NINE FEET

A while back we were traveling to New Process Fiber in Greenwood DE researching the vulcanized fibre industry in Delaware. New Process originally made their own fibre and later moved to purchasing vulcanized fibre from NVF until the great flood of 2003 when New Fiber started purchasing fibre from Japan. New Process and Wilmington Fibre are two businesses that remain in DE converting large sheets of raw vulcanized fibre into all sorts of finished products such as bushings, washers, and electrical insulating materials. As we traveled south of Harrington on Route 13 to Greenwood to visit New Process Fiber, we passed the intersection for Nine Foot Road.

It turns out this is the only remaining, officially named, ‘Nine Foot Road’ in Delaware, although a former Nine-Foot Road is now a trail in White Clay State Park. Delaware had a number of roads referred to as ‘nine-foot road’ at the dawn of the automotive age. What is the significance of the or a ‘Nine-Foot Road”? (Hint: it is both a name and a construction.)

Answer
Before the arrival of the Europeans to begin settling North America, the Native Indians relied on foot and horse paths and trails between locations. As settlers arrived and constructed wagons, these trails became enlarged to form the start of a primitive roadway system in the New World. In time, Delaware was crisscrossed with dirt roads suited for wagon and carriage. Some of the heavier traveled ones were covered with crushed stone so a not to become so muddy in wet weather. With the development of the motorcarriage in the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, the country recognized the paving of these often-muddy roads was a necessity. In 1915 Delaware began to pave the most heavily traveled dirt roads. Paving was not only needed to make automobile travel more pleasant, other benefits existed. A truck might only haul 1-ton on a dirt road whereas 2.5 to 3 tons could be hauled by the same truck on a paved road.

A road described as ‘paved’ was generally constructed of bricks. A sand base was laid followed by crushed stone upon which the large bricks were placed. The construction of the Dixie Highway, a nine-foot road constructed in 1918 between Chicago and Miami, was largely constructed of brick. The Lincoln Highway that crossed North America is another example of a nine-foot road with sections originally constructed of brick.

Unfortunately, paved roads, either of brick or later macadam (asphalt or blacktop) or concrete did not hold up to steel tires on wooden wagon wheels. Horses and mules often had problems with their horseshoes getting traction on a paved surface. The rivets holding steel tires to wooden wagon wheels, and horseshoe cleats formed on the underside of horseshoes both were ground down exceptionally fast on a paved road not to mention further damage that they created with a paved road’s surface by chipping away at it.

Delaware, along with many states employed the ‘Nine Foot Road’ as the solution! In reality these roads were 18’ feet wide with 9’ of width paved and the adjacent 9’ of width left as a dirt road. Rubber tired vehicles could travel the paved section of the road while farmers and others still relying on pure horsepower with a wagon could use the dirt portion of the road. Because traffic was light and still slow moving back at the start of the 1900s, when drivers going in opposing directions met, they simply moved to the right or left as appropriate to pass each other.  

Pictured below are two sections of the restored Nine Foot Road located within White Clay Creek State Park taken by Matthew Aungst. Next time you’re using Google, Bing, or another internet search product, search for ‘nine-foot road’ and you’ll find more of them in North Carolina, New York, and other states.

CHECKING-IT

For the past several years the unrestored Marshall Brothers Paper Mill has been open one or two weekends during nice weather for tours between May and November. Offering a 1 PM and 3 PM guided tour on tour days, a typical tour hosts 6 to 10 individuals. For Teresa, Elliott, and the writer whom serve as tour guides, the tours have been especially enjoyable to host as former NVF and Marshall Brothers employees return to the mill. As tour hosts, we learn first-hand from our guests what it was like to work the various jobs NVF offered. We glean from these former participants assorted historical facts and information about the mill, the Yorklyn area, and NVF and its management. We’ve hosted descendants of the Garret family and on one occasion had historic materials returned.

During a late summer tour this past year, a box of now historical Marshall Brothers financial records covering two decades was returned to the State. The records were inside a locked safe the individual had acquired from NVF in the 1970s as part of renovations to the former mill office building (now the Park office). It took nearly three years of sleuthing for the individual to safe-crack the safe through trial and error. The treasures found inside were all ironically paper in composition! No secret formulas or other riches however we now have records showing that the blue, red, and yellow paper used to make World War II ration tokens of vulcanized fiber were made at Marshall Brothers in 1944 and 1945! Copies of tax returns, operating budgets, and corporate checks from the final year of Marshall Brothers operations (1953) along with financial reports that were lost to time inside the safe were rediscovered in 1970 but preserved by a former employee a further half century for historians. Pictured are T. Clarence Marshall, President of Marshall Brothers Company, Inc. and his older brother J. Warren Marshall, President of National Vulcanized Fiber Company, Inc.

While it is easy to realize what one can learn from tax returns, the story of token paper will remain for a future Question & Answer. What sorts of information were able to be obtained from cancelled checks?

Answer
Two different sets of cancelled checks were included in the cache of materials returned. The smallest quantity of cancelled checks belonged to the Marshall Brothers, Inc. general account that was held at National Bank and Trust Company of Kennett Square, Pa. The checks were from 1953, the final year the Marshall family was involved in the vulcanized fibre business. After J. Warren Marshall died in June 1953, Eugene R. Perry succeeded Marshall as President. Within a year Marshall Brothers, run by Clarence Marshall, was bought by National Vulcanized Fiber ending 97 years of Marshall family involvement in the paper, fibre, and fibre products business.

Each week of 1953 a check drawn on the Marshall Brothers general account was issued to the Marshall Brothers payroll account. These checks ranged from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a week. Shown is a group of three checks in the $2,600 per week range for January 28th and February 5th & 11th. The checks were written mid-week and signed by Clarence as President and William P. Dodd as corporate secretary.

