A brief History of the Jackson & Sharp Company, Car and Ship Builders, 1863-1950

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A Brief History of the Jackson & Sharp Company, Car and Ship Builders, 1863-1950

Contemporaries aptly described Job H. Jackson, co-founder of Jackson & Sharp, as the essence of the self-made man. Born on 11 February 1833 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jackson came to Wilmington at the age of fourteen. Working as a “grocer’s boy” at a general store, Jackson at sixteen apprenticed himself to a local tinsmith. Before his contract was completed, Jackson was foreman at the shop. He left the tinsmith in 1853, and worked for John H. Adams at Adams’s general store before moving to Altoona, Pennsylvania that same year. There he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Before the year was out, Jackson was engaged by the Ohio and Pennsylvania Telegraph Company to set up a telegraph line in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Having successfully completed construction of the telegraph line, Jackson returned to Wilmington in December 1853. Jackson worked for three years at a stove and tinning business. Then Jackson and his former employer John H. Adams purchased a store, selling stoves and housewares. Adams soon retired, and Jackson continued the business with John Flinn until the founding of Jackson & Sharp.1

Jackson was an active member of the Wilmington community. He helped fund the construction of the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in 1865. Jackson was an incorporating officer of the Ferris Reform School, founded by a bequest from cabinetmaker John Ferris in 1882. He served on the board of directors of the Delaware Hospital in Wilmington, 1889, and also helped incorporate the Minquadale Home for the Aged in 1891, serving on its Board of Managers. Jackson served on the Board of Port Wardens as both a member and president, served on City Council, and also served on the school board. He served as director of civic and financial institutions, and was involved in the management of other rail car companies, a railroad, and was a trustee of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.2For Jackson, at least in public pronouncements, the means to his success was easily explained: “The whole story of the Pathway of Success resolves itself down to one little word of four letters, though in meaning as large as can be found in Webster: Work!3

Jacob F. Sharp was born in New Jersey on 25 April 1815. He moved to Wilmington in 1837 and worked as a carpenter for the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad (PWBR), under construction at that time. He then worked as a house carpenter. In 1840 Sharp went to work for Harlan & Hollingsworth, shipbuilders and rail car manufacturers, as a car builder. He eventually became foreman at the shop. His experience as a car builder was doubtlessly a key element in the success of Jackson & Sharp.

Although not as involved in community life as Jackson, Sharp did serve one term on the Board of Education, and one term on the Board of Health. He took more of an interest in religion as an active member of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington. He often led religious services for the “inmates” of Wilmington’s almshouse. Sharp died on 2 August 1888.4

In April 1863, Job H. Jackson and Jacob F. Sharp formed a rail car manufacturing partnership, Jackson & Sharp, in Wilmington, Delaware. Located at the foot of Eighth Street in Wilmington, Delaware, Jackson & Sharp filled its first order in 1863, ten fruit cars for the PWBR. In 1865 they built passenger cars for the Great Western Railroad in Illinois, moving into the manufacturing of a variety of rail car types: passenger, private, baggage-mail-passenger, and freight. From one hundred employees and facilities for holding six cars, by the late 1880s the company employed roughly one thousand men, with facilities for seventy-five cars.5

On Jacob F. Sharp’s retirement in 1870, Jackson and some associates established the Jackson & Sharp Company, with five hundred thousand dollars in capital. Jackson served as president. The reorganized Jackson & Sharp Company, also known as the Delaware Car Works, was said to be the largest of its kind in the Americas. It sat on roughly twelve acres, with property on both the Christina and Brandywine waterfronts. Payroll averaged between 7,000 and 10,000 dollars per week by the late 1870s. The car workers, described in one magazine article as a “community of artists,” hailed from a number of crafts and trades. Painters, decorators, upholsterers, and a host of other workers and craftsmen joined designers, carpenters, and smiths in constructing a car. Newcomers to the process in the late 1880s were electricians, providing interior lighting for passenger and private cars. From start to finish, it took two months to build a car. Jackson & Sharp built a variety of rail cars for international markets and also built trolley cars, both horse-drawn and electric.

