Interview with William Stewart Allmond, 1969 June 10 [audio] (part 1)

Hagley ID:
  • Family and early life; typhoid fever epidemic in college; memories of his grandfather;
    Keywords: 1107 Broom Street, Wilmington Delaware; 913 Tatnall, Wilmington Delaware; 914 West Street, Wilmington Delaware; Civil War; Delaware Avenue, Wilmington Delaware; Delaware Cavalry; Delaware College; Dr. George A. Harter; Dr. Theodore Wolf; German Language; homeopathy; Lobdell family; Louis A. Freudenberger; Margaret Lobdell; mechanical engineering; Newark, Delaware; Russell Dunham; Spanish language; typhoid fever; University of Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware
    Transcript: Scafidi: Would you introduce yourself, please sir. Allmond: I am W. Stewart Allmond.

    Scafidi: And how old are you?

    Allmond: I will be 78 years old in August of this year.

    Scafidi: Where were you born?

    Allmond: I was born in the town of Newark, Delaware on Main Street where the steps go down to Harter Hall. (There was a house there then). My father was a horse and buggy country doctor.

    Scafidi: Was he the only doctor in town?

    Allmond: No, he was the "new school" doctor, as they were called. The "old school" doctor was Dr. Henry G.M. Kolleck. There were only two doctors, there were no telephones, no electric lights, no town water, no anything but mud.

    Scafidi: What was "new school" as opposed to "old school?"

    Allmond: Well, the new school was the homeopathic doctors. The old school was the allopathic doctors. There was a difference in their theory of treatment of diseases and drugs, etc.

    Scafidi: Where did you go to school?

    Allmond: I went to public schools in Wilmington and entered Delaware College in September, 1908 and was graduated therefrom as a Mechanical Engineer in 1912.

    Scafidi: You said you went to public schools in Wilmington. Did you have to commute every day?

    Allmond: No, we lived in Wilmington at that time. We moved from Newark to Wilmington in 1898 and my father practiced medicine in Wilmington and operated a drug store and finally went into manufacturing upon the death of his father in 1912. In the brick business.

    Pizor: Your mother was a Lobdell?

    Allmond: My mother was Emma Delano Lobdell, daughter of William W. Lobdell.

    Scafidi: Do you happen to know where the "Delano" in her name comes from?

    Allmond: There is some connection in the Delano to the Delano of the Roosevelt family.

    Scafidi: That's what I was wondering.

    Allmond: Yes. In this geneaology I think you will find something of the Delanos.

    Scafidi: We shall take a look at it. What made you go to Delaware College? Did you have a choice?

    Allmond: Well, my grandfather, William Lobdell, wanted me to take up engineering to go into the foundry business with him and he particularly wished that I should study Spanish because at that time the Company was doing a good deal of business in South America but while I was in college they had no Spanish course and I had to take German. It didn't do me any good in the business. But there were about 6 of us, 5 or 6 of us that left Wilmington High School with still a year to go and came down here to Delaware College and took entrance examinations and we all passed and were admitted as freshmen without a high school diploma.

    Scafidi: Was that usual or unusual?

    Allmond: Well, at that time it could be done if you boned up a good bit. They frowned on it, but they were hunting for students and if you could bring five or six students in there you were doing all right.

    Pizor: How large was your freshman class at Delaware?

    Allmond: I think our freshman class was about 80. We graduated 27.

    Scafidi: What happened to everybody else?

    Allmond: Oh, quit, flunked out.

    Scafidi: It was a pretty tough grind?

    Allmond: It was a tough grind. Don't think it wasn't. Dr. Harter was president, Dr. George A. Harter, was president, and Dr. Theodore Wolf for whom Wolf Hall on campus is named was the professor of chemistry. He died at the end of my freshman year. There was an epidemic of typhoid fever at that time and it took off three or four of our fresh- men and Dr. Wolf and Professor Louis A. Freudenberger who was head of the Electrical Engineering Dept. They all died of typhoid fever and they traced it back to contaminated milk that came into the college.

    Pizor: Do you remember very much about your grandfather?

    Allmond: Oh, yes.

    Pizor: Can you tell us something about him.

