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A guide to the Main Street Iron Works plans, 1901-1921
HDC0487 (SAFR 278)  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication and Use Rights
  • Processing Note
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Historical or Biographical Note
  • Collection Scope and Content
  • Collection Arrangement

  • Title: Main Street Iron Works plans
    Date: 1901-1921
    Identifier/Call Number: HDC0487 (SAFR 278)
    Creator: Fulton Iron Works

    Main Street Iron Works
    Physical Description: 113 items.
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Historic Documents Department
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94123
    Abstract: The Main Street Iron Works plans (SAFR 278, HDC 0487) contains 113 oversize marine engineering plans executed in ink on linen. These plans, created by the Fulton Iron Works and/or the Main Street Iron Works between 1901 and 1921, are for engines built by either company for use in various steam schooners and other ocean-going vessels sailing out of San Francisco.
    Physical Location: San Francisco Maritime NHP, Historic Documents Department
    Language(s): In English.


    This collection is open for use unless otherwise noted.

    Publication and Use Rights

    Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

    Processing Note

    Recataloged 2014
    The descriptions in this collection guide were compiled using the best available sources of information. Such sources include the creator's annotations or descriptions, collection accession files, primary and secondary source material and subject matter experts. While every effort was made to provide accurate information, in the event that you find any errors in this guide please contact the reference staff in order for us to evaulate and make corrections to this guide.
    Please cite the title and collection number in any correspondence with our staff.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item description], [Location within collection organization identified by Collection Number/Series Number/File Unit Number/Item Number], HDC0487 (SAFR 278), Main Street Iron Works plans, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Acquisition Information


