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Vulcan: The First Hundred Years

Above: William H. Warrington (1846-1921), the major investor and manager of Vulcan Iron Works until his death, at which time the direction passed to his brother James. Of the three sons of Henry Warrington, he was without a doubt the best businessman, but occasionally things did not go according to plan, as was the case with Raymond Concrete Pile Company.

In addition to his business acumen, William H. also had an artistic side; click here to see some of his sketches.

Below, an inside view of the plant. Some of the machinery continued to do service until Cari directed the liquidation at auction of virtually all of Vulcan's plant machinery in 1998. Even with a regular product line, Vulcan's production remained very much a "job shop" affair, both here and in Chattanooga.

The success of Vulcan's manufacturing led to the rapid expansion of the company. In 1891 the capitalisation of the company was expanded from $50,000 to $200,000, and again it was expanded to $230,000 in 1897. During all of this the company was steadily relocating from the Clinton Avenue facility to a new one at 327 North Bell Avenue (it was called Irving Avenue at the time.) This remained Vulcan's office and factory until its relocation to Chattanooga, TN in 1960.

Below: the first evidence of the "new shop," an advertisement for steam shovel repairs in the 1894 edition of Steam Shovels and Steam Shovel Work by E.A. Hermann. Vulcan's narrow focus for most of the twentieth century on pile driving equipment makes it easy to forget that, especially before World War I, Vulcan performed a wide variety of work, such as bridge and dam parts, steam dredges, and various projects for the military and other endeavours.

It's interesting to note that Hermann's book was published by Engineering News Publishing Co., the same organisation whose name was attached to the dynamic formula Vulcan used in its literature for many years.


Below: a layout and a "birds-eye" view of the plant, first drawn in 1924 and updated about twenty years later. It shows that the machine shop, and foundry and the offices are all in one building. Note the very small size of the offices, comparable to those in the West Palm Beach fabricating facility. Although it certainly was an improvement over the Clinton St. shop, the ability of such a small facility to manage the large output it did is, in retrospect, remarkable.

Above: the Vulcan #1 hammer at the North Bell Avenue facility



Shown below is the facility, both from the railroad yard it abuts and the street. The lower photo was taken in 1952, the same year as the centennial celebration.

Left: sparks fly at the Vulcan foundry. Vulcan, of course, started as a foundry and continued a foundry operation as part of its business until the late 1940's, after which time it purchased all of its castings from other sources. The continuing increase in size requirements for Vulcan hammers--along with the general difficulties in operating a foundry--made outsourcing castings a necessary, if seldom a pleasant, business.

One way to tighten ram keys: below, North Bell personnel use a Vulcan DGH-100 hammer to tighten the ram keys for another Vulcan hammer, in this case a Vulcan 140C differential acting air/steam hammer. Keeping tapered keys tight is essential to the proper operation of a Vulcan hammer. The offshore contractor McDermott resorted to this expedient in their large operation in Morgan City in the 1960's and 1970's.

Driven Pile Manual Volume 1a
Driven Pile Manual 1b
Driven Pile Manual 2