Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography

Technology Birdsill Holly and the Holly Manufacturing Company

Birdsill Holly and the Holly Manufacturing Company

| Birdsill Holly Patents | List of Holly Water Systems | Holly District Steam System |

Birdsill Holly was born in Auburn, New York on November 8, 1820.  He held 46 U.S. utility patents, 9 re-issued patents, and 1 design patent.  In addition he held four Canadian patents and some European patents.  He joined the Seneca Fall firm of Silsby & Race in 1853, which became Silsby, Race & Holly.  While working there, Holly patented a rotary pump that was adapted to the very popular Silsby steam fire engine. 

The Village of Lockport recognized the need to develop manufacturing in the village in 1858, and several residents invited Seneca Falls inventor Birdsill Holly to come to Lockport.  The Holly Manufacturing Company was organized on May 2, 1859 with a capital of $20,000.  The initial stockholders were former New York Governor Washington Hunt, former Congressman Thomas T. Flagler, Charles Keep, Silas H. Marks, L.F. Bowen, G.W. Bowen, and Birdsill Holly.  Under superintendent Holly the company made sewing machines, a variety of pumps, and other metal goods, as shown in their 1867 and 1868 catalogs cited below. 

A serious fire in March, 1863 led to a call for improvements to the local fire department and purchasing a steam fire engine.  Holly took the opportunity to propose installation of a water-driven rotary pump of his design that could supply water under pressure to fire hydrants distributed throughout the business district.  The system would be owned by the Village and the cost would be paid by building owners in the business district.  When some building owners expressed doubts that their insurance savings would outweigh the tax increase to pay for the system, a "prominent citizen, who had faith in the system, secured a large portion of signatures to the petition, asking the Common Council to authorize their construction, by the promise that he would obligate himself to pay the tax of each one, for the amount of saving in insurance for the term of three years."  It is believed that the "prominent citizen" was Holly Company President Flagler, although no known contemporary document confirms this.  The system was approved by the business owners and Village council, and was successfully tested in August, 1863.   A round water-works building was constructed adjacent to an existing race on the south side of the five locks on the Erie Canal at Lockport, in which a Holly water turbine and rotary pump were installed.  The building appears in an 1864 map showing the design of a proposed third tier of locks that would allow gunboats to pass through the canal to Lake Erie.  The round water works buildings in the middle of the proposed third tier of locks on the map below:

"Map Showing Location Of One Tier Of New Locks At Lockport," in Annual Report of the State Engineer And Surveyor, on the Canals Of New York, For the Year 1863. Transmitted to the Legislature, February 4, 1864 Holly Number 7 Rotary Fire and Water Works Pump, as used in Lockport. 
Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages, Holly Manufacturing Company, March, 1867.

The first water works performed as advertised but had several limitations – it was only operated during a fire; the pipes were normally empty so the pump had fill the pipes before water was available at hydrants; and the pump depended on water power from the canal race, which was not reliably available in the winter nor suitable for domestic use.  In 1872, the city contracted with the Holly Manufacturing Company to build and own a new pumping works on the north side of the canal, which had both steam- and water-driven pumps.  The Holly Company was also given a contract to operate both the plant and the city's water distribution system, which was renewed in 1882.  The pumping apparatus was built in a new building next to the canal tow path, shown in the following engraving:

Scientific American 58(1):1 (January 7, 1888)

The 1863 and 1872 water works buildings are both shown in this 1890-era picture of the canal locks as well as this picture.

The rotary pump proved to be unsuited for continuous supply of domestic water, and in 1869 Holly introduced a "gang pump" with six single-acting reciprocating pumps arranged to operate in regular succession.  The first of these was installed in Batavia, New York and afterwards in more than twenty cities.

Elevation of Gang Pump from U. S. Patent 94,746
(September 14, 1869)
Batavia Gang Pump (1869), from  B. Holly's system of fire protection and water supply, for cities and villages.
Third Edition (1869)
Gang Pump at Saratoga Springs (1871)

The gang pump design evolved into the Holly Quadruplex Engine, which was introduced at Dunkirk, New York.  This engine had four reciprocating pumps  in 1872 with condensing capability.  Compounding was introduced in 1874 at Rochester, New York, with the exhaust steam from one cylinder then driving the other three.  Live steam from the boiler could be used in all of the cylinders when necessary.  The Quadruplex could also be driven by water turbines simultaneously with steam.

"The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages," Scientific American Supplement, 6(140supp):2219-2234 (September 7, 1878)

By 1876 the stockholders of the company expressed concern about the large amounts being paid to defend Holly 's patents in numerous infringement cases, and it was suggested that the firm close down.  Holly carried on with the patent suits, but largely left the firm to form the Holly Steam Combination Company to sell district steam systems.  This enterprise became the American District Steam Company in 1881.  Holly remained as a consulting engineer with the Holly Manufacturing Company and was ultimately successful in defending his patents.  Harvey F. Gaskill became superintendent and later vice-president of the of the Holly Manufacturing Company after Holly resigned.  Gaskill made several improvements to steam pumping engines, which became very popular, and would likely have become except for his untimely death in in 1889.

