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The Townsend Company

Milestones Vol 25. No. 1

The following history of the Townsend Company was written May, 1919 by J. M. Townsend.

In the development of the steel industry, one of the most prominent places has been taken by the manufacturer of rivets and wire producers. This has been particularly noticeable during the late World War, with its ships requiring thousands of tons of rivets; its escort wagons, trench tools, steel shelters, and many implements in the manufacture of which the use of rivets was essential.

One of the most prominent of the manufacturers was the Townsend Company of New Brighton, PA, the first manufacturer of rivets west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The history of the Townsend Company begins with Robert Townsend, who was born near Brownsville, Washington County, PA, in April 1790. His father came from Chester County; an ancestor, Richard Townsend, having come from England with William Penn in 1682.

Robert, when quite a young man, became associated with Hugh Balderson in Baltimore where he obtained his first knowledge of the wire business. In 1816 he came to Pittsburgh where he entered the business field for himself, his shop being located on Market Street, between First and Second Avenues.

Soon after the opening of this shop, Mr. Townsend, with his nephew, Rees C. Townsend, and John D. Baird formed the partnership, Townsend, Baird & Co.

Attracted by the transportation and power facilities, the firm in 1828 purchased a site in Fallston on the Beaver River, and erected a new plant equipped with the most modern machinery, and operated partially by water power, although a large part of the work was still done by hand.

Mr. Baird retired after a few years, and in 1840 William P. Townsend, the eldest son of Robert, was made a partner, and the style of the firm was changed to R. Townsend & Co.

Rees Townsend died in 1851, and in 1864 Robert retired, William P. becoming sole proprietor. He enlarged the plant, put in new and improved machinery and gave employment to many more hands.

In 1866, the two sons of William P., Charles C. and Edward P., were taken into the partner ship under the name of William P. Townsend & Co.

William P. retired in 1894 and the business was carried on by his sons under the name of C. C. & E. P. Townsend.

In 1905, the business was incorporated under the laws of Pennsylvania as the C. C. & E. P. Townsend Co. On January 1, 1916, after the completion of one hundred years of continuous business, the corporate name was changed to Townsend Company.

For sixty-four years, the offices and warehouse of the company were located on Market Street, Pittsburgh, but in 1880, for the sake of convenience, they were moved to Fallston.

Fallston is situated on the west side of the Beaver River, just below the falls from which it takes its name, about three miles from the mouth of the river. This town was formerly a place of great importance as a manufacturing center. Nearly all of the industries of those early days have disappeared, Townsend's remains, with the unique experience of having been in existence for more than a century, and while the name has been changed a number of times, the distinctive part of it-Townsend - remains unchanged.

A pioneer institution in the iron and steel industry of the Pittsburgh district, the Townsend Company has long and justly been famed for its rivets and wire products. Townsend's was the first iron business in Beaver County. They were the first to demonstrate the great advantage of using wire in engineering construction. One of the world's greatest construction engineers, John A. Roebling, years before he became identified with the manufacture of wire, availed himself of the cooperation of the Townsends in a number of very important undertakings. The cables for the incline over the Allegheny Mountains, a scheme used with success to facilitate rapid transit east and west before the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad tunnels, were manufactured by the Townsends, as were also the cables for the old aqueduct across the Allegheny River at Pittsburgh.

The Townsend mills at Fallston at present cover a space of ten acres. The plant is the very best equipped in the country. Over seven-hundred skilled workmen are employed. Townsend rivets and wire products have a reputation for quality second to none, and find their way into the markets of the entire world.

As a manufacturer, Townsend Company has rendered distinctive service to our Government and her Allies during the World War, running to onehundred percent capacity during the entire period. Billions of Townsend Anchor brand rivets were used in the construction of cargo ships for our Emergency Fleet; in the Ford Eagle Patrol Boats and the Mosquito Fleet that drove the Hun from the seven seas; and in the Destroyers and Battle Ships of our Navy. The shovels used by our Boys at the front for digging trenches were made with Townsend rivets. Townsend rivets were sent into Hun land as a part of aerial bombs and hand grenades thrown by our soldiers. Gun carriages, trench mortars, ammunition wagons and ambulances were made with Townsend rivets. The transportation department of the Service of Supply was provided with escort wagons and motor lorries built with Townsend rivets. The locomotives and cars sent to France to move the vast quantities of military supplies from Brest and St. Nazaire were fabricated with Townsend rivets, as were the great shops of the Ordnance Department and the Engineers. Shelter huts made from corrugated iron, providing a place for the doughboy to sleep, were fastened with Townsend rivets.

No less important a part of America's fleet of airplanes than the Liberty motor were the nails made by Townsend Company and used to fasten the fabric of the wings to the frame work, and the rivets in the bodies.

From the smallest wire nail to the largest rivet, the product of this company has done its bit, and was present at many Liberty Loan demonstrations, occupying an inconspicuous but important place in Whippet tanks that toured the country in the interest of the Victory Loan.

The Company Honor Roll contains fifty-one names, and is one of the largest in the Beaver Valley. A large bronze tablet bearing the name of each employee who responded to the call is being cast and will be given a place of honor.

One of the directors, Benj. R. B. Townsend, a great-grandson of the founder, has been engaged in Y.M.C.A. work overseas for more than one year. Alfred E. Townsend, a brother of the President of the Company, is an officer of infantry in France. Two great-great-grandsons of Robert Townsend, Walter S. Townsend of the Marines, now in Germany with the Army of Occupation, and Harold C. Townsend of the Motor Truck Department have been in the service since the early part of the war.

The employees of Townsend maintain a well equipped Club House in New Brighton, where entertainment of various kinds are given. An Athletic Director is in charge of this branch of the Club activities, and a large gymnasium is being installed in the Club House. The Townsend Club has taken a prominent place in baseball during the past year, having two fast teams. A visiting nurse, under the direction of a Relief Committee composed of members of the Townsend Club, is in constant attendance at the Club House, and is available in case of illness among its members. Low cost life insurance and sick benefits are included in the advantages of the Club.

From the Beaver Countian