Question of the Week
Who was Matthias Baldwin?
Founder of Baldwin Locomotive Works
In June 1906, a statue of Matthias Baldwin that now stands on the north side of City Hall was unveiled. Baldwin was an American inventor, manufacturer of steam locomotives, and founder of the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, he began an apprenticeship in Frankford, Philadelphia, to learn jewelry making in 1811. In 1819 he devised and patented a method for gold plating that became the industry standard. In 1825, Baldwin and a machinist partner began the manufacture of bookbinders’ tools and cylinders for calico printing. When a purchased steam engine proved unsatisfactory, Baldwin built an engine of his own design. He built his first steam locomotive in 1831, and his first full-sized locomotive, called Old Ironsides, was completed in November 1832.
Baldwin Locomotive Works, incorporated in 1890, was first located at Broad and Spring Garden Streets. At full capacity, the works employed about 3,000 people. In 1929, operations moved to Eddystone, Delaware County. The company remained there until, due to halted production and the downturn of steam engines, it merged with the Lima-Hamilton Company in 1950. Baldwin Locomotive Works stopped production in 1956.
HSP holds a collection of Baldwin Locomotive Works Records (Collection #1485). The collection consists of 59 boxes of records and more than 150 volumes, including journals, ledgers, order books, letterbooks, etc. that cover the activities of the firm during its first 35 years of existence.
About the Author
Look for these history stories every Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The stories, called Memory Stream, are published in the Currents section of the newspaper.