Jackson & Sharp’s business was international in scope, with customers including King Oscar of Sweden, and Dom Pedro, emperor of Brazil. Palace and parlor cars were a Jackson & Sharp specialty. The plant also manufactured exposition cars—moving billboards for trade shows or state tourism, and cars for transporting theatrical companies. In 1876, Jackson & Sharp was awarded the Centennial Exposition medal for Dom Pedro’s “boudoir and library” car.6

The company gained a reputation for innovation as well. Jackson & Sharp built the first narrow gauge rail cars in the United States, delivering their first order for the Denver and Rio Grande Railway in August 1871. Peaking in popularity in the 1880s, narrow gauge rails were more economical and well-suited for use in the mountainous western United States. Invented in Wales, narrow gauge railways could be found throughout the British Empire, and in Russia and South America, as well as North America.7

Jackson & Sharp’s success took place within the economic and social transformations that Wilmington, and the nation as a whole, experienced in the nineteenth century. From an eighteenth century economy based on shipping, milling, shipbuilding and barrel making, with many of the city’s artisans and tradesmen working out of the home, Wilmington’s transformation to an industrial economy was complete by the 1850s. Wilmington’s location between the Brandywine and Christina rivers, near canal and rail lines, close to northern and southern markets, and its history as a milling center drawing skilled workers and providing sources of capital, were integral to this transformation. Among the many industries that flourished in nineteenth century Wilmington, shipbuilding and rail car construction were the city’s chief industries by the 1840s. Ideally situated between the PWBR and the Christina River, by the 1860s the four largest Wilmington firms engaged in one or both of these activities. It was only a matter of time before Jackson & Sharp, the newcomer, tried its hand at shipbuilding as well.8

In 1875 the company purchased the Christina River Shipyards. Jackson & Sharp specialized in building wooden craft, such as schooners, barges, and steam-powered passenger and freight vessels. The yard performed repairs as well, using a marine railway to lift craft out of the water. By 1880, only two wooden shipyards remained in Wilmington, Jackson & Sharp, and Enoch Moore; other shipyards engaged in the building of iron and steel shipping. The lumberyard contained a variety of woods. Lumber, cut or machined, served a variety of uses including car frames, hulls and planking for ships, and ornamentation. Sawdust vacuumed from this work was recycled for use in the boilers that powered the yard’s machinery. The total value of Jackson & Sharp’s cars and boats manufactured reached one and a half million dollars per year in the late 1880s.9

The continuation of old ways of work at Jackson & Sharp, such as skilled, diversified labor, also appears in the survival of the apprentice system. Apprenticeship agreements dating from the late nineteenth century spell out the terms under which young apprentices might learn the rudiments of a craft or trade. In March 1871, Henry L. Hainsworth contracted his son John to the Jackson and Sharp Company as an apprentice. John, who turned sixteen that May, was to “learn the trade of Car Building for the period of five years.” If John lasted the five years, he saw his weekly pay increase from two dollars his first year up to seven dollars his fifth year. Any absence, “except legal Holidays,” was considered “lost time,” and his pay would have been deducted accordingly. Satisfactory conduct during the five years would result in a fifty dollar bonus.10

Labor struggles were not the issue in Wilmington that they were elsewhere in the nineteenth century. Although labor unions emerged in Wilmington in the 1840s, strikes and labor violence were rare. The large percentage of skilled workers and the survival of artisan identity might have worked against attempts at organization. Depressed economic conditions may have played a part as well. Agitation did take place, however, as seen in attempts to shorten the workday. Strikes were more frequent in the 1870s and 1880s, if not successful. During the 1880s, the largest labor organization of the period, the Knights of Labor, became a presence in Wilmington industry. The Knights were not a radical group, preferring arbitration to strikes. Jackson & Sharp employees joined the Knights. Despite this, old ties between worker and employer remained strong. As some workers called for higher wages in March of 1886, Job H. Jackson appealed directly with employees. Claiming that due to competition from companies such as Pullman, wages could not be raised, Jackson managed to avert a walkout. An unsuccessful strike by Wilmington leather workers at that time revealed the weakness of the Knights.11

