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Kansas Historical Quarterly - Some Phases of the Industrial History of Pittsburg

by Fred N. Howell

May 1932 (Vol. 32, No. 3), pages 273 to 294
Transcribed by Debbie Butler; HTML by Tod Roberts;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
NOTE: The numbers in brackets are links to footnotes for this text.

The history of the founding and the growth of Pittsburg has been closely and vitally connected with the development of the coal industry of southeast Kansas. The original Pittsburg was nothing but a coal-mining camp located on a railroad constructed for the express purpose of tapping a coal field and furnishing an outlet for Joplin, Missouri, zinc and lead.


The earliest known coal mining in southeast Kansas was about 1850, and was carried on to a limited extent by residents of neighboring sections of Missouri. [1] As settlers came into what became Crawford and Cherokee counties, more coal was mined from year to year. While most of that output was for home use some was hauled to such towns as Fort Scott and Baxter Springs, Kansas, and Granby, Missouri, where it was sold for cash or trade for supplies.

During the ten years following the first influx of permanent settlers little attention was paid to coal mining and but little thought given to the value of the coal-bearing lands, due to lack of market and cost of local transportation. With the advent of the railroad into the coal fields casual and occasional coal mining gave way to an established industry.

The first real mining was done by the stripping process, using plows, scrapers and teams. The was profitable only where the overburden was light. But in most places where the overburden was light the coal was poor and limited in extent. As a result, that kind of mining soon ceased and remained in disuse until the coming of the modern steam shovel some thirty years later. However, an attempt at steam-shovel stripping was made in 1876, when Hodges and Armit began stripping near Pittsburg with a shovel made for railroad work. The shovel was operated for three years successfully. But since it could operate in strips with but ten or twelve feet of overburden it ceased operations due to lack of suitable stripping territory. While that shovel was too small for general coal stripping, Hodges was satisfied that a shovel of sufficient size could be built. The shovel makers, however, declared a shovel of sufficient size to uncover a wide strip of deep coal was absolutely impractical and could not be made. [2] Nevertheless, such a shovel was built within the next thirty years. A revolving stripping shovel was first put into operation in the Pittsburg field in 1911. It cost $25,000 and could operate to a depth of twenty feet only, but it was not much of a shovel compared with one developed twenty years later, costing from $150,000 to $175,000 and operated at a depth of forty-five feet. [3]

The amount of production of the strip mines kept pace with the improvements in shovels. During the early days of the shovel a production of 200 tons per day was unusual. In 1930 daily production in the large mines ran as high as 1,500 tons.

The cost of equipping an up-to-date mine was no small item. During the year 1929, $300,000 was spent on an electrically equipped shovel, a loader, a tripple, and other equipment for a single mine. [4] This was doubtless the best-equipment mine in the Pittsburg field.

The first shaft, worthy the name, in southeast Kansas, was sunk by Scammon Brothers, just north of Scammon, in 1874. [5] A year or two later shafts were sunk in the Pittsburg district. The exact location of the first one is a matter of dispute, but there is sufficient evidence to show that during the year 1887 at least one shaft was sunk on the Pittsburg town site and one on Carbon creek, a few miles northeast of Pittsburg. [6] How fast shaft mining increased during the next twenty years there is no authentic record. In 1898 there were fifty-three mines in operation in Crawford county, according to the State Geological Survey for that year. Of the fifty-three mines in the county approximately thirty were within five mines of Pittsburg; of the thirty within the five-mile radius approximately seventeen were within two and one-half miles of the center of town.

According to both state and federal statistics Crawford and Cherokee counties have been the leading coal-producing sections of the state. Of the two, Crawford county has been by far the larger producer. However, only the southeast quarter, approximately, is considered good coal territory. Since that part of the county is almost entirely Pittsburg trade territory the importance of the coal industry to the town may be shown by the following comparative table of coal production, expressed in tons:

Crawford County
Cherokee County
2,926,870 [7]
4,467,870 [8]
6,423,979 [9]
4,921,451 [10]
6,824,474 [11]
5,926,408 [12]
4,524,000 [13]
2,603,156 [14]

The sharp decline in production since 1920, as shown in the chart, is not peculiar to the Pittsburg field alone. All other local coal fields of the United States have experienced a similar decline. This has been due to four principal causes. First, between 1925 and 1930 combustion engineers had made great progress. The efficiency of all heat and motive power producing appliances had been increased about 35 per cent. Second, increased use of substitutes for coal, such as oil and natural gas. Third, increased use of hydro-electric power. Fourth, unsettled labor conditions which have caused large producers to hesitate to enter into long-time delivery contracts, lest difficulty be experienced in filing such contracts. [15]

The part the coal industry has played in the economic life of Pittsburg is shown further by the following table:

Number of Miners
Average number of days mines operated
161 [16]
239 [17]
212 [18]
148 [19]
182 [20]
206 [21]
164 [22]
93.7 [23]

In the study of the above table one should take into consideration the wage scales in effect during the thirty-nine-year period.