    Historical or Biographical Note

    This collection contains marine engineering plans from two San Francisco companies doing business from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries: Main Street Iron Works (also Main Iron Works), and Fulton Iron Works.
    HISTORY: Main Street Iron Works:
    Main Street Iron Works was established in 1869 by William Deacon in San Francisco. In city directories, the company is referred variously as Main Street Iron Works, and also Main Iron Works.
    From 1878 to 1880 the company specialized in engines for steam schooners and stern-wheel engines for river craft. Among the vessels fitted with Main Street Iron Works engines were the DEL NORTE, the CRESCENT CITY, the LAKME, and the NORTH FORK. Many of the vessels outfitted with Main Street Iron Works engines operated in the Alaskan service beginning in the 1890s.
    In 1905 Main Street Iron Works was purchased by the firm of A.Z. High, Austin Sperry, and Alexander DeBretteville; at the time Alexander DeBretteville was a co-owner of Fulton Iron Works, and it is possible that this is how Fulton Iron Works engineering plans became intermingled with the Main Street Iron Works plans in this collection.
    Between 1905 and 1916 Main Street Iron Works constructed the machinery for over 22 steamers, in addition to the deck machinery for many coast-wise motor ships. In 1914 Main Street Iron Works acquired Keystone Boiler Works, which was followed by a modernization of the tools and facility.
    In February of 1915, Main Street Iron Works installed the main engine and associated machinery in the steam schooner WAPAMA. The 825 HP triple expansion engine sits on the Hyde Street Pier at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Although the engine number is not known, it is very likely this collection includes plans for this engine or very similar engines (file 1: Marine Engine - 13-1/2x23x40/30 inch).
    In 1916 the Main Street Iron Works acted as well as a representative for the Terry Steam Turbine Company (Hartford CT) and the Schutte and Koerting Company (Philadelphia, PA).
    The plans in this collection are dated as late as 1926, but by 1927 there is no clear evidence that Main Iron Works is operating a factory shop any longer. By 1929 DeBretteville is no longer listed as a co-proprietor. 1929 is the last year that Main Iron Works makes an appearance in the Langly-Crocker San Francisco City Directory, presumably a victim of the stock-market crash of that year.
    HISTORY: Fulton Iron Works:
    Daniel B. Hinckley (1826-1915) and his brother arrived in San Francisco in May of 1850, with equipment to establish for a small casting and machining factory; the business they established was the nucleus of the Pacific Iron Works, owned jointly by the two brothers and their uncle. In 1854 the brothers sold out and returned to Massachusetts. In 1856 Daniel B. Hinckley returned to San Francisco, and in 1857 he established the Fulton Foundry on Davis Street, between Sacramento and California streets in a short-lived partnership of Hinckley, Highwater, & Field. Over the next two decades the Fulton Iron Works underwent numerous partnership reorganizations, with Daniel Hinckley retaining partial or full ownership shares of the company at all times. In 1859 Fulton Iron Works leased land and built a foundry and machine shop on First Street, where the shop remained until 1862. That same year Hinckley began doing business as a single owner of record, with occasional investor partners. The following year Daniel E. Hayes became a one-eighth owner; later his interest was increased to one-fourth. By 1867 the business had moved to a larger site at Fremont, Howard and Beale streets. James Spiers joined the firm in 1877, and the partnership was formally incorporated as Hinckley, Spiers & Hayes, with the stock being equally divided between the three partners. The boiler works of McAfie, Spiers & Co., in which Mr. Spiers had been a partner for ten years, was merged into the Fulton Iron Works.
    Fulton Iron Works manufactured a broad range of machinery made of iron and steel, but devoted special attention to the construction of machinery for steam-ships, and also for milling and mining purposes. They built double, triple, and quadruple expansion steam engines, high and low pressure marine engines for stern-wheel steamers, beam engines for ferry steamers, Corliss engines, and miscellaneous machinery.
    Between 1887 and 1892 Fulton Iron Works manufactured engines and boilers for some ninety vessels, including the "walking beam" engine for the side-wheel paddle, double-ended ferryboat UKIAH (built 1890). In 1923 the ferry was re-christened EUREKA, and launched as a passenger and automobile ferry (her present form). The EUREKA, a National Historic Landmark, is berthed at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Eureka's tall "walking beam" engine is the last working example of an engine-type once common on America's waterways. (Please note, however, that this collection does not include drawings of this engine).
    By early 1892, Fulton Iron Works was ranked among the most extensive and important manufactories west of the Mississippi river. In 1892 the company had $500,000 invested in their plant and business, employed 400 skilled workmen, and did business of a million dollars a year. In 2012 terms this would be the equivalent of $13 million in capital investments, 1100 skilled jobs, and nearly $ 1-billion of a relative share of the gross domestic product.
    In May 1892 the Fremont, Howard, and Beale yard was destroyed by fire that spread from an adjoining business. By October Fulton Iron Works relocated to an 18 acre site adjacent to the Stone and Van Bergen Boat Yard, in the Harbor View area of San Francisco. They reincorporated as Fulton Engineering and Shipbuilding Works. The isolated location at Harbor View, in the present day Marina district, meant that material had to be trucked overland across the city at a time before the streets were paved, or towed on barges to the machine shops and shipyard. Nevertheless, the Fulton yard remained very busy. In 1894 the ferry steamer SAUSALITO was launched with a Fulton engine (this ferry, retired in 1933, is the current clubhouse of the Sportsmen Yacht Club in Antioch, Ca.). In 1895 Fulton completed engines for the steamers EXCELSIOR and KEAUHOUI, and in 1898 the steam schooner SAMOA was fitted with an engine.
    In 1898 Fulton expanded quickly in response to the demand of the Alaskan gold rush for sea-worthy steam ferries, and for industrial mining equipment. But the pace of and scale of the expansion was unsustainable following the decline of the Klondike goldfields. Fulton's decline was hastened by a fire in August 1900, which destroyed the planing mills and molders supply shops as well as a tugboat under construction for the Merchants' and Shipowners' Tugboat Association. Fulton sustained $30,000 damage (equivalent to $857,000 in 2012 values). Just two and a half years later, in December of 1902, there was a dockside explosion and fire on the steamer PROGRESO, which was being converted into an oil burning carrier. The disaster occurred while forty mechanics of the iron works and twenty employees of the ship were on board or below decks; eight men were killed and about twenty more were seriously injured. The explosion destroyed property valued at $200,000 (in 2012 relative value, about $4.3 million). The fire was nearly all below deck, where fourteen oil tanks, containing about 400 barrels of oil in all, burned fiercely for hours after the explosion. All the injury and loss of life was caused by the first explosion, which shook all the buildings at Harbor View; the shock was felt a mile away.
    Howard T. Livingston started work at Fulton Iron in 1906. At the time two triple expansion engines and one compound engine were being built for the steamers YOSEMITE and SHANNA-YAK, and the tugboat RESTLESS. Mr. Livingston's 1969 recollections about Fulton Iron Works provide detailed information about the layout of the Fulton Iron Works shops, machinery, and production methods. According to Mr. Livingston, the plant used the same machine tools and manufacturing methods in 1905 which it had used in the 1880s. He recalled that "neither jigs nor templates were...used.... all parts were hand finished and fitted together. The result of this practice was that equivalent parts on any one engine, or two similar engines, were not interchangeable. Parts that would be taken apart and put together again in overhauling were stenciled, so that when taken apart they could be replaced in exactly the same place as before. This practice of hand fitting carried on to the end." From start to finish it took approximately six months to complete the three engines.
    Antiquated production practices and the losses incurred by fires may have precipitated Fulton's decline, but were not the only contributing factors. In May of 1907 the Iron Trades Council called a strike for an 8 hour day. The strike called out 4000 skilled unionized iron workers city wide, idled several more thousands non-union men, and virtually shut down the Bay Area metal trades industry. This strike was one of numerous and sometimes violent labor upheavals in San Francisco during May 1907. Added to labor unrest was an unstable financial environment. The international (and in particular the British) insurance industry experienced a series of financial aftershocks after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which in turn set of a banking panic in the United States in October of 1907. The American panic set off a global financial crisis. Fulton Iron Works, obsolete, suffering from labor unrest, and lacking credit, finally shuttered in 1908.
    For Main Street Iron Works:
    Crocker-Langley San Francisco City Directory. (San Francisco: CA) until 1929
    Polk's Crocker-Langley Directory. (San Francisco, CA) from 1930 to 1949
    Pacific Marine Review (October 1916:55-8)
    Wapama, Historic American Engineering Record HAER CA-67.
    For Fulton Iron Works:
    Daniel Hinckley Family History:
    The Bay of San Francisco: The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and Its Suburban Cities: a History (Alameda County, CA: 1892)
    History of Alameda County, California: Including Its Geology, Volume 2. (Alameda County, CA: 1883) page 907
    On EUREKA:
    San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park website: www.nps.gov/safr.
    1892 fire and relocation:
    The Bay of San Francisco: The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and Its Suburban Cities: a History (Alameda County, CA: 1892) Vol. 1:506-507
    San Francisco Call, 4 October 1892 (72:126)
    1900 fire:
    San Francisco Call, 19 August 1900 (87:80)
    1902 PROGRESO:
    The Daily Times [of] New Brunswick New Jersey, 4 December 1902
    Howard T. Livingston recollections:
    Howard T. Livingston papers. SAFR 333 (HDC0472). San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park collection.
    Iron Strike:
    Carlsson, Chris. "Bloody Tuesday" Online essay at: http://foundsf.org
    Knight, Robert Edward Lee. Industrial Relations in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1900-1918 (Berkeley: 1960)
    San Francisco Call, 27 March 1907 (101: 117)
    1907 banking crisis and panic:
    Odell and Weidenmeir "Real Shock, Monetary Aftershock: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the Panic of 1907," Journal of Economic History 64: 1002-1027
    Bordo and Landon-Lane "The Global Financial Crisis: Is It Unprecedented?" Conference on Global Economic Crisis: Impacts, Transmission, and Recovery. East West Center of the University of Hawaii and the Korea Development Institute Conference. Honolulu, Hawaii, 19�20 August 2010.