Jackson & Sharp’s workers were justifiably concerned about wages. The production of rail cars was closely connected to the state of the American economy. In the aftermath of the Panic of 1873, Jackson & Sharp employed forty people, down from six hundred, and was planning to close operations in 1875. Business improved by 1880, but workers’ wages did not rise to their former levels. A machinist earning two dollars per day in 1870 earned $1.66 2/3 per day in 1880. Wages would slowly rise over the next twenty years.12

By 1900, despite the economic difficulties of the 1890s, Jackson & Sharp Company plant property covered 30 acres. The firm employed twelve hundred to fifteen hundred workers, and had branch offices in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and London, England. The company produced 40 different rail car designs. In 1901, Jackson & Sharp workers apparently felt secure enough in their positions to join in a strike for, and win, a nine-hour work day.13

At the end of the nineteenth century, Wilmington experienced another economic shift. Older local industries declined in the face of mergers and trust formation, lessening demand for products, and pressures of modernization. One by one, established plants were bought out or went out of business. The American Car and Foundry Company (ACF), formed in March 1899 as the result of the merger of thirteen railroad car and equipment companies, took over the Jackson & Sharp Company business in May 1901. It is unclear whether or not this was a matter of choice on Jackson & Sharp’s part. Job H. Jackson died on 23 May 1901, a few weeks after the purchase was made. The Wilmington Morning News reported that “it was the intention of Mr. Jackson to live retired and to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.”14 But perhaps in the face of increasing competition from rivals such as the Pullman Company, and with the changing nature of American business, Jackson preferred to bow out with dignity.

In making its arrangements with Jackson & Sharp, ACF leased the plant, equipment and inventory for ten years, with an option to purchase at the end of that period, paying rent of $25,000 per year. In February 1911, ACF exercised its option and purchased the plant for $500,000. Jackson & Sharp focused on export passenger car production after its acquisition by ACF. Under Job H. Jackson’s ownership, the plant had “developed and patented one of the first designs” for “knocked down” cars, which involved shipping the cars in pieces for export. In emphasizing export production, Jackson & Sharp’s other strengths were not neglected. Included among a shipment of cars bound for Spain in the summer of 1901 were a “drawing room coach car” and a dining car built for that nation’s King Alphonso.15

A Jackson & Sharp catalog from the turn of the century listed the company’s varied products and operations:

Builders of sleeping cars, dining cars, private cars, chair or parlor cars, day cars, baggage and mail cars, street cars for horse or power traction, street sprinkling cars, and freight cars, for any gauge of track.

Manufacturers of architectural wood work and cabinet wood work for buildings.

Shipbuilders, ship joiners and marine railway.16

The shipyard built grain barges, car floats, lighters, tugs, ferry boats, tow boats, schooners, and dump scows. While the shipyard kept busy, iron and steel shipbuilding quickly eclipsed wood shipbuilding. Jackson & Sharp produced 15,617 tons of shipping in 1906, compared to 48, 671 tons for Pusey & Jones, and 43,016 tons for Harlan & Hollingsworth, local manufacturers of iron and steel shipping. Harlan & Hollingsworth had also been caught up in the wave of corporate consolidation, purchased by the industrial trust United States Shipbuilding in 1902.17

The First World War returned Wilmington to prosperity as munitions works, ship builders, and foundries went into action. The Jackson & Sharp plant “launched the largest tonnage of wooden boats put out by any American shipyard” in the years of 1914-1915. Due to the demand for ships’ carpenters, carbuilders assumed the task of shipbuilding during the war. Jackson and Sharp was contracted in 1917 to build eight wooden submarine chasers. One hundred men did the job within six months. The rail car shop was taken over for this task. Boat repair at the shipyard took on added importance during the war. Jackson & Sharp also produced a variety of rail cars, acid buckets, and powder trays for the Du Pont powder company’s munitions work. The plant also manufactured tables, benches, and pontoons.18

