Saturday, January 22, 2011

William S. Eddy Wants Steel Shovel Plate, 1851

Letter, William S. Eddy to Lazell,
Perkins & Co., February 22, 1851
Among the most important manufactures in Middleborough during the second quarter of the nineteenth century were shovels which were produced by a number of local makers including William Shaw Eddy (1789-1875) who operated a shovel works at East Middleborough during the 1840s and 1850s.

Eddy was the son of Captain Joshua Eddy who had established a small ironworks along Whetstone Brook in a portion of Eddyville which subsequently became known as “the Furnace” and still later as Waterville. The works which were situated on the east side of the brook at Plymouth Street at Savery's Pond were later operated by Eddy’s sons, William S. Eddy and Nathaniel. “The hollow-ware, or iron utensils, pots, kettles, and andirons [produced by the Eddys], were not only sold here, but were shipped in large quantities to supply the market in other sections of the country.” According to Thomas Weston, about 1840 the manufacture of shovels replaced the production of iron ware at the Eddy works which were managed exclusively by William S. Eddy and his son William C. Eddy following the retirement of Nathaniel.

By the early 1850s, William S. Eddy was purchasing iron shovel plate from Lazell, Perkins & Company of Bridgewater, in order to produce his shovels. Also known as the Bridgewater Iron Works, Lazell, Perkins & Company dated back to the 1690s and was a producer of nails as well as iron shovel plates, boiler plate, wagon wheel and barrel hoops, anchors, machinery and other items, and it was one of the nation’s largest iron producers.

Though Eddy continued to produce iron shovels through at least the late 1850s, his customers more and more demanded shovels with steel blades and he seems to have been challenged to meet their demands. A letter Eddy wrote to Lazell, Perkins & Company dated at East Middleborough on February 22, 1851, documents Eddy’s efforts to remain competitive and his consequent desire for steel rather than iron shovel plate.

After placing an order with the Bridgewater firm for number 16 and 17 gauge shovel plates, Eddy asks that the company consider producing shovel plates of iron and steel in order that he might be able to sell “steel” shovels. Eddy wrote:

P. S. wish you would have made for me some Shovel Plates, Iron and Steel. Can not you have some scrap steel put in them so that you can say that there is steel in the Plates. My customers want for me to make a cheap shovel for them from Iron & Steel. I know of no other way but to let them have a cheap article until they can learn that a good shovel is the cheapest.

Whether the Bridgewater company responded to Eddy’s request is not known. Eddy however appears to have lost ground to manufacturers of steel shovels, though he was noted as manufacturing as late as 1858. It is likely he wound up operations a short time thereafter as did many small shovel manufacturers who were unable to survive in a market increasingly dominated by the Ames operation at North Easton and other manufacturers of steel shovels.

Letter, William S. Eddy to Lazell, Perkins &
Co., February 22, 1851
After placing an order for iron shovel plates, the author
requests that Lazell, Perkins & Company consider
producing iron and steel shovel plate in order that "cheap"
steel shovels might be produced.
Eddy, William S.  Letter to Lazell, Perkins & Co., dated East Middleborough, February 22, 1851, author's collection.
Middleboro Gazette, March 13, 1857:2, and July 17, 1858:2.
Weston, Thomas.  History of the Town of Middleboro, Massachusetts.  Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906.


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