Nicholas-Louis Robert - 1798

In 1798, the Frenchman Nicholas-Louis Robert invented a machine that produced a continuous sheet of paper. The invention was patented January 18, 1799. After working on the machine five years he completed the design and sold his patent rights to St. Leger Didot. Didot took Robert's creation to his brother-in-law, John Gamble in England. After working on an improved machine, John Gamble filed for a patent in England. A patent was granted in April 1801. (Patent number 2487).

Bryan Donkin Era - 1807

The brothers Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier became interested in the improved machine and working with an engineer named Bryan Donkin, built a new and further improved machine in 1807. Neither the Sealy brothers or Didot profited from the new machine. Bryan Donkin was the only person who gained financially from his work on the paper machine. Donkin built a total of 191 machines for British and European mills including 1 for India and 2 for the United States.

Following the first Donkin machine the paper machinery building industry grew rapidly with names like Bertrams,  Bently and Jackson, Walmsleys and Millspaugh Ltd. of Sheffield, all the companies being in England. It wasn't long before paper machine building spread to Europe and then to the United States. Bryan Donkin & Co. of England built the first foudrinier paper machine in America in 1827 for H. Barclay of Saugerties, N.Y. The machine was 60 inches wide, and erected in December of that year. Donkin sold a second machine to Joseph Pickering that was installed in his mill in North Windham, Conn. in January of 1828 by an engineer named George Spafford.


George Spafford - 1827

George Spafford’s association with the North Windham machine had a great impact on him and the future of paper machine building in America. He immediately grasped the importance of the new foudrinier machines and realized they would quickly obsolete the paper making process presently in use. He recognized that mills in the U.S. would resist the great difficulty and high cost to import paper machines from England but would prefer, if possible, to purchase machines made locally if paper machines of this type could be designed and manufactured in America.

Phelps and Spafford - 1828

George Spafford and James Phelps, an experienced paper mill builder started the company of Phelps and Spafford, to build fourdrinier machines. Charles Smith, a young man of 19 had a reputation in paper mill building, joined Phelps and Spafford and would later head up the firm. Phelps and Spafford's first foudrinier was delivered to Amos D. Hubbard in Norwich Falls, Conn. in 1829. It was reported to be a copy of the Donkin machine that George Spafford had installed for Pickering in North Windham. The new machine started and successfully made paper in a short time. The success of the first U.S. foudrinier machine resulted in an order for a second machine for Henry Hudson of East Hartford, Conn. The third machine for W.I.C. Baldwin started successfully shortly after, giving Phelps and Spafford the reputation of a reliable paper machinery builder. The company continued to prosper until the financial crash of 1837 when they encountered financial difficulty and were forced  to shut down.

Smith, Winchester & Company - 1837

The Phelps and Spafford plant was purchased by Charles Smith and Harvey Winchester and reorganized as the Smith, Winchester & Co. The new company quickly carved out a name for themselves in the burgeoning paper industry in America. They acquired a line of stuff pumps and beaters to compliment their regular line of foudrinier paper machines. In 1854, the firm secured the patent rights of Joseph Jordan and Thomas Eustice and introduced the Jordan and Eustice refining engine. Samuel P. Taylor came from a paper manufacturing background. He purchased a paper machine from Smith & Winchester for his mill site in California. The machine had to be shipped by boat around the Isthmus of Panama, overland on skids, boated on the Pacific and then overland by ox cart to the mill site in Taylorville. This was the first paper machine to go west of the Mississippi, and was put into operation in 1853.

Rice Barton 1837

Rice Barton was founded in 1837 and made machinery well in the the 1970s. There are many Rice Barton machines still in operation in New England and the upper Midwest. Most have been rebuilt over the years, but Rice Barton frameworks can be seen throughout the USA

Pusey and Jones - 1848

In 1848, two mechanics Joshua L. Pusey and John Jones formed a partnership in Wilmington, Delaware. As business increased they hired several men. One, Matthew Spiegelhalter, whose son later would become president of Pusey and Jones. The payroll in those beginning years amounted to $90 per week, an impressive sum for that period. In 1851 Edward Betts and Joshua Seal, who were operating an iron foundry in Wilmington purchased an interest in the business, and the name of the company then became Betts, Pusey, Jones & Seal. More than 2.000 employees worked for the firm during the period of World War I building ships. In 1867 Pusey built their first two paper machines for Jessup & Moore's, Rockland Delaware paper mill. The machines were fourdriniers with wire widths of 86" and had 36" dryers, 2 presses and 2 calenders. The demand for faster and wider machines began to make itself apparent with each succeeding year. In July 1887 they built a 112" for the Hudson River Pulp and Paper Company,  then the largest machine in existence, and was designed to produce paper at rate of 200 feet per minute. Later, the machine was reported to have attained a production rate of 250 feet per minute, and was attracting wide attention.  In November 1895 Pusey exported their first paper machine out of the U. S. to Torntor Co., Ltd., in Imatra, Finland, and followed that in march 1896 with a machine for Drammenselves Papirfabriker, Norway, Ltd. Through the Siamese Embassy in Washington, D. C., in I92I, the Bureau of Standards was authorized to furnish designs and specifications for a complete paper mill and its full complement of machinery for the Kingdom of Siam. Pusey Jones was selected to manufacture the machine and mill equipment. The interesting aspect of this order was the fact that the machine was to be a miniature model with a total length of 56 feet. The width of the Lilliputian machine was to be inches.Pusey had many "firsts" over the ensuing years. Twelve years after Pusey & Jones celebrated their centennial by issuing a booklet titled, "A hundred Years A-Building'", they closed their plant in Wilmington, Delaware forever. Pusey had built 497 paper machines in the period from May 1867 to October 1956. The last machine order was a 270" wire machine for Southland Paper Mills, Inc., Lufkin, Texas. Ironically, if they had built this machine it would have been the widest machine Pusey had ever put in service. Many were puzzled at the closing of Pusey Jones. They were a company that built excellent machinery and had a good reputation and an excellent staff of engineers and fabricators. The employees were dedicated and expressed pride in Pusey Jones and the Pusey product line they made famous.