    Allmond: I even remember very faintly being present at a party at my great-grandfather's house about two years before he died, maybe not quite that long. I was just a youngster - very small child. And they had a party there but I remember my great grandmother - she lived to be pretty old — 92 to be exact. I remember her too. She died in 1909 and then my grandfather, William W. Lobdell, was a Lt. in the Delaware Cavalry in the Civil War. He was a great lover of horseflesh. He was a lst Lt. and Adjutant of one of the Delaware Regiments but I do not have any dope on that at all. That went to the Springer side of the house. Mrs. Harold L. Springer, Sr., Dr. Harold Springer's wife, was my mother's sister. Grandfather was very tall, slender. I remember one of the first jobs I had at the foundry during the summer of 1910 - I was running quantitative analysis tests on samples of iron and steel for carbon, manganese and all the elements in them. We had a little laboratory and I was running it and grandfather came into the lab one day and had five envelopes in his hand with drillings in them just marked "cast iron" #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5. He said, "Give me the analysis on these as soon as you can." So I ran them. They all came out identically the same and he came over that after- noon and said, "Getting them finished?" I said, "No, not quite." So I ran the check on them and they all came out again the same and the next morning he came in the lab pretty early and he said, "How about those analyses?" and I said, "They're done." He said, "What took you so long?" I said, "Well, they all came out the same and I ran a recheck on them". "Darn good thing you did. They are all out of the same piece of iron and I just wanted to see if you knew what you were doing." I had proved to him and he never bothered me in the laboratory from that day on. He was in some ways quite pessimistic. He used to say that he couldn't buy an old dollar with a new one - that was his favorite expression. He was always forever losing money, so he thought. His home at the time of my earliest recollection of him was at 914 West Street and his brother George G. Jr. lived at 913 Tatnall, right behind him. Their backyards joined. 914 West was a double house, a nice neighborhood at that time, it was just below Delaware Avenue Baptist Church. I don't know whether you know the area there or not. The Pythian Castle is right below there now or it was.In 1905 he built a new home out on Broom Street, 1107 Broom. I don't know whether you know that house or not. It has four big pillars out in the front of it and he was so insistent on sound construction that there wasn't a lath and plaster partition in the place. Every partition in that house from the basement up to the attic - a three story house - was brick partition all the way up. Every scrap of lumber that went into it was kiln dried in Harlan and Hollingsworth's kilns and ten years after that place was built there wasn't a squeak or a crack in the plaster or the woodwork or any place else and on his death my aunt, Margaret Lobdell, who never married, sold it to Russell Dunham who was president of Hercules. I just heard last week that it has been sold and is going to be torn down. I don't know...

    Scafidi: With all that brick somebody is going to have a big surprise.

    Allmond: I know it seemed to me awfully big because when it snowed he called up and said, "Come on out and make a half a dollar shoveling the snow."
  • Grandfather's education and work; car wheel business; Lobdell family name; going to work at the Lobdell Car Wheel Company plant
    Keywords: Aetna; Civil War; designing; drafting; engineering; Eva Moxham; George G. Lobdell; Jonathan Bonney; Joseph Stuart; Lobdell Car Wheel Company; Mt. Savage Maryland; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; railroad care wheels; Sheffield Scientific School at Yale; William Lobdell
    Transcript: Pizor: Your grandfather had gone into a business that already existed, Lobdell. What was his education?

    Allmond: I don't know. I think he went into the War, into the Civil War - before he had gone to college. Probably some of the private boys academies. There were any number of academies around but I never knew. Now his brother George, Jr. as I said before was a graduate of Sheffield Scientific School at Yale and he was a chemist. But William Lobdell had to go to work to help his father as soon as he came back from the war - he went into the foundry business.

    Pizor: William was older than George? And was he president?

    Allmond: Yes, he was the president, the second president. The first car wheel business was run by Jonathan Bonney of Mt. Savage, Maryland and George G. Lobdell, Sr. was Jonathan Bonney's nephew and they moved to Wilmington and George G. Lobdell, Sr. became an apprentice to his uncle and at the age of 18 when the uncle died George G. Lobdell Sr. took over with Bush - it became, no, the first firm was Bonney and Bush and when Bonney died it became Bush and Lobdell and then after Bush and Lobdell it became Lobdell Car Wheel Co. straight through.

    Pizor: And they always made car wheels?

    Allmond: Well, from 1833, somewhere along there, they made car wheels.

    Scafidi: When did they stop, do you know?

    Allmond: We stopped making car wheels about 1940 and sold out to Lippincott in 1946.

    Scafidi: So you were making car wheels pretty late?

    Allmond: When I went to work there in 1912 after I graduated from college we were making 700 car wheels a day. That's a lot of car wheels.

    Pizor: These are for railroad cars? Never street railway cars?

    Allmond: Oh yes. We made every kind of wheel - of a cast iron wheel there was. That catalog that we had here lists for horse cars, street cars, electric railways, mine cars, we made everything up to double flange, double flange wheels for overhead cranes, for the railroads, originally they were used on all types of railroad cars, but finally on passenger cars they started using steel wheels. And we continued to make for freight cars.

    Scafidi: Did you ever think of converting to steel?

    Allmond: We operated - when George Lobdell the 3rd- I'm getting into a little more family here — George Lobdell Jr.'s son was also a Yale graduate, a chemist, and when he came out of Yale he went over to the plant and started a small steel foundry. We ran an open hearth steel foundry and made steel street car wheels. We never did make them for the railroads but just for street car wheels. But George, III wanted to get married and decided that if he was going to get married he had better get a bigger job. He married Eva Moxham whose father had been a vice president of one of the DuPont subsidies. I don't know whether you have come across the name Moxham or not...

    Pizor: Yes, I have.

    Allmond: George III married Eva Moxham, whose father formed the Aetna Powder Company in Pittsburgh during World War One. He persuaded his son-in-law, George, to go with him and on the 13th day he was there he was blown up in a powder mill explosion and was killed so that ended that. Fortunately or unfortunately, I don't know which, George the 3rd and Eva Moxham Lobdell had a son, George the 4th. Now you see we are getting George, Sr., George, Jr., George the 3rd and George the 4th. George the 4th, here in that genealogy, and Eva Moxham Lobdell are both dead. The Lobdell name died with that boy down in Florida. They moved to Florida.