Holly Manufacturing Company advertisement, from Engineering News 9:VII (April 1, 1882)

Holly was engaged by the newly-formed Tide-Water Pipe Line Company to design suitable pumps for their 100 miles oil pipeline from Coryville to Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  The Holly Manufacturing Company designed and built three triplex pumps, the first of which was installed at a pumping station of the Columbia Conduit Company in Millerstown, Butler County, Pennsylvania, where it was shown to leak badly due to the pressure of over 400 pounds.  A. W. Golden, General Superintendent of the pipe company, noted in a 1913 speech that "Mr. Holly, who was present when the pump was started, remarked that this was his first actual knowledge of the meaning of the word 'pressure.'"   Two more triplex pumps were successfully installed on the Tide-Water Pipe Line and began service in May 1879.  The Holly Company never mentioned these pumps in its literature, and as far as is known never built any others for oil. pipeline service.

Thomas Edison's interest in Holly water works was noted in an 1880 article by Francis R. Upton in Scribner's Magazine (cited below) which states that "the inventor conceived of a system which should resemble the Holly water works," but no evidence has been found that Edison ever visited Lockport or met Holly.  Holly died in Lockport on April 27, 1894. 

1858 Holly's Rotary Force Pump, and Rotary Steam Engine, R. Bickford, Agent.

1859 "Origin and History of the first and only organized efforts to build upon a permanent basis a Manufacturing Interest in Lockport," Lockport Daily Journal & Courier, May 18, 1859, Page 2.
Origin and History of the first and only organized efforts to build upon a permanent basis a Manufacturing Interest in Lockport.  Early in the month of June, 1858, a meeting was called at the American Hotel, signed by about twenty citizens, to consider the question of making the the valuable water power of Lockport subservient to the advance of prosperity of the place.
The Manufacturing Company.  About three weeks since, an association was formed called the "Holly Manufacturing Company," with an investment of $20,000, comprising the following Stockholders:
Trustees - T. T. Flagler, Charles Keep, S. H. Marks, L. F. Bowen, G. W. Bowen.
Officers - T. T. Flagler, President; Chas. Keep, Secretary and Treasurer.
Stockholders - Gov. Hunt, Hon. T. T. Flagler, Charles Keep, S. H. Marks, Birdsill Holly, L. F. Bowen, G. W. Bowen.

1867 Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages, Holly Manufacturing Company, March, 1867.   Thanks to Alyssa Bella Landahl for copying this at the Boston Public Library.

1867 Special illustrated and descriptive catalogue of lift and force pumps : also Holly's celebrated patent rotary pumps, and turbine water wheels, cast iron pipe for water and steam and cut-off valves, by Holly Manufacturing Company.

1868 B. Holly's system of fire protection and water supply, for cities and villages

1868 Holly Manufacturing Co's descriptive catalogue of hand, lift and force pumps : also, cast and wrought iron bench screws, thimble skeins, coach screws, cheese press screws, blacksmiths' drills, grindstone and barn door hangings, amalgam bells, sinks, sewer and bell traps, coal shovels and tongs, aerated bread machinery, hot air furnaces and registers, Holly's patent rotary power pumps and turbine wheels, centrifugal and pressure pumps, steam engines, air and gas pumps, etc., etc, by Holly Manufacturing Company.

1869 B. Holly's system of fire protection and water supply, for cities and villages. Third Edition | another copy |

1870 B. Holly's system of fire protection and water supply, for cities and villages, Fifth Edition.

1871 Prospectus of the Carrollton Holly Water Works Company, Carrollton, La., 1871.

1872 "Water Works," The Evening Gazette (Terre Haute, Indiana), March 28, 1872, Pages 2 & 3.
The Holly Water Works.  Valuable statistics and reports from cities that have them in use.  From the Toledo Blade.

1872 B. Holly's system of fire protection and water supply, for cities and villages, Sixth Edition. | another copy |

1874 Terre Haute Weekly Gazette, May 14, 1874, Page 4.
The Express has at last been informed that the "Holly Manufacturing Company are about commencing, or have already commenced, suit against the Terre Haute Water Works Company, for an infringement of their patents, laying their damages at the large sum of $150,000."  When the Gazette reports the probability of such a suit the Express hooted at it.

1875 B. Holly's system of water supply and fire protection : for cities and villages, Seventh Edition.

1875 "Holly Water Works, Saratoga, N.Y.", Stereoscopic photograph of 1871 Holly engine by William H. Sipperly, from New York Public Library. | another photo | and another |

1876 "The McRae Trial," The Rochester Evening Express, January 22, 1876, Page 2.
Patrick H. Linneen.  J. Nelson Tubbs. Canal frauds.

