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.

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.


Interior View of Liggett Spring and Axle Co.

 ***CORRECTION*** According to Mr. Lowell L. Dexter, the photograph below is of the Toledo Spring Co. plant in Toledo Ohio, which was a sister to Liggett in 1975. Please see the comments section below for more information.View of steel storage area looking towards shearing machines.
September 1975 - View of steel storage area looking towards shearing machines at Liggett Spring and Axle Co. (click once for larger view then click again for extra large view)
Hand written note on reverse of photograph.

Working At Liggett Spring and Axle, September 1975

Liggett Spring and Axle, Sept. 1975
Liggett Spring and Axle, Sept. 1975 (click twice to view full size)
"Second end - second plate line. Four burner forge furnace of our design and manufacture. Secondary spring plates are rolled and trimmed in Abbey-Etna roll and ... ?
Reverse of photograph above - "Second end - second plate line. Four burner forge furnace of our design and manufacture. Secondary spring plates are rolled and trimmed in Abbey-Etna roll and ... (?) press."
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Crips or Bloods?

I came across this photograph a while ago. Great details showing people at work. Anybody know who this is? Can anybody decipher the the last two lines on the back of the photograph? It’s hard to believe this photo is 35 years old!

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.

Wearever Donkey Cart by Liggett Spring and Axle Co.

Liggett Spring & Axle Company was located across the river from Monongahela PA in what is currently known as East Monongahela. (Previously known as Axleton and even earlier Carrollton.)  At one time Liggetts was the largest spring and axle manufacturer in the United States. Evidently they made products other than springs and axles:

Liggetts Spring and Axle Wearever Donkey Cart
Liggetts Spring and Axle Wearever Donkey Cart (click image to magnify)

Below is a transcript of the document found with the photograph:

February 2,  1951


The Wearever Donkey Cart shown on Drawing 23252 is an all steel vehicle of very rugged design. The 6.00 by 16 four-ply tires are mounted on an 1-1/21″ square solid steel axle which is heat treated to withstand very heavy loads and rough usage, The steel box which is made of 14 gage .074 steel is heavily reinforced around the top and has a tail gate which has chains and hook for easier loading. The nominal dimensions of the box is 4 ft. wide, 6 ft. long x 12″ high. The bed has been raised 3″ above the axle to allow the cart to run relatively flat when hitched to a donkey. The bed height is approximately 18-1/4 inches above the ground. The shaft center line distance above the ground is approximately 26 inches.

The thills run around under the body and are securely fastened to the axle by U-bolts. This is the finest method of fastening known as all the pulling loads are directly on the axle and not on the body. The thills are extra heavy being made of 3″ high by 1-1/2 flange channels 1/4 inch thick. The use of angle iron for the thills has been strictly avoided because angle irons might buckle and fail under certain load conditions.

The thills being of channels facilitates the satisfactory installation of the wooden shafts by the customer, as the legs of the channel completely support the shafts and take the load off the attaching bolts. The shafts have been purposely omitted for several reasons.

One of these is that the customer can supply them at a cost saving to him in his own locality by reducing freight costs. Another reason is that he can have them fashioned to suit his own particular animal – as to length, width, curve, and to suit his harness.

The thills are uniquely designed so that the distance between them may be altered by the customer by sliding the U-bolts to the desired position and drilling a few new holes in the drawbar and box.

The whole cart is painted ia a suitable pleasing color.

Carts will be shipped knock-down and packed inside of box,   complete with all bolts for assembling.

DONKEY CART (Frame Type)

The Donkey cart shown on Drawing 23253 is a substantial frame suitable for mounting any desired body. The thills and running gear has the same excellent features as shown on our Box type cart #23252 with this type of frame. The customer obtains all the excellent quality of running gear at a minimum of cost and can mount any kind of a stake, box, fiat, cab, panel or other type body he desires. This make a very versatile unit.

Liggett Spring & Axle Company
Monongahela, Pa., U.S.A.