The early day miners were paid about $2 per day. This wage had been increased to but $2.98 per day by 1916. In May, 1917, when the coal industry was placed under a national board, wages were fixed at $3.60 per day. That scale remained in effect until October, 1917, when wages were increased to $5 per day. Early in 1919 a provisional scale of $5.70 per day was established. This was increased to $6 in the fall of the same year. In the fall of 1920 a wage scale of $7.50 went into effect and operated until April, 1923, when the famous Jacksonville four-year agreement, fixing wages at $7.50 per day, was adopted. In 1927 the Jacksonville agreement was continued for one year. In August, 1928, a three-year agreement with a $5 wage scale was adopted. [24]

The part the coal industry has played in the economic life of Pittsburg and Crawford county, and the part it will play in the future, is worthy of consideration from another viewpoint. Whether the economic loss resulting from the destruction of the surface by the shovels is counterbalanced by the increased production of coal per acre was an unanswered question, January, 1930. By that time approximately 4,000 acres of coal land had been stripped and there remained to be stripped during the next twenty-five years approximately 800 acres.

The average price of farm land in the stripping territory has been $25 to $35 per acre. Stripped land has been valued by coal companies at $10 per acre. The loss to the county in taxable valuation is evident. On the other hand, the shovels take out 100 percent of the coal, while the shaft mines remove only 40 per cent to 50 per cent of it. From this viewpoint, stripping is an economic gain.

Little experimenting in reclaiming the abandoned strip pits had been made prior to January, 1930. During a two-year period prior to that time the Spencer interests had done some experimenting on a ten-acre tract of six- to eight-year-old strip land. The surface soil of those particular ridges and pits contained considerable shale. Nothing was done to level down the ridges. They were planted to alfalfa and to catalpa trees just as the shovel had left them, plus six to eight years' erosion. Both the alfalfa and three have done well during the two-year period. [25]

From personal observations, the author has found that many of the earliest stripped lands have become quite well reforested with practically all the native varieties of trees, such as elm, cottonwood, willow, wild cherry, hackberry, etc. Some of the trees have attained a diameter of twelve to fifteen inches. Wild blackberries, especially, grow well on many of the older stripped areas.

Nature has converted the last runs of the shovels into lakes, many of which have been stocked with fish through natural processes. A number of these pit-lakes have been leased by private parties for recreation grounds and have been made to yield small returns to the owners. In 1928 the citizens of Pittsburg purchased 400 acres, 80 percent of which is old strip pits, and presented the tract to the state of Kansas. This became the Crawford County State Park. It is a rugged, well-timbered park through which wind many beautiful narrow lakes. Since taking it over the state has improved it greatly and has converted it into a pleasant recreation center.

Since the middle eighties the coal industry of Pittsburg field has been characterized by independent action on the part of the leading operators. This independence of action has been evident in purchasing and leasing coal lands, in production, and in marketing the output of the mines. Several of the large producers of the early period were still in the field January, 1930. A few were operated under their original trade names while the remainder were under new names but governed primarily by the earlier business policies.

Transportation has never been a very serious problem with the coal companies, except possibly during the first ten years of the industry. At times freight rates on coal have discriminated in favor of Pittsburg. For example, for several years prior to 1918 Pittsburg coal was sold within fifty miles of St. Louis, Missouri, in competition with other coal of like grade. This was manifestly unfair to the Illinois and other neighboring coal fields. But this attitude of the transportation companies toward the coal operators is easily explained. In 1929 the railroads had $4 invested in coal marketing equipment, such as coal cars, switch engines, mines spurs, etc., for each $1.50 invested by the mine operators in mines and mine equipment. A similar ratio of investments runs back through most of the history of coal mining in the Pittsburg district.

Independent marketing has characterized the Pittsburg coal field in spite of the tendency to merge which dominated so many business interests during several decades. During the year 1929 86 per cent of Pittsburg coal was marketed by seven companies. Two of the seven were exclusive sales companies. The other five were both producers and distributors and marketed 50 per cent of the coal mined in the district. Competition was keen and there was no tendency to fix prices. It is said that practically the same general statements relative to marketing are applicable to any period of the coal history. [26]

Two mine disasters stand out boldly in the history of coal mining in the vicinity of Pittsburg. The one occurred at Frontenac the afternoon of November 9, 1888; the other at Stone City, some eight miles southwest of Pittsburg, about midday, December 13, 1916.

The story of each disaster has been graphically told in The Daily Headlight, from whose columns the following is quoted:

"Yesterday evening witnessed the most terrible holocaust that ever occurred in this mining district or the west. Mine No. 2 of the Pittsburg and Cherokee (Santa Fe) Mining Company at Frontenac blew up, causing a horrible toll of life. Number of lives lost is not known. Men in the mine at the time of the explosion numbered 164. Many of them made their way out uninjured. . . .

"Every available doctor from Pittsburg, Girard, Litchfield and other places from over this district are at the shaft ready to give emergency treatment. . . .

"Rescue parties have endeavored to enter the mine, but have been driven back by foul air. The fans were demolished by the explosion and men are working frantically to replace them so air can be sent into the mine." [27]

The second tragedy was told by the same paper as follows:

"Twenty men, at least, lost their lives in the explosion at a mine near Stone City early this afternoon. According to reports thirty-nine men were entombed by the explosion. One hundred men are said to have been employed in the mine.

"The explosion is said to have been one of gas accumulated in an old entry that is being reopened. Part of the men were working so far back from the shaft that it is a difficult task for the rescuers to reach them....

"The state mine inspector and the engineer for the Bureau of Mines started at once for the mine, provided with rescue apparatus. . . .

"Unequipped with rescue apparatus several miners tried, time after time, to explore the smoky entries, only to be driven back. . . .

