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William Richard Jones

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William Richard Jones (1839-1889)

1876 'Captain William Jones, superintendent of the Edgar Thompson Steel Works, and Mr. John Cole, superintendent of the United States Iron and Tin Plate Co., concluded that Bessemer steel could be profitably used as a substitute for charcoal iron, and billets were made by Captain Jones, which were actually made into tinned plate by Mr. Cole. This introduced a great economy in manufacture, but not enough to compensate for the difference between the labour wages then prevailing in Europe and in the United States. Tinned plates of Bessemer steel are said not to have figured in the English market reports until 1878 or 1879.'[1]

1890 Obituary [2]

WIILLIAM RICHARD JONES, general manager of the Edgar-Thomson Steel Works, Pittsburg, was born in Luzerne County, Pa., on the 23rd February 1839, and died in Pittsburg on the 28th September 1889. He was the eldest son of the Rev. John G. Jones, who emigrated from South Wales in 1832.

At the age of ten years he was apprenticed to the Crane Iron Company at Catasanqua, having been put to work at this early age in consequence of his father's failing health. At the works of the Crane Iron Company he went first through the foundry department and afterwards through the machinery shops, and he appears to have made himself thoroughly acquainted with both. In 1856 he undertook the duties of working-engineer at an establishment in Philadelphia, and in the following year, having apparently developed a somewhat roving disposition, he became lumber-man, raftsman, and farm hand, in Clearfield County.

Two years later he entered the service of the Cambria Iron Company at Johnstown, where, however, he only remained three months. Thereafter he proceeded to Chattanooga, in Tennessee, and he appears to have been getting on there very well when, on the breaking out of the war, he was summoned to his own district.

In 1862 Jones enlisted in a company of the 133rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. At the crossing of the Rajudan he was somewhat badly injured, but although suffering greatly, he refused to leave the ranks. At the close of the campaign he re-entered the service of the Cambria Iron Company, and while acting in that capacity he organised the F Company of the 194th Pennsylvania Volunteers, of which body he was appointed captain.

In 1864 he was assigned to the provost-guard in Baltimore, where he served with credit; and in 1865 once more he entered the service of the Cambria Iron Company, as assistant to the general engineer. In that capacity he took part in the construction of the Cambria Company's Bessemer Steel Works. On the completion of the new Cambria Company's plant he became master mechanic, and he subsequently entered the service of Messrs. Carnegie, Phipps & Co. as general superintendent of the Edgar-Thomson Steel Company.

Under the management of Captain Jones, the Edgar-Thomson Works have become the most productive of their kind in the world. The total output of pig iron at these works during the current year will not be less than 800,000 tons; while the production of steel of all kinds will exceed half-a-million tons. Captain Jones took an active part, not only in superintending the actual progress of manufacturing operations, but also in building a number of the furnaces and other plant, that have made the Edgar-Thomson Works what they are to-day. Seven of the principal blast-furnaces owned by Messrs. Carnegie Brothers were constructed under his direction, and it is acknowledged on all hands that these furnaces have been remarkable even in the annals of American blast-furnace practice for the enormous yields that they have produced, some of them having turned out more than 2400 gross tons per week for a lengthened period.

Captain Jones's improvements and inventions have had much to do with making these furnaces, which are, however, ably managed by Mr. Gayley, the first in the world. His inventions are as numerous as they are useful. The first were "a device for operating ladles in Bessemer processes" and "improvements in hose couplings," patented December 12, 1876. In the same month he also patented fastenings for Bessemer converters. His other more important patents were - washes for ingot moulds, 1876; hot-beds for bending rails, 1877; apparatus for compressing ingots while casting ingot-moulds, 1878; cooling roll-journals and shafts, 1881; feeding appliance for rolling-mills, and art of making railroad bars, 1886; appliance for rolls, apparatus for removing and setting rolls, housing caps for rolls, roll-housings, 1888; and apparatus for removing ingots from moulds, 1889. His latest and, as some think, his greatest invention, is a method for mixing the iron taken from blast-furnaces and charged into two receiving-tanks previous to being poured into a converter. Letters patent on this invention have been allowed, but had not been issued at the time of his death.

Captain Jones became a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1881, and in the same year he furnished to the Institute two papers on the manufacture of Bessemer steel and steel rails in the United States. In these papers he described the methods of working the Bessemer plant at the Edgar-Thomson Works, and gave an explanation of the reasons that enabled the American works to turn out such large yields as they did. Captain JoneS combated the impression that fast running leads to the production of inferior steel, contending for the converse proposition that it was difficult to obtain great speed in working while bad steel was being produced.

Captain Jones met his death from an accident which occurred at the Edgar-Thomson Works while he was fulfilling his duties as superintendent of that establishment, and it has been a source of great regret to his numerous friends, both in the United States and in Europe, that he should thus have been called away in the prime of life. His employers have shown their sense of the value of his services by a series of resolutions which they adopted on the 3rd October 1889, to the following effect:— " Resolved, That as this firm, in all its history, has never been called upon to record a loss so tragic as that which has deprived it of its great manager, Captain William Richard Jones, so neither has it ever lost an officer whose services were more valuable, or to whom it was more deeply indebted for the success which has attended its operations.

"Resolved, That invaluable as the services of Captain Jones have been, not only to us, but to the steel manufacture in general, the remembrance of these fade away in the keen pangs of grief awakened in us by recollections of our friend, the man.

"Resolved, That the history of the steel manufacture will record his name with those whose joint labours have brought the art to its present state of perfection, and in the list of men who have risen from the ranks through the possession of indisputable genius to commanding positions as organisers and managers of masses of men in the industrial armies of this age, the highest rank must be accorded to Captain Jones.

"Resolved, That to us, his employers and friends, who knew him intimately through many years of almost daily intercourse, there is still left in our grief, though he has gone, the precious privilege of meditating upon a combination of manly qualities, which constitute the real man, and which, united in him, gave forth that indefinable but rarest quality, character: a brave, just, honest, transparent soul; a staunch, loyal-hearted, generous friend was he, whose absence from us and from our counsels we to-day so deeply mourn.

"Resolved, That his life should have been sacrificed in our service must ever hereafter tinge our thoughts of the Edgar-Thomson Steel Works with feelings of profound regret, and yet we would not forget that the Commander fell at the head of his men, at the post of duty, amid the roar of the vast establishment, which was his work, and which is his monument. A heroic end was his, worthy of the soldier he was; for Captain Jones fell upon the field which he had conquered."

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