the Long Island Railroad,
making ten tons of them for this company. In 1840 he was
granted a patent for his hook-headed spike machine.


Believing that he could construct a steamboat which would have
a less draft of water than the boats at that time plying on the Hud-
son, and which would move more rapidly on the water, he, in
1833, built one, the lower deck of which rested upon two long
cigar-shaped hulls, 300 feet long, placed parallel, about twelve
feet apart, with a paddle-wheel amidships, thirty feet in diameter.
The first trial trip of the new boat, which was named " Helen " in'
honor of his wife, was made on Wednesday, December 4, 1833.
Her speed was tested in July, 1834, and was rated at eighteen
miles an hour. Shortly after this, on an excursion down the river,
by a misunderstood order from the pilot, the engineer ran the boat
against the Castleton dam, which accident rendered the " Helen "
worthless. A second boat with additional improvements was
launched in 1837, and was highly commended for its special merits
by different newspapers. These various improvements were all
patented by their ingenious author.

A far greater is found in that development of processes mak-
ing for the welfare of men in which he bore so noble a part. He
spent a lifetime in devising means for lightening toil, and so help-
ing to make the world a brighter, better, and more joyous one.


That fortune came to him in the prosecution of his labors was
but a fair recognition of his deserts. His gain in that respect was
only that which is due to one who does so much to elevate the
condition of the whole race.


The fact that Henry Burden was the first advocate of the
plans at present adopted by English and American shipbuilders
in the construction of long vessels for ocean navigation has never
been historically noted, and yet such a statement, at this time,
is as true as it is remarkable. The principles which his inventive
thoughts suggested almost half a century ago have not only been
successfully applied in the building of ocean steamships, but they
have been sufficiently tested to satisfy the most doubtful that they
are the only correct ones which will enhance the speed, capacity
and safety of sea-going vessels.

As early as 1825 he laid before the Troy Steamboat Associa-
tion certain original plans whereby the constructions of steamboats
for inland navigation could be greatly improved, and which some
years later were adopted in the building of the steamboat
" Hendrick Hudson." Besides increasing the length of the boats,
he wisely suggested for the convenience and accommodation of
passengers, the erection of sleeping berth-rooms, on the upper
decks, being a decided change from the holds of vessels where
they had been previously placed.

In 1846 he was so firmly convinced of the correctness of the
principles which he advocated in regard to the building of ocean
steamers, that he proposed the formation of a transatlantic com-
pany, to be known as " Burden's Atlantic Steam-Ferry Company,"
in the prospectus of which were fuiiy set forth his suggestions in
respect to these desired improvements. His proposed plans, it
will be perceived, are clearly advanced in the subjoined paper, is-
sued at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1846:



Managing director, H. Burden.

Engineers, L. Gordon and L. Hill, Jr.

Considering the vast and increasing population on both sides
of the Atlantic, the extent of their mercantile transactions with
each other, and the enormous sums which are annually spent on
both continents in perfecting the land communication, it becomes
a most important object to improve the present comparatively de-
fective means of passing the Atlantic ocean.

The benefits that would accrue not only to this country, the
United States and the Canadas, but to the whole continents of
Europe and America, if the voyage, still so tedious, uncomfortable,
and expensive, was rendered at once safe, expeditious, comfort-
able, and cheap, are too apparent to require illustration.

That those who could guarantee these results would reap a
splendid return there can be little doubt, and of this, the rapid
and profitable increase of railway business is a forcible illustra-

The present Atlantic steamers, magnificent though they be, are
as inferior in their results to what they may become, as a well-
appointed stage coach is to a railway train.

How this desired improvement is to be accomplished may at
first appear no easy matter, but in reality it is a problem already
solved. The wonder is that so rich a field should have lain so
long neglected, when the means of insuring so splendid a harvest
are so much within our reach. All experience in steam navigation
shows that increase of size and power has been invariably at-
tended with increase of speed, economy, and comfort. Witness
the successive and gradual advance from the first boat on the
Clyde to the last built ships of the Transatlantic Company; com-
pare the performances of Henry Bell's little forty feet boat with
the present Liverpool steamers, which now make the trips from
Glasgow to Liverpool in little more than double the time the
Comet made her voyage to Greenock ; or compare the laborious
efforts of the earlier Hudson river steamers, when the time re-
quired was thirty to forty hours from New York to Albany


compare these with last summer's performances of the steamer
" Hendrick Hudson," which daily carried 300 or 400 passengers
between these places, a distance of 150 miles, in seven and one-
half hours, and that with all the comforts of a first-class hotel,
for six shillings.

