Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Horseshoe

When I was growing up in Catasauqua, there was a familiar ping of metal you could hear down on Front Street.  My Grandmother always referred to that area as the "the Horseshoe".  If wasn't until recently that I understood why.  


The Bryden Horse Shoe Company was opened in 1882 by Oliver Williams. Mr. Williams had moved to Catasauqua at the urging of his long time friend David Thomas and became the President of the Catasauqua Manufacturing Company.  Mr. Williams wanted to find ways to use the iron products so he bought the rights for the Bryden process, which made horseshoes entirely by heavy hammer.  The first Bryden Plant  was located at Strawberry and Railroad Streets.   Williams equipped the plant with two forge hammers and employed approximately thirty men. They produced a daily sum of 2-1/2 to 3 tons of horseshoes.  By 1888 expansion was necessary and land was purchased on the west side of Front Street.  The Bryden Horse Shoe plant was one of the largest horseshoe plant in the world producing 40 to 50 tons of horseshoes daily!   The Bryden Neverslip was one of the most used types of winter shoes for horses that pulled city streetcars.


Subsequently the Bryden Company faced the inevitable decline in the horseshoe market as cars replaced horse-drawn vehicles. The Bryden, fortunately, attracted the attention of a progressive competitor, the Phoenix Horse Shoe Company, Poughkeepsie, New York

In 1928 the newly organized Phoenix Manufacturing Company acquired the Bryden Neverslip Company, named to reflect the manufacture of winter horse shoes. Phoenix later acquired other horseshoe facilities, but, except for the Catasauqua plant, liquidated or moved the operations. The new owners found the Catasauqua plant suitable for modernization and in 1939 discontinued the rolling mill and converted to the production of commercial forgings and flanges, thus becoming Phoenix's forging division. Demand for the products remained strong. By 1953 the Catasauqua plant housed 21 board hammers, ranging in size from 1200 pounds to 4000 pounds, plus a complete die room and production machine shop. The Phoenix Forge Company still operates at 800 Front Street, from what I can tell from their website.  


It was those board hammers that I heard as a kid, the bing, the bang and the occasional boom.  Boy that area was noisy I use to wonder how people could live down by the Phoenix, but like all noises, I guess, you get use to them.   And that's .......another day in Catasauqua.