"Death came to most of the victims by suffocation. For, with the exception of a few, none of the bodies were burned to any extent." [28]

The mine had started work but shortly before the day of the catastrophe. As a result, many families were left practically destitute. Pittsburg at once requested aid. Governor Capper joined in this appeal to the citizens of Kansas. The responses to the appeals were generous. The two largest contributors were the United Mine Workers of America, with $1,000 and the Coal Operators Association of Pittsburg, with $1,000. Small individual contributions poured into the hands of the committee in charge. In addition to these contributions various means were employed to swell the fund, such as concerts, picture shows and church collections. [29]

Two other mine disasters in the Pittsburg field stand out prominently. On December 20, 1906, there was an explosion near Stone City which resulted in seven killed and sixteen injured. This mine was just being opened; no coal had been taken from it. It was believed that the explosion was caused by faulty electric wiring setting off some cans of powder. [30]

An explosion March 18, 1911, in an M.K.& T. mine near Mineral, caused the death of five miners. This was a gas explosion attributed to workmen breaking through into a gas-filled abandoned mine adjoining. [31]

The mine death toll during the past few years has been small. The majority of fatal accidents have been rock falls resulting from conditions seemingly beyond control. But, with the increased care given mine inspection, fatalities from this cause have gradually grown fewer.

To protect the lives of the miners as fully as possible the state took early action in the establishment of the office of state mine inspector. The original act of 1883, [32] creating that office and defining its duties, was amended materially in 1913 for the purpose of widening its scope of activities and enabling it to perform its duties more efficiently.

The general duties of the state mine inspector were to safeguard the lives and health of the miners. In addition to that it was his duty to determine the cause of mine disasters and to fix the blame. In his office were kept many records of the coal miners, such as amount of production, number of miners employed, etc. In addition to that there was kept a complete file of maps and charts of all the underground mines. These maps and charts were prepared especially as aids in rescue work in case of disaster.

The mine rescue department was created by act of the legislature, January, 1917. [33] This additional provision was prompted by the serious mine disaster at Stone City the previous December, which emphasized strongly the need for a well-equipped organization to supervise and aid in the work of rescuing imprisoned miners.

The year following the creation of this bureau three rescue stations were established. One was located at Scammon, one at Arma, and one at Pittsburg. A few years later, in 1923, the Scammon station was closed for lack of appropriation by the state legislature. The other two stations have continued to function. Both are well equipped to render efficient services, with motor trucks ready to rush to the rescue. The Pittsburg truck, especially, is well equipped with all that it needed for first-aid work, or for the more dangerous task of entering a mine on fire or one filled with the dreaded fir damp.

Danger of explosions and accompanying fires was ever present, even in the well-ventilated mines. Much explosive was still used in loosening coal (January, 1930). Whenever a shot was fired for such purpose there was the ever accompanying danger of an explosion. For this reason the rescue crews were always on duty until early evening, or until all shot firers had completed their work for the day. [34]


It has been said that the coal fields adjacent to Pittsburg made a good mining camp out of the town, while the smelters made a city out of a mining camp.

The immediate vicinity of Pittsburg produced neither zinc, lead nor silver. Yet Pittsburg for a number of years was ranked among the zinc-smelting centers of the country. And for a time a silver smelter also was operated successfully in the city.

For some years prior to the founding of Pittsburg the presence of zinc and lead deposits in southeast Kansas and southwest Missouri had been known. During the year 1870 J.B. Sargent and E.R. Moffet discovered lead ore in large quantities within the present limits of the city of Joplin, Mo. [35] By 1872 positive knowledge had been gained of the presence of ore near Baxter Springs, Kan. In 1877 came the big Galena, Kan., [36] strike. With these discoveries the mining industry was established.

Following the discoveries of lead and zinc in paying quantities in southeast Kansas and in the neighboring districts of Missouri it remained to refine the crude ore and market the metal at a profit. The vast storehouse of coal in the north party of Cherokee county and in the south part of Crawford county offered a solution if the coal field and the zinc-producing areas could be brought closer together. Moffet and Sargent solved this problem by building a railroad from Joplin, Mo., through the coal fields to Girard, Kan., and there connecting with a line to eastern markets. This road was constructed through the present site of Pittsburg during the summer of 1876. At this point it may be well to state that Pittsburg was laid out as soon as the railroad was established. [37]

During the late winter of 1878 Robert Lanyon arrived in Joplin, Mo., from his home in La Salle, Ill., in quest of a suitable location for a zinc smelter. After looking over the zinc fields around Joplin and the coal fields around Pittsburg he decided to build a smelter at the latter place. Cheap and abundant fuel was the deciding factor in his decision. In those days slack coal could be purchased at fifty cents a ton, delivered. Zinc smelters must be located as closely as possibly to an ample supply of cheap fuel. A smelter operated at a profit must produce from eight to ten tons of metallic zinc a day. I required about three tons of ore to produce one ton of metallic zinc and about six tons of coal to smelt one ton of ore. Lanyon located his smelter in the east part of Pittsburg and at once commenced the construction of the plant. [38] The progress made in building the plant, its capacity, and the interest taken in its construction can be trade to the Girard Press:

"The oven for cooking the ore is being laid up and will soon be ready. Two furnaces will be put in operation and the two more will be built. [39] "Mr. Lanyon says he thinks he will have one furnace in operation by the first week in June." [40] "It is expected that the Lanyon smelter will produce about twelve tons per day and from thirty to fifty hands will be employed." [41]

The plant was soon completed, and during August seven cars of zinc were shipped. [42]

The Robert Lanyon smelter was a success and established the fact that Pittsburg was a suitable place for carrying on smelting operations on a large scale. By the end of two years this pioneer smelter and a companion plant at Weir City, eleven miles away, were doing a large volume of business. According to the government report for 1880 they were the only smelters in Kansas. They employed 18- men, with a pay roll of $110,000, and produced spelter worth $254,000. [43]

The success of the Robert Lanyon smelter soon brought other smelters to Pittsburg. In 1881 came the firm of S.H. Lanyon and Brother; and also that of W. and J. Lanyon. Each organization constructed a plant of about eight tons daily capacity. In 1882 the Granby Mining and Smelting Company, with mines at Joplin, built a smelter in the north part of Pittsburg.