1877 "Lockport," The Buffalo Sunday Morning News, March 18, 1877, Page 3.
The stability of the Holly Manufacturing Company assured of.

1877 "The Holly Water Works," Lockport Daily Journal, March 27, 1877, Page 4.
Work on Full Time to be Resumed Next Monday.

1877 Silsby Manu'f'g Co., Builders of the Silsby Rotary Steam Fire Engines, Holly's Patent Rotary Pumps, Hosecarts, Hose & Fire Department Supplies, Island Works, Seneca Falls, N.Y.

1878 History of Niagara county, N. Y., with illustrations descriptive of its scenery, private residences, public buildings, fine blocks, and important manufactories, and portraits of old pioneers and prominent residents
Pages 185-186:  The Holly Manufacturing Company

1878 "Validity of the Holly Patent," The New York Times, March 26, 1878, Page 1.
Lockport, N.Y., March 25.- The Holly Manufacturing Company, of this city, have just gained an important suit, involving the exclusive right of the company to construct water-works on the Holly system of direct pumping and without a receiver or stand-pipe.  The suit was commenced about four years ago at Indianapolis, Ind., before Judge Drumond, in the United States Circuit Court, who decided, affirming the validity of the Holly patent.

1878 Birdsill Holly v. Union City, Indiana, 14 Off. Gaz. 5, June 3, 1878, Circuit Court, District of Indiana. | also here |

1878 "The Holly Suit," Engineering News 5:233 (July 25, 1878)
Decision of the U.S. Circuit Court in the case.  Birdsill Holly vs. Union City, Indiana.

1878 "The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages," Scientific American Supplement, 6(140supp):2219-2234 (September 7, 1878)

1879 Indianapolis News, February 22, 1879, Page 4.
C. G. Hildreth, secretary of the Holly water works company, is in the city to-day enroute from Terre Haute to his home.  He has been over to the prairie village to serve notice that unless the water works company there settled with the Holly company for using is system, with Clapp & Jones machinery, a suit for an injunction and damages will be instituted.

1879 "Holly Water Works against Union City, Ind.," Engineering News 6:75 (March 8, 1879)
Full text of the final decree in the case of Birdsell Holly vs. Union City.

1879 Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, Iowa), April 6, 1879, Page 2.
Marshalltown has settled the suit against it for infringement of patent of the Holly Water Company in its water supply, by paying $2,000.

1879 The inadequate water supply in New York, and its remedies : the Holly system of direct pressure on all mains and pipes ; water to be supplied at all times at the top of each building on Manhattan Island by the Holly system ; triple method as a whole or separately, by J.L. Douglass.  May 15, 1879

1879 Engineering News 6:191 (June 14, 1879)
Tide Water Oil Pipe Line. The pumps were made by the Holly Manufacturing Company, at Lockport, N. Y., and, according to a correspondent, "worked grandly.  The oil pressure at both pumps houses was about 400 lbs. average.  The pumps have three single-acting plumger, and are driven through gears by a single cylinder engine.

1879 "The Holly Pump and Patent Litigation," The Burlington Free Press, June 28, 1879, Page 3.

1879 "Water Supply by Pumping," St. Albans Daily Messenger, July 3, 1879, Page 2.
An important Vermont industry re-established. Organization of the Flangers and Lang Pump Company of Burlington, and settlement of the old Vergennes Machine Co. and with the Holly Co. of Lockport, N.Y.

1879 "Water Works Systems, Ancient and Modern," The Burlington Free Press, July 5, 1879, Page 2.
Birdsill Holly's claims to a new system reviewed and exposed--No pump, No System and an old Regulator.

1879 Letter from James A Richardson to Thomas Alva Edison, July 9th, 1879

1879 "The Holly Hydrant Suit Against the City," The South Bend Tribune, July 19, 1879, Page 1.
They learned that the point in controversy is not the hydrant itself, but the outer shell which projects it from frost.  Mr. Hatch, the attorney for the Holly company agreed to make a settlement with the city for $173.40, which would permit the use of the 42 hydrants which are now here, and that are infringements of the patent.

1879 The South Bend Tribune, July 22, 1879, Page 2.
The city attorney reported the result of his visit to Cincinnati in regard to the hydrant infringement suit.  The report was concurred in and the mayor was ordered to compromise with the Holly company by a money payment unless the matter could be arranged by substituting Cummings & Co. for defendants.

1879 Letter from James A Richardson to Thomas Alva Edison, July 30th, 1879

1879 Letter from James A Richardson to Thomas Alva Edison, August 5th, 1879

1879 Daily Register (Rockford, Illinois), August 8, 1879, Page 3.
It is stated that the Holly Water Works Co. have laid an injunction on the Rochelle water works, because of the infringement of the self-acting governor of the Holly water works systems on the Rochelle folks.