Bagley & Sewall - 1853

George Goulding owned a machine shop in 1833 in Watertown, N.Y. He became involved in building and installing machinery for the many industries that were rapidly springing up in the immediate vicinity. By the year 1853 the business had grown to the point he required capital. Messers. Bagley and Sewall had a desire to go into business and supplied both the necessary capital and badly needed business talents. September 12, 1853 an agreement was made with George Goulding to form the partnership of Goulding, Bagley and Sewall. The new firm prospered by buying patent rights, principally in the auxiliary equipment line for paper mills, but it was not until the year 1889 that they designed and constructed their first paper machine and became actively engaged as paper machine builders. The firm later became known as Bagley & Sewall. It was a prosperous company that built many paper machines in addition to other paper related products and operated successfully until the second world war when it was sold to a used paper machine merchant, named Abe Cooper of Watertown, NY. Mr. Cooper operated Bagley & Sewall through the war years and later sold the  company to the Black Clawson Company of Hamilton, Ohio. Black Clawson operated from the facility as the Black Clawson company, retiring the Bagley & Sewall product line. Black Clawson later moved their operations to Fulton, NY. There are plans to raze the abandoned Bagley & Sewall buildings on Sewall's Island May or June, 2001. Black Clawson indicates the property will be returned to the city of Watertown.

Beloit Corporation - 1858

The year 1858, President James Buchanan received greetings from Queen Victoria via the first transatlantic cable. That same year Orson Merrill arrived in Beloit, Wis. to establish a foundry named 0. E. Merrill Company. Within a year, a Partner, George Houston, joins him. The company becomes Merrill and Houston Iron Works. Their principal product is a patented water powered turbine developed by Houston. Shortly they started to supply rebuild parts for paper mills. The first complete paper machine was a 48" wide cylinder machine for Iowa Manufacturing Company. They built 104 machines from 1862 to 1884 and gained a reputation for the manufacturer of superior papermaking equipment. They, like Phelps and Spafford, encountered difficulties during the financial panic of 1873. January 7, 1885, the assets of the company were sold at auction. In July of 1885, four former employees of Merrill and Houston, Fred Messer, Alonzo Aldrich, William H. Grinnell, and Nobel J. Ross, formed a new company. The name of the company was Beloit Iron Works. The first machine built by the new company was a 72" cylinder machine for Q. I. Newton. 1916 was one of the best years for the company, the year E. H. Neese, Sr., formerly with Pusey Jones, joined the company. By 1931 sales were more than eight times the 1916 level. That year Mr. Neese was brought into the company. Elbert Neese, Sr., had a long-standing goal of making the Iron Works a family owned company. By 1930, with the exception of a few shares, the Iron Works common stock was owned by Alonzo Aldrich (who had married into the family) , E. H. Neese, and Laura Aldrich Neese. Over the years, the strong engineering staff, the R & D effort and the technological breakthroughs made Beloit the world leader in producing outstanding paper machinery. They acquired companies such as Walmsley, Jones, Lenox, Italia, companies that specialized in making paper machine equipment, built plants around the world, became associated with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan and were truly a multi-national corporation, The name was changed in 1962 to Beloit Corporation. In October 1985, Chairman Elbert H. Neese, Jr. announced that the Neese family had decided to sell Beloit Corporation. "Divergent family financial interests" was given as the reason for the sale. In February 1986 it was announced that Harnischfeger Corporation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin had purchased Beloit Corporation for $175 million. Harnischfeger’s president, William W.Goessel had previously been associated with Beloit for 32 years. Under Goessel’s leadership, Beloit Corporation took immediate steps to divest itself of its outside interests and focused attention on expanding its role as a world leader in the design and manufacture of systems and equipment for the pulp and paper industry. Several years after the retirement of Goessell, Harnischfeger, under the directorship of Jeffery Grade, found itself in serious financial difficulties due to a soft copper market, a slump in the mining industry and poor management decisions, Harnischfeger declared Chapter 11bankruptcy June 7,1999. Beloit Corporation was sold to strengthen the position of Harnischfeger. Several companies including, Metso, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, GL & V of Canada, to name a few acquired Beloit assets. In it's time Beloit broke record after record of speed, width and quality and built 929 paper machines (a record in itself). Many of it's superior and dedicated work force found themselves employed by companies that once were Beloit competitors.