    Scafidi: Let's go back a ways. What I wanted to ask you is, you graduated from Delaware College in 1912 and immediately you went to work at Lobdell?

    Allmond: Yes, I had worked there for two summers - summer of 1910 and the summer of 1911, between years at college and then when I was graduated I went over there and worked in the drawing room until about some time 1913 and then I went to the foundry. I was a foundry clerk, an assistant foreman and then I wanted to get married and I got married and moved to Buffalo.

    Scafidi: So you knew pretty much what was going on in the plant. Did you go to work there because you wanted to or because it just never crossed your mind to do anything else?

    Allmond: I‘ ll tell you, it never crossed my mind really to do very much else because it had been preached to me for so long when I was a kid that your grandfather has no sons to follow him in the business and some day you will be over there helping to run the foundry and that‘ s all there was to it. He partially paid for my college education and what else could I do.

    Pizor: Even though you are an engineer, when you started work you were a clerk, and a few other things. What did you do?

    Allmond: I went all the way through. I started in the drawing room as a draftsman, then out in the foundry as a clerk and then as assistant foreman and then foreman, and then assistant superintendent of the whole plant, superintendent of the whole plant, works manager and then vice president and director.

    Pizor: When you were starting out in 1912 was your grandfather still head of the business?

    Allmond: Yes, he died in 1914.

    Scafidi: What did you draw? Were you making up patterns?

    Allmond: Mainly we were drawing paper mill machinery, the roll grinders, we were designing these roll grinders that I showed you, then very often we had to alter wheels, wheel patterns, drawings would have to go out; somebody would want a wheel 33" in diameter with hub central and going through 8" and something like that. A lot of it was alterations of already existing drawings. And then at that time we were expanding. We were building that sand handling shed where we stored sand for the foundry and we were designing that and making the drawings for contractors to put up the buildings. It was that kind of work.

    Pizor: How many draftsmen were there?

    Allmond: Oh there was just one other draftsman. I was just sort of an assistant draftsman.

    Scafidi: Who was your boss?

    Allmond: Who was my boss? Joseph Stuart was boss. He was the... at that time he was the superintendent of the plant and, well, you might say chief engineer and he was the boss of the drafting room.

    Scafidi: Was he any relation? Or he had just come on the job?

    Allmond: Joseph Stuart was a self made man who had gotten his education through International Correspondence School and he was a... he was one of the best of the men that I ever knew in my life. Here's his picture.

    Scafidi: How old was he at the time?

    Allmond: When this picture was taken I presented him on behalf of the employees. This is on his 40th anniversary as employment in the company, 40 years he had worked here, 40th anniversary of his wedding. He got married and went to work on the same day. He was killed in an automobile accident driving home from work down at 5th and Church and he was then about 79 when he was killed. When I went there he was probably in his 40's.

    Pizor: He was always draftsman? He was never anything else?

    Allmond: Oh yes, he was...he went from Superintendent and head engineer, he went from that to secretary of the company and vice president. At the time of his death he was vice president of the company; a fine man. Here's the old man here — G.G. Lobdell, Jr. See his whiskers.

    Scafidi: Were beards traditional with the Lobdells?

    Allmond: Seem to be.

    Scafidi: I notice they are fine beards.
  • Description of Lobdell's size and location; employee relations and compensation; immigrant workforce; 1926 lightning strike
    Keywords: African-Americans; compensation; factory work; industrial accidents; Poles; staffing; Ukranians
    Transcript: Pizor: When you went to work in 1912 how large a staff did Lobdell have?

    Allmond: When I went there in 1912 we probably had 300 and we went up then during World War I to around 500 and then we tapered down again to around 300. Normal run would have been around 300.

    Scafidi: Was this pretty big for Wilmington?

    Allmond: That was pretty big.

    Pizor: And where was your plant located in 1912?

    Allmond: In South Wilmington there at the...

    Pizor: At the Marine Terminal?

    Scafidi: Was it easier with the 300 men or 500 men? And as the company grew more and more did things seem to get easier or harder? Allmond: They got easier because the fact that your supervisory force - you mean on supervisors? The supervisory force had to go up the same time.

    Scafidi: The supervisors mostly self made men or did you hire them away from other companys?

    Allmond: We promoted them within the ranks of the company.

    Pizor: Did you recruit very much from college or weren't you interested very much?

    Allmond: We didn't have very many college people. It was, well at the most about six or seven.

    Pizor: Who made up your work force in 1912? Any ethnic groups?

    Allmond: In the machine shops, the roll shop and the wheel fitting shop they were mostly all Americans. The foundry I'd say was 50% black and about 40% Polish and Ukranians and the rest of them Americans.

    Scafidi: The Poles and the Ukranians, had they been in the country long?

    Allmond: Well, very nearly all of them were first generation in this country, the Poles and the Ukranians.

    Scafidi: How about the supervisory personnel? Did they have to be able to speak Polish or could...?

