This site is dedicated to the inventive genius of our community’s most famous resident, Oberlin Smith, and the Ferracute Machine Company he founded in 1863 in Bridgeton, New Jersey. Considered a leader in the field of mechanical engineering in the late 1800’s, Smith was the holder of over 70 patents. The Ferracute Machine Company he founded in 1864 found it’s niche in the manufacture of metalworking presses used to stamp out parts for the canning industry, the automotive industry, and in the making of cash coins. Ferracute presses were shipped around the world, and contributed to the opening of trade in the far East. Among the many societies that Smith belonged to, he became the President of the ASME in 1899, the New Jersey Director to the Pan-American Exposition in 1901, and a member of the National Geographic Society. Smith was a prolific writer to many engineering trade journals of his time. Thus we embark in presenting information, literature, artifacts and photographs of Smith’s small, yet very important contribution in the story of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Management of this site has recently been assumed by a small group of community members who identify themselves as Advocates for the Preservation of Local Industrial History, Bridgeton New Jersey. They are volunteers who plan, assemble and advertise periodic exhibits in gallery space made available by the owners of a large, attractive custom kitchen and bath business showroom. Frank Burton and Sons have long been a respected plumbing business serving the plumbing, kitchen and bath needs throughout Southern New Jersey. The Burton family has an enthusiastic interest and concern for local history and has generously provided space in their location for this venue since May of 2008. Our initial plan is to prepare and post on this site an exhibit of one of the most interesting, colorful and well documented chapters in the company’s history, Ferracute Goes to China. It will tell the story of Oberlin Smith and his company designing, building, shipping and setting up an entire mint in the city of Chengtu for the Imperial Government of China in 1897-98. We intend to post our progress in creating this exhibit and have set a tentative date for having it in place at our venue, Frank Burton and Sons, Inc. by early summer 2011. Other aspects of the history of Oberlin Smith and Ferracute will evolve as this web site develops and expands.
The work of two Bridgeton New Jersey Residents is gratefully acknowledged:
Arthur J. Cox – Is the author of the book Ferracute – The history of an American enterprise. Cox’s interest in Ferracute comes from his boyhood memories of the red-brick plant down the road, and may family friendships with former Ferracute employees throughout the years.
Following the publication of Ferracute in 1985, Edwin Battison, founder of the American Precision Museum, Windsor, Vermont wrote in an early review that Ferracute was a “pioneer effort” in recording the history of this industry.
James W. Gandy – Is the founder and president of the Oberlin Smith Society, whose purpose was first to preserve the Ferracute plant site and second to research and collect the almost uncountable number of technical writings and other contributions that Oberlin Smith made to the many professional societies he was involved in.
Without the passion of these two Bridgeton residents for their life-long pursuit and preservation of the Oberlin Smith story, a significant chapter of local history, and a chapter in the story of the Second Industrial Revolution may have gone unwritten. It is the larger intent of this website to display their work in part.
We are also indebted to David Alkire Smith for encouraging us to continue this site he initiated in 2008. David is widely known and respected in the fields of metal working presses and manufacturing by their use. He authored the only comprehensive and authoritative text currently in print “Fundamentals of Press Work” published by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers in 1994. David has long been a consultant to industry and his column currently appears in “American Tool, Die and Stamping News” under his by-line, Dave Smith / Solutions. During our many conversations he has often voiced regret at the lack of evidence that the history of this technology is being pursued or preserved and that the book Ferracute, stands alone in recording a small part of the history of this technology. Above his autograph of our copy of Fundamentals, David wrote, “Oberlin does need his place in history preserved.”