1879 Letter from James A Richardson, Holly Manufacturing Company, to Thomas Alva Edison, August 8th, 1879

1879 Letter from Charles G Hildreth, Holly Manufacturing Co,, to Thomas Alva Edison, August 13th, 1879,

1879 "Notice," The Burlington Free Press, August 19, 1879,  Page 3.
Owing to the malicious statements being made in regard to the Flanders & Lang Pump Company having no rights to manufacture Flanders's pumps, pending the suit of Birdsill Holly vs. the Vergennes Machine Company, and the consequent necessity of suspending operations until the suit involving the validity of the Flanders and Holly patents has been decided.

1879 Letter from James A Richardson to Thomas Alva Edison, September 12th, 1879

1879 The South Bend Tribune, September 23, 1879, Page 2.
A communication from John E. Hatch, attorney for the Holly company in the suit against the city for infringement of certain patents on hydrants, was received stating that the case had been dismissed.

1879  Letter from Charles G Hildreth, Holly Manufacturing Co,, to Thomas Alva Edison, October 1, 1879

1879 Letter from Harvey F. Gaskill, Holly Manufacturing Co,, to Thomas Alva Edison, October 13th, 1879,

1879 Letter from Charles G Hildreth, Holly Manufacturing Co,, to Thomas Alva Edison, November 13th, 1879

1879 Letter from Charles G Hildreth, Holly Manufacturing Co,, to Thomas Alva Edison, November 28th, 1879

1879 Letter from Burt Van Horne, Holly Manufacturing Co., to Stockton L Griffin, December 2nd, 1879

1879 Letter from Burt Van Horne, Holly Manufacturing Co., to Thomas Alva Edison, December 6th, 1879

1880 "Edison's Electric Light," by Francis R. Upton (Mr. Edison's mathematician), Scribner's Monthly 19(4):531-544 (February, 1880)
Page 535:  Mr. Edison's idea in regard to the electric light was that, in all respects, it should take the place of gas. Following the analogy of water, the inventor conceived of a system which should resemble the Holly water works. As the water is pumped directly into pipes which convey it under pressure to the point where it is to be used, so the electricity is to be forced into the wires and delivered under pressure at its destination. In the case of water, after being used, it flows away by means of a sewer-pipe, and is lost. But it is easy to imagine that the water used in working machinery, for instance, instead of being lost, might be returned to the pumps and used over and over again. With such a system as this, we should have a perfect analogy to the Edison electric lighting system; The electricity, after being distributed under pressure and used, is returned to the central station.

1880 Birdsill Holly v. Vergennes Machine Company, 18 O.G. 1177, 18 Blatch. 327, 4 Fed. Rep. 74, October 5, 1880, Circuit Court, District of Vermont | Decision |

1880 "An important water works legal decision," Engineering News 7:343-344 (October 16, 1880)

1880 "Decisions Related to Patents," Scientific American 43(24):376-377 (December 11, 1880)
Holly vs. Vergennes Machine Company.

1880 The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection

1881 Evansville Water Works: Report of the Expert on the Contract Trials of the Gaskill Compound Pumping Engine Built by the Holly Manufacturing Company, Lockport, N.Y., February, 1881

1881 "Our Deficient Water Supply," The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), February 23, 1881, Page 3.  Discussion about Holly Water System.

1881 "Royalty on our Water-works," The St. Johnsbury Caledonian, June 10, 1881, Page 3.
The village trustees have just agreed to pay one thousand dollars in settlement of a claim by the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, N.Y., for infringement of patent on our system of water-works.

1881 "B. Holly's Patent Fire Hydrants," Holly Manufacturing Company.

1882 Northern Tribune (Cheboygan, Michigan), April 8, 1882, Page 1.
Recently the Holly manufacturing company brought suit against the city of Muskegon for an alleged infringement on a patent belonging to the former, in use at the water works. After the commencement of the suit the company offered to compromise for $500, and Muskegon has accepted the offer.

1882 The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection.  | another partial copy with P.H. Linneen written on cover |

1884 The Holly Manufacturing Co.'s illustrated catalogue and reduced price list of rotary and other power pumps.

1884 Illustrated Catalogue of Gaskill's Steam Pumps and Pumping Engines, manufactured by The Holly Manufacturing Co., Lockport, N.Y.

1885 The Buffalo Express, January 14, 1885, Page 7.
The Holly Manufacturing Company on Monday morning made a reduction in wages of about five per cent, on the average, some being reduced more and others less than that amount.

1886 The Holly system of water-works and the Gaskill pumping engine manufactured by the Holly Manufacturing Company, Lockport, N.Y.

