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Charles Hewitt

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Charles Hewitt (c1823-1879) of the Trenton Iron Co


1879 Obituary [1]

Mr. CHARLES HEWITT, brother of the Hon. Abram S. Hewitt, of New York, died at his residence, at Trenton, New Jersey, on Sunday evening, November 2, aged fifty-six years.

Mr. Hewitt, at the time of his death, was president of the Trenton Iron Company, and a member of the firm of Cooper, Hewitt, & Co. It is claimed for Mr. Hewitt that he was the inventor of several valuable appliances used in the manufacture of iron, including the yielding guides, or clearers of the three-high rail and beam rolling mill, the movable tables or platforms, and the stationary or suspended middle roll used in the same mill.

At the beginning of the American war, great trouble was experienced by the Government in obtaining good arms. Abram S. Hewitt, at the request of the Secretary of War, went to England, bought up all the suitable iron that was to be had, and studied the conditions of its manufacture. Meanwhile, Charles Hewitt undertook to manufacture such iron in America; and the firm promised to give him a house if he should succeed in rolling gun-barrels to the satisfaction of Major Dyer, Superintendent of the Springfield Armoury. The rolls were made, and the first gun-barrels were sent to the Springfield Armoury to be tested. It is said that the first report that Charles Hewitt received concerning them was in the shape of a telegram from his brother - "Build your house!" The manufacture of these gun-barrels resulted in what was subsequently known as the "Trenton-Springfield Rifles," which were largely used during the war in defence of the Union. The house in which the family now lives is the one that was presented to Mr. Hewitt in acknowledgment of his success in this manufacture, which, although superseded in that special form, has survived, so far as the peculiar quality of metal is concerned, in the manufacture of "gun-screw wire," a refined wrought-iron of extraordinary homogeneity and tenacity, for which the Trenton Iron Company received special mention from the judges of the Centennial Exhibition.

In 1869, when the Ellershausen process of making iron was creating so much excitement among iron manufacturers, Mr. Hewitt took out a patent for an improved process of manufacturing iron, similar in some respects to Ellershausen's, but essentially different in the manner in which the ingredients were mixed, producing, as was claimed, a much better quality of iron. He mixed cast iron, divided into coarse granules or pieces, with oxide of iron, in an ordinary puddling furnace, melting, stirring, and boiling them together, and balling in the usual way. The advantages claimed for this are, first, a saving of time as compared with ordinary puddling; second, an improvement in the quality of the product; third, a reduction in the cost of the iron produced; fourth, that grey iron may be converted as quickly as white iron; and fifth, a larger yield from the ore than can be obtained by any other process.

In the same year Mr. Hewitt took out a patent for an improved process of manufacturing steel-headed rails. His claim covered "the formation and use, for and in the manufacture of railroad bars, of a pile having on one of its sides a bar composed of a layer of steel and a layer of iron, these layers having been welded together before being placed in the pile, said bar having its layer of iron in contact with the other iron of the pile, and its layer of steel in such position as will form the head or part of the head of a finished rail." A large quantity of rails made by this process was laid on the Erie Railroad, and wore so well that for a time it seemed likely that the cheaper "steel-topped" rails would compete successfully with "all-steel." But the rapid cheapening of steel as compared with iron superseded the intermediate article.

Besides those here mentioned, Mr. Hewitt carried out many minor inventions of value, for some of which he obtained patents, while others are known to those only who have worked with him. It may be added that he was not less successful as a manager of men, having controlled large bodies of operatives for thirty years without a single rupture of any consequence.


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