The position occupied by Pittsburg during the early eighties in the zinc-smelting industry of the United States was shown by the following quotation from the Missouri Geological Survey: "In 1882, according to the Mineral Resources of the United States, three plants were in operation in Illinois; five in Kansas (four in Pittsburg and one in Weir City); and five in Missouri." [44]

The smelters ran practically all the time, nights and Sundays, as well as week days. Shutdowns were infrequent, as the following quotation illustrates: "The large furnace at the Granby's, which has held fire for more than three years, was shut down last Tuesday for necessary repairs." [45]

It is difficult to obtain facts relative to the output and pay rolls of the smelters, regardless of location. The Pittsburg Kansan of December 4, 1889, contained the following: "The daily production of metallic zinc by the smelters is 90,000 pounds, and the annual pay roll amounts to $180,000." Again the Pittsburg Kansan of August 20, 1890, gives the production of the different smelters for the week ending August 16, 1890:

R. Lanyon & Co.: 188,000 pounds
S. H. Lanyon & Co.: 96,000 pounds
W. and J. Lanyon: 97,000 pounds
Granby Mining and Smelting Company: 95,000 pounds

The next smelter concerns to enter the Pittsburg field were the Cherokee Zinc Company and the St. Louis Zinc Company, during the fall of 1889. Their entrance into the field was on terms somewhat different from those which brought the other companies. These two concerns sought a bonus for locating in the city. On October 9, 1889, the Board of Trade of Pittsburg entered into contracts with these companies providing a bonus of $15,000 each. In consideration of that amount each company agreed to construct and operate a plant for a period of one year. [46] The Cherokee Zinc Company was primarily a Lanyon organization; the list of stockholders of the St. Louis and Pittsburg Zinc Company contained the names of several persons prominent in the development of Pittsburg. [47] Construction of both plants was commenced in the spring of 1890 and rushed to completion within a few months. While these plants were being built the Granby Mining and Smelting Company increased the capacity of its plant by addition of more furnaces. [48]

The St. Louis and Pittsburg Company, especially, experienced difficulty in housing its employees. In order to meet this condition it was necessary for the company to build houses of its own, and within a short time it had twenty buildings under construction. [49]

During the early nineties the Pittsburg zinc smelters reached their greatest output. The following table shows the size of the Kansas smelters and the production of each; also the output of the two other large zinc-producing states, for the year 1893:

Number furnaces
Number retorts

R. Lanyon & Co.

3,500 tons

S. H. Lanyon & Co.

2,500 tons

W. and J. Lanyon

2,500 tons

The Cherokee Zinc Co.

3,500 tons

The Granby M & S. Co.

2,500 tons

St. Louis and Pittsburg

3,000 tons

Girard Zinc Co.

3,000 tons

Weir City Zinc Co.

3,750 tons

State of Illinois

27,000 tons

State of Missouri

16,000 tons [50]

During the same year, 1893, there were twenty-five active zinc smelters in the United States, distributed as follows: Illinois, 4; Indiana, 1; Kansas, 9; Missouri, 4; Pennsylvania, 2; all other states, 5. [51] Of the nine smelters in Kansas, six were located in Pittsburg.

Pittsburg did not long continue as the leading spelter-producing city. By the middle nineties the natural gas fields of southeast Kansas were being developed rapidly. These gas fields offered a fuel cheaper than coal. Many towns in the gas field were reaching out for industrial plants. Free gas, or gas at a very low cost, was offered them. This played havoc with the zinc smelters, as well as with some other industries, in the coal fields. Pittsburg began to lose its smelters. Soon all but two were gone. These two, the St. Louis and Pittsburg and the Cockerill smelters, continued to operate for a time on coal. Soon they were forced to close down because they could not meet competition. They remained closed until 1914, when the high price of spelter and great demand enabled them to operate again. They continued to operate for a period of three years, after which they were closed down and dismantled.

The closing of the zinc smelters was a severe blow to Pittsburg. It was followed by a loss in population of about 2,500 and a pay roll of approximately $25,000 a month. [52]

In addition to the zinc smelters in Pittsburg numbered a silver smelter among its industries for a few years. During the summer of 1890 some men looking for a suitable place for locating a silver smelter visited Pittsburg. They were attracted by cheap coal and the desire of the citizens for additional industrial plants. After looking the field over they decided to locate if sufficient aid in establishing the plant could be obtained from local citizens. After a few days' negotiations between the visitors and the Pittsburg Commercial Club an agreement was reached and a formal contract was entered into.

This agreement between the Pittsburg Commercial Club and the Short Method Refining Company of Pittsburg provided that the smelter company should refine not less than twenty tons of refractory ores at Pittsburg daily for a period of three years; and that the Commercial Club should erect a suitable building on a five-acre tract, which was to be donated, and supply $2,000 to be expended in the construction of furnaces. In addition, the smelter company agreed to install machinery in the amount of $16,000. [53]

The smelter company started construction work without delay, but was slow in completing the plant. Not until September, 1891, was it put into operation.

