History of the FRICK COMPANY

By Staff
article image
Above, drawing from Mike Rohrer's letterhead.

Sent to us by Mike Rohrer,12025 Steven Avenue, Smithsburg,
Maryland 21783-1553, the following is a paper read July 29, 1926,
8:00 p.m. by Ezra Frick, President and General Manager of Frick
Company, at a meeting of the Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, at the
Anthony Wayne Hotel.

The history of Frick Company and its growth parallels or follows
closely that of our town. When the first small plant was started in
1860, by Mr. George Frick the population of the town was small,
1345 inhabitants. As the Frick and other industries started later,
increased in size and importance, the town kept pace.

In view of the prominent part played by the Frick plant in the
industrial life and progress of Waynesboro, we believe a short
historical account of this organization will be of interest.

During the winter of 1882-1883 a member of the staff of the
Scientific American visited the new factory of Frick and Company,
and in the March 17, 1883 issue of this publication there appeared
a lengthy illustrated article very completely describing the Frick
factory, it was just before this, during the year 1882, that Frick
and Company built its first ammonia compressor and this article is
very interesting now historically as it shows the scope of
operation of the Company at the time it entered the refrigerating
field. The following extracts are from this article.

‘Nestled in picturesque loveliness, under the shadow of the
Blue Ridge Mountains of southeastern Pennsylvania lies the
beautiful and fertile Cumberland Valley, but not less renowned than
the historical valley it self is the town of Waynesboro, Its
busiest burg, as being the home of the Frick Industries.’

‘In the year 1850, Mr. George Frick, the present general
superintendent, a millwright by trade was engaged in his
profession, having a small country shop near Waynesboro, and in the
autumn of that year he built his first steam engine, a
two-horsepower, from his own patterns and for his own use. (This
small shop was located at Ringgold, Maryland, just over the Mason
& Dixon line. George Frick was born November 7, 1826 and died
December 23, 1892).’

‘Such was the humble origin of an industry destined to
become by far the largest in the valley or surrounding country, and
the products of which, from their reputation, were not only to
command a ready sale in the markets of America, but were to earn
universal renown.’

‘The affairs of the company were never so promising as we
find them at this time, and although increased capital and extended
facilities have been added when these additions have become
indispensable to the proper conduct of the business, they are yet
unable to satisfactorily handle the trade which offers. Extensive
additions are being made to the works and the number of mechanical
experts employed is being constantly increased.’

‘From its foundation the business management of the company
was devolved upon Mr. George Frick, who, although advanced in
years, continues to pay close attention to it, and while he has
associated with himself a large and capable body of associates, the
present successes of the company are largely due to his constant
presence and supervision as was the origin of the business to his
ingenuity and unusual mechanical skills.’

‘It is a fact well worthy of record, that since their
commencement the works have not been stopped for want of business,
having been kept constantly engaged even through the period of
depression which this country witnessed after the financial
disturbances of 1873.’

‘The extensive and constantly increasing application of
steam as a motive power for agricultural and other purposes, has
led Frick and company to pay especial attention to the production
of an engine made on the highest scientific principles, original in
design, strong in power, and long in durability; and their claim to
possess the best engine ever marketed, would seem to be well
authenticated. At the international Continental Exhibition of 1876,
the judges found after minute examination that The Eclipse farm
engine gave the best results of any that were tested’ (we quote
from their report of the Award) and the highest honors that could
be awarded were accordingly bestowed upon Frick and Company’s
engine.’

‘In the Summer of 1880, an engine was shipped by Frick and
Company to Australia, for exhibit at the exposition then in
progress at Melbourne then once again their engine was recommended
for the first award and gold medal of honor. This was a noteworthy
victory, the contest being unusually keen and the competition
severe, as will be seen, when it is stated that at this exhibition
there were twenty-five farm engines from England and other
countries, competing for the distinguished honor which was captured
by an American manufacturer, of which circumstances the country at
large has sufficient reason to feel proud.’