1887 "A Half Million," Lockport Daily Journal, February 1, 1887, Page 3.
The Holly Manufacturing Company, well-known manufacturers of the Gaskill pumping engine, at a recent meeting of its directors, decided to double the capacity of its works.  The capital stock was also increased to half a million dollars.

1888 "Works of the Holly Manufacturing Co., at Lockport, N.Y.," Scientific American 58(1):1, 4-5 (January 7, 1888)

1888 "The Holly Manufacturing Co.," The Manufacturer and Builder 20(2):32-33 (February 1888)
Illustrated article about the works in Lockport, New York.

1888 The Holly System of Water-works and the Gaskill Pumping Engine Manufactured by the Holly Manufacturing Company, Lockport, N.Y.

1889 "Mr. Harvey Freeman Gaskill," Engineering News 21:316 (April 6, 1889) Gravesite

1889 Scientific American 60(16):245 (April 20, 1889)
Harvey F. Gaskill. It is with profound regret we learn of Mr. Gaskill's decease, at Lockport, N. Y., on the 8th inst., at the age of 44 years. Mr. Gaskill was a distinguished engineer and inventor, the active head of the Holly Manufacturing Co., and the real author of the well known Holly water works system. Among the thirty or more patents secured by Mr. Gaskill, and which are of indispensable value to the Holly Manufacturing Company, are the Gaskill horizontal and the perpendicular engines, the Gaskill triple compound pumping engine, a number of water meters, conceded to be the best in use, steam pump, pump valves, engine valves, motion water motors, Gaskill hydrants, etc. The Lockport Daily Union says : "When it is taken into consideration that one single individual is the inventor of a set of water works and pumping machinery that beyond the power of contradiction excel all other inventions in this or any other country, it is wonderful, and in the demise of Mr. Gaskill not only Lockport, but the world at large, has lost one of its greatest benefactors. Untold millions of property have already been saved by this superior class of pumping machinery, and its value is all the time increasing, as new works are being completed in all parts of the country." 1889 "Harvey F. Gaskill," Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 10:833-834 1899
In 1873 he entered the employ of the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, as draughtsman, and in 1877 became their mechanical engineer and superintendent, which he remained till the time of his death.

1889 "The Late Harvey F. Gaskill," Fire and Water 5(17) (April 27, 1889)

1889 "Harvey F. Gaskill," Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 10:833-834 (May, 1889)

1890 Official Reports of Various Duty Trials of the Gaskill Pumping Engines

1891 Official Reports of Various Duty Trials of the Gaskill Pumping Engines, Second Edition.

1892 "Water Works Machinery Syndicate," Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1892, Page 1.

1892 The Buffalo Commercial, October 28, 1892, Page 7.
The Holly Manufacturing Company hdld a meeting of their stockholders yesterday and a resolution was passed to increased the capital stock to $1,000,000.  S.O. Barnum of Buffalo is one of the new stockholders.

1892 Biographical and Portrait Cyclopedia of Niagara County, New York, edited by Samuel T. Wiley and Winfield Scott Garner
Pages 177-178:  Hon. Thomas Thorn Flagler
Pages 383-384:  Charles Keep
Pages 419-420:  Birdsill Holly They have already placed the system in over two thousand towns and cities of the United States and the Dominion of Canada, where it is now in successful operation.

1893 "Sued for $60,000," Chicago Tribune, January 27, 1893, Page 10
Holly Manufacturing Company vs. American Water Works company.

1894 "An Inventor Dead.  He was Birdsill Holly, of Water-works Fame," The Buffalo Express, April 28, 1894, Page 7.  Gravesite

1894 Engineering News, 31:367 (May 3, 1894)
Mr. Birdsall Holly, who invented the district system of steam heating and introduced the direct pressure system of pumping for water-works, died at Lockport, N.Y., April 27.

1895 Illustrated and descriptive catalogue of the Holly Manufacturing Company's high duty pumping engines: horizontal and vertical, compound and triple expansion, and water power pumps

1896 History of the American Steam Fire-engine, by William T. King
Pages 21-28:  Silsby - 1856.

1897 "Hon. Thomas T. Flagler," Lockport Daily Journal, September 7, 1897, Page 4.  Gravesite

1897 Landmarks of Niagara County, New York, edited by William Pool
Page 166:  One of the most important industries in Lockport is that of the Holly Manufacturing Company, which was organized May 2, 1859, with $20,000 capital. The original stockholders were Thomas T. Flagler, Charles Keep, Silas H. Marks, L F. Bowen, Washington Hunt, G. W. Bowen, and Birdsall Holly. The company began the manufacture of pumps and hydraulic machinery, and in later years constructed water works for cities and villages after the plans and inventions of Mr. Holly, referred to on an earlier page. They constructed the Lockport Water Works in 1864 and three years later supplied Auburn with a system. Since that time the company has installed their system in hundreds of cities and villages. The massive stone buildings used by the company were completed in I866. Birdsall Holly is deceased, leaving several sons, only one of whom, Frank W., is resident in Lockport.