    Allmond: I was half way able to speak Polish after 30 years but mostly to cuss. A great many of the Negroes came up from the south when the company owned land down in Virginia and North Carolina. We had one Polish employee when I went to work there in the foundry and had been in this country I guess 20 years. The only words of English he knew were "yes" and "no'. He lived in Browntown. Now, I don't know if you have ever heard tell of Browntown. Well, that is out Maryland Ave. way and he was so dumb, I have no other word for it, so dumb that he never even got on a trolley car to ride from the plant to home or back. He walked both ways all the time. He died when he was about 70 or 75 years old, still not able to speak English. There were quite a number of those groups who didn't show any desire whatever to learn English. Now they would have children and the second generations would marry maybe American girls or American boys and...

    Pizor: How did the Poles and Ukranians get along with the Negroes? Any trouble?

    Allmond: We never had any trouble. And in those days our locker room facilities and wash room facilities were all segregated - the colored wouldn't go into a white wash house or vice versa. They wouldn't let them.

    Scafidi: Were most of the employees you had pretty satisfied with the job and conditions?

    Allmond: They seemed to be, yes. We had very good labor relations until World War I was about half over. Just as a side issue, when I went to work there in the summer of 1910 - 1911, my salary was $6 a week for 54 hours. We worked Saturday a half day to get 54 hours and when I graduated from college, a college graduate earned the munificent sum of $12.00 a week and that was about the rate for a journeyman, a machinist who had served four years apprenticeship, or a molder. And then we dropped to 50 hours for the same amount of pay. Foremen received about $15 a week for the same time. That's how times have changed and when they...and during World War I we would be having a heat running, iron pouring and the group would come to you and say, "Boss, raise-a my pay. We go home," but what could you do? Here's the iron running out cupolas and what could you do? "Boss, raise-a my pay." Well, they were getting then about 45¢ an hour. 50 hours then. 2c an hour raise was a big raise in those days and the foreman really just had to take the authority and say, "All right, we'll raise you 2c." And that would happen about every six months. "Boss, raise-a my pay!" and I know because I was in a tight bind.

    Scafidi: Was pay good there compared to other places in Wilmington?

    Allmond: About the same.

    Scafidi: There wasn't too much possibility of a molder changing jobs?

    Allmond: Very little chance. There were quite a number of foundries in Wilmington at that time. Ourselves, and the Hilles & Jones Foundry, Pusey's had a foundry, Morton Poole Co. ...I don't know whether you ever heard of...J. Morton Poole Go. down on Maryland Avenue. They had a foundry. Eastern Malleable Iron - they were our main competitors for labor. Eastern Malleable Iron. They're closed up now, too. They were down in south Wilmington, by Eden Park.

    Pizor: Out of all of these foundries who was the biggest?

    Allmond: I should say that our melting capacity when I was there was the biggest. We had 84" diameter cupolas - two of them - with a capacity to melt 30,000 lbs. of iron an hour each - that's a good bit of iron. And there were very few foundries in the country even, who had cupolas that big, 84" inside diameter. And when you are making 700 car wheels 3 day and you had to get them out in 8 or 9 hours you had to have melting capacity. We used to start running iron - molders would come to work before they could get the first run of iron. They get to work about 4 or 5 in the morning and get their molds up and start to pour iron in the molds around 8 and be through and going home by noon. This was the only way we could do it until we started increasing the melting capacity so we could keep it all within a certain length of time. Pete Munroe may tell you about one day they tried to kill, well it did kill one man and tried to kill 13 others there. I know that date, June 23, 1926. We had, in the midst of a terrific thunderstorm in the afternoon, we had a ladle full of iron, just filled, 10,000 lbs, one ladle of it and we were going to pour a roll - it would take 30,000 pounds to pour it and we had to melt it in three different ladles and then combine in one big one and these were track ladles and the second one was just down, just filled, and we hooked on to them with a little locomotive, pulled them, out from the cupola and started down the track and was struck by lightning and it spread that 10,000 pounds of iron around there so that you couldn't find 50 pounds of the 10,000. I saw it - I was there taking optical pyrometer tests of it as it was running and it put me immediately - it was black in there - you couldn't see your hand in front of your face right after the first flash and in trying to get away I knocked my head against a steel column and I was knocked out for over half an hour. The cupola tender was burned to death and 13 others went to the hospital. You ask Pete about the day the ladle blew up and was struck by lightning. I never put through such a thing in my life. I don't want to either again.

    Pizor: Were there many accidents?

    Allmond: Not so many - we had minor burns pretty near every day - somebody would get a splash of iron but not many serious accidents in the whole time I was there - I think about three were killed. I think to this day — one was a carpenter - that he had a heart attack and was lying across the crane rail when the crane ran over his head be- cause the crane would make so much noise that no man could stay there if he was in his right senses. He would get out of its way. And one other man was - a heavy roll fell on him - the hooks slipped and it fell on him.

    Scafidi: Did you offer some sort of compensation or help to families of men who got hurt or disabled for a week or two?