‘Awards–the highest that can be offered–more frequently
than otherwise, fall to the lot of the fortunate firm when they
compete for honors and the last distinct one paid their engine was
in October last 1882, at the St. Louis Fair, where they won the
first award of $100.00 in gold over fourteen competitors.’

‘The factory, as a whole, is a group of elegant and imposing
brick structures, and its equipment unsurpassed, each department
being most conveniently arranged for the prosecution of its
particular business, and the machinery and its tools employed being
of the latest and best designs.’

‘Some idea of the capacity of the works can be formed, when
it is stated that during the last year they turned out close upon a
thousand engines alone, to say nothing of the boilers,
horse-powers, grain threshers, and saw mills, in which they do an
immense business. Five to seven hundred men here find constant
employment, and for the accommodation of a still greater force,
extensions to the works are being built.’

‘Situated in the midst of iron, coal and manufacturing
regions, Frick and Company have all possible advantages, in the
selection of materials, and as their works are reached by three
railroads, two of which connect with the Pennsylvania and Baltimore
& Ohio Systems respectively, at a short distance from
Waynesboro, it will be seen that every facility to theirs for the
favorable operation of a business of this character and
capability.’

‘Like most of the large concerns of the day, it will be seen
that the firm of Frick and Company had its small beginnings, and
its present reputation is but the natural outcome of intelligent
persistent, honest effort, exercised by its management, the
excellent merit of their products, and their unwavering adherence
to the principle, that quality is the first consideration.’

‘With the fairest of names and an adequate capital at their
command, their determination to maintain the advanced position
accorded them, will be seen not less strong in the future than in
the past, and from the observances made and knowledge gained during
our inspection of their method of doing business, their works, and
productions we hazard an opinion, that with the ability and
convenience they possess for them to keep at the front, will be no
difficult task.’

This ends our quotation from the article in the Scientific
American
which was published during March 1883. In the last
few lines you will notice the writer of the articles makes a
prophecy as to the future growth of Frick and Company. This has, we
believe, been fulfilled–while over two score years have passed, we
believe the prophecy can be renewed for Frick Company, vis:
‘That with the ability and convenience they posses for them to
keep at the front, will be no difficult task.’

In connection with the above quotation from the Scientific
American it will be interesting to note at this point the
following: That the firm of Frick and Company was formed in
February 1873 and that the following thirteen people organized and
formed the partnership of Frick and Company:

John Philips, S. B. Reinhart, Daniel Tritle, A. H. Strickler,
Joseph Price, J. S. Losher, Daniel Hollinger, Laban W. Ringert, W.
H. Snyder, A. O. Frick, W. A. Reid, Daniel Hoover, Samuel
Houflich.

At a meeting on February 13, 1873, the partners organized by
electing John Philips as the first president and Joseph Price as
secretary. The president with Dr. A. H. Strickler and Joseph Price
constituted the executive committee.

A. O. Frick is the only member of the original thirteen still
living and is present this evening.

The Corporation of Frick Company was organized early in 1885 and
the plant is operating on the charter given at that time.

The record from the Scientific American brings the history up to
the period that the company had its first experience in the
manufacturing of refrigerating machinery. The record and
achievements of Frick Company in this line will be covered by
another speaker. It is however, proper that I should refer at this
point to the employment of Mr. Edgar Penny, M.E. It was during the
year 1883 that he was employed. He had an extensive general
engineering experience and occupied an important position with the
inventor of the Corliss Engine, Mr. George H. Corliss of
Providence, Rhode Island. The Frick Corliss Engine which he
designed met with success from the start. To Mr. Penny is due much
of the success especially as to the design and construction of our
earlier types of Ice and Refrigerating Machinery. The records show
that he was a safe and successful designer which was much to his
credit in view of the fact that the refrigerating and ice making
industries were then in their early beginnings.

In reviewing the history of the Frick plant we wish to call
attention to several interesting facts in the development and
growth of several of its lines, and the apparent, or possible death
of what was at one period of its life an important line of
manufacture.

