January 31, 2017

01/02/2017: The American engineering works of Messrs Edward P Allis & Co

by Mildred Cookson, Mills Archive Trust

Research for my article last month on our milling engineers and the milling revolution, led me to discover that during 1885, The Miller published illustrated descriptions of several milling engineering works.
Mildred Cookson

The 7 September issue reported on a visit to the Bay State engineering works of the American firm of Messrs Edward P Allis & Co in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The Journal underlined the historical and enduring importance of milling engineers; at that time they were revolutionising new machinery and competition between them was ever more intense. The machines of Edward Allis, an eminent firm of engineers and millwrights, not only were to be found in every part of the United States, their reputation had spread worldwide.

They manufactured on a scale second to no other American firm, and were among the first makers of roller mills in the USA.

In 1885 the firm had been agents for Wegmann porcelain rolls for the previous seven years. They were also fortunate in securing the services of another eminent milling engineer Mr WD Gray, and the inventor of the well-known roller mill bearing his name.

It was noted that such was the extent of orders received that all the workshops on the premises were working double time. This in the face of the prevailing depression in American millwrighting speaks volumes for the firm. They had over 30 milling contracts in hand, not only roller mills but other special machines.

Disaster and triumph
Many years earlier William Goodnow had started a small machine shop and foundry at the corner of Florida and Clinton Streets. By 1885 that site had been taken over by the Cream city Iron Works. Mr Goodnow had been fairly successful and he was determined that his new Bay State shops would be the best and most perfectly equipped machine shops in the west.

Having secured the location at the corner of Lake and Barclay Streets, he put up a three-storey brick building with engine room, blacksmith’s shop and foundry adjoining The whole establishment was supplied with an extensive and complete outfit of tools, patterns etc, and work began on a large scale.

In a short time it was found that the works, built in an excess of business rivalry, were far in advance of their legitimate trade requirements and the institution became heavily involved and finally hopelessly bankrupt.

After various ineffectual attempts to operate them by receivers and the assignee, they were finally sold, to be purchased as a speculative investment, by Edward P Allis, owner of the Reliance Works already a thriving business.

The Bay State works were to remain idle for several years, leased for a period to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul Railway Company and were used as their repair shop. In time business grew and the site was reclaimed.

The firm had an excellent write up in The North-Western Miller describing the Bay State premises as occupying the half block fronting on Barclay Street, between Lake and Oregon Streets, Milwaukee.

Extra capacity was provided by the firm's Reliance Works, operating on a separate site but under the same management.

The main site made Gray’s famous noiseless roller mills, with the castings and the woodwork for the machines provided by the foundry and woodworking shops of the Reliance Works. For months at a time their daily output reached eight to ten complete machines.

Read the full article HERE.

The Global Miller
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which is published by Perendale Publishers Limited.

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