From the same series of general account checks we learn that J. Warren (Israel Marshall’s oldest son and president of National Vulcanized Fiber) received $390.50 a month salary ($4,358.57 in 2022 dollars) while T. Clarence (Israel Marshall’s second oldest son and president of Marshall Brothers) received $235.50 per month salary ($2,628.53 in 2022 dollars). While the company was privately held, both received quarterly 10% dividend on the shares of Marshall Brothers stock shares each held which amounted to $3,500 ($39,065.24 in 2022 dollars) for T. Clarence and $5,050 ($56,365.57 in 2022 dollars) for J. Warren. In 1938, J. Warren was listed in a U.S. Congressional House of Representatives report of corporate executive officers earning over $50,000 a year as one of the top ten highest paid corporate executives in the United States.

By far the biggest quantity of checks in the cache of records were those of the Marshall Brothers payroll account also held at National Bank and Trust Company of Kennett Square, Pa. These checks had an upper limit of $150.00, however, most were valued around half that amount ($75 in 1953 is $837.11 in 2022). These checks generally had the payee’s name typed. The highest employee number was 43 although there were temporary employees who had a check hand-written by Mr. Dodd with no employee number. Of interest was nearly half the checks were endorsed on the back by the employee and stamped “For deposit only in National Bank & Trust Company of Kennett Square to the credit of Yorklyn Store”. The Gregg family operated the general store on Yorklyn Road and many local employees would simply endorse their payroll check over to Grover C. Gregg as part of paying off a previous week’s tab, picking up food and other items for the coming week, and perhaps getting some ‘pocket money’ for the coming week!

THE ORIGINAL NUT

If one rummages through the drawers of vintage tools in Clarence Marshall’s shop in the carriage house, they may find one or more sizes of the tool pictured below. These tools found frequent use in the 19th century and into the 20th century and might have been used to maintain a Stanley steam car, or any number of pieces of equipment or buildings around the property. The items pictured would have found definite use in Marshall Brothers paper mill. This tool, made of cast iron, could be purchased in 1/16” increments from 5/16” to 11/16” size and were also available in sizes 3/4” to 1-1/4” by 1/8” increments. What were these tools used for?

Answer
The items pictured are known as Square Brace Wrenches. They are used for running-on and then snugging-up square nuts, which preceded the hex nut we use today. Today’s equivalent might be a socket used to tighten hexagonal nuts with ratchet drive.

The first threaded fasteners for holding two items together but allowing them to be separated, if necessary, were made of wood from before the time of Christ. Carefully handmade, a wooden nut and threaded dowel can apply hundreds of pounds of force to hold a connection of two or more items together. Eventually with the discovery of iron, threaded fasteners were produced with increased strength and durability. Today wooden nuts and bolts are decorative items often made by woodworkers to display their craftsmanship.

With the building of water powered iron rolling mills such as that at Wooddale, it was possible to roll a uniform sheet of cast iron. The sheet was next punched of holes on a fixed grid while hot using waterwheel or steam power. The next step was to shear the sheet into strips of evenly spaced holes. Each strip had the internal surface of each hole along the strip cut with threads. Finally, the strip was sheared between each threaded hole to make individual square nuts. Iron plate was also cut into square sizes and run through a series of rollers to make the square profile into a round rod. Cut to length a square head was hammered into one end of the rod to match the nut that would be added later. Threads were then cut on the opposite end for form a bolt.

Square nuts, and bolts made of iron were the first metal fasteners and machines were soon developed to make the fasteners economically in large quantity. Also made were screws with square heads called lag screws. These were designed to be driven into wood timbers to hold them together or to hold iron pieces to wood.

Where there was a quantity of nuts requiring ‘running onto’ their bolts, or a quantity of square-head lag screws to be installed, the square brace wrench allowed such to be done quickly and efficiently. The wrench was locked into the chuck of a hand brace (pictured). The wrench was then placed over a nut at the end of it’s bolt or screw, and the brace cranked to turn the nut down tight on the bolt. Alternately the square brace wrench fitted to the square head of a lag screw could see the lag screw driven into the lumber. As a lot of torque could not be applied to the nut or lag screw, a wrench was used to tighten the nut or screw to the required tightness.

AUBURN ARCHIVES

If you follow Auburn Heights on social media, you may have seen postings related to the archival activities at Auburn Heights both by the Friends of Auburn Heights (FAH) and Delaware State Parks. October is American Archives Month which recognizes the importance of collecting and preserving, regardless of form, condition, or otherwise, artifacts and evidence documenting our collective past. It is important to remember that an archive maintains primary sources of documents, records, information, and original physical artifacts, in their original historical context and form. These held possessions are devoid of someone else’s historical interpretation.

An excellent example of historical material in the FAH archive are a series of aerial photographs of the Red Clay Valley taken by Paul Nelson for Clarence or Tom Marshall in the early 1960s. As the state continues archiving artifacts within Auburn Heights mansion, a box of black & white photos was found in the back of a storage closet in one of the bathrooms! Archival material even returns from outside sources such as from visitors taking Marshall Brothers Mill tours. AVSP was recently handed a box of Marshall Brothers balance sheets, operating statements, payroll cancelled checks, and deeds dating from the teens into the 1950s during a recent mill tour.

In each case we attempt to preserve the item(s) in their original state as well as make a digital copy where practical. For items like photos, ledger sheets, and other paperwork, special archive storage materials, many made from vulcanized fiber due to its purity, sturdiness, and long life, are used. To limit future handling, many of these paper items are indexed and digitized for future reference and research use. For items such as early color photos and slides, digitization of the item through scanning is done since many early 20th century color film emulsions continue to degrade over time.

To recognize American Archives Month, FAH is sharing each week in October, aerial slides taken by Paul Nelson. While the color slide image technology has faded and red-shifted over 60 years, we’ve applied modern technology to somewhat restore the original coloring. One of Nelson’s photos is of Auburn Heights. How were we able to transform the photo on the left, the result obtained from a digital scan, into the photo on the right?

Answer
We’re going to start our answer with saying that “displayed before and after photos are not a guarantee of similar results on other color slides or color print negatives/prints.” There are many variables that go into fixing or somewhat restoring a degraded color slide or color negative/print into something that more accurately reflects the original colorings at the time the image was captured. We are only going to share the steps we took to restore the slides to being close to the original colors at time of exposure.