    Allmond: Well, before the adoption of the workmen's compensation law the company always took care of, out of their own pocket and we also had a voluntary insurance - employees' insurance -,that if they wanted to join and got hurt the insurance took care of them but when workmen's compensation was adopted as a state law then we dropped that insurance and didn‘ t have to continue to pay an injured or dead employee.
  • Lobdell's customers; moving away from making car wheels; making a chilled iron wheel; land holdings in Virginia
    Keywords: Alfred Box Sons; B& O Railroad; Bement- Pond Co; Central Railroad of New Jersey; chilled iron wheel; customers; Lake Superior iron; land holdings in Virginia; Len-Lease; Niles; Norfolk & Western; Pawling & Harmschfeger; Pennsylvania Railroad; Reading Railroad; steel wheels; World War II
    Transcript: Pizor: Who did you sell most of your products to?

    Allmond: Well, car wheels we sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad, B & O Railroad, the Reading Railroad, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Norfolk & Western, when you went beyond them you had an unfavorable freight rate. You couldn't compete because there were other foundries closer by. In the roll grinder business we sold those all over the world. In World War II for instance, we built a roll grinder, what we called a small one, the lightest one we built, and sent it to -knocked it down and tore it all apart and sent it to China and it went overland by coolie back and the heaviest piece must have weighed about ten tons and they would set up and run in China grinding paper mill rolls. We also shipped a great deal during World War II to Lend-Lease, we shipped a great many hammers, forging hammers for instance, to Russia, under Lend Lease, we were shipping a hammer a week to Russia for forging. We had all of the crane manufacturers - overhead crane manufacturers, such as Niles, Bement- Pond Co., Pawling & Harmschfeger and Alfred Box Sons, we had them as customers for our double flanged crane wheels for the high over- head cranes that run on a track, we had all of those as customers. We had all the street railway around here for trolley car wheels and as far away as St. Louis.

    Scafidi: That's where I'm getting confused. You mean trolley cars like street cars, or interurban cars?

    Allmond: Street cars.

    Scafidi: That go down the middle of the street rather than the interurban cars that are so popular in the midwest?

    Allmond: We always had, first, the Silver Meteor, what was that on a railroad?

    Scafidi: The Florida East Coast.

    Allmond: No, it was on the, the Silver Meteor does run on the Florida East Coast but Budd Co. built the first one for out west and we did fit up all the wheels and axles for that first high speed train that the Budd Co. built, Burlington Zephyr.

    Scafidi: When were car wheels, I guess they were freight car wheels by this time, the chilled wheel, when did they cease being the largest partof the business that Lobdell did? I know you make an awful lot of other stuff that probably outweighs it.

    Allmond: I would say just prior, well, now wait - following the depression of the 30's the railroads were in terrible shape and the car | wheel business and the car wheels for railroads which was a peculiar business, we would ship for instance to the railroads a hundred car wheels and they would ship back to us 100 scrap wheels that they had removed from service and pay the difference in price between the old and new. And the railroads got so that they were still expecting us to send them new wheels but they didn't have any money to pay for the reconversion and accounts, we were running 8 to 12 months behind in collections from the railroads for wheels that they were using so we got tired of doing that and we told the railroads if you are going to do it that way we are not going to supply the wheels and as the railroad business tapered off our business tapered off and we finally dropped the name "car wheel" during World War II when priorities and all that stuff was in effect and our car wheel name, Lobdell Car Wheel Co. was a misnomer because the greater part of our business was then not the car wheels and we were having trouble to buy materials and to get orders to buy stuff and so we dropped the name "Car Wheel" and called it simply the Lobdell Company and in that way we still could get our materials.

    Scafidi: On these wheels that got sent back by the railroads, I read something, an article, I guess it was Emerson Wilson's but I'm not sure that said that they used to send wheels back to be turned, to be rerounded. Did you still do that or did you melt them down as scrap?

    Allmond: The cast iron wheels that came back were broken up, melted up for scrap iron. They constitute - a return wheel as scrap - constituted about 75% of the charge going into the wheels plus pig iron and new iron and the manganese and the various alloys that we put in that - steel wheels they could turn down but you can‘ t machine chilled iron.

    Scafidi: What goes wrong with a chilled iron wheel? Does it crack or get flat or...?

    Allmond: A normal life for a chilled iron wheel should run between 8 and 10 years and gradually they will wear through the chill.. And then they will begin to get flat spots. You've heard of trolley cars going bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump down the street. I don't know whether either one of you are old enough to have seen any trolley cars but they got a “ flat wheel." Well, that had worn through or maybe the brake action had locked the wheel and it had slid and worn through the chill. That's what happens to the car wheels and causes them to be removed. And then they kept constantly adding to the size and the capacity of freight cars and as they did - when I went to work in the foundry the weights of wheels produced for railroads would say be 560, 625, 700 lb. wheels and that kept increasing until we were up to 875 lb. wheels, one wheel.

    Scafidi: Did the diameter change?

    Allmond: No, but you had to make your plates thicker, heavier, all the way around.

    Pizor: This is going to sound like a stupid question but what is a chilled wheel?

    Scafidi: Why is a chilled wheel a chilled wheel? Sounds like a proper name.

    Allmond: A chilled wheel - it is a proper name. Chilled car wheels. Where did I see that? I had a picture here of - I think it was one of these - that white iron here - here's the plans of the wheel. This is in sections. That's the flange that runs on the inside of the rail. It keeps it from jumping the track and this is the wearing surface that runs on the track and this white iron is high in combined carbon. It is formed by casting the iron or the metal, the molten metal, against a metal rim, a "chiller," we call them "chillers."

