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  Joshua Hendy Iron
     Works, SF.

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Ore Cars and Mining Equipment

A Short History of the Joshua Hendy Iron Works:

Wildcat Mines of the Mother Lode - Joshua Hendy advertising poster for the Matteson Ore CarJoshua Hendy came to the United States from Scotland in 1836. As a young man he learned the machinist’s trade in the East and in 1851, at the age of 33, he traveled to California, probably hoping for riches in the gold fields. He found work as a mechanic in the newly constructed boiler shops of San Francisco and realized there was more of a future in the machinery business than in prospecting for gold.

After a year Joshua had saved enough money for a small business venture, and in 1852 he built a sawmill at Salt Point on the coast above Fort Ross. In the early days of sawmilling in California the mills were very small labor intensive operations, usually consisting of a small steam engine and a carriage with a reciprocating flat bladed saw not much bigger that a 2 man hand saw. The mills could not cut much in a day, but lumber was scarce so profits were high. Over time Joshua built and sold several mills, and seeing that there was a demand for milling machinery, finally decided he could make more money building the sawmill machinery rather than cutting timber. Thus, in 1855 he started the Joshua Hendy Machine Works at 49-51 Fremont St. in San Francisco.

Hendy’s original machine works began then, by strictly building the components for small sawmills, but Joshua was always looking for ways to Wildcat Mines of the Mother Lode - Joshua Hendy 1930 welded ore carexpand his business. By the 1860’s he was repairing milling and mining equipment and built a foundry to cast component parts for various types of machinery, rather than having to buy replacement parts from “back East”.  Because the hard rock mines of California were booming, most of his repair work was done on mining equipment, especially the stamp mills used for crushing ore. 

Wildcat Mines of the Mother Lode - Joshua Hendy 5 stamp millJoshua soon learned that most of the damage done to stamp mills occurred when the operator fed either too much ore into the hopper, which jammed the mill, or fed too little, which allowed the stamp heads to hit the mortar base without a cushion of ore, thus breaking the heads.  Unfortunately, most mill workers of the day were either inexperienced or drunkards—very few men wanted to spend their day shoveling ore into a dirty, deafening, monster of a machine. 

Solving this problem led to Joshua Hendy’s greatest accomplishment:  In 1874 he invented, patented and started producing the Challenge Automatic Ore Feeder for stamp mills.  This feeder, which ran off the main shaft of the mill automatically opened and closed the hopper to feed a continuous and consistent amount of ore to the stamp heads, thus maximizing production and minimizing damage.  Everyone was happy—the mine owners and the workers—and now Joshua Hendy had a source of profits to turn hisWildcat Mines of the Mother Lode - Joshual Hendy ore feeder business into one of California’s major manufacturers.  From 1880 to 1885 Joshua patented several improvements and bought out many other patents: He soon controlled the ore feeder market. The Joshua Hendy Machine Works built feeders under it’s own name, and built the feeders for almost all other mill manufacturers.

In 1882 Joshua incorporated the business with his nephew Samuel J. Hendy as one of the officers.  Joshua’s title was now manager, with Samuel as President of the firm. Samuel became active in expanding the business and during the 1880’s the company built ore concentrators, Wildcat Mines of the Mother Lode - ore bucketelevators, crushers, and hydraulic monitors.  By 1888 Samuel's brother John became plant superintendent, and the Machine Works was building stamp mills, crushers, ore cars, hoists, buckets, skips, steam engines, pumps and many other types of mining equipment used all over the West.  They were also agents for all types of mining equipment built by other concerns, and shipped mills and equipment all over the world, especially to Australia and South America.

On October 19, 1891 Joshua Hendy died at the age of 74. Samuel Hendy took over the business, and expanded production in casting, forging and riveting iron. The Machine Works continued to expand its manufacturing, producing ever larger and more modern mining equipment.

In 1906 major changes occurred. Samuel died in the spring of that year, so his brother John took over the day to day running of the business. When the great San Francisco earthquake and fire hit in April, everything in the manufacturing area of the city was destroyed. The Iron Works had already outgrown its facilities on Fremont St, so John decided that since he had to rebuild from scratch, he would keep the offices there, but moved the company’s manufacturing to a large tract of land south of San Francisco at Murphy’s Station near Sunnyvale, where he could expand the plant even more. It is most likely that at this time the name of theWildcat Mines of the Mother Lode: Joshua Hendy Iron Works, Sunnyvale, CA business was changed to the Joshua Hendy Iron Works. In Sunnyvale, the business had room to grow, and continued on strongly through the years, even during the depression of the 1930’s. 

When WWII hit, and the mines were shut down by government decree, the Iron Works built ship components and ship engines for the war effort.  After the war, the mining industry was finally starting to wane, so the Iron Works continued by building marine engines.  In 1956 the Joshua Hendy Iron Works was sold to Westinghouse Corp., who continued to use it for a manufacturing plant, and still has a facility there in Sunnyvale to this day.

The Joshua Hendy Iron Works was a major contributor to the development of the California mining industry, and for over 100 years supplied equipment to the mines of the West, both large and small.  Its legacy can be seen in museums and back yards all over California:  Fascinating old ore cars, ore crushers, stamp mills, and all kinds of “old mining junk” are collected by people interested in the history of the Old West.




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