Each slide was scanned using a Minolta digital slide/film scanner. To preserve the present condition of the slide’s image, the scanner’s controls were set to neutral. This neutral setting ensures the scanning process introduces minimal influence to change any existing colors from their present state. Also note that some of the slides presented during the month of October are not in best focus or have a slight motion blur due to airplane and camera moving while the exposure process was occurring. There is little that can be done to correct exposure conditions. We’re only changing color balances and similar image attributes to the image preserved on the slide’s film.

For this preservation we are dealing with slides. Slides use a different color system than print film. That means the online sites won’t do as good a job colorizing slides as they do with print images. Additionally, all AI colorization programs are created equal. AI-based colorization algorithms do the process differently between programs so the slides were treated to several colorization programs and the best result was chosen for the next step in the process. Below left is the original scan, and right image is the result of the chosen AI colorization process.

To get our process started, we had to prepare the image which meant removing any objectionable blemishes, scratches, and other distractions from the image. Slides were blown off but not wiped of dust which might create additional scratches before scanning so what remains are imperfections of the film itself. There are multiple artificial intelligence (AI) colorization programs available online for purchase to apply color corrections to prints. A Google, Bing, or Searchlight search will find you plenty of candidates and there are plenty of techie articles explaining the pros and cons of each.

Our next step was to do additional image color enhancement using a photo editing program. One old-timer’s method of adjusting colorization is through “white balance.” You can think of white balance as the color of light or “light temperature.” Think of how a candle’s light makes a white sheet of paper appear more yellow while that same sheet lit by moonlight has a bluer color. This particular slide image has the trim and exterior accents on the mansion visible which we know to be painted bright white. The AI colorization process rendered these white areas still shifted from a bright white color temperature. With the photo editing software, we tweaked color balance to bring the white areas a brighter white which also changed the greens, browns, and other colors in the image. Adjusting image properties including saturation, contrast, and brightness completed the enhancement. Below is the final image shown in the question.

You will notice the colorization is somewhat uneven. There are patches bluer than they might normally be while other areas have a reddish hue. This is due to the fact that the three dye layers that physically make up a color slide all degrade at slightly different rates across the area of the slide. Thus, the AI software tends to look at smaller total areas within the overall slide’s area and then apply average values to colorize the smaller area which unfortunately accents the unevenness of the degradation taking place.

Often removing the color of an existing color image (called saturation) can be helpful as well. A grayscale image can bring out details not picked up in a color version. Below is the Nelson Auburn Heights image reduced to grayscale.

From careful examination of the image and other information from Tom Marshall’s writings, we’ve been able to estimate this series of slides was taken in March or April 1960. See the FAH social media posting to learn how we were able to narrow the time window the photo was taken since there was only a note the photos were taken by Paul Nelson on the storage container. Throughout October FAH will be sharing Nelson’s aerial photography of Marshallton, Greenbank, Faulkland, Wooddale, Mt. Cuba, Ashland, and additional photos of Yorklyn on FAH’s Facebook page. Be sure to follow along. FAH and Auburn Valley State Park Facebook sites are open to the public, and a membership is not required! To visit the FAH archive, click the following link: Marshall Steam Museum Archive!

PUZZLING

Folks visiting Auburn Valley State Park learn of the Garrett family, which first settled in the area in 1726, followed by the Marshall family 33 years later. Descendants of both families established water-powered grist and saw mills along the Red Clay Creek, which served as a stepping stone to becoming significant enterprises manufacturing snuff and paper. There is one other Delaware family, the Pusey family, that got their start on the same 2-mile stretch of the Red Clay. The Puseys later became Delaware’s largest manufacturers of cotton fabric products in the mid-1800s in Wilmington.

The Auburn/Yorklyn Puseys, related to the Pusey family that founded Pusey & Jones in Wilmington, were awarded multiple patents for improvements to spinning machines and for ice-making equipment. It is a patent of Joseph Pusey, a descendent of Jacob Pusey who owned Auburn Mill, that stands out as unique in that the patent is not for a machine or has anything to do with machinery or the textile industry or anything typical of what the various Pusey companies were involved in. The greater Pusey family business interests in Wilmington included textiles, ship building, railroad equipment, papermaking equipment of which some is in Auburn Factory, and industrial machinery. The non-business nature of this patent is way off the beaten trail of typical Pusey patents. What was Joseph’s patent for? As a hint, it is something designed for children; however, many adults might find it of interest.

Answer
In the early 1730s, settler John Garrett constructed a grist mill that resides today as the core of Marshall Brothers Paper Mill as perhaps some of the interior basement walls. Garrett eventually moved downstream on the Red Clay Creek a half mile to construct a snuff mill leaving the grist mill to his son Horatio Gates Garrett to operate as a paper mill. Horatio, for reasons lost in the cobwebs of time, was unsuccessful, perhaps because he couldn’t compete with the economies of scale present in Wilmington’s papermaking industry. On February 16, 1813 the original Garrett homestead and mill was sold at Sheriff’s Sale for $14,450 to Thomas Lea, a prosperous flour miller on Brandywine Creek. Lea’s nephew, Jacob Pusey, had an interest in the cotton trade and convinced his uncle to let him use the Garrett mill for making cotton fabrics for hosiery use. Lea referred to the former Garrett mill as Auburn Mill a name which is believed to have given rise to the area being called Auburn.

Jacob outfitted Auburn Mill by early 1814 with 1,224 spindles and other supporting textile machinery. He soon employed 43 workers. The mill employed 6 men, earning $6 per week (an 1830s work week being 6 working days of 11 hours/day); 12 women, earning $2 per week; and 25 children, earning $1.25 per week. After Lea dies around 1824, his widow sells some of Lea’s mills to reduce debt including the former Garrett mill and its 114-acres to Jacob Pusey for $10,500. By the early 1830s, Pusey’s Mill at Auburn as it is now known, is processing 70,000 and 100,000 lbs. of cotton into fabric per year primarily used for hosiery. Below is a modern photo of a similar English textile factory resembling what the inside of Pusey’s cotton mill at Auburn may have looked like.