A 1975 interview with Mr. Howard Potts reveals something of life at Jackson & Sharp between the wars. Mr. Potts was 77 at the time of the interview. He remembered starting work at Jackson & Sharp as a laborer at the age of fourteen. Except for time spent at Pusey & Jones during the First World War, Mr. Potts worked in the Jackson & Sharp shipyard until 1949. Potts spoke of carrying logs with a gang of ten to twelve men of varying ethnicities and nationalities. When a log was too heavy, horses or mules chained to the lumber would drag it.19

He was soon apprenticed to learn a trade. This merely meant a pay raise at first, but Potts soon learned the tools used in ship carving. Spending six months with the laboring gang, six with the carpenters, then working with the rigging crew and finally the ship joiners, Potts learned the details of the shipbuilding business. In less than four years, Potts worked on his own, and supervised other apprentices. Potts said that apprenticeships were phased out after the First World War. During the Depression, Potts and three supervisors were the shipyard’s only employees. Potts worked three days a week, often engaged in busy work such as examining fences.20

Potts emphasized the varying backgrounds of shipyard employees. Describing his early days of transporting logs, he said, “Italians, Polish, Blacks, Irish, name it—we all worked together.” He noted that blacks and whites often worked together on projects, and that African Americans supervised apprentices or journeymen. At the same time, however, he recalled African Americans being clustered in certain crafts, stating that African Americans made up the majority of caulkers in the shipyard. This seems to fit with general patterns of racial hiring in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Wilmington.21

“Shipyards were dangerous places. They didn’t know what safety was until ‘round about [1925],” Potts recalled. A lack of scaffolding resulted in numerous falls. Other dangers included men dropping lumber, on themselves or on co-workers, and the ever-present rats. Jokes and humor compensated for workplace hazards and long days. Potts told of being sent out to fetch a “bucket of steam,” and of greasing tool handles with a grease made from fish oil. Shakedown cruises of newly-built ships were called “breakdowns,” because as Potts said, “there would always be something that would break down on them. Always.”22 Despite the perils and lean times of shipbuilding, Potts looked back on his days at Jackson & Sharp with pride.

After the First World War, ACF struggled to keep the Jackson & Sharp plant active. The plant ceased production of railway cars sometime in the early 1930s. In 1925, increasing emphasis was placed on the production of pleasure yachts. Orders for over 300 yachts came in from throughout the Americas.23 In June 1938, the woodworking division of Jackson & Sharp was closed as well. Among its many projects, Jackson & Sharp had installed woodwork for many of the du Ponts, at Longwood, Nemours, and Winterthur. Some of the woodwork at Winterthur was taken from residences in Europe. This woodwork was remodeled in the Jackson & Sharp shops, and other pieces were crafted as well. In closing down the woodworking department, the Morning News reported that the plant would focus on shipbuilding.24

The coming of war changed the nature of that shipbuilding. During the Second World War, Jackson & Sharp was awarded the Army-Navy “E” banner five times, for excellence in production. The Navy’s shipbuilding program during the Second World War began with the construction of an “experimental” sub chaser at the Jackson & Sharp shipyard in 1940. Four wooden minesweepers were built in 1941, and 38 forty-five foot tank lighters (LCM’s) “fitted with bullet-proof steel” were constructed that same year. The shipyard would build ten wooden minesweepers in all, and additional tank lighters—377 LSM(3)’s. Four wooden net tenders were built as well in 1943. That year, ACF built two salvage vessels, the USS Weight and USS Swivel, for the Navy. The Weight saw action in the Mediterranean, and the Swivel served off of the Normandy coast. One hundred thirty-one chemical warfare barges, and 226 aluminum pontoon boats were also constructed. Women comprised ten percent of the plant’s workforce in 1944.25

From mid-1944 to the war’s end, the plant repaired small craft for the Navy. After the war, the Wilmington plant returned to the manufacture of rail cars. One of their first tasks was a somber one, equipping “funeral cars for the return of bodies of American servicemen from foreign cemeteries” in 1947 and 1948. Jackson & Sharp worked on a new line of rail cars for ACF, the Talgo, for the Spanish market. The aluminum Talgo car was unique in having only two wheels. These cars were delivered in 1949.26

