Beautiful certificate from the Lehigh Zinc Company
issued in 1874. This historic document has an ornate border around it with a vignette of the company's plant. This item has the signatures of the Company’s President and Secretary, and is over 136 years old. Signs of wear as shown in the scan.
The Lehigh Zinc Company produced its first white zinc oxide in
buildings erected on the former Luckenbach farm in South Bethlehem
in 1853. The Penna. and Lehigh Zinc Co., (whose corporate title was
changed to the Lehigh Zinc Co. in 1860), was incorporated May 2,
1855. In 1865, this company produced the first sheet zinc in America.
In 1877, the Zinc Co. had over 700 employees. The company mined
zinc in Friedensville in Saucon Valley and turned it into metallic zinc
in a plant in South Bethlehem. The Lehigh Zinc Company also owned
large tracts of land throughout the Lehigh Valley and the eastern
United States. In 1881, the company was taken over by the Lehigh
Zinc and Iron Co.
HISTORY OF NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA in 1877:
THE LEHIGH ZINC COMPANY.
About the year 1830, the attention and curiosity of the farmers of the
vicinity, was excited by the discovery of a strange mineral deposit upon
the lands of Jacob Ueberroth, in Saucon Valley. The character of this
deposit was unknown and unsuspected, but thinking it possible that it
might prove to be as valuable as the ordinary iron-ore, the proprietor tool
a wagon load of the strange substance to the "Mary Ann Furnace," in Berks
county, to be smelted, The attempt was a failure, and the subject was for
the time dropped. No further attention was paid to it until the year 1845,
when, by chance, the deposit, came to the notice of Mr. William Theodore
Roepper, who, after examination, pronounced it to be "calamine," the
hydro-silicate of zinc. This discovery led to a development, of the
apparently inexhaustible mines which have now fed the Zinc Works at South
Bethlehem, for almost a quarter of a century.
Under the superintendence of Mr. Samuel Wetherill, works for the
production of zinc-oxide, in furnaces, and by a process of his own
invention, were erected, in 1853, on land which he had purchased of
A. Luckenbach within the limits of the town plot of Augusta. These works
were completed at a cost of $85,000, and on the thirteenth of October,
1853, the first zinc-white ever made in America was produced in these
works, by the combined processes of Wetherill, and of Richard Jones, Esq.
At the commencement, the works were run by all unincorporated
association, which, however, was, on the second of May, 1855, incorporated
by Act of Legislature, as "The Pennsylvania and Lehigh Zinc Company," with
a capital $1,000,000; the object of which organization, as set forth in the
Act of incorporation, was the purpose of mining zinc-ore in the counties of
Lehigh and Northampton-of manufacturing; zinc paint, metallic
and other articles, from said ore, and of vending the same."
The originators of the company were residents of New York and Thomas
Andrews, of that city was the first president.
Mr. Wetherill continued in the superintendence of the works from the
commencement of operation until September 1857, when he was succeeded in
that office by Joseph Whareton. During the administration of Mr. Wetherill
(a little less than four years), 4,728 tons of zinc-white had been
produced, and many experiments had been made looking towards the production
of metallic zinc, but these had been only partially successful.
On the sixteenth of February, 1860, the corporate, title of the company
was changed, by Act of Legislature, to the present one, "The Lehigh Zinc
Company." In the previous year, Mr. Wharton bad contracted with the
company for the erection of works for the manufacture of metallic zinc, and
the construction of these was intrusted to Louis De Gee of the firm of
De Gee, Gernant & Company, of Ougree, Belgium, who had been induced to
come to the United States for this express purpose. These works were
completed, and the first metallic zinc was produced in them in July, 1859.
Three experts in this department of the business were at that time imported
from the spelter and oxide works in Belgium.
Their names were Andre Woot Detrixhe, Francois Lemall and Jean Henrard.
Importations of Belgian experts and workmen have since then been made by
the company, at various times.