In later years, Jacob’s sons Joseph Mendenhall Pusey and Edward Pusey, who were born in the Horatio Garrett home off what was then called Old Public Road (now Benge Road), took responsibility for daily operation of Pusey’s Mill at Auburn. With business booming, Jacob and son Joseph M. established a cotton wadding and cotton rope manufactory at Front and Tatnall Streets leaving brothers Lea and Edward to operate Pusey’s Mill on the Red Clay. Needing additional manufacturing space, the Pusey family purchased land at 13th and Poplar (now Clifford Brown Walk) Streets in Wilmington in 1860 where they construct a new cotton milling and manufacturing plant.

In 1868 the Pusey’s Delaware Cotton Mill, alternately called Wilmington Cotton Mill, a modern steam-powered, state-of-the-art textile mill along the Brandywine Creek, outproduced Auburn’s Pusey’s Mill resulting in the water powered Red Clay mill being offered for sale. Purchased by William & James Clark, they repurposed the mill for wool instead of cotton still running on water power. The Clark brothers were familiar with the woolen trade as sons of Henry Clark who operated a woolen mill on Hyde Run near Greenbank.

After a fire in 1869 destroys Auburn Factory as the Clark’s named it, the mill was left vacant until 1880 when it was rebuilt by the Clarks. In 1886 William bought out James’ interest. Another fire in 1888 destroyed Auburn Factory. Auburn Factory caught the interest of Israel & Elwood Marshall and Franklin Ewart in 1890 for use as a paper mill. Marshall & Ewart Company would go on to rebuild Auburn Factory for the 3rd time and produce a special blend of cotton rag based industrial paper required for the manufacturing of vulcanized fiber.

While most may be familiar with Pusey & Jones Company along the Christina and Delaware Rivers which was owned and operated by relatives of Jacob Pusey, the Brandywine Creek Pusey operation eventually passed to Lea and Edward Pusey. A major cotton textile manufacturer employing more than one hundred workers at its peak, Pusey’s operation became the largest in the state by the late 1800s. Lea Pusey expanded his interests becoming a major bagged stove coal distributor in Wilmington between 1860 to 1880. By 1900 the nearly century old Pusey operation was no longer competitive with larger more efficient operations in the southern states and went into receivership.

In answering this month’s question, some may have thought of another Pusey patent; for the matchbook. Joshua Pusey, yet another relative but a practicing lawyer from Lima, PA, loved cigars and hated carrying boxes of match sticks. He invented and patented the matchbook and Pusey & Jones developed the machinery to make the matchbooks.

The Pusey we’re thinking of in answer to our question is Joseph M. Pusey of Wilmington who patented a simple puzzle in 1907. The puzzle is presented as a square board with a hole drilled near each corner. With the board are two wooden dowels or posts with a pin or slot at one end, and two wooden dowels with a pin or slot at one end but also with short string attached, both strings being equal in length. With the posts inserted in the holes of the board, as stated in the patent, the object is to connect all the posts together with the two cords without lapping the cords or forming a double line of them in any direction, such that a cord covers each line of the X and the four sides of the [] (square) enclosing the X.

Would you like to try an solve Pusey’s Puzzle? From the patent we’ve reproduced Figure One so that it can be printed out. Click on the image and print several copies of it or draw the equivalent freehand on a blank sheet of paper. In the center is a square box [] which contains an X. The object is to “shadow” or “cover” each of the black lines (X and [] ) only one time.

Using a Red pencil (or any color of your choice) start at the dark gray Pin 2 at the lower left and route a line to any of the three remaining posts. Continue on with the red line to a 2nd post and then on to your 3rd post covering one of the paths at the center of the panel with each stroke between pins. Then with a Blue pencil (or your color choice again) do the same thing starting with the lighter Pin 2 at the lower right and route a line to any one of the posts as you did with the first line. Continue on with the blue line to a 2nd post and then on to your 3rd post covering one of the paths at the center of the panel. As you route the line, don’t lift your pen until you touch three additional posts after leaving the lower left/right post. You may have a red and blue line together on any post however you may NOT have a parallel red and blue lines anywhere and a line once leaving the ‘2’ position can only contact the other posts one time!

Can’t figure it out? Send an email to questions@auburnheights.org, and we’ll send you the patent, which includes the solution we’ve highlighted in color!

PUZZLED

Folks visiting Auburn Valley State Park learn of the Garrett family that first settled in the area in 1726 followed by the Marshall family 33 years later. Descendants of both families established water-powered grist and saw mills along the Red Clay Creek which served as a stepping stone to becoming significant enterprises manufacturing snuff and paper. There is one other Delaware family, the Pusey family, that got their start on the same 2-mile stretch of the Red Clay. The Puseys later became Delaware’s largest manufacturers of cotton fabric products in the mid-1800s in Wilmington.

The Auburn/Yorklyn Puseys, related to the Pusey family that founded Pusey & Jones in Wilmington, were awarded multiple patents for improvements to spinning machines and for ice-making equipment. It is a patent of Joseph Pusey, a descendent of Jacob Pusey who owned Auburn Mill, that stands out as unique in that the patent is not for a machine or has anything to do with machinery or the textile industry or anything typical of what the various Pusey companies were involved in. The greater Pusey family business interests in Wilmington included textiles, ship building, railroad equipment, papermaking equipment of which some is in Auburn Factory, and industrial machinery. The non-business nature of this patent is way off the beaten trail of typical Pusey patents. What was Joseph’s patent for? As a hint, it is something designed for children however many adults might find it of interest.