    Scafidi: What is the rest of the mold made out of?

    Allmond: Sand, sand mold. Sand is a non-conductor of heat - when molten iron is poured into a mold of this character - of this material, the process of cooling is comparatively slow which permits a portion of the carbon contained in solution in the molten iron to separate out in the form of free carbon or graphite mixed with but not chemically combined with the iron. This produces a soft grey iron casting readily machinable. However, when molten iron is poured into an iron mold - and that's what the ring is, an iron mold - the cooling and consequent solidification of the molten iron is so speeded up that the carbon remains in chemical combination of the iron on the surface of the casting in contact with an iron mold. This phenomenon is known as chilling and the result of casting is chilled iron casting. I think that if you follow through this or that older book you'll find an explanation of it.

    Scafidi: Is there any special kind of iron pig that you use for this? Charcoal iron as opposed to coke?

    Allmond: Charcoal iron. That's the reason that the company bought in Virginia, down in Wyth County. That's the extreme southwestern portion of Virginia, years ago they bought acreage down there in the mountains. There were iron mines down there and timberland. And they built furnaces and cut the timber, made charcoal to melt the iron ore down there which was a high chilling iron and made charcoal iron out of it.

    Scafidi: This is very interesting. I never knew that the company had owned its own charcoal furnaces.

    Allmond: We owned and operated them down there. They had stopped operating them when the Lake Superior irons came in, they had stopped before I went to work for them. They were buying their iron up at Lake Superior and got very good results of it. You could buy charcoal iron made in the Lake Superior area.

    Scafidi: How long did the furnaces down in Virginia stay in operation?

    Allmond: I don't know after the company abandoned them down there we retained the land. A man by the name of Whistler managed the land down there, timberland and all. I don't remember just how many acres they had but I know they sold it to the government (while I was working for them). They sold it to the government for a national park down there for $1 an acre. Mountain land covered with timber. And we were glad to get rid of it. It was costing us money to hold it.
  • Global sales force; building their own machine tools; tools in the shop; apprenticeship for machinists
    Keywords: Ball-Wood Engine; Delmarva Power and Light; electricity; J. Morton Poole Company; machine tools; Nazel Engineering Works; papermills; roll grinders; sales; steam engines; Wilberham Cox engines
    Transcript: Pizor: You said before that you sold all over the world. You were selling all these different companies. Did you have a big sales force?

    Allmond: No. No, we had a sales office in New York which was really run by what you call a manufacturers agent, you know, and for instance, the superintendent of the foundry would make trips to the railroads and keep in touch with the railroads; and Joe Stuart who was the chief engineer, designer of the paper mill and held the patents on the roll grinders, and all, he would go after the paper mill business.

    Scafidi: Was it mostly by reputation that?

    Allmond: By reputation, yes. There were only two companies that made chilled iron rolls for paper mills. One was ourselves and the other was Farrell Foundry and Machine Co. in Ansonia, Conn. And they were our only competitor in the paper mill business end of it. The paper machine builders began to widen their machines all the time to get a wider sheet of paper and we had to keep on increasing our capacity all the time until we got to our limit because some of those rolls, bottom rolls in some of these stacks weighed 60,000 lbs. one roll. And you had to have a 30 ton crane to even begin to handle them. To grind those rolls you had to make a grinder with a bed 30 ft. long and to plane it, we didn't have room on the planer in the machine shop because we touched the wall each way as it was. We cut 3 inches off the length of one of the beds of the grinders there because we couldn't machine it in any other way. It was so doggoned long.

    Scafidi: Who made your machine tools?

    Allmond: We built them ourselves.

    Scafidi: To your own specifications?

    Allmond: Yes, our own patents. This here is one casting — a bed of that - it has to be. In order to grind a roll straight that has to be absolutely straight. We had to build, the bigger they got, the paper machines, the more we had to lengthen out these beds in order to grind them.

    Scafidi: What kind of power did you use?

    Allmond: We had electric power.

    Scafidi: Were you there before they went completely electric?

    Allmond: Oh yes. I was there when we were running the shops with steam engines.

    Scafidi: How did you get the power from the engine to the machine, belts or shaft?

    Allmond: Line shafting or belts. Gradually we electrified as we'd get a new machine or build a new machine we'd electrify.

    Pizor: Who did you buy your steam machinery from? Were they Corliss engines?

    Allmond: No, we had a generator in the engine room. It was a Ball-Wood Engine directly connected to a direct current generator and we had Wilberham Cox engines on the blowers that forced the air through the cupolas. We finally shifted over to bought current. We bought current from Delmarva Power and Light. They put in transformers and high voltage lines and we gradually, for instance, cut the belt off the steam engine and put a motor on and ran to the same pulley on the line shaft and gradually we made individual, as we could afford it, we made individual drives on the machinery.

    Scafidi: What was the life of one of these machines, say, one of your ordinary, the grinding machine you showed me.

    Allmond: The life of of those grinders? I don't know. I never knew any to come back, I never knew any to wear out.

    Scafidi: Did you sell these tools outside?

