Josiah White (1781–1850) was a key Pennsylvania industrialist who began early factory centered mill production in 1808 in water powered iron works near Philadelphia, along with his partner, Erskine Hazard when they quickly found their first mill at the Falls of the Schuylkill to be much too small. Subsequently, soon after they were forced to build a much more elaborate large mill nearby to refine pig iron and produce cast iron artifacts or roll wrought bar iron goods, including nails and wire. The pair were especially important after 1814 in helping make the American Industrial Revolution not only maintain, but accelerate its building momentum by agitating for infrastructure investment, sponsoring two key river navigations and the nation's first long railway, and then after initial success, increasingly supplying an expanding part of the country's overall energy needs including that of other industrialists at a time when there occurred the prolonged first energy crisis in the brief history of the country — where forests had grown remote from population centers through over logging, charcoal and imported coal were increasing in price rapidly, and fire wood was growing dearly expensive.
Josiah White was a mill owner, and early pioneer in the advancement of civil engineering, mining, iron production, water transport and railroad development, boat and barge shipping & construction. An innovative open-minded pragmatist, most of all in response to the energy crises in the early 19th century, his focus from 1815 on was mostly about the mining, and delivery of anthracite coal to others for their manufacturing and domestic heating needs in everyday life. Having taken over an 1808 speculative charter to build locks and mill races along the Schuylkill River's Falls of the Schuylkill (today the shoreline alongside East Falls — the falls now being submerged by the water works dam a mile farther down river.) as Hagner relates: " Erskine Hazard was the partner of Josiah, White in the iron and wire business; in the, erection of the locks and mill-seats he had, another partner, Joseph Gillingham. They finished the locks and canal on the western side of, the river and two mills were built there — one a sawmill, the other for making white lead." These were in addition to the two main mills of White & Hazard Hagner spends more time discussing, which were on the east or left bank.
During the War of 1812 he directed the effort to find a way to ignite and burn effectively Anthracite coal, and succeeded.[a] This alone would give him a place in history, but that was but a start. Along with his partner, Erskine Hazard, he also helped found numerous companies, most either mining operations or transportation enterprises opened to establish a better transportation infrastructure for transport of this coal, people, and other industrial materials needs such as ores, timber, and finished goods in the Schuylkill Valley, the Lehigh Valley, the Greater Delaware Valley, and Wyoming Valley regions. Having commissioned anthracite shipment by mule train from up the Schuylkill, in 1815 White and Hazard started the Lehigh Canal machinations as commissioners, but were not selected by investors to become the operations managers elected to work out ways and means. Subsequently, the managers selected a slow plodding approach with which the partners quarreled, championing instead a means to deliver coal down river much more quickly using temporary dams and artificial freshets in order to produce revenue from one way traffic delivering coal. This method was rejected by the managers, resulting in the belated first deliveries of coal on the Schuylkill Canal only in 1823, while their method delivered record amount of 365 long-tons of anthracite coal down the Lehigh Canal to Philadelphia in December 1820, four years ahead of promises. Their Lehigh Coal and Navigation Companies are credited with being the earliest known example of vertical integration, the companies each sourcing at least part of the needs of the next domino in the chain.
His innovations reached into finished goods as well, having learned how to burn anthracite for industrial iron processing, he experimented with a succession of fireplace and furnace grates until he created artifacts allowing use of the stone coal to replace expensive fire wood for heating. In 1818 White's wire works built the first (temporary) wire suspension bridge 400 feet (120 m) over the Falls of the Schuylkill using trees and tall buildings near the river to string catenary cables from which a board walk was suspended attached by wires. Ever looking for better ways in the 1820s he and Hazard experimented with blast furnace production of smelted pig iron using charges of anthracite in Mauch Chunk, and succeeded in part, perhaps as much as any in America, for their processes could not always reliably repeat, so were not commercially viable in the long run. This primed them to import skills and necessary equipment when news of successful use of anthracite pig iron processes arrived from Wales in 1838; subsequently he invested heavily and had, as the operating manager, had the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company invest in the Lehigh Crane Iron Company backing the importing of professional talent from Wales to establish the first sustainably-successful blast furnaces of the region in Catasauqua,[b] and established the first wire rope (steel cable) factory in the United States in Mauch Chunk which enabled the Ashley Planes and up cable railway conversion & expansion of the Summit Hill & Mauch Chunk Railroad.
- Main article: Lehigh Coal Company
In 1814, Josiah White & Hazard had obtained the last two punts the Lehigh Coal Mine Company (LCMC) had managed to pole down river to Philadelphia, having lost more boats than reached the safety of the docks, the bitter fruits of over a years work by the working party sent out the year before to build boats and mine coal to fill them. They soon learned the LCMC was not intending to send out other expeditions, being of a mind they'd lost sufficient money, so White and Hazard felt the companies rights could be leased and set out to examine Lehigh's course, and tour the mine site along Pisgah Ridge to examine why both mining and delivery of coal was supposedly so difficult. They concluded the surface outcrops at the mine (now Summit Hill) would be easy to mine with the proper digging tools capable of breaking the hard mineral. Examination of the mountainous terrain back towards the Lehigh, they conceived a wagon road which descended steadily to a point above the river, so loading of boats could be done by chute. Lastly, they concluded the necessary river depth could be achieved for a safe down descent by employing a quasi-lock gate that sprang to mind as he examined the situations. In the event, they returned home filled with enthusiasm convinced that good management could achieve a regular supply of coal to customers in Philadelphia. In short order they obtained an option on leasing the mining and other rights held by the despondent owners of the LCMC, and began activities promoting the venture.