 

Answer
In the early 1730s, settler John Garrett constructed a grist mill that resides today as the core of Marshall Brothers Paper Mill as perhaps some of the interior basement walls. Garrett eventually moved downstream on the Red Clay Creek a half mile to construct a snuff mill leaving the grist mill to his son Horatio Gates Garrett to operate as a paper mill. Horatio, for reasons lost in the cobwebs of time, was unsuccessful, perhaps because he couldn’t compete with the economies of scale present in Wilmington’s papermaking industry. On February 16, 1813 the original Garrett homestead and mill was sold at Sheriff’s Sale for $14,450 to Thomas Lea, a prosperous flour miller on Brandywine Creek. Lea’s nephew, Jacob Pusey, had an interest in the cotton trade and convinced his uncle to let him use the Garrett mill for making cotton fabrics for hosiery use. Lea referred to the former Garrett mill as Auburn Mill a name which is believed to have given rise to the area being called Auburn.

Jacob outfitted Auburn Mill by early 1814 with 1,224 spindles and other supporting textile machinery. He soon employed 43 workers. The mill employed 6 men, earning $6 per week (an 1830s work week being 6 working days of 11 hours/day); 12 women, earning $2 per week; and 25 children, earning $1.25 per week. After Lea dies around 1824, his widow sells some of Lea’s mills to reduce debt including the former Garrett mill and its 114-acres to Jacob Pusey for $10,500. By the early 1830s, Pusey’s Mill at Auburn as it is now known, is processing 70,000 and 100,000 lbs. of cotton into fabric per year primarily used for hosiery. Below is a modern photo of a similar English textile factory resembling what the inside of Pusey’s cotton mill at Auburn may have looked like.

In later years, Jacob’s sons Joseph Mendenhall Pusey and Edward Pusey, who were born in the Horatio Garrett home off what was then called Old Public Road (now Benge Road), took responsibility for daily operation of Pusey’s Mill at Auburn. With business booming, Jacob and son Joseph M. established a cotton wadding and cotton rope manufactory at Front and Tatnall Streets leaving brothers Lea and Edward to operate Pusey’s Mill on the Red Clay. Needing additional manufacturing space, the Pusey family purchased land at 13th and Poplar (now Clifford Brown Walk) Streets in Wilmington in 1860 where they construct a new cotton milling and manufacturing plant.

In 1868 the Pusey’s Delaware Cotton Mill, alternately called Wilmington Cotton Mill, a modern steam-powered, state-of-the-art textile mill along the Brandywine Creek, outproduced Auburn’s Pusey’s Mill resulting in the water powered Red Clay mill being offered for sale. Purchased by William & James Clark, they repurposed the mill for wool instead of cotton still running on water power. The Clark brothers were familiar with the woolen trade as sons of Henry Clark who operated a woolen mill on Hyde Run near Greenbank.

After a fire in 1869 destroys Auburn Factory as the Clark’s named it, the mill was left vacant until 1880 when it was rebuilt by the Clarks. In 1886 William bought out James’ interest. Another fire in 1888 destroyed Auburn Factory. Auburn Factory caught the interest of Israel & Elwood Marshall and Franklin Ewart in 1890 for use as a paper mill. Marshall & Ewart Company would go on to rebuild Auburn Factory for the 3rd time and produce a special blend of cotton rag based industrial paper required for the manufacturing of vulcanized fiber.

While most may be familiar with Pusey & Jones Company along the Christina and Delaware Rivers which was owned and operated by relatives of Jacob Pusey, the Brandywine Creek Pusey operation eventually passed to Lea and Edward Pusey. A major cotton textile manufacturer employing more than one hundred workers at its peak, Pusey’s operation became the largest in the state by the late 1800s. Lea Pusey expanded his interests becoming a major bagged stove coal distributor in Wilmington between 1860 to 1880. By 1900 the nearly century old Pusey operation was no longer competitive with larger more efficient operations in the southern states and went into receivership.

In answering this month’s question some may have thought of another Pusey patent; for the matchbook. Joshua Pusey, yet another relative but a practicing lawyer from Lima, PA, loved cigars and hated carrying boxes of match sticks. He invented and patented the matchbook and Pusey & Jones developed the machinery to make the matchbooks.

The Pusey we’re thinking of in answer to our question is Joseph M. Pusey of Wilmington who patented a simple puzzle in 1907. The puzzle is presented as a square board with a hole drilled near each corner. With the board are two wooden dowels or posts with a pin or slot at one end, and two wooden dowels with a pin or slot at one end but also with short string attached, both strings being equal in length. With the posts inserted in the holes of the board, as stated in the patent, the object is to connect all the posts together with the two cords without lapping the cords or forming a double line of them in any direction, such that a cord covers each line of the X and the four sides of the [] (square) enclosing the X.

 

Would you like to try and solve Pusey’s Puzzle?
From the patent we’ve reproduced Figure One so that it can be printed out. Click on the image and print several copies of it or draw the equivalent freehand on a blank sheet of paper. In the center is a square box [] which contains an X. The object is to ‘shadow’ or ‘cover’ each of the black lines (X and [] ) only one time.

Download Pusey’s Puzzle Here

Using a Red pencil (or any color of your choice) start at the dark gray Pin 2 at the lower left and route a line to any of the three remaining posts. Continue on with the red line to a 2nd post and then on to your 3rd post covering one of the paths at the center of the panel with each stroke between pins. Then with a Blue pencil (or your color choice again) do the same thing starting with the lighter Pin 2 at the lower right and route a line to any one of the posts as you did with the first line. Continue on with the blue line to a 2nd post and then on to your 3rd post covering one of the paths at the center of the panel. As you route the line, don’t lift your pen until you touch three additional posts after leaving the lower left/right post. You may have a red and blue line together on any post however you may NOT have a parallel red and blue lines anywhere and a line once leaving the ‘2’ position can only contact the other posts one time!

Can’t figure it out? Send an email to questions ‘at’ auburnheights ‘dot’ org and we’ll send you the patent which includes the solution we’ve highlighted in color!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MISMATCHED STATION

This Month’s Q&A was submitted by FAH member, Elliott M. Warburton, a young historian attending A.I. DuPont High School.

