Bryden Horse Shoe
Location: Front St @ Chapel; now the Phoenix Forge
From State Historic Marker dedication for Bryden Horse Shoe Works at Phoenix Forging Company in Catasauqua, Saturday, July 26th at 11am
Bryden Horse Shoe Works, which began in 1882, was one of the largest plants of its kind in the world, producing a larger variety of horseshoes than any other one plant. Bryden shipped horseshoes to all parts of the world, including weekly delivery of a train-car load of horse and mules shoes to the British Government during and after the Boer War, 1899-1910. The Bryden process was a patented technique that finished horseshoes with toe and heel caulks completely formed under the blows of a heavy hammer thereby improving durability. All other machine-made shoes at the time were rolled, and the heel and toe-caulks were then welded on by the blacksmith. The plant continues to operate to this day as part of the Phoenix Forging Co, producing forged fittings and flanges for utility and industrial pressure vessels.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has approved the historical marker nomination for the Bryden Horse Shoe Works that was submitted by Historic Catasauqua Preservation Association. Bryden Horse Shoe Works was one of the largest plants of its kind in the world, producing a larger variety of horseshoes than any other one plant. Bryden shipped horseshoes to all parts of the world.
The dedication of the marker will take place on Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 11 a.m. at the Phoenix Forging Company, 800 Front Street. Phoenix has graciously agreed to fund the fabrication of the marker and host the reception scheduled immediately after the dedication.
The public is invited. The Bryden marker is the sixth State historical marker for Catasauqua, the fifth nominated by HCPA.)
Oliver Williams came to Catasauqua in 1867 to run the Catasauqua Manufacturing Company as general manager and then as president from 1879 to 1892. He saw it grow to become one of
the best known and largest merchant iron mills in eastern Pennsylvania.
Williams, looking for a way to use the iron products from his rolling plant, bought the patent rights for the Bryden process from George Bryden of Hartford, Connecticut. The Bryden process was a patented technique that finished horseshoes with toe and heel caulks completely formed under the blows of a heavy hammer thereby improving durability. All other machine-made shoes were rolled, and the heel and toe-caulks were then welded on by the blacksmith.
With a capital investment of $60,000 Williams erected a one story brick building on the north-west corner of Railroad and Strawberry Alleys. This lay adjacent to the Union Foundry and Machine Shop, another company owned in part by Oliver Williams. Williams, as secretary-treasurer, with two others, Joshua Hunt, as president, and Peter F. Greenwood, as superintendent, organized the first Bryden plant in 1882. The plant, equipped with two forge hammers, employed approximately 30 men and produced a daily sum of 2 ½ to 3 tons of horseshoes.
In 1884 Williams became president of Bryden Horse Shoes. The plant was so successful that by 1888 the company purchased land along the west side of Front Street for a new plant. Williams hired Jacob Roberts, then part owner and superintendent of Phoenix Horse Shoe Company of Poughkeepsie, NY as superintendent of the new facility. Roberts moved to Catasauqua in 1889 and began to build and equip the plant, eventually operating a complete rolling mill plus bender and pressing irons for the exclusive manufacture of horse and mule shoes.
Williams also hired a young ambitious Englishman, George E. Holton, who had extensive knowledge of the iron industry and employed him as traveling salesman for the new firm. Holton traveled nationwide, establishing sales agencies and securing orders. His most noteworthy order involved the weekly delivery of a train-car load of horse and mules shoes to the British Government during the Boer War and after, 1899-1910. This allowed full employment at the facility, and the Bryden became one of the largest industrial employers in the Lehigh Valley.
George Holton married Williams’ youngest daughter Jessica. When Williams died on September 17, 1904, Bryden’s ownership passed to his three daughters. George Holton became president until his death February 10, 1913 when his widow became president. By 1914 the plant occupied 7 acres of ground and employed 300 men, producing a daily amount of horseshoes between 40 and 50 tons, making it one of the largest plants of its kind in the world.
In 1917 the business and property were sold to the Never Slip Co. of New Brunswick, NJ and continued operation under that name. As cars replaced horse-drawn vehicles, the horseshoe market declined, however, Bryden attracted the attention of a competitor, the Phoenix Horse Shoe Company of Poughkeepsie, NY. Facing the same problem, the Phoenix management decided to absorb the competition and to acquire new markets through diversification. In 1928 the newly organized Phoenix Manufacturing Company acquired the Bryden Never Slip Company. Phoenix later acquired other horse shoe companies, but for the Catasauqua plant, liquidated or moved the operations. Since the Catasauqua plant was suitable for modernization, Phoenix discontinued the rolling mill in 1939 and converted to the production of commercial forgings and flanges. The Phoenix Forging Company, Inc., is still in existence today at the Bryden location.