The Commercial Club was equally slow in paying its bonus. The day before the expiration of a "six months" clause of the contract, it lacked $750 of the amount due the smelter company. That night it held a meeting for the purpose or raising the amount due. Two hundred dollars was raised from those present. As a means of enthusing others arrangements were made to run a special train to the plant the next morning. About one hundred men took advantage of the excursion. The enthusiasm of the occasion raised another $100. On returning to Pittsburg a committee raised the balance, $450, in about three hours. [54]

The silver smelter operated at a profit for some four years. It shut down for want of operating capital, due to the fact that the ore-purchasing agent had managed to get hold of most of the money in the treasury through fraudulent invoices and other means and had left for parts unknown. The plant shut down, never to reopen. Fortunately for stockholders, the plant had earned and had paid to them in dividends during its period of operation more than the stock had cost.

The silver smelter was not a financial success for its owners, nor did it add materially to the pay roll of the town. But it was considered to have performed a valuable service for the town in advertising it and in furthering business enthusiasm. [55]


The beginning of the Hull and Dillon packing Plant is set forth in the following story related by Lewis Hull.

In the fall of 1885 Hull found himself in Pittsburg, Kan., full of ambition to enter the meat business, but lacked the funds to do so even on a very modest scale. However, he managed to secure on credit a location and to provide himself with meager equipment. To get a supply of meat he rode out into the country to the homes of two farmers with whom he had a slight acquaintance. From one he bought a cow, from the other a hog. He told each to call at his shop the following Monday for his pay.

The two animals were slaughtered and the meat was placed on sale. That was Saturday. The first day's sales brought Hull twenty-eight dollars and left about half of the meat. The cash receipts of the first day's business paid for the cow and the hog. He then bought another cow and hog on the same basis. The meat was readily sold and from that time on he was able to pay cash for the beeves and hogs as he bought them.

At the time Hull opened his shop all sausage, bologna and other smoked meats sold in Pittsburg were shipped in from Kansas City. Hull saw an opportunity for increasing his earning by smoking his own meats. But he had neither a smoke house nor money with which to build one worth while. The problem was met by the purchase of a hogshead, which Hull converted into a smoke house and put into operation. Within a short time he was selling home-cured sausage, bologna, hams and bacon. Increased trade forced Hull to secure larger quarters. At this time he was joined by his brother-in-law, Thomas Dillon. [56] In the new, modest, but up-to-date meat market was laid the foundation of the packing plant located, in 1891, west of the city on the banks of Cow creek.

The plant was put into operation in the fall of 1891 and its first kill was ten beeves and thirty hogs. [57] From time to time it was enlarged. During the year 1925 a large addition was made by raising the main building from one story to three stories. Again in 1928, a twenty-thousand-dollar addition was made. The buildings and yards then occupied about fourteen acres. The plant was electrically equipped and the refrigeration system was modern throughout.

Two government inspectors were stationed at the plant. The duty of one, a veterinarian, was to inspect each animal to be slaughtered. The duty of the other was to inspect the meats and the sanitation of the buildings, yards and equipment.

The value of the plant to the community and surrounding territory is best indicated by its volume of business. The average daily kill for some years has been one hundred hogs and twenty-five beeves. During the year 1928, 30,000 hogs, 7,500 beeves and 200 sheep, all purchased from the farmers and stockmen of the trade territory, were slaughtered. In addition, several hundred head of cattle were brought and shipped to other packing plants. Approximately $1,187,000 was paid to the producers. Market prices were based on Kansas city markets, less freight differential.

The company employed in the neighborhood of one hundred men throughout the year, with no "shutdowns." Nine salesmen were kept on the road (1930). The business has had a steady growth from year to year. During 1929 the volume of business reached the million-dollar mark, with a payroll of a hundred thousand dollars.

In order to reach its customers as promptly as possible Hull and Dillon instituted truck delivery services in 1918 to all accessible points in its trade territory. With the extension of good roads truck delivery was increased until the entire local territory was covered. In 1915 regular shipments of lard were made to London, England. Some by-products which were not produced in sufficient quantities to justify conversion into finished products were sold to other manufacturing concerns. Since 1920 all hides have been shipped to the International Shoe Company, St. Louis, and all grease has been sold to the Procter & Gamble Company, Chicago.

The company has operated, since 1922, a 1,200-acre grain and stock farm in connection with the packing plant. This farm was secured for the purpose of taking care of all stock that the packing plant could not at once consume. This enabled the company to purchase all cattle offered and to put all unconditioned beeves in condition for local slaughter or shipment to other markets. Several hundred head of cattle have been handled on the farm each year. [58]

In 1918 Lewis Hull bought Dillon's interest in the plant and incorporated the business with a capital of $150,000. E.D. Henneberry became associated with the company in 1921 and assumed a large part of the management of the business. Lewis Hull continued to take an active part in the management. His greatest interest was in the killing and curing departments, over which he exercised full personal supervision, despite his seventy-five years. Hull's hobby remained, January, 1930, what it was more than forty years before, curing and smoking hams, bacon and sausage -- the three products that played the greatest part in building the Hull and Dillon business. [59]

The management of the Hull and Dillon Packing Company had more than passing interest in the welfare of its employees. After the fall of 1923 night classes for the benefit of the employees were sponsored by the company. These classes were organized by and were a part of the work of the State Teachers College under the Smith-Hughes act. Such classes met at regular intervals for class instruction. The average attendance was about thirty. In this work the regular college professors were aided by several lecturers from Kansas City and Chicago furnished by the Institute of American Meat Packers. Full credit was given by the State Teachers College for all work completed. As a closing exercise for each years' work the packing company gave a banquet to its employee-students. The expense of these night classes from the beginning was born by the packing company. [60]

The social life of the employees also received consideration and attention. This was furthered by the Hull Club, organized among the employees and sponsored by them. Through this organization many social activities were carried on. The crowning event of the social function of the year was the annual picnic, given by the company to its employees.