Photographic records of the stations along the original Wilmington & Western Rail Road thankfully exist for all stations. Pictured is an Intaglio engraving produced print of the railroad’s first Wilmington Station (left) and Wilmington Freight Depot (right) from Lippincotts Magazine, April 1873 showing typical construction. We can confirm that the stations that once stood along the line were mostly identical, and all appeared similar to our community’s beloved Yorklyn Station. That is, except for one. There is one station, known to have stood alongside the Branch, that is completely different in design from not only Yorklyn Station, but every other station constructed along the line. It appears to be, in an 1895 photograph by Charles Philips, a two-story, peaked roof structure, with absolutely no similarities to Yorklyn Station or any of the others at all. What station is this, and why is it so different from any other station along the line?

 

Answer

Throughout the history of Yorklyn, there have been numerous structures that have architecturally become staples of the community. Within this category, we have places like Auburn Heights, various Garrett homes, and when looking back at what once was in Yorklyn, numerous ornate mills that emphasized architecture (Garrett Snuff Mill below; E. Christofano 1986) as much as they did production capabilities. One important structure, which is no longer within the boundaries of Yorklyn (but nevertheless holds much value to our community), is the Wilmington & Western Rail Road’s (WWRR) Yorklyn Station, which was moved to Greenbank in 1968. The structure was moved following Tom Marshall’s and other’s interest in the Baltimore & Ohio’s Landenberg Branch, to revive branch steam passenger service between Greenbank and Hockessin (Landenberg, the end of the original Wilmington & Western, was inaccessible by rail following the 1950s removal of the right-of-way after Valley Road in Hockessin).

But another reason the station was relocated was for proper preservation by dedicated enthusiasts. The only reason the station survived as long as it did was due to the freight services NVF still needed into the 1960’s, and the desire to have an office close to the primary remaining freight operation along the branch. Yorklyn Station was, in reality, one of nine nearly identical stations constructed by the first incarnation of the Wilmington & Western between its Wilmington origin, and it’s Landenberg terminus.

Ironically, for Landenberg station, constant relocation of the WWRR’s Wilmington Station eventually resulted in the first WWRR Wilmington Station being disassembled and reassembled in Landenberg to become Landenberg Station. As a result of the flat-roofed design of the stations, and the probability of lack of routine maintenance to all the stations in times of financial difficulty or when they were closed, Yorklyn Station became the sole surviving station by the mid-20th century. Hockessin Station, of similar design to Yorklyn Station, became the only remaining station when Hockessin Station was torn down in 1950.

The station in question, once standing near Mt. Cuba Road covered bridge, was the primary station for the Mt. Cuba community on the Christiana and Mill Creek Hundred sides of the Red Clay. It appears in an 1895 photograph by Charles Philips (shown right and close-up below, ca. 1890s, from Charles Philips Collection at Chester County Historical Society) as a two-story, peaked roof structure, with absolutely no similarities to Yorklyn Station at all. What makes Mt. Cuba’s station different from the station at Yorklyn can mainly be accredited to the fact that the structure was not actually erected by the original incarnation of the Wilmington & Western (1869-1877), but was a pre-existing structure, likely a private residence, repurposed for the railroad at Mt. Cuba.

Mt. Cuba Station actually represents a unique case in the original WWRR’s history when the company decided to use an existing structure for their infrastructure, rather than fabricate an entirely new building, as they had for every other depot along the line. Why the company may have chosen to do this may have been a result of their financial difficulties during the railroad’s construction, which possibly impaired the Company’s ability to erect a new station at Mt. Cuba (or Cuba Hill, a name often exchanged with Mt. Cuba until 1872). It is important to keep in mind that Mt. Cuba rock cut, the monstrously challenging final roadblock of the line, was within the vicinity of the station. On a railroad that started construction crews at Wilmington and Landenberg in 1871 and laid rails west and east respectively until they met at Mt. Cuba, further construction within the area had become a costly and potentially bankrupting effort for the railroad.

Another possible reason the structure may have been repurposed as a station could have been out of pure coincidence. It was in the Wilmington & Western’s best interest to build a railroad at least cost, or essentially, the easiest way possible. Unfortunately, the area around Mt. Cuba Road offers few places to go besides directly in front of what was then a private residence (see map below).

The residence, as deduced from maps and records, was likely constructed by one J. Curley between 1850 and 1865. The property changed hands from Curley to a more established Mt. Cuba resident, Thomas Vandever, sometime between 1868 and 1872. Vandever, a prosperous farmer in the Mt. Cuba area, may have seen the railroad’s approach as a chance to buy up as much land adjacent to the creek as possible in order to make a profit; a common real estate tactic at the time.

In the case of the “Curley Home,” Vandever perhaps saw the property as a chance to potentially provide a depot to the railroad in order to ship his and his neighbor’s farm goods at the least cost to the community. If a new station needed to be constructed, it might be expected a station might’ve been built farther away from the Mt. Cuba farmers. Because of this, Vandever likely purchased the home, and within a short time of his acquisition, released it to the railroad for official public use. This situation, using a pre-existing structure for a new and important role, provided a unique opportunity for the local community to use a structure in a multitude of different roles.

We commonly view Yorklyn Station as being utilitarian during its time in Yorklyn. Yorklyn Station was railroad property from its construction to its final days in its original home in 1968. But as for Mt. Cuba Station, after being a private residence, the structure became a focal point of community activities, not only providing a rail connection to Wilmington and beyond, but providing a place for auctions, public gatherings, and other events of interest. Not to mention, a system of sidings (north of Mt. Cuba Road, shown on map) at Mt. Cuba were some of the largest along the line that weren’t tied to production facilities like Garrett Snuff Mills or the Marshall Rolling Mills in Marshallton. Mt. Cuba Station acted as one of the most capable places along the line for processing livestock, farm products, and smaller local milling shipments. It is also known that the station acted as one of the major centers for the region’s milk shipments along the WWRR. Just beyond the station was a picnic grove, still in use today, that the Wilmington & Western used heavily for special events and excursions in the 1870s.