1898 "The Holly System," from Fire and Water 23(24):195 (June 11, 1898) | also here |
The feasibility of the combined system, domestic and fire, was first shown in the water works of Auburn, N.Y., in 1866, and the system is now in successful operation in nearly 500 cities and towns.

1898 The men of New York: a collection of biographies and portraits of citizens of the Empire state prominent in business, professional, social, and political life during the last decade of the nineteenth century, Volume 1, by George E. Matthews,
Pages 100-101:  Thomas T. Flagler.

1900 Moody's Manual of Industrial and Miscellaneous Securities
Pages 616-619:  International Steam Pump Company.  Incorporated March 24, 1899.
Referring to the Henry R. Worthington Co., the prospectus of the International Steam Pump Co. said in part: “The water supply of Brooklyn, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Providence, Jersey City, Newark, Nashville, Memphis, Cleveland, Toledo, St. Louis and Boston is wholly or largely dependent upon Worthington engines. This branch of the business is conducted through the United States Manufacturing Co., the entire common stock of which, being its entire share capital with the exception of $500,000 of preferred stock, is owned by said Henry R. Worthington Co., the former company owns sixty per cent. of the stock of the Holly Manufacturing Co., builders of high duty pumping engines, principally for water works. The earnings of this last named company have been applied, since the purchase of the stock in 1892, to the reduction of its indebtedness from over $700,000 to less than $200,000, instead of to dividends. When these debts shall have been paid, the International Company will receive its share of the dividends from the Holly Manufacturing Co., through its ownership of the common stock of the United States Manufacturing Co.

1901 "Lockport Labor," The Buffalo Sunday Morning News, May 19, 1901, Page 8.
Talk of Street Railway and Machinists' Strikes is common in that City.
The Holly Manufacturing Company last fall agareed to the demand for a nine hour day, but it is understood that the demand for full pay as before is yet ungranted.

1901 "El Dorado:  A Kansas Recessonal," by Willa Sibert Cather, New England Magazine 24:357-369 (June 1901)
Page 360:  The Colonel was not a little sur- prised to find that El Dorado, the metropolis of western Kansas, was a mere cluster of frame houses beside a muddy stream, that there was not a railroad within twenty-five miles, and that the much boasted waterworks consisted of a number of lead pipes running from the big windmill tank on the hill; but Apollo assured him that high buildings were dangerous in that windy country, that the railroads were anxious and eager to come as soon as the town voted bonds, and that the waterworks—pipes, pumps, filters and all, a complete "Holly" system—were ordered and would be put in in the spring. 

1901 "Lockport Strikers Given Discharge," Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), June 18, 1904, Page 4.

1901 "Lockport's Strike," Buffalo Courier, July 3, 1901, Page 2.
Saturday night Senator T. Ellsworth, president of the Holly Manufacturing Company, escorted some of the new employes to their boarding place in the absence of the regular guards.

1901 "Condition of Strike is Growing Worse," The Buffalo Courier, July 14, 1901, Page 15.
Holly Company at Lockport Remains Firm, However, Against Concessions.

1901 "At an Inopportune Time," Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, New York), July 16, 1901, Page 4.
The Holly Manufacturing Company, which has 100 machinists on strike at Lockport, has been notified that it has been awarded the largest contracts in the history of the company.  The board of trustees, commissioners of waterworks at Cincinnati, O., has awarded the Holly company the contract for three self-contained  vertical, triple expansion, crank and fly-wheel pumping engines of 25,000,000 gallons capacity each; three, same of 12,000,000 gallons capacity each, and one electric traveling crane.  The bids being $410,500, $391,900, and $11,000 respectively.

1901 "An Exciting Labor Riot at Lockport," The Scranton Republican, July 17, 1901, Page 1.
On May 21, 160 machinists struck at the Holly Manufacturing company, which belongs to the trust known as the International Steam Pump company of New York.

1901 "Pump Trust Appears to be Gaining," The Buffalo Courier, August 11, 1901, Page 15.

1901 "Holly Strike Ended at Last in Compromise," The Buffalo Sunday Morning News, August 25, 1901, Page 8.
Began Three Months Ago in Lockport and Bitterly Fought to Finish.

1901 "Stockholders' Committee of the United States Manufacturing Co. and the Holly Manufacturing Co.," The Buffalo Commercial, November 13, 1901, Page 3.

1903 "Buffalo's Gain," Buffalo Morning Express, February 6, 1903, Page 9. | Part 2 |
Plant of the Holly Company being moved here.