These projects were not enough to keep the plant in operation. In February 1950, ACF announced that it would be temporarily closing the Wilmington plant. At that time, only 50 people out of a workforce of 600, along with office personnel, remained to complete outstanding orders. After that work was finished, only office personnel stayed on. A drop in foreign orders was cited for the “temporary” closure. By 1951 it became apparent that no new orders would be coming through to the Wilmington plant. The buildings were leased to various concerns at that time, and the property, covering over 54 acres, was put up for sale. In June 1952, it was announced that the plant property had been sold to the East Coast Warehouse Terminal, Inc.27

For almost ninety years, Jackson & Sharp played an important role in Wilmington’s economy. Its rail cars and sea craft plied the railways and waterways of the world. Its craftsmen built cars for royalty, and decorated public institutions and the homes of the rich and powerful. In two world wars, Jackson & Sharp workers helped meet the equipment and transport needs of the armed forces. Jackson & Sharp’s story holds relevance for business, labor, and technology historians; for railroad and maritime enthusiasts; and for students of local and regional history. While details of the company’s history sometimes elude us, the evidence of Jackson & Sharp’s handiwork remains an object of interest and admiration.

A note on Jackson & Sharp sources at the Delaware Public Archives (DPA)

The bulk of the DPA’s holdings concerning the Jackson & Sharp Company lie in two records groups. RG 9015002.1, collection # 9—the Jackson and Sharp Photograph Collection—contains 3,715 glass and film negatives, as well as prints. Sixty-seven car drawings/blueprints, ca. 1881-1937 are found in RG 9015002.2, Railroad Car Construction Drawings; and 96 ship drawings, ca. 1885-1937 are found in RG 9015002.3, Ship Construction Drawings. Found in the Private Accounts Collection RG 9025.0 (vols. # 65.1, 65.2, and 65.3) are three cost books for orders in 1916, 1923 and 1929. Other primary and secondary sources dealing with Jackson & Sharp can be found in the DPA library, manuscripts, and records collections. The primary sources include Jackson & Sharp and ACF publications such as “A Few Types of Electric Cars” (Pamphlet Collection RG 9290.0; Industries—Historical; Jackson & Sharp) and The Armed Forces of A.C.F. (RG 1325.95, Box 6422), both cited below; and the New Castle County Recorder of Deeds records cited below, as well as others which can be found in the Deeds index; and pamphlets and books dealing with Wilmington industry such as Richard Edwards's Industries of Delaware, cited below. New CaEndnotes

. “End of Busy Life,” Wilmington Morning News, 24 May 1901, p. 1; “Job H. Jackson Is Dead,” Delaware Gazette and State Journal, 30 May 1901, p. 8.

2 . William T. Kerr, Ideology and Industrialization: Business Response to Social Needs in Late Nineteenth Century Wilmington (master’s thesis, University of Delaware, 1964), 40, 43-44; John A. Munroe, History of Delaware (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1979), 192; “End of Busy Life”, 2; Edwards, 62-63.

3 . Job H. Jackson, The Path of Success: An Address Delivered in Institute Hall, before the Workingmen of Wilmington, Delaware, March 28th, 1885 (Wilmington: James & Webb Printing Company, 1885), 30. Found at the Historical Society of Delaware (HSD), Wilmington, Delaware.

4 . “Death of Jacob F. Sharp,” Delaware Gazette & State Journal, 9 August 1888, p. 1. The Tatnall Tombstone Collection cites a birth date of 28 April 1818 for Jacob Sharp, yet Sharp’s death certificate lists his age as 73. RG 9020.0, Walter Tatnall Tombstone Collection, p. 314, DPA; RG 1500.3, Vital Statistics, Death Records, 1888, folder 23, DPA.

