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William R. Jones 1839-1889

Inventor and manufacturer born in Catasauqua, Pa., son of a patternmaker who was a religious and intellectual leader in this Welsh community. At the age of ten William Jones was apprenticed to the Crane Iron Company, having briefly attended school. He learned to read from the collection of books his father owned, including Plutarch and Shakesphere, which he quoted widely later in life. He left the Crane firm at the age of 16 and by 1856 was employed as a machinist at I. P. Morris & Co. in Philadelphia. Jobless after the Panic of 1857,he worked as a lumberman, farmer, and raftsman on the Ohio River. Jones returned to Cambria Iron in 1859 and worked there as a machinist.

The next year Jones left for Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he helped build a blast furnace and married Harriet Lloyd, the daughter of a William Lloyd, an ironmonger  refugee from France.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, William Jones returned to Pennsylvania with his wife and rejoined Cambria Iron Co., but left a year later to  join the 133rd Pennsylvania volunteers. He was a veteran of Antietam, Chancellorsville, the Second Battle of Bull Run, and the battle at Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg.   Jones returned to Cambria to work with George Friz, plant superintendent, and became part  of a small group of Americans that produced Bessemer steel by pooling   their knowledge and experience to advance a new technology.  After the death of Fritz in 1873, Jones joined Alexander Holley in New York City, who was a consultant to Cambria, and then engaged in designing   the Edgar Thomson Works for Carnegie Steel Co.  Captain Jones was named chief assistant at the Edgar Thomson Works in 1875.

A “Hands-on All Over” leader of the plant’s work force and designer of equipment using the newest technologies, Jones  patented over 50 inventions which he  assigned to the Carnegie Company.   He was injured in an industrial accident on September 27, 1889, industrial accident at the Edgar Thompson Works and died several days later.  His invalid widow, Harriet Jones, received a payment of $35,000.  The controversy surrounding this settlement is documented in an article written  by Jones’ great grandson , Tom Gage, for Pittsburgh History (See Bibliography).

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