|“||No sooner had White, Hazard, and Hauto obtained a lease of the coal lands in what is now Mauch Chunk township than they applied to the Legislature for an act authorizing them to improve the navigation of the river. They stated in the petition their object of getting coal to market, and that they had a plan for the cheap improvement of the river navigation, which they hoped would serve as a model for the improvement of many other streams in the State. Their project was considered chimerical, the improvement of the Lehigh being deemed impracticable from the failure of the various companies who had undertaken it under previous laws. The act of March 20, 1818, incorporating the 'Lehigh Navigation Company', "gave these gentlemen the opportunity of ruining themselves, as many members of the Legislature predicted would be the result of their undertaking." The various powers applied for and granted in the act embraced the whole scope of tried and untried methods of effecting the object of getting "a navigation downward once in three days for boats loaded with one hundred barrels, or ten tons," with the reservation on the part of the Legislature of the right to compel the adoption of a complete slack-water navigation from Easton to Stoddartsville[c] should they not deem the mode of navigation adopted by the undertakers sufficient for the wants of the country.||”|
|— Fred Brenckman (emphasis added), History of Carbon County, 1913|
Knowing the bill was coming up in the spring of 1818, the partners had contractors and hires prepped and ready ...
Erskine Hazard-founding partners of the Lehigh Coal Company, the Lehigh Navigation Company, the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company, the Lehigh Canal, the Summit Hill & Mauch Chunk Railroad, the Ashley Planes, the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad
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This is a list of other enterprises histories mention Josiah White backed, or had a hand in supporting:
- Beaver Meadow Railroad and Coal Company - Beaver Meadow began producing coal in 1813, using ground transportation. The mining and railroad operation (e.1830) began producing volumes of coal in 1833, employing the first steam locomotives in the Lehigh Valley
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2016)
- Canvass White - Engineer hired first in 1827 to convert the lower Lehigh Canal to two way traffic, then to assist creating the Grand Lehigh Canal under the 1837 revision of the Main Line of Public Works, engineering and putting in the Upper Lehigh Canal, the Ashley Planes and the connecting railroad between the mile long Solomon Gap cutting (north of present-day Mountain Top, PA) to White Haven, PA and the upper canal head.
- Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company
- Lehigh Canal
- Summit Hill & Mauch Chunk Railroad
- Ashley Planes
- Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad
- The historical society writing 'The Delaware and Lehigh Canals' re-relates the amusing tale also found verbatim in Hagner — that long exhaustive attempts to burn anthracite had gone poorly all day long after much experimentation, so an upset employee slammed the door shutting the last batch into a furnace and left with the whole crew. From another source, it is suggested the group went to a nearby pub, probably for a meal. Within a half-hour a worker returning for his forgotten coat discovered the furnace glowing red hot, having been given a proper draft behind the closed door. Summoning the departed crew, the work group was able to run three batches of iron into the rolling mill making unheard of production before the heat of the furnace needed replenished
- High Tech Furnaces, came first in Catasauqua, then the more famous nearby Allentown and Bethlehem—all long before Pittsburgh.
- TBDL02 Where exactly Stoddartsville was in the 19th century needs established.
- Fred Brenckman (1913). HISTORY OF CARBON COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA. J. Nungesser, Harrisburg, PA (Project Gutenberg e-reprint).
- Annie Bohlin. "The History Of The Ashley Planes 1843 – 1948" (PDF).
- Alfred Mathews & Ausin N. Hungerford (1884). The History of the Counties of Lehigh & Carbon, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Ancestry.com, Transcribed from the original in April 2004 by Shirley Kuntz.
- Frank Whelan (1986-06-08). "Ex-executive Recalls Decline And Fall Of Lehigh Coal And Navigation Co". The Morning Call, June 08, 1986.
Lehigh Coal and Navigation controlled 8,000 acres of coal lands running from Jim Thorpe to Tamaqua, 14 miles away. This comprised the entire eastern end of the southern anthracite field.
- Lehigh Valley Railroad
- The Summit Hill & Mauch Chunk Railroad, 9.5 miles built in 1827, during the summer of which it carried passengers regularly, with a regular tourist passenger service added in 1829.
- James E. Held (July 1, 1998). "The Canal Age". Archaeology (Online). A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America (July 1, 1998). Retrieved 2016-06-12.
On the settled eastern seaboard, forest decimation created an energy crisis for coastal cities, but the lack of water- and roadways made English coal shipped across the Atlantic cheaper in Philadelphia than Pennsylvania anthracite mined 100 miles away.... George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other founding fathers believed they were the key to the New World's future.
- Charles V. Hagner (1869). Early history of the Falls of Schuylkill, Manayunk, Schuylkill and Lehigh navigation companies, Fairmount waterworks, etc. Caxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger, 819 & 821 Market Street, Philadelphia.CS1 maint: location (link), p46, "At that time wood was the universal fuel, and, was annually getting scarcer and higher in, price."
- Hagner, p. 46, History of the Falls of the Schuylkill & etc..
- Hagner, p. 43, History of the Falls of the Schuylkill & etc..
- TBDL01-quote that list with dates of prior bills
Places on the NRoHP
NRHP-listed works of Josiah White include:
- Carbon County Section of the Lehigh Canal, along Lehigh River Weissport and vicinity, NRHP-listed
- Lehigh Canal, Lehigh Gap to S Walnutport boundary Walnutport, Pennsylvania, NRHP-listed
- Lehigh Canal: Eastern Section Glendon and Abbott Street Industrial Sites, Lehigh River from Hopeville to confluence of Lehigh and Delaware Rivers, Easton, Pennsylvania, NRHP-listed
- Lehigh Canal; Allentown to Hopeville Section, along Lehigh River, Allentown and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, NRHP-listed
- Mauch Chunk and Summit Hill Switchback Railroad, between Ludlow St. in Summit Hill and F.A.P. 209 in Jim Thorpe, NRHP-listed