5 J. Thomas Scharf, History of Delaware, 1609-1888 (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards & Co., 1888; repr., Westminster, Md.: Family Line Publications, 1990), 773; Henry C. Conrad, History of the State of Delaware (Wilmington, 1908), 372; Edward S. Kaminski, American Car & Foundry Company: 1899-1999 (Wilton, CA: Signature Press, 1999), 27. Date of company founding taken from “End of Busy Life,” Wilmington Morning News, 24 May 1901, 1; and RG 2555.11, New Castle County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book R, Vol. 7, p. 448, 13 April 1863, DPA.

6 . Earl Shinn, “Wilmington and Its Industries: Concluding Paper,” Lippincott’s Magazine, May 1873, 520; Richard Edwards, Industries of Delaware: Historical and Descriptive Review; Cities, Towns, and Business Interests, Institutions, Manufacturing and Commercial Advantages (Wilmington: Richard Edwards, 1880), 62-63; Scharf, 774-775; W. Emerson Wilson, “Firm Put Royalty on Rails,” Evening Journal, May 20, 1968, p. 11. The Shinn article was found at the HSD.

7 . Horace Greeley, Leon Case, et al., The Great Industries of the United States . . . (Hartford: J. B. Burr & Hyde, 1872), 326-328; John White, The American Railroad Passenger Car (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 33.

8 . Carol E. Hoffecker, Wilmington: Portrait of an Industrial City, 1830-1910 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974), 4-20, 25-27.

9 . Ian Arnold, Locomotive, Trolley, and Rail Car Builders; An All-Time Directory
(Los Angeles: Trans-Anglo Books, 1965), 30; Conrad, 372; Richard Urban, The City That Launched a Thousand Ships (Wilmington: Cedar Tree Books, 1999), 60; David B. Tyler, “Shipbuilding in Delaware,” Delaware History 7 (March 1957): 207-216, 213-214; Scharf, 774-775.

10 . “Agreement between Henry L. Hainsworth (Wilmington) and Jackson & Sharp regarding the apprenticeship of John Hainsworth, March 22, 1871,” Hagley Library, Wilmington, Delaware.

11 . Hoffecker, 119-129.

12 . John White, The American Railroad Freight Car: From the Wood-Car Era to the Coming of Steel (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993). 139; Harold Bell Hancock, “The Industrial Workman Along the Brandywine, 1870-1902,” (Hagley Museum and Library research report: 1958), 48, 63; Joseph D. Weeks, ed., Report on the Statistics of Wages in Manufacturing Industries (Tenth Census, 1884; repr., New York: Norman Ross Publishing, Inc., 1991), 428.

13 . “Jackson and Sharp Company,” The Wilmington Board of Trade Journal 2, Supplement (June 1900): 17.

14 . Hoffecker, 157-159; “End of Busy Life,” 1; Kaminski, 1.

15 . RG 2555.11, New Castle County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book P, Vol. 18, p. 453-467, 2 May 1901, DPA; “Cars for South America,” The Wilmington Board of Trade Journal 2, no. 3 (June, 1900: 3; memo from H. C. Wick, “Acquisition of Wilmington Plant,” July 9, 1942, American Car and Foundry Collection, Hagley Museum and Library; “Sale of Big Plant: American Car and Foundry Has Bought Jackson & Sharp Company,” The Wilmington Board of Trade Journal 3, no. 2 (May 1901): 1; “Built Cars for a King: Two Elegant Coaches Constructed Here for King Alphonso of Spain” The Wilmington Board of Trade Journal 3, no. 5 (August 1901): 1. The Board of Trade Journal was found in the reference section of the Wilmington Public Library. A listing of the land purchases Jackson & Sharp made between 1870 and 1901 can be found in the 1911 deed of sale to ACF. RG 2555.11, New Castle County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book E, Vol. 23, p. 485-496, 15 February 1911, DPA.

16 . Jackson & Sharp Company, “A Few Types of Electric Cars” (Wilmington, n.d.)

17 . American Car and Foundry Company, Catalog C (St. Louis; New York: American Car and Foundry Company, 1903), n.p.; David B. Tyler, American Clyde: A History of Iron and Steel Shipbuilding on the Delaware from 1840 to World War I (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1958), 99; 130n23. Catalog C was found at the Hagley Library.