Economic assistance and protection was provided for employees. Group insurance written by one of the large companies was in force for all after 1926. Each employee carried insurance to the amount of $2,000. Foremen carried $3,500. Half the cost of the insurance was borne by the company.

It has been the policy of the company to maintain close personal relations with employees. Some of its workmen have been with the concern for more than twenty-five years. In recognition the Institute of American Meat Packers has presented each of these with a silver medal. [61]


Since the early nineties Pittsburg has occupied a prominent place in the clay products industries of Kansas and the neighboring states. While some localities have exceeded it in volume, but few, if any, have excelled it in variety of products.

The history of brick making in Pittsburg dates back to the early history of the town. As early as 1878 it boasted of a fairly good plant. The Girard Press, January 16, 1879, said: "Steinmetz and Company are still making brick, their first kiln having turned out a complete success. You can count brick making one of the successful industries in Pittsburg.

The Steinmetz brickyard has long since passed away. It has been almost forgotten by even the oldest settlers of Pittsburg. The buildings for which it furnished the bricks have been replaced. But the economic fact that was established lived on in the vitrified brick plant, in the pottery plant and in the tile factory.

The immediate vicinity of Pittsburg contains extensive areas of clay, or shale, suitable for making a variety of clay products. This fact, combined with a cheap and abundant supply of coal resulted in building up an industry comparable with that of any other locality in the Southwest.

The value of the clay products factories to the community was well expressed by the following statement of facts for the year 1927, the only year for which data were available: total number of employees, 275; total payroll, $275,277.25; total value of products, $826,909.01. During the same year 2,486 cars of the output of the factories were shipped out of Pittsburg. [62]

The Pittsburg Paving and Building Brick Company, better known as the Nesch and Moore Brick Company, was the pioneer modern brick plant of Pittsburg. Previous to its establishment there was little or no real knowledge of the extent or the quality of the clay deposits in and around Pittsburg. [62]

The establishment of this plant was the outgrowth of a casual circumstance. In 1890 John Moore, of Atchison, Kan., through efforts of the Johnson Brothers, of the Pittsburg Town Company, visited Pittsburg. Moore knew something about clay. He observed that there were seemingly good deposits around Pittsburg. He made a study of the local industry and inspected the buildings that had been constructed of local bricks. He became interested in the possibilities of a modern vitrified brick plant.

When Moore returned to Atchison he took with him sufficient clay for experimental purposes. He produced a few vitrified bricks. [63] These were shown to Robert Nesch, a brick manufacturer of Atchison. Nesch, observing the quality of the sample bricks, at once became interested in Pittsburg clay. As a result, Nesch and Moore went to Pittsburg with the intention of establishing a brick plant if sufficient support was given them by the citizens of the town. They asked the city to agree to pave several blocks with their product. Their proposition was accepted and provision was made to pave some nine blocks with homemade vitrified brick. [64]

Some interesting facts relative to the first paving contract may be gleaned from the records of the city clerk. One is the fact that it authorized the mayor to sign a paving contract with Nesch and Moore before the ordinance authorizing the paving became effective. [65] Just why the city council acted as it did is problematic. Possibly its method was the "Pittsburg way" of securing the location of an industrial plant by means of a bonus paid through the taxing power of the city. Nesch and Moore at once commenced the construction of their plant on a ten acre tract, a part of which was underlain by a vein of coal, which was to furnish fuel for the kilns. The original plant was a small one. But the Pittsburg paving attracted so much attention that it soon was necessary to enlarge the plant in order to take care of the increased business. Additions to the plant continued until it attained a capacity of 100,000 paving bricks per day. It was completely equipped with modern brick-making machinery and kilns.

The brick plant enjoyed as exceptionally good trade in paving bricks from the time of the first kiln until brick paving and brick walks were supplanted years later by concrete. With the decline in the demand for paving bricks the plant turned its attention to building bricks, the sale of which met with good success. A market for its output was found throughout Kansas and western Missouri, and especially in Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Due to the fact that the early paving brick s stood the test of use they went into miles of pavement in Kansas City, Mo., during the late nineties, and 50,000,000 of them went into the Kansas City Stockyards Company pavements. [66]

After being operated by the Nesch interests for more than thirty years the brick plant was sold to the United Clay Products Company, 1926, [67] and the business of the local plant was merged with that of the large corporation. The Pittsburg plant was operated under the new organization for one year, when it was closed down, and has so remained.

The W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company, better known as the "Tile Factory," was established in 1899. One day in the spring of that year two practical brick and tile makers, W. L. Taylor and Charles Loose, arrived in Pittsburg in quest of a location where clay suitable for making hollow tile building blocks could be had. They were shown several possible sites, the most desirable being one where they thought the quality of the clay questionable. To dispel their doubts they were induced to ship a few bags of it back to Terre Haute to the tile factory with which they formerly had been connected. That was done and the two men soon followed the shipment.