The appearance of the station as different and older, though contrary to railroad President Joshua Heald’s view on WWRR stations, is an important reminder to some of the decisions made by the Wilmington & Western Rail Road during its construction period. But more importantly to us, Mt. Cuba Station shows exactly how crucial these structures were for the communities they served. Though different in design, the Mt. Cuba Station still proved an important community center for Mt. Cuba, similar to how we have come to retrospectively view Yorklyn Station as the center of our community when we still had the chance to have it nearby.

With the closure of places like the Mt. Cuba Picnic Grove by 1900, the town lost an important tourist attraction that drew people to the community. A 1927 Baltimore & Ohio photograph of the station (above right), the best one that can be produced of the site, shows the aging structure falling into disrepair, far beyond any state of grandeur as an original WWRR station. Officially, a benchmark date for the “dissolution” of the Mt. Cuba community could be seen as July 15, 1933 when the community’s post office officially closed. Without passenger service, which had been discontinued in 1930, it is assumed the station and home fell into disrepair. Due to the absence of any visible infrastructure at Mt. Cuba revealed on Delaware State Aerial Photographs from 1937, it can be assumed the 80-year-old home and station were lost to the same fate as stations like Ashland, Hockessin, and Landenberg (pictured below just before razing; New Garden Historical Society), leaving Yorklyn Station as yet another important survivor of the railroading age of the Red Clay Valley.

THE SPRING MOTOR

When one visits Auburn Valley State Park to tour the Marshall mansion, the Marshall Steam Museum, or Marshall Brothers paper mill a visitor takes a trip back in time exploring living as it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While visitors enjoy the contents of the mansion or a ride in a steam car, they often overlook the backstory that is being told. For example, docents are often asked, “How fast can a Stanley go?” In 1906 a Stanley set the world speed record of 127.6 miles per hour, but that was a special-purpose vehicle. On today’s roads a Stanley has no problem doing 35 MPH while maintaining boiler steam pressure. Visitors will often comment, “that’s slow”  as they use today’s modern vehicle speeds as their comparison.

When reminded of the high-crown dirt roads of the early 20th century and that it was the late 1910s before Delaware started thinking about paving rural roads, visitors realize driving at speeds of more than perhaps 10 MPH on those rural roads produced a very bumpy and potentially hazardous travel experience. Horse-drawn carriages and stage coaches might sustain 10 MPH and travel 100 miles in a day depending on road conditions, weight of the coach/carriage pulled, weather, etc. The motor carriage (steam, electric, or internal combustion powered) was an improvement but a long way from what we experience today. Visitors often relate what they see and experience at Auburn Heights to modern interpretation. Once reminded of the backstory present a century ago, an Auburn Heights experience often takes on a whole different meaning.

For the next few months, the Friends of Auburn Heights presents Changing Tunes: Evolution of Music at Home. The exhibit explores the evolving technology that brought music into the home and out onto the street from the 1880s through today. Many of the objects on display are still operational, and at select times on Steamin’ Days and museum open afternoons on Thursdays and Fridays, the musical instruments are demonstrated so visitors may hear how times and tunes have changed.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, mechanical music machines were amazing devices and beautiful to listen to, but today the backstory mustn’t be overlooked. These are purely mechanical music-making machines that applied mankind’s most basic understandings of science to produce sound. There are no digital electronics, no batteries, no circuit boards, or similar things we take for granted today. The music is preserved and replayed multiple times through the use of pins on cylinders, holes in paper, or varying width/depth spiral grooves. The “motor” powering the music machine doesn’t require electricity from a wall receptacle or battery.

An 1800s music machine contains but few mechanical parts and needed oiling, or other occasional maintenance. Sound is created and amplified in a purely mechanical way from its creation with the pluck of a metal strip or the vibration caused by moving air across a thin strip of metal that resonates. Amplification of recorded sound is afforded by mechanical diaphragms and resonance chambers. A listener is permitted to hear only ‘a’ selection before a change of cylinder, or disk, or roll must be performed to hear the next selection. A listening experience was but a few minutes duration unlike the “set it and forget it” nature of today’s music devices, which provide an “endless music experience.” Ownership in the 1800s of an automated music machine implied the owner to be successful or be from an “old money” family.

Just as mill ponds were the energy source for water wheels powering the mills along the Red Clay Creek, and boilers pressurized with steam suppled energy to steam engines during the magic age of steam, the astute observer will note the mechanical music machines rely on a miniaturized purely mechanical power storage system. What is this power storage system?

 

Answer

Many of the mechanical music machines demonstrated as part of the Changing Tunes exhibit rely on a human to provide a temporary “charge” to the music machine in order for it to function while others are more primitive requiring human power continuously applied (hand cranking) for operation. Mechanical music machines that used “stored power” are charged mechanically through a human turning a crank. The kinetic energy of cranking is stored mechanically, at potential energy, in a strip of steel known as a spring the music machine will subsequently use for the playing of a tune. The circular motion with one’s hand on a crank is transformed by gearing into for storage using a long strip of metal called a mainspring.

While Auburn Heights was constructed with “modern direct current electrical lighting,” the mansion’s Regina music box and other music-making antques throughout the house and museum don’t include a power cord or battery to provide power for their operation unlike music devices today. In fact, from 1897 until the start of the 1910s, even plugging in an electrical device was not possible as the modern-day wall receptacle wasn’t invented until 1904! Power for these antique mechanical music machines could only be supplied by a mainspring or continuous cranking by the listener as these were the primary power sources used more than a century ago. The mainspring is part of a the “spring motor” powering the music box or even a clock. Spring motors have been around since the 15th century, if not earlier, powering all sorts of devices.

Power springs and spring motors may be “charged” usually by cranking a crank or twisting a key. When power is needed, the spring’s stored potential energy is released as rotational kinetic energy to drive the music box, a grandfather’s clock, or child’s toy. The compact size and simple design of a mainspring and spring motor make them relatively worry-free in application. Through a train of gears and speed governing devices, all mechanical in nature as well, a very precise delivery of power results. The beauty of the spring motor was it could provide power for longer periods of time, up to 30 days in the case of some mechanical clocks.