    Collection Scope and Content

    The Main Street Iron Works plans (SAFR 278, HDC 0487) contains 113 oversize marine engineering plans executed in ink on linen. These plans, created by the Fulton Iron Works and/or the Main Street Iron Works between 1901 and 1921, are for engines built by either company for use in various steam schooners and other ocean-going vessels sailing out of San Francisco.
    The collection is open for public use with staff assistance. 102 items have been digitized.
    The collection was processed and described at the item level, and recataloged in 2014. This collection includes re-cataloged materials originally cataloged as GOGA 9138 THROUGH 9144. Collection previously named Main Street Iron Works: Plans, 1901-1921.

    Collection Arrangement

    Arranged into eight (8) files. Within files, items are described at the item level.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Marine engines
    steam schooners
    DeBretteville, Alexander
    Hinckley, Daniel B.
    Livingston, Howard T.
    Deacon, William
    Fulton Iron Works (San Francsico, Calif.)
    Main Street Iron Works (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Olympic (built 1901; steam schooner)
    Yosemite (built 1906; steam schooner)
    Norwood (built 1904; steam schooner)
    Chehalis (built 1901; steam schooner)
    Shasta (built 1903; cargo ship)
    Saginaw (built 1907; steam schooner)
    F. A. Kilburn (built 1904; steamer)
    Northland (built 1904; cargo ship)
    Frank D. Stout (built 1917; steam schooner)
    Vanguard (built 1904; steam schooner)
    Willamette (built 1911; steam schooner)
    Watsonville Transportation Company
    San Francisco (Calif.)
    Architectural drawings--Marine