In 1864 and 1865, the company erected a mill for the rolling of sheet
zinc, This was constructed under the superintendence of Alexander Trippel,
who had previously been sent to Europe to acquaint himself with the methods
of this production. The first sheet zinc was rolled in April, 1865. This was
the first introduction of that art into this country; and all these several
works have continued in unremitted activity to this day, their capacity
being: for oxide of zinc, 3,000 tons per year; for metallic zinc, 3,600
tons per year; for sheet zinc, 3,000 casks per year, respectively-about
one-half the annual consumption of the country, and of known superior
qualities, owing to the usual purity of our ores. The mines have been
worked to meet the demands of the several manufacturies, amounting in some
single years to 19,000 tons of ore, including rich blende, which has been
developed in the, progress of mining.
The mines of the company are situated at Friedenville, in the Saucon
valley, three and a half miles from South Bethlehem. In the working of
these mines, at a very early day, and at shallow depth, water was
encountered, and overcome by a small pump worked by a single horse-power;
followed by a donkey pump, which is now in use for dressed ores. Next came
a Burdon engine of thirty horse-power, followed, in 1863, by a Corliss
engine of one hundred horse-power, working a series of centrifugal pumps
which found their limit at a depth of sixty-five feet, with 1,500 gallons
of water per minute. At this time the company decided to make more lasting
provision for controlling the water by establishing power to raise 4,000
gallons per minute from a depth of one hundred and fifty feet, if so much
should come, and, to this end, they erected and started, in 1865, an engine
of thirty-two inch cylinder and nine feet stroke, working two twenty-two
inch lifting pumps, to which a third twenty-two inch lift was soon added,
and the shaft carried down to one hundred and twenty-two feet in 1866, when
it encountered, and with seventeen strokes per minute, raised 5,600
gallons; and there found the limit of its capacity, But the engineer,
Mr. John West, had already matured it plan of engine, pumps, and shaft for
raising 12,000 gallons per minute from three hundred feet depth; and, in
December, 1868, the company contracted with Messrs. Merrick, of
Philadelphia, for this new engine, and a year later with
Messrs. I. P. Morris & Co., for the pumps, boilers and mountings. The
timber for shaft and pump rods was contracted for, in Georgia. This monster
engine and pumping apparatus was put in motion at Friedensville on the
nineteenth of January, 1872.
From the address of the president of the company, made on that occasion,
the following extract is made, as giving some idea of the enormous power of
the machinery: "This is the engine which is destined to become famous as
is the house that Jack built; this is the engine whose cylinder is one
hundred and ten inches, and whose piston rod is ten inches, in diameter,
with a ten-foot stroke; this is the engine that can work 'comfortably', as
we are told, at twelve strokes per minute, and yet is not the least
'fussy'; the engine, each of whose walking beams weighs 48,000 pounds;
twenty-six of whose pieces weigh each upwards of seven tons, and whose
entire weight, including girders, is 1,313,300 pounds; the engine that can
lift 52,800,000 pounds, or 26,400 tons, one foot high in one minute of
time, with the majestic ease and consciousness of power with which an
elephant lifts a straw; the engine that can raise 12,000 gallons of water
per minute, from a depth of three hundred feet; which works, day and night,
without rest; and whose influence is a mighty one towards transforming the
subterranean haunts of Kobalt and gnome, where, from times Silurian, these
spirits have sported undisturbed in the ice-cold sea, that noiselessly
washes the shores of their crystal kingdom."
The magnitude of the operations of the Lehigh Zinc Company, and their
influence and effect on the prosperity of South Bethlehem, may be
understood from the fact that the monthly pay-rolls of the company have
carried over seven hundred names, representing perhaps four times that
number of individuals living in and about the borough, find the vicinity of
the names, all sustained by the products of this industry; while more than
40,000 tons of anthracite coal are annually consumed by the company in the
processes of reduction and manufacture. The cost of the works was as follows:
Oxide Works, $125,000
Spelter Works, 100,000
Rolling Mill, 51,000
They occupy ten acres of ground on the eastern side of New street, and
extending northwardly from Second street to the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
The present president, Mr. Benjamin C. Webster, has conducted the affairs
of the company since September, 1863.