 

OWNED BY A COMPETITOR

Opened in October 1872, the Wilmington & Western Rail Road flourished for several years before falling to receivership and being reorganized as the Delaware Western Railroad. The Delaware Western was purchased by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) in March 1881 as a means to enable additional tracks to be laid in Delaware. Today, what remains of the original 19.7-mile route still connects Marshallton and Hockessin (originally connected Wilmington, DE with Landenberg, PA). In 1888, renamed as the Landenberg Branch of the B&O, the line once displaying Delaware Western on the locomotives, freight and passenger cars, now displayed B&O livery.

By 1890, the B&O was in financial trouble due to the rate structure of freight operations even though the railroad made generous profit on passenger operations. The B&O sold their telegraph service to Western Union, express freight operations to United States Express Company, and their sleeping car equipment and franchises to Pullman Company as a means to show annual profits to the stockholders. By the late 1890s,the financial tricks to keep the railroad solvent were exhausted and reorganization without foreclosure was actively considered. Bankruptcy occurred in 1896. Reorganization allowed the B&O by the early 1900s to appear very successful once again. In the mid-1930s the B&O maintained more than 6,300 miles of track and advertised itself as “Linking 13 Great States with the Nation.”

Another railroad took control of the B&O during the 1896 bankruptcy period just mentioned. Which railroad took a majority stock interest in the B&O during this reorganization?

Answer
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the nation’s first common carrier railroad, and at the time the nation’s oldest railroad, sold more than half the outstanding shares of common and preferred stock to the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), one of the B&O’s strongest competitors, to help finance the reorganization effort. As a result, when the B&O exited reorganization, it could be argued that the PRR effectively ‘owned’ the B&O although the PRR chose not to push the situation because of increasing antitrust investigations underway by the U.S. Government.  The PRR chose to seat five individuals on the B&O Board but let the railroad maintain its independence of operations and management as the B&O. Because of government antitrust actions, in 1906 the PRR divested its controlling interest in the B&O by selling shares to Union Pacific and other railroads and investors.

From the 1930s into the 1970s, all of the nation’s railroads experienced a slow decline in passenger ridership and freight tons carried per mile. While the Great Depression saw a heavy decline of railroad traffic in general and a number of bankruptcies, the automobile and trucking industry contributed to the continued degradation of the nation’s passenger and freight railroads. By the early 1960s few railroads in the U.S. remained profitable.

The B&O was typical of nation’s east coast railroads as most were either dealing with red ink in their financial ledgers or they were already in bankruptcy, reorganization, or consolidation. As the Baltimore and Ohio continued to lose money, the directors sought out a financially sound company with deep roots in American railroad history with which to merge. The Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad (C&O) formally took control of the B&O in 1963. The combined B&O and C&O purchased Western Maryland Railroad forming Chessie System in 1972.

In similar fashion, the U.S. Government consolidated passenger traffic into Amtrak and formed Conrail in 1976 from several east coast railroads in bankruptcy. In 1980 further railroad consolidations saw Chessie System become part of the newly formed CSX Corporation. CSX Transportation and the Norfolk Southern Railway, agreed to acquire Conrail in 1998 by splitting it into two roughly-equal parts with both owning some shared assets in New Jersey, Detroit, and Philadelphia.

After a failed abandonment attempt of the Landenberg Branch in 1972 by Chessie System, CSX was granted abandonment of the former B&O Landenberg Branch in 1982. Historic Red Clay Valley, incorporated, the organization founded by Thomas C. Marshall and others in the 1960s to operate steam tourist trains on the Landenberg Branch, raised $90,000 to purchase the 64-acre right-of-way and a diesel locomotive from CSX. HRCV formed Wilmington & Western Railway (WWRY) for track maintenance and to make freight moves that have become increasingly rare occurrences.

THE WHEEL MONKEY

National Train Day (generally celebrated the 1st or 2nd weekend of May, depending on organization) was begun in 2008 by Amtrak to celebrate not only their start of operations in May 1971 but what all railroads have contributed to the growth of the United States. Amtrak ended their official celebration practice eight years later in 2016, although the recognition continues unofficially.

As rail accidents had been on the increase throughout the 1960s, President Nixon signed into law the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970. This act extended the Department of Transportation’s role in fostering the safe operation of railroads by assigning a defined safety role for the Federal Railroad Administration more comparable to the safety roles performed by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Coast Guard.

As a result, items like those pictured below were defined with the workers using them often called “wheel monkeys.” What are/were the items below used for in the railroad industry?

Answer
Investigations revealed that many railroad incidents and accidents were the result of poorly maintained railroad wheels and track structure. As a result, stricter regulations were put in place in 1970 for all railroads to follow regarding the routine maintenance of railroad wheels and track structures including the contours of rails and wheels. The three gauges pictured above were developed to determine an acceptable vs failing condition for in-service wheel defects routinely observed. The FRA developed a set of minimum requirements any wheel in service had to meet and the gauges above, along with others, allowed quick determination if a wheel complied with minimally acceptable wear and use criteria or had to be removed from service as defective.

As a result of the Act, railroad incidents involving track and car wheels dropped considerably. Today, many of these measurements are done electronically using cameras, ultrasonic, and magnetic resonance testing techniques as cars pass through freight yards. While it may still be possible to hear a railroad car moving past with a wheel thumping like a hammer on a kettle drum (due to having had the wheel slid and a flat spot developing) when one is stopped at a railroad crossing, the car is either being relocated for wheel replacement or about to be flagged as no longer serviceable in need of wheel replacement when it reaches the next interchange yard.

The YouTube video below details how the gauges above are used to make a quick confirmation that a railroad wheel is defective and must be removed for maintenance. A wheel out of compliance may be placed on a wheel lathe at a railroad shop and recontoured to passing status several times before it becomes scrap and must be returned to a foundry for melting back into other steel products.