A Little More History Of The Liggett Spring And Axle Company

From the July 31, 1902 edition of Iron Age

The Liggett Spring and Axle Company, manufacturers of high-grade carriage and wagons springs and axles, whose plant is now located in Allegheny, Pennsylvania are going ahead rapidly with their plans for building a new works near Monongahela City. The company have secured at this place at tract of 150 acres, on which the new plant will be built, and the main building will be 600 feet long. Contracts have been given to the McClintic-Marshal Construction Company, Park Building, Pittsburgh, PA., for the erection of the buildings, all of which will be of steel, except the boiler house. The Coshocton Iron Company, recently organized at Pittsburgh, and who are a constituent interest of the Liggett Spring and Axle Company, will also direct the plant on this new track.

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Beginnings Of The Old Combustion Engineering Plant, Monongahela PA.

What we know as the old Combustion Engineering (C.E.) plant started out as The Coshocton Iron Works. Here’s an entry from Iron Age, Volume 7o, 1902:

Application for a Pennsylvania charter will be made August, 21 by the Coshocton Iron Company, operating a foundry at Coshocton, Ohio, which have become allied with the Liggett Spring & Axle Company of Allegheny. The incorporators are C.E.M. Champ, William E. Marquis and S.E. Hare, all of the Liggett Company. The company will remove their works to a building 100 x 300 feet, which will be erected to adjoin the large plant which the Liggett Company are building on the  P., McK, & Y. Railroad, opposite Monongahela City, Pa. The chief product of the foundry will be axle boxes, of which the Liggett Company use about 100 tons per month.

 

A Brief History of Liggett Spring and Axle Co.

I’ve been doing some research about Liggett Spring and Axle Co. and will be making several posts over the next few days. (If you want to see all articles on this topic just click on the tag in right hand column.) Most people around here don’t refer to the company as “Liggett Spring and Axle Co.”, they just shorten it to “Liggetts” so for the sake of brevity I’ll do that too.

The first bit of information I found about Liggetts was this excerpt from the Directory To The Iron And Steel Works Of The United States, 16th ed. August 1904:

Liggett Spring and Axle Company, Pittsburgh. Works at Axleton, Allegheny county, opposite Monongahela. Built in 1903-4 utilizing machinery from former works at Beaver ave. and Fayette st., Allegheny; rolling mill not put in operation down to May 25, 1904; other departments started in January, 1904; equipped with about 60 large and small heating furnaces, 26 hammers 9 from 500 to 1,000 pounds,) and one 16-inch train of rolls used to reroll iron and steel into shapes for the manufacture of axles; product, buggy and wagon axles and springs; annual capacity 7,500 tons. Fuel, coal. O.C. Hall, Vice-President and Manager; George W. Wright, Jr., Treasurer.

The most helpful source of information I’ve found about Liggetts Spring and Axle Co. is this article by Tom Headley. In it he writes:

In 1903 the Liggett Spring & Axle Company moved from Pittsburgh’s North Side and built a factory to manufacture buggy springs and axles. To provide raw material for this plant, the owners also constructed an adjoining foundry to supply castings.  Business boomed during World War I from the manufacture of springs and axles for army vehicles.  At this time the plant was reported to be the largest spring factory in the country. In 1916 the company built two rows of identical brick houses (still standing) to house their employees which became known as Axleton. With the shift to automobiles, the axle plant was separated from the foundry and began doing business as the Coshocton Iron Works engaged in the manufacture of parts for stoker furnaces.  This plant later combined with others to form the Combustion Engineering Company which continued to operate the plant until the 1980’s.

Here’s are two aerial photographs of the plant/s taken 40 years apart:

Liggett Spring and Axle Co. and Combustion Engineering Co., Monongahela PA.
Liggett Spring and Axle Co. and Combustion Engineering Co., Monongahela PA. circa 1967 (click image to enlarge)
Liggett Spring and Axle Co. and Combustion Engineering Co., Monongahela PA.
Liggett Spring and Axle Co. and Combustion Engineering Co., Monongahela PA. Today (click image to enlarge)

Click on this link to view the best interactive map of the plant. The link takes you to Microsoft’s Bing map service where you can not only zoom in, but also rotate the maps using the circular “rosette” on the bottom. This will enable you view the building from four different angles. (Note that you can increase the viewing area by removing the advertisements on the left side – just click on the “<” arrow.)

It was mentioned in the first article above that the plant was fueled by coal. What is interesting is that Liggetts owned a mine just across the street under River Hill. I wish I could locate the mine entrance. Somebody recently told me it was located between Liggetts and C.E. I wonder if there is any remains of the mine entrance.  (If you know why not leave a comment.)

It’s funny but as a kid I never heard of Liggetts. I thought this whole complex was occupied by Combustion Engineering. I guess part of the reason is that my mother worked for C.E. in the office and she never really had a reason to mention Liggetts when we would drive by on rt. 136. Also I remember that C.E. had a rather impressive water tower (visible in the black and white map version) with it’s logo painted on it. I don’t remember seeing any signage for Liggetts though.

I would like to hear what you remember about Liggett Spring and Axle Co. I would be especially interested to know:

  • Where the Liggetts mine entrance was.
  • When was the foundry sold to Combustion Engineering?
  • Before the foundry was purchased by Combustion Engineering, it known as Coshocton Iron Works. What was the relationship between Coshocton and Liggetts? Did Liggetts own Coshocton right from the start or was Coshocton formed sometime after the complex was built (as Hadley’s the article above seems to indicate) I found this article stating that a Coshocton Iron Co. existed in Ohio before the Liggetts Monongahela plant was built so I am a little confused.
  • Do you have any pictures of Liggetts or Combustion Engineering you would like to share?

Anyways, I’ll be posting a few more pictures of the people who worked at the Liggetts/C.E. complex along with some pictures of the company houses that Liggetts built for their workers.