18 . Carol E. Hoffecker, Corporate Capital: Wilmington in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1983), 65-73; American Car and Foundry Company, The American Car and Foundry Company in Khaki: Its Production Achievements in the Great War (American Car and Foundry Company, 1919), 54-57, 64, 92. Found at the Hagley Library, and HSD. Although ACF publications referred to the Jackson & Sharp plant as the Wilmington plant, the Jackson & Sharp name apparently hung above the plant entrance until 1945. Letter from H. C. Wick, “Jackson and Sharp Company,” 7 May 1946 American Car and Foundry Collection, Hagley Library.

19 . Howard Potts, Transcript of oral history interview with Howard Potts, 16 June 1975, Hagley Library, 2.

20 . Potts, 3, 26, 38-39, 305.

21 . Potts, 2, 18-25, 132-133; Hoffecker, Wilmington: Portrait of an Industrial City, 117-118.

22 . Potts, 228-230, 241.

23 . “Wilmington Plant,” American Car and Foundry Collection, Hagley Museum and Library, 15. Conflicting dates on the ending of rail car production are given in Urban, 63; and Kaminski, 27. Urban gave 1925 as the closing date for rail car production; Kaminski, 1931. Photographic evidence suggests that Jackson & Sharp was producing rail cars for export in 1932. RG 9015002.1, Jackson & Sharp Photograph Collection, box 1, folder 3, photo 20.

24 . “Old Woodworking Shop Bows to Modern Steel,” Morning News, 9 April 1938, p. 2. Jackson & Sharp woodworkers also created a wooden version of the Delaware state seal, on display at the DPA.

25 . Commander S. M. Alexander, USN, “Navy Shipbuilding in Wilmington Reviewed” Sunday Star, 5 November 1944, p. 29; American Car and Foundry Company, The Armed Forces of A.C.F. (American Car and Foundry Company, 1945), 65-74; “City Yards Build 824 Navy Craft in 4-Year Period,” Morning News, 28 October 1944, p. 1, 17; William H. Conner and Leon deValinger, Delaware’s Role in World War II (Milford: Public Archives Commission, 1955), 183-184, 227. The Alexander article was found in the “Wilmington—Industries” vertical file in the reference section of the Wilmington Public Library.

26 . “American Car, Foundry Property Is Being Sold,” Journal-Every Evening, 13 June 1952, p. 1; “Wilmington Plant,” American Car and Foundry Collection, Hagley Museum and Library, 16; ACF’s Berwick plant is cited as producing the first Talgo train. Kaminski, 5.

27 . “Drop in Foreign Orders Shuts ACF Plant Here Temporarily,” Journal-Every Evening, 15 February 1950, p. 1,4; “American Car, Foundry Property Is Being Sold,” p. 1; Wilson, p. 11; RG 2555.11, New Castle County Recorder of Deeds, Deed Book B, Vol. 53, p. 193, 16 December 1952.

stle County Court of Chancery cases involving the firm are also on microfilm.


Jackson and Sharp Photograph Collection Overview
The Jackson and Sharp Photograph Collection contains roughly 8,500 glass negatives, film negatives, and prints dating from 1869-1946. To document construction of its cars and ships, Jackson and Sharp had each photographed, and in 1950-1951, the American Car and Foundry Company donated many of the negatives to the Delaware Public Archives. The 3,715 prints are arranged alphabetically by type of car, ship or item and thereunder chronologically by date of manufacture. In some cases, chronological order was not strictly maintained.

The majority of the collection, roughly 2,315 prints, consists of exterior and interior views of various types of railroad cars produced by the company between 1869 and 1932. These cars include diner, freight, mail-baggage-passenger, private, sleeper and those exported to foreign countries. Views of railway equipment, cars under construction, railroad wrecks and hand cars are also contained.

Many different types of ships built between 1884 and 1946 are represented in the collection, consisting of about 900 prints. These include ferry boats; naval craft produced for the federal government, especially during World War I and World War II; pleasure craft; schooners; freight, passenger, and tanker steamships; and work craft such as barges, dredges, drydocks and tugs. Also included with ships are shipyard views and ship plans and emblems.