    Allmond : Oh yes, that was one of our principal products, that roll grinder.

    Scafidi: No, I mean, it was grinding a roll, wasn't it? It was planing a roll?

    Allmond: No, that was planing the bed, for grinders.

    Scafidi: Oh, the bed. My terminology is getting mixed up here. We have one of these 5 or 7 high rolls.

    Allmond: Well, that's a stack of rolls that goes right to the paper mill. We built this for paper mills.

    Scafidi: You grind each one of those smooth.

    Allmond: Oh yes.

    Scafidi: With your own machine tools?

    Allmond: These things here, what Pete Munroe - he was a roll molder and they were cast on end vertically with deep pits and cast in chillers the same as the wheels except that there were pretty big and heavy affairs and one section fit on top of the other until you got it long enough to make you a whole roll. And the surface on this roll here, on all of them in fact, but I mean the wearing surface is chilled the same as that wheel is.

    Scafidi: You'd have to grind those...?

    Allmond: Yes. That's the reason we built the roll grinders.

    Scafidi: And those you say you never knew one to...

    Allmond: What, these things.

    Scafidi: Yes.

    Allmond: Well, when I left there in '47 we were running one that had been built about 1898, something like that.

    Scafidi: Was this looked upon as being pretty good equipment?

    Allmond: Oh, yes.

    Scafidi: Still in good shape?

    Allmond: Oh yes. Morton Poole Co. were the originators of roll grinding machines and we bought that part of the business from J. Morton Poole Co. They didn't build anything as modern as this. Theirs was all belt drive.

    Pizor: Did you buy out many companies?

    Allmond: We bought out their roll grinding business and we bought the Nazel Engineering Works in Philadelphia that built these forging hammers.

    Pizor: The men who were machinists when you came there in 1912 and into the 20's, did these men have to go through apprenticeships when they came to your place?

    Allmond: Very nearly all. We had various classifications, a machinist, first class machinist must have served at least a four year's apprenticeship. They start in and serve their time along with the other older men in the shop to teach them. It was a regular apprenticeship course and we sent him to school in times took up drafting and that kind of work, we sent him back to school. Then we had machine operators who were used to maybe operating only one type of machinery. It took the men, if he was mechanically inclined at all, we'd give him a job for instance as a lathe operator or a drill press operator but you couldn't take him off of one job and put him on another. He had one set job to do and that was it. They didn't — a machine operator - make anywhere near as high pay as a machinist. Then we had pattern makers who had gone through the same thing, four years' apprenticeship in the pattern shop and we had four years' apprenticeship molders.

    Pizor: How did you hire your apprentices? Were they normally sons of...?

    Allmond: Normally they would be sons. Charley would come and say, "Hey, my boy is 14 or 15 or whatever it was, and I'd like to get him started," and the day he was through his trade he'd have to go to the boss and ask him for a job, if he didn't have a job. When he became a journeyman he had to go and get...sometimes you didn't keep them. Sometimes you...
  • The push to unionize and getting bought out
    Keywords: acquistions; National Labor Relations Board; unionization; United Steelworkers
    Transcript: Scafidi: When a man became a journeyman was there something that he became beyond a journeyman after a couple of years? Was a first class machinist more than a journeyman?

    Allmond: Yes, we had what we called first class and second, and all around machinist first class and maybe second class. That was more than anything else. You didn't call them that but you rated their pay the way you felt they were. We had the United Steelworkers come in there. We had no union until United Steelworkers came in and tried to organize the place in the 40's and we held a national labor relations board election and the union won by about 3 votes out of about 300 so there was nothing to do except unionize. They were certified as bargaining agents and we had to deal with them and I had to conduct the negotiations with them. I was plant manager by that time and my job was to write, to try and get a contract and we sat down together, the organizer and myself and did the best we could to get a good contract. I...they gave their demands and I said, "Well, it seems to me that the only thing you fellows don't want is to have to find the money to pay for all this. But anyway we got a contract. It went off to Pittsburgh to be approved by the national headquarters of the Steelworkers Union and it came back approved but written underneath of it by MacDonald, I think MacDonald was president of the labor union then. "Who wrote this contract? This is the best contract from the standpoint of an employer I ever saw." But he approved it. But we...about two years after that...we...they had a nationwide strike of the steelworkers and our gang went out too. We closed down for five or six weeks until...we were shut down by the strike when Lippincott bought us.

    Scafidi: Before the steelworkers union came in had there been any attempt at unionization before that?

    Allmond: Back about 1915 or 16 there had been a machinists' union formed around Wilmington and that's when the company went to, I think, went down to a 48 hour week from 54 and then later on. But we never recognized, there was no labor relations law then and they never recognized that union but they dealt with them. And they gave them some of the things they wanted but that soon folded up. That didn't last.

    Pizor: In 1914 or 15 you said you left the company. Why did you leave?

    Allmond: I wanted to get married. I wanted to get more money. I couldn't find it there.

    Pizor. Your grandfather was dead by then?

    Allmond: He was dead then, yeah.

    Pizor: Who was head of the company then?

    Allmond: George G. Junior.

    Pizor: And he wasn't gonna raise your salary too much?