About two weeks later Taylor and Loose returned to Pittsburg and stated they would establish a factory if sufficient local aid could be secured. They proposed to organize a company for making hollow building tile with a paid-up capital of $25,000, if local citizens would take stock in the amount of $9,000. As an evidence of good faith they presented a draft in the amount of $16,000. The stock to be purchased by local men was subscribed for in one day's time by eight business men. A member of the stock-selling committee, who has been a resident of Pittsburg since 1878 and who has been in the real-estate business there for more than forty years, said the establishment of that industry was easier than any with which he had ever been connected. [68]

The general management of the business was placed in the charge of a competent and experienced local business man; Loose and Taylor, the two principal stockholders, looked after the manufacturing end of the business. But the business did not prosper as expected. Practically the entire capital of the company was expended for the site and for kilns and other equipment, with but a very limited working capital. The plant earned enough to pay all operating expenses, allowing fair compensation for the three officials in charge; but it earned nothing for the stockholders. To make the business a profitable one more working capital was necessary. The local stockholders would not furnish this because they were not getting any returns on their investments. Taylor and Loose could not furnish more capital because they did not have it. As a result, all interested in the plant agreed to sell. A buyer was found in the person of Robert Nesch, the owner of the Pittsburg Vitrified Paving Brick Plant, who took it over at $25,000. [69] Under the Nesch management the plant was converted primarily into a sewer-tile plant, after which it was sold, 1900, to the W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company, [70] and became a unit of that larger organization.

Whatever possibilities Nesch and Dickey say in the Pittsburg plant were realized, at least, in part. The plant was a growing and a successful concern after its transfer to Nesch, and later to the Dickey interests. [71] From a plant of limited capacity it grew into one of 100 tons per day capacity by 1909, when the last addition to it was made. An interesting fact in connection with the operation of the plant is that after 1920 the kilns were fired with oil, consuming per month the equivalent, approximately, of 772 to 833 tons of coal. Oil was used as fuel not because it was cheaper, but because the uncertainties associated with the coal-mine labor troubles did not enter into the supply of oil.

The products of the plant were sewer tile, hollow tile bricks, flue lining, ornamental flue caps and wall coping. Of these products sewer tile was the principal one after 1900. The company's trade territory was southern and western Kansas, Oklahoma and parts of Arkansas, Texas and New Mexico.

The value of the tile factory to Pittsburg is shown in part by the following facts. In 1929 the plant employed an average of one hundred and twenty-five men, about twenty of whom were skilled clay molders and burners. The annual pay roll approximately $135,000 and the sales for several years exceeded $500,000 per year. [72]

The Pottery Plant was established principally as a community enterprise. The success of the other clay products plants suggested the possibility of additional uses for Pittsburg clay. Previous to 1910 numerous chemical and burning tests have been made in a small way with satisfactory results in the laboratories of the local state school. Also, samples of clay had been sent to kilns in Ohio, where they had been tested and approved. [73]

During the years 1911 and 1912 the problem of securing additional industries for Pittsburg was an important one to many of its citizens. In the latter year the desire to see a pottery plant established took definite shape. A meeting of business men resulted in thirty-one of them agreeing to contribute sufficient money to construct and put into operation a small plant. [74] The contributions amounted to $20,000, which was spent on a site, a one-kiln plant and a general-purpose building. [75]

The plant was put into operation in 1913, [76] under the management of a capable superintendent, but the first burnings were not a success. This was due, as it was afterwards learned, to faulty construction of the kiln and not necessary to lack of knowledge on the part of the superintendent. However, the owners set about at once to secure a new manager. In this many difficulties were experienced. Failure seemed evident. Efforts were then made to interest eastern pottery plants in the local plant. The stockholders even offered to back the operation of the plant with their own money, sustaining any losses themselves that might occur, is some successful pottery company would take over and operate the local plant for a definite period. Failing in this, the stockholders finally offered to give the plant to an Ohio concern if it would agree to operate the plant for a definite time. The offer was accepted, but soon rejected.

So much confidence in the project had some of the stockholders that two committees made trips at their own expense to the pottery plants of Ohio and Illinois in quest of a competent superintendent. [77] One was found, as they thought. But his lack of understanding of that particular kiln was a source of trouble for him and for the company. That was not the only trouble that beset the plant. To it must be added serious labor troubles and discriminating freight rates.

For a while the plant struggled along, but in 1915 it went into the hands of a receiver and was closed for three years. It was then sold to a small group of citizens who completely reorganized the business. The first act of the new organization was to reconstruct the original and only kiln, which had been the principal cause of all the trouble. An aggressive campaign of expansion was entered upon. The plant was enlarged by the addition of three kilns, increased molding equipment and enlarged drying rooms. Happily, the enlargement of the plant and the increased production facilities were followed by more favorable freight rates on clay products in that section. A reduction in freight rates, secured only after diligent efforts, enabled the Pittsburg plant to compete with the established plants elsewhere, and to build up to a successful business.

The pottery plant produced a large variety of products, such as jugs, water jars, pitchers, measures, milk pans, sun dials, lawn vases, bird baths, garden jars, flower pots, cut-flower vases, jardinieres, etc. For these varied products sale was found in western Missouri, Kansas, western Arkansas, Texas Panhandle and that part of New Mexico on the Santa Fe lines. By 1925 Pittsburg had become such a pottery center for the above territory that the railroad tariffs on pottery goods were quoted from Pittsburg. During the same year truck delivery service was instituted by the pottery company throughout its territory within a radius of 135 miles.