Threshing grain by machine was just beginning about the
’50s, or while Mr. George Frick was located at Ringgold,
Maryland. And it was probably in the late ’50s, or when Mr.
Frick located in Waynesboro in 1860, that he made the arrangement
with Mr. Peter Geiser to build some of these patented machines.
These early machines were generally driven by horse powers, as
portable steam engines were not built until a few years later.
During the ’60s the threshing machine line was sold to Geiser,
Price and Company–later the Geiser Manufacturing Company.

During the ’60s a portable engine was designed and built by
Mr. Frick in a new plant erected by him on the East Side of Broad,
between Main and Second Streets.

A portable saw mill, was also manufactured about this time by
the Frick plant. The portable steam engine was used for various
purposes, but mainly to drive threshers and saw mills. There was
also some sort of a working agreement for several years, with the
Geiser Manufacturing Company, under which they furnished the
threshers and the Frick plant the portable engines, in order to
make up complete threshing outfits.

There is still a large demand for threshing and saw mill
machinery, and portable engines. All of these are still
manufactured in what Frick Company terms their light line
department.

During 1877 Frick and Company began the development of a steam
traction engine. At that time this meant furnishing a traction
attachment for their portable engines. The first few were built
with tongue for horse steering. The self steering attachment was an
extra, and probably used generally late in 1878 or 1879. I remember
one incident that occurred during 1878, Frick and Company sold a 10
HP ‘Eclipse’ traction engine with water tank and tongue for
horses, for $1150.00, to Mr. Daniel Huyett of near Hagerstown,
Maryland. It fell to my lot to deliver this traction engine on July
8, 1876. Mr. Samuel Johnson, a farmer of this vicinity, furnished
the two horses to guide, and my job was as engineer and fireman.
This was probably one of the first traction engines built by Frick
and Company. This company was one of the first in the field to put
out steam traction engines. Several of the western manufacturers
starting a year or two earlier. For some 30 or 40 years the steam
traction engine was one of the large items or lines manufactured by
the thresher companies including the Frick plant.

During the past 20 years the gas tractor has been making rapid
strides and today the steam tractor is rarely called for. In fact
some of the large thresher companies have discontinued the
manufacture of steam tractors.

Here we see what might almost be called the death or extinction
of one of our lines. There may be a revival at some future date
when oil and gas supplies fall, and then the steam tractor on
account of its economy will come into its own again.

Our company was fortunate in having decided to embark in the
building of ice and refrigerating machinery, in the early eighties,
when the industry was young. We were among the pioneers in this
line in the United Sates. It has grown from practically nothing in
1882 to be the big part of our output. At this time about
three-fourths of our sales are of ice and refrigerating machinery
and about one-fourth of light line machinery. The field for ice and
refrigerating machinery is large and is still expanding.

The small household machines have been making progress during
the past few years. They have a place with those who can afford
luxuries. Frick Company has not yet decided to manufacture such
small units. They already have a large line of ice and
refrigerating machinery, ranging in size from ? ton up to any
capacity desired. Also they manufacture a full line of valves and
fittings, and other equipment required in this department of their
business. In view of the potential business in this and foreign
countries, the standing and prestige of Frick Company in this
department, it will probably be in position to hold its lead and
build up to much larger proportions.

In conclusion

I believe we are all proud of the progress made by our
industries, their enviable position in their respective
departments, and the solid progress of our city. Waynesboro is
frequently referred to as a model manufacturing town. I believe the
methods and policies of its manufacturers and businessmen, in
cooperation with their employees have had much to do in bringing
about those desirable conditions. We plead for a continuance of
this cooperation of all interests. The extent of our growth–our
industries and our city–will depend largely on continued friendly
cooperation. This meeting is an evidence of the spirit of our
Community and such get-together conferences are worthy of all
encouragement.

And we believe with the evidence of past achievements and the
determination of all interests–the industries generally and
business–employers and employees–to cooperate and build up our
city, there will be no limit to our growth.

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