1903 "International Steam Pump Company," Fire and Water Engineering 34:265 (December 5, 1903)
The governing committee of the New York Stock Exchange has approved the official application of the International Steam Pump Co. for the listing of $2,500,000 ten-year six per cent. debenture bonds. The issue of debenture was authorised for the purpose of paying for improvements at its plant located in the city of Buffalo; at its other plants—the erection, construction and equipment of a factory at Harrison, in the State of New Jersey, for use of Henry R. Worthington, incorporated, and improvements and additions to the works of the Blake & Knowles Steam Pump Works. The company has agreed to advance Henry R. Worthington and the Blake & Knowles Steam Pump Works the cost of these improvements. There has been actually expended for the purchase of land, permanent improvements and machinery in connection with the constituent plants of the company the following amounts: Laidlaw-Dunn-Gordon company, at Cincinnati, Ohio, $232,138.20; Snow Steam Pump Works, at Buffalo, N. Y., $607,558.37; Dean Steam Pump Works, at Holyoke, Mass,, $185,901.33; Holly company, of Lockport, N. Y., $66,129.04; Clayton Air-Compressor company, $16,379.17; Henry R. Worthington’s plants, $375,311,36; Blake & Knowles Steam Pump Works, at East Cambridge, Mass., $622,813.49; Henry R. Worthington’s new plant, at Harrison, N. $627,444.40— making a total expended to date of $2,733,675.36. The improvements contemplated at the various plants of the company, with the exception of the Harrison plant, have been practically completed.

1905 "Trust Advances Prices," Steel and Iron 76(6):171 (February 9, 1905)
The increasing activity In the machinery and allied lines in productive industry is indicated by the decision of one of the largest machinery combines in the country—The International Steam Pump Company—immediately to advance all its prices 10 per cent.
The company, which is usually referred to as the steam pump trust,controls fully 90 per cent of the steam pumps, water works pumping engines, air compressors and condensers in the States, and also manufacturers large quantities of the power plant and hydraulic machinery. It operates eight plants, at Harrison, N. J.; Boston, Holyoke, Mass.; Cincinnati, and Buffalo, N.Y. The concerns in the combine include the George F. Blake Manufacturing Company, Henry R. Worthington and Knowles Steam Pump Works, the Snow Steam Pump Works, the Holly Manufacturing Company, the Laidlow-Dunn-Gordoa Company and the Clayton air Compressor Works. The steam pump trust is the first big machinery concern to increase its prices for a considerable time past.

1905 "The Late Horace C. Silsby," Fire and Water Engineering 38:123 (August 16, 1905) | also here |
1845 the firm of Silsby & Race purchased lend, with waterpower, in the neighborhood of Seneca Falls and started the Island Works. Birdsall Holly, the prominent hydraulic engineer, whose invention of the rotary engine and pump had just been brought out, was taken into the firm in 1853. Mr. Silsby thought the pump could he applied to a steam fire engine, which he had for some time been thinking of adding to the concern's list of manufactures. The result was that in 1856 the first rotary steam lire engine was turned out, and then began in the United States what has become a world-famous industry.

1905 "Horace Silsby," Machinery 12:87-88 (October, 1905)
In 1853 Birdsell Holly, who was the inventor of an elliptical rotary pump and engine, was admitted into partnership with the firm, the name becoming Silsby, Race & Holly.  Holly invented his rotary engine and pump the following year, and as the attention of the public was then being attracticed by the various experiments in the construction of steam fire engines that were then being carried on at Cincinnati and elsewhere, Mr. Silsby thought the Holly patent could be applied to the steam fire engine; and upon trial it proved successful.

1907 Pumping engines for water works, by Charles Arthur Hague

1908 "History of Pumping Machinery," by Charles Hague, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 28:637-720 (May, 1908)

1913 A brief history of the Tide Water companies, as told in speeches at the Tide Water dinner, January 17th, nineteen hundred and thirteen
Pages 26-27:  Holly Triplex Pumping Engines for Tide Water Pipe Line

1915 Memories of a Long Life, by Sarah Barton (Flagler) Botsford (1821-1915).  Sister of Thomas T. Flagler.  They were first cousins of Henry Flagler, a Lockport merchant, and his brother Isaac, who was the father of Henry M. Flagler of Standard Oil and Florida East Coast Railroad fame.

1921 Oil and gas fields of Pennsylvania, including Tide Water Oil Pipeline

1931 "Harvey Freeman Gaskill," by Carl W. Mitman, Dictionary of American Biography 7:177-178

1932 "International Steam Pump Company:  An Episode in American Corporate History," by M.J. Fields, in Journal of Economic and Business History 4(4):637-646 (August, 1932)

1933 "Harvey Freeman Gaskill," National Cyclopedia of American Biography 23:187

1937 "Birdsall Holly," The National Cyclopedia of American Biography 26:108-109.  Includes portrait.
At the time of Holly's death the company he had founded was capitalized at $1,000,000, had  a plant covering two city blocks and 500 employees, and had placed his water works system in over 2000 cities and towns in the  United States and Canada.