The collection also contains smaller groups of items like roughly 350 prints of street cars, produced for both domestic and foreign use between 1875 and 1918; 27 views of motor trucks, 1924-1931; roughly 120 prints of millwork, 1894-1922; and four views of Job Jackson’s house.

Jackson and Sharp Railroad Car and Ship Construction Drawings

(RG 9015002.2)

This series consists of fifty-one drawings and blueprints related to rail car construction. Ranging in date from about 1881 to 1937, the collection contains twenty-five plans, elevations, and cross-sections for a variety of cars and equipment. Twenty-six drawings and blueprints dealing with the interior design of railroad cars, such as room layouts, furnishings, and fixtures, can also be found.

Ninety-six ship drawings, dating roughly from 1885 to 1937, illustrate the range of shipping constructed by Jackson and Sharp. Diagrams, plans, cut-away views, and drawings of barges, tug boats, schooners, yachts, and a number of other vessels, as well as ship equipment are represented.

Also included in the collection are plots of company property and building plans dating from 1924 and a map of Wilmington, 1911.


Jackson and Sharp Cost Books


(RG 9015002.3)

The cost books record the production costs for three railroad car orders and show the order lot number, when the cars were shipped, the quantity and type of material used, the price rate for each, and the total cost. These records include the cost book for sixty steel solvent recovery cars produced for Hercules Powder Company, 1916; the cost book, five photos, shipping list, shop order, and blueprint for three first class coaches manufactured for the Columbian National Railway, 1923; and the cost book, shipping list, shop order, thirteen photos and a blueprint for a Rede de Viacao Sol Mineira sleeping car, 1929.


During the late 1920s and through much of the 1930s, Jackson & Sharp concentrated on building pleasure craft. Seen here is the Nimrif, a power yacht built for F. V. Deslodge, Sr., in 1934.

(Ships; Pleasure Craft—Power; folder 5, photo 15)

In 1917, the Navy contracted Jackson and Sharp to build eight wooden submarine chasers. One hundred men did the job within six months, using the rail car shop for the task. Seen here in ice-covered waters is the sub chaser S.C. 345.

(Ships; Naval Craft—World War I; folder 1, photo 7)

The yacht Osprey III, 1927.

(Ships; Pleasure Craft—Sail; folder 1, photo 4)

A view of the schooner Savannah of Wilmington, under construction in 1914.

(Ships; Sailing Vessels—Schooners; folder 1, photo 11)

A view from the pilot wheel of the schooner W. H. Woodin, 1919.

(Ships; Sailing Vessels—Schooners; folder 1, photo 20)

Although wooden shipbuilding was declining, Jackson & Sharp continued to build a variety of craft into the 1930s. The Delaware, steam freighter, 1930.

(Ships; Steamships—Freight; folder 1, photo 21)

Repair work also provided work for Jackson & Sharp’s shipyard. Here the sidewheeler passenger steamboat Admiral undergoes repairs in 1880.

(Ships; Steamships—Passenger; folder 1, photo 13)


The steam tanker Sunoco No. 4, 1924.

(Ships; Steamships—Tankers; folder 1, photo 6

Workers put the finishing touches on a barge for the O’Brien Bros. Contracting Company in 1928.

(Ships; Work Craft—Barges; folder 2, photo 1)

A dredge undergoing repairs, 1921.

(Ships; Work Craft—Dredges; folder 1, photo 1)

The tugboat Neptune under construction, 1928.

(Ships; Work Craft—Tugs; folder 1, photo 19)

A ship’s plans would be found on site while under construction, as Jackson & Sharp’s shipbuilders frequently made reference to them. This drawing would probably be just one of many used in the building process. Undated drawing of Schooner #82 (the B. F. Allen?).

(Ship Construction Drawings; folder A, drawing 12)

Entering the shipbuilding business in the 1870s, Jackson & Sharp constructed a variety of wooden vessels, from barges to yachts. This ferry, the Charles W. Galloway, was built for the Staten Island Railway in 1922.



(Ships; Ferry Boats; folder 1, photo 7)


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