The largest single purchaser of Pittsburg pottery was the Gift Shop and Necessity Company, Kansas City. The first shipment was made to this concern in 1926. Subsequent shipments amounted to thousands of dollars a year. The Gift Shop shipments consisted principally of cookie jars, salad bowls, chocolate jars, lemonade sets, ice-box jars, etc. All these different articles were retouched or redecorated in Kansas City, and from there shipped to various parts of the United States and to some foreign countries. [78]


1. C.M. Young, "Kansas Coal, Its Occurrence and Production," Bulletin, University of Kansas, March 1, 1895, pp. 38-39.
2. Ibid., p.100.
3. Interview, K.A. Spencer, Pittsburg, Kan., vice president and manager, Jackson-Walker Coal and Mining Company.
4. Interview, Joseph Klaner, Pittsburg, Kan., strip mine operator, 1911-1930, Pittsburg territory.
5. Interview, P. S. Boulware, retired stockman, Pittsburg, Kan. Settled six miles west of Pittsburg, Kan, 1869.
6. Interview, Franklin Playter, Galena, Kan., retired lawyer, banker, promoter. Assisted in organizing Joplin Railroad Company, and in establishing Pittsburg town site.
7. Eighteenth Annual Report, united States Geological Survey, Mineral Resources, part V, p.526.
8. Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year, 1902, p. 380.
9. Mineral Resources of the United States, , 1905, pp. 601-602.
10. Ibid., 1910, part II, p. 136.
11. Ibid., 1915, part II, p. 948.
12. Ibid., 1921, part II, p. 585.
13. Ibid., 1925, part II, p. 499.
14. Annual Report of Coal Mine and Metal Mine Inspection and mine Rescue Department, 1930, p.80.
15. Interview, K. A. Spencer.
16. Eighteen Annual Report, United States Geological Survey, Mineral Resources, part V, p.526.
17. Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year, 1902, p. 380.
18. Mineral Resources of the United States, 1905, p. 601-602.
19. Ibid., 1910, part II, p. 136.
20. Ibid., 1915, part II, p. 948.
21. Ibid., 1921, part II, p. 585.
22. Ibid., 1925, part II, p. 499.
23. Annual Report of Coal Mine and Metal Mine Inspection and Mine Rescue Departments, 1930, p.81.
24. Interview, Bernard Herrigan, Pittsburg, Kan., secretary, Southwestern Interstate Coal Operators' Association.
25. Interview, K. A. Spencer.
26. Ibid.
27. The Pittsburg Daily Headlight, Nov. 10, 1888.
28. Ibid., Dec. 13, 1916.
29. Ibid., Dec. 13-27, 1916.
30. Ibid., Dec. 21, 1906.
31. Ibid., Mar. 19, 1911.
32. Session Laws, 1883, chap. 117, sec. 9.
33. Ibid., 1917, chap. 239, secs. 1-4.
34. Data furnished by state mine inspector's office.
35. The University Geological Survey of Kansas, v. 8, p. 20.
36. W. E. Connelley. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, v. 2, p. 1007.
37. Register of Deeds, Crawford county, book E, p.108.
38. Interview, E. V. Lanyon, Pittsburg, Kan. Formerly smelter operator. President of the National Bank of Pittsburg.
39. Girard Press, April 18, 1878.
40. Ibid., May 16, 1878.
41. Ibid., May 23, 1878.
42. Ibid., Jan 9, 1879.
43. Compendium of Tenth Census of the United States, part 2, p.971.
44. Missouri Geological Surveys, 1894, V.6, p. 302.
45. Pittsburg Headlight, Oct. 2, 1886.
46. Pittsburg Kansan, Oct. 9, 1889.
47. Ibid., April 9, 1890.
48. Ibid., Sept. 9, 1891.
49. Ibid., Sept. 10, 1890.
50. Missouri Geological Surveys, 1894, v. 7, pp. 495-465.
51. Ibid., vol. 6, p. 246.
52. Interview, E. V. Lanyon.
53. Pittsburg Kansan, Aug. 17, 1890.
54. Pittsburg Daily Headlight, May 20, 1891.
55. Interview J. H. Seeley, Pittsburg, Kan. Retired building contractor. Stockholder in the silver smelter.
56. Interview, Lewis Hull, Pittsburg Kan., President, Hull and Dillon Packing Company.
57. Ibid.
58. Interview, E. D. Henneberry, Pittsburg Kan., Vice president Hull and Dillon Packing Company.
59. Interview, Lewis Hull.
60. Ibid., Interview, J. A. Yates, head of Department of Physics and Chemistry, Kansas State Teachers College of Pittsburg.
61. Interview, E. D. Henneberry.
62. Data on file with the Chamber of commerce (Pittsburg, Kan.) based on reports of individual companies.
63. Pittsburg Kansan, Aug. 6, 1890.
64. Records Council Proceedings, book No. 1, pp. 318-345.
65. Session Laws, 1875, chap. 72, sec. 1.
66. Interview, J. J. Nesch, Pittsburg, Kan. Son of Robert Nesch, founder of the plant, connected with brick plant from the early nineties to 1926.
67. Ibid.
68. Interview, C. A. Miller, Pittsburg, Kan. Realtor.
69. Ibid.
70. Interview, A. H. Schlanger, Pittsburg, Kan. Coal merchant.
71. Ibid.
72. Interview, W. L. Walter, Pittsburg, Kansas, local superintendent, W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing company.
73. Interview, Prof. J. A. Yates.
74. Interview, A. H. Schlanger.
75. Ibid.
76. Pittsburg Daily Headlight, April 30, 1913.
77. Interview, A. H. Schlanger.
78. Interview, M. O. French, Pittsburg, Kan., president, Pittsburg Clay Products Company.