    Allmond: Well, they didn't have it I guess. It's one of those things. He let his own son go so he could get married and I left too at about that same time.

    Pizor: Where did you go?

    Allmond: Spencer Kellogg and Sons, oil people in Buffalo, New York and then they had a plant down in Edgewater, New Jersey, just across the river from Grant's Tomb, New York. and they sent me down there to inspect a building of a big pier. We built a big pier out in the Hudson River there and I was inspector for the company on that. Then when the pier was finished they kept me there as superintendent on the pier and I stayed there until 1916. They wanted me to go out to Duluth, Minnesota, and I said "No thank you, it's too cold out there." I came back to Lobdell.

    Scafidi: Tell me, did you get a raise when you came back to Lobdell?

    Allmond: Oh yes.

    Pizor: Was there any attempt by your uncle George to get you back?

    Allmond: Well I uh, my dealing about coming back were negotiated through a man named Hart who was superintendent of the foundry then he was in poor health and he wanted to get over into the main office to work in the sales and he was glad to have me come back. I had worked for him before. I wrote to him about coming back he said, "come on." I was glad I came back, yes.

    Pizor: Was your wife from this area?

    Allmond: Well, she was a Wilmington girl when we were married, came originally from Virginia, that was my first wife. She died in '43. I have two daughters married, one whose 54 and the other is 51 and I got a boy named "Tim" by this marriage.

    Pizor: Were you just about the last in the family in the business?

    Allmond: I was with the exception of young Harold Springer. He was younger than I, he was a Princeton man and he came there, I think in the 1930s or somewhere around there. He was the youngest one.

    Pizor: But after that there were no others coming along?

    Allmond: No.

    Scafidi: Faith, I wonder whether we ought to stop this for today. We'd like to come back again, the thing is I'm not really sure what we asked so far. I know that we've gotten a lot of things that we really wanted but we better go back and check out what's on the tape so that if it's alright with you we can come back and ask you what we didn't ask.

    Allmond: It's alright with me.

    Pizor: In the meantime you might have thought of some other things you've forgotten.

    Allmond: I'm sorry, you know, I sent a letter which I wrote to John

    This is the end of the first interview with W. Stewart Allmond of Christine Manor, Newark Delaware. Participating in the interview were Faith Pizor and John Scafidi.
  • The Great Depression at Lobdell Car Wheel Company
    Keywords: 1944; 1945; Great Depression; Harold Springer Jr.; Howard L. Seaman; Joseph Stuart; labor; Mach and Co. C.P.A.; National LAbor Relations Board; United Steelworkers of America
    Transcript: This is the second interview with Mr. Stewart Allmond at his home in Newark, Delaware, on Tuesday, July 1, 1969. Present with Mr. Allmond were John Scafidi and Faith Pizor

    Scafidi: The one thing- would it be possible for me to come by sometime this week? We had some of the photographs of the Lobdells and some of the other photographs you gave, that the people who do the copying won't copy unless they know who they are first. And I neglected to write them down when you told us, so I've got to come by with a stack of photographs.

    Allmond: That's alright, I'll probably be here- I have no further engagements this week that I can think of, but just give a buzz before you do come out.

    Pizor: How did the depression affect Lobdell? Were you hit very hard by the depression?

    Allmond: Yes, we were. We were hit very hard. There was quite a period in there when we operated at a loss. To go back into some of the family history - now I don't know how much you would use of what I say now - George G. Lobdell, Sr. in his will directed his two sons to operate the business but to be sure to take care of the girls financially. The daughters, there were five daughters, and there for quite a long time they had taken care of the girls financially. It came out of surplus and not out of earnings of the company, because they didn't earn it and actually his will could have been upset if any of the family had wished to take it to court because you can't will something that you don't earn. But the girls got theirs as long as they lived. They were taken care of that way.

    Scafidi: About when did things start to collapse for Lobdell? Was it in '29 or was it earlier or a little later?

    Allmond: It was later. I came across something which I prefer not to discuss. I will read you excerpts from the annual report to the stockholders, dated May 14, 1945 and you can take any notes that you wish. "The year 1944 was an exceedingly difficult year in spite of the fact that a volume of business in excess of a million dollars was the largest in the Company's history." This is the President's report to the stockholders. The present at that time was Harold Springer, Jr. "Chief among our troubles was a tragic loss within eleven months of two of our oldest and most valuable executives, Mr. Joseph Stuart, vice president in charge of engineering in January, 1944 and Mr. Howard L. Seaman, president, in November, 1944. The loss of these two men was a serious one from which we have not yet fully recovered. Replacement of old and experienced executives is at best difficult but during these war times it is well nigh impossible. In addition to the multitudinous government restrictions applied to all industry during the war period we faced the added burden at the close of 1944 of a price redetermination on two large government contracts involving over $500,000. This resulted in a great deal of extra work for the accounting department and in a payment to the government of about $57,000 in addition to our regular corporation taxes. There was also a further return to the government of about $18,000 representing the tax deficiency as a result of faulty accounting procedure prior to 1940. This deficiency was discovered following the first audit of our income tax returns since 1926 by the Bureau of Internal Revenue." They were not audited by the government from 1926 until after 1940.

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