The Sandy Hill Corporation 1858 

In 1858 the Baker’s Falls Iron Machine Works was founded by Mr. Phil Waite and was named after the adjacent falls on the Hudson River. The company originally was formed to produce water wheels but soon expanded into replacement parts for the many paper mills in Northern New York. Francis Van Wormer and Thomas Wells purchased the business in 1874. Paper mill machinery was emphasized with the production of cylinder machines and Harper type fourdriniers. The company name was changed to the Sandy Hill Iron and Brass Works in 1882 after the village of Sandy Hill, New York. The village of Sandy Hill was renamed Hudson Falls soon after the turn of the century. The production of cast iron dryers for paper machines from the Sandy Hill Iron & Brass Works has been documented as early as 1882 as these vintage dryers were observed in operation in the early 1990’s.

After the death of J. Walter Juckett the corporation was sold in 1991 to The Ahlstrom Corporation of Finland and subsequently various portions were sold to Valmet (now Metso),  Glens Falls Interweb, Inc. of South Glens Falls, New York and Groupe Laperriere and Verreault of Canada. GL&V Paper Group continues to operate a cast iron dryer foundry and machine shop from the same location as the original Bakers Falls Iron Machine Works.

Black Clawson - 1881

Peter Black, with his son Frank, had started a business in 1873 in Hamilton, Ohio as a roll-grinding and paper machine repair shop. Linus Clawson joined the growing enterprise in 1875. Peter Black and Linus Clawson built their first foudrinier paper machine in1881 for the Harding Paper Co. After the success of the first foudrinier, the company was incorporated to raise the additional capital needed for a larger factory, forming the basis of what became Black Clawson Co. The new machine builder offered two successful machine features: the Kutter-Trowbridge wet end and seamless dryers. In the expanding paper industry of the time, Black and Clawson machines were soon well known both in North America and abroad. The Dilts company became a division of the Black Clawson Company in 1940. One of the machines they built, Great Lakes Paper Company #4 machine, in the 1950s was the widest paper machine of the era. Black Clawson built many paper machines in it's time. In the 1950s Black Clawson acquired the Bagley & Sewall Company of Watertown, NY and moved their paper machine division to that location. In 1997 they became known as Thermo Black Clawson. In recent years they leaned more to  converting equipment, coating, plastics and recycling equipment. The Black Clawson Company later moved their operations to Fulton, NY, the site of the Diltz Division.

Moore & White

Moore & White built a number of paper machines but little can be found about this company. The earliest reference mentions a Moore & White warehouse fire in Philadelphia in 1871. A reference book on paper mills in the U.S. dated 1942 lists Moore & White refiners, beaters, cylinder and fourdrinier paper machines

It is interesting to observe that all the great American companies mentioned above with the exception of Black Clawson have ceased operation. But perhaps the cycle will restart as new companies emerge.

Paperchine, Inc. - 2000

One of the new companies emerging on the scene is Paperchine, Inc. Former Beloit Corp. Senior Vice President of Marketing and Development Laurie Wicks and three other former Beloit executives, James Ewald, Dan Morris and Larry Voss formed a new company named Paperchine, with Wicks serving as president. Wicks left Beloit Corp. in 1999 after 36 years of service. The combined paper industry experience these four executives had at Beloit Corp. exceeds 100 years. Paperchine started its operations in March 2000 with an order backlog gained from Beloit Corp.'s inability to fulfill the orders due to bankruptcy. By April 2000, Paperchine's roster had grown to 45 full time employees. In May 2000, Paperchine moved into the former Quality Diagnostics building in the South Beloit (IL) Industrial Park. The 25,000 square foot property houses Paperchine's administration, engineering, service and manufacturing departments. With business expanding, Paperchine increased their staff to 72 employees by the end of 2000. All employees are former Beloit Corp. employees. Some describe Paperchine as the new Beloit Corporation. Will Paperchine be the next major American paper machinery builder? History will tell.

Other American Paper Industry Builders

There are hundreds of companies in the U. S. specializing in their own areas of paper machinery manufacturing such as  pulping, roll wrapping, chemicals, coating, controls, construction, consulting,  trim systems, engineering, finishing, software, service companies, companies that specialize in individual paper machine sections, replacement parts companies, used machinery dealers, woodlands and of course the trade associations, to many to mention but all contributing greatly to the success of the paper industry in America.

This article researched and composed by Luigi Bagnato. If  you have contributions or comments about this article, please send email to Luigi Bagnato. 

Visit the: Paper Industry