The present company propose to carry out the suggestions of
our countryman, Henry Burden of Troy, U. S., to whose skill
and foresight the present speed of the Hudson river navigation is
mainly owing, (he having laid before the Troy Steamboat As-
sociation, so early as 1825, and then strongly urged the adoption
of, the identical proportions which have now been successfully
carried out in the steamer " Hendrick Hudson ") and to estab-
lish boats of power, dimensions and strength sufficient to maki
the passage from Liverpool to New York in eight days certain
so adapted for their purpose, in fact, as, auspice Deo, to defy the
wind and the waves. The first vessel will be about 500 feet long.
The strength requisite for such a length can be fully obtained
without detracting much from the vessel's tonnage ; and as it is
now known that the height and force of the waves are limited,
it is obvious that the strength of a vessel may be so increased as
to render the largest waves perfectly harmless.

This is proposed only as the beginning of a system which must
ultimately be carried much further. The " Great Britain " steam-
ship is 322 feet long, and those who have seen her are only amazed
at the lightness of her framing. Those who have sailed in her,
testify that the " pitching," even with her length, is very much
reduced. That her speed is not proportioned to her size, is owing
to some imperfection of her form, and defective system of propul-

That the passage will be made in the time proposed, or probably
in less, there can be little doubt, when it is stated that the pro-
portion of horse-power to tonnage will be nearly double that of
the usual allowance; and such an engine, with boilers of the re-
quisite capacity, can be erected without encroaching on more of
the ship's tonnage than is the present proportion. The cost of
equipment, etc., of such a vessel will be about 120,000; but it is
proposed to make the capital 150,000.


That such expenditure would be amply remunerative there can
be little doubt. Experience proves that traffic increases in pro-
portion to the population of the districts accommodated, and in-
versely as the time and price of transit.

There are millions on each side of the proposed ferry (for ferry
it will ere long become), and in this point of view the traffic will
be illimitable. From New York to Liverpool is clearly the line of
communication, and a glance at the maps show the innumerable
feeders to the one grand trunk. Boats of the dimensions proposed
would carry from 400 to 500 passengers with infinitely greater
comfort than the vessels hitherto established, and as their regu-
larity may be guaranteed, the returns shown in the following
statement may be confidently relied on :

One boat, two trips per month:

400 passengers at 15 6,000 00

1,200 tons light goods at 5 6,000 00

12,000 00

Expenses per trip, including outlay at 10 per cent, on capital:

1,000 tons of coal, shore and other expenses 3,000 00

Aside for surplus fund 1,000 00

4,000 00
8,000 00

Twenty-four trips per year is 192,000 or upward of 120 per
cent, on the proposed capital, without taking into account letters,
parcels or steerage passengers, one or two hundred of whom can
be also accommodated.

Xo. 141 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, gth Jan. 1846.

In 185 1, when the "Arabia " of the Cunard line was built, hav-
ing a length of 285 feet, being the extreme yet reached in any
steamer built of wood, either on the ocean or on inland waters, a


professor of mathematics in one of the English universities, it is
said, made it absolutely certain by scientific proof and a large
array of figures, that, first of all, the "Arabia " could not possibly
obey the helm; and secondly, that she would break to pieces in
the mid-Atlantic, as the wooden hull would not be able to bear
the strain put upon it for more than half the length of the voy-

It will also be seen, by reference to the length proposed for sea-
going vessels, by Henry Burden, that the steamship " Gallia "
lately put on the Cunard line, the length of which is 456 feet, em-
bodies one of the chief principles laid down by him for the con-
struction of ocean steamships, viz. : that their length should be
about 500 feet.

At the time of the building of the " Great Eastern," in 1857,
Henry Burden wrote to the designer of the vessel's hull that to
increase its speed its proposed proportions should be somewhat
changed, or else she would prove a failure in that respect. His
suggestions were not heeded, and the vessel did not accomplish
what she was designed to do, as far as her sailing qualities were

In plates for iron-clad sea-going vessels Henry Burden was
also among the first to suggest their use, and he went so far as
to manufacture at his works in this city a number of specimen
plates to be sent to Glasgow, Scotland, for examination.

the great water-wheel of the world.

So great became the demand for Burden's machine-made spikes
that it was found necessary to increase the water power by which
to operate the newly introduced machinery of the Troy Iron and
Nail Factory. The five separate water-wheels, at this time in use
in the mill, it was evident to Henry Burden, were less effective
and required more water than a single larger wheel, and which,
by properly placed buckets, would more than double the power
given by the smaller wheels. Having carefully considered the
wants of the manufactory, he in 1838-39 constructed the immense
water-wheel which Louis Gaylord Clark has figuratively called





"The Niagara of Water-Wheels." In 1851 the old wheel was
replaced by the present one, which is hereafter described. Stand-
ing upon one of the galleries winding about its huge frame, the
visitor beholds this mighty wheel majestically doing the work of
twelve hundred horses. It is an overshot wheel, sixty feet in
diameter, and with a width of twenty-two feet. Around its broad
periphery are thirty-six buckets, six feet three inches deep. Six
hollow cast-iron tubes form the axis of this great wheel, which
are keyed into flanges, seven feet in diameter, and from each

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Online LibraryMargaret E. Burden ProudfitHenry Burden; → online text (page 4 of 8)