1959 The American Petroleum Industry: The Age of Illumination, 1859—1899, by Harold F. Williamson and Arnold R. Daum, Evanston
Pages 442-443:  Holly Triplex Pumping Engines for Tide Water Pipe Line

1980 “The Diffusion of Technology in the Nineteenth Century American City: Municipal Water Supply Investments,” Letty Donaldson Anderson (PhD dissertation, Northwestern University, 1980)
Page 22:  By 1878 the Holly system reportedly was in use in more than 70 towns. At the time of Holly's death in 1894 the company, which had a capitalized value of one million dollars and 500 employees, was reported to have installed the Holly system or Holly pumps in over 2000 cities and towns in the U.S. and Canada.
Page 115:  The "franchise system" mentioned in the Engineering News editorial [
Engineering News. 17:140, February 26, 1887] was a result of the development in the late 1860s of standard water works pumping engines, most notably those of the Holly and Washington companies. These equipment manufacturers actively sought franchises for municipal systems in the early 1870s and succeeded rapidly; by 1878, 105 towns had installed Worthington engines or systems, and 70 towns had Holly systems.  [Worthington never sought or received a water works franchise, in 1876 he wrote: "the writer's connection with Water-works is limited to the Pumping machinery."  Holly actively promoted his direct pressure system and offered turnkey design and construction services, but the company never sought or received a franchise before he left the company in 1876.  The Holly Manufacturing Company afterwards secured three franchises for systems that were constructed:  Adrian, Michigan in 1883, Hutchinson, Kansas in 1885, and Marion, Ohio in 1887, which was bought by Samuel R. Bullock & Co..  By 1895, about 125 Holly systems had been built, while the company had sold 494 pumping engines, compared with 1,192 pumping engines sold by Worthington through 1892.]

1984 "The Evolution of the Urban Infrastructure in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries," by Joel A. Tarr, from Perspectives on Urban Infrastructure, Royce Hanson, Editor.
Page 32: Facilitating the distribution of these improved methods throughout the urban network were the marketing practices of the two largest pump manufactures (Holly and Worthington), who offered municipalities an entire water package including source recommendations, engineering and construction plans, and pumps. These two corporations secured franchises for their systems in thousands of towns and cities (Anderson, 1980: 12–23).

1985 "Water, Electricity and Cable Television: A Study of Contrasting Historical Patterns of Ownership and Regulation", by Joel A. Tarr, Steven Klepper, Charles Jacobson in Cahier / Groupe Réseaux 1(3):2-31 (1985)
Page 3:  An important development in the late 19th and early 20th centuries involved the relationships that developed between many municipalities and the two largest firms
manufacturing pump and distribution equipment, the Holly Manufacturing Company and the Worthington Pump Manufacturing Company. These firms actively solicited water franchises. In hundreds of towns they constructed works at their own expense in exchange for franchises. Often the franchises guaranteed them an annual rent from the city in exchange for providing a specified number of fire hydrants. However, rather than manage these franchises, they usually sold the-n to other groups of investors. The success of Holly and Worthington led to the entry into the market of other private construction firms and the development of a competitive market for equipment supply and construction. [Citation: Engineering News. Feb. 26. 1887]

1993 "The introduction of direct pressure water supply, cogeneration, and district heating in urban and institutional communities, 1863-1882," by Morris A. Pierce, Ph.D. Dissertation in History, University of Rochester

1994 "The Development of Water Works in the United States," by Charles D. Jacobson and Joel A. Tarr, in Aqueducts by  André Guillerme, in Rassegna: Themes in Architecture 57:37-41 (March 1994)
Page 38:  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, municipalities and the two largest firms (Holly and Worthington) manufacturing pump and distribution equipment often formed relationship.  These firms actively solicited water franchises, and in hundreds of towns they constructed works at their own expense in exchange for the franchise.

1996 The Life and Times of Birdsill Holly: A Thesis in History, by Madelynn P. Frederickson.  Master's Thesis in History from State University College at Buffalo

2015 Hydraulicians in the USA 1800-2000: A biographical dictionary of leaders in hydraulic engineering and fluid mechanics, by Willi H. Hager
Page 2068:  Harvey Freeman Gaskill (January 1, 1845 - April 1, 1889)
Page 2168:  Birdsill Holly

List of Prolific Inventors with more than 200 patents.  Edison held a total of 1,093 U.S. patents (1,084 utility patents and 9 design patents).  Birdsill Holly held 46 U.S. utility patents, 9 re-issued patents, and 1 design patent.  In addition he held about four Canadian patents and some European patents.

The Minute Book of the Holly Manufacturing Company is held by the Archives Center, National Museum of American History

© 2018-2022 Morris A. Pierce