Columbia Machine Works

back  Columbia Machine Works, Riverside Drive near 101st St., New York, 2014  next

This ad from the Electric Railway Journal, 30 Sept. 1916, contains the following, "Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Co: This business was founded in 1891 by John G. Buehler as the Columbia Machine Works. In 1902 it was incorporated under its present name - The Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company. Every year has been marked by a better, broader and bigger output - $5000 in 1901, $1,000,000 in 1916 - Because we have held to the policy of 'Right goods, quick delivery, moderate profit.'" The corners contain portraits of the following: J. G. Buehler President & Treasurer; L. O. Smith Vice President; W. R. Kerschner Vice President; Charles Buehler Secretary.

Originally the works were located at 16-18 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn. As described in the Street Railway Journal, 1 Oct 1896, "The Columbia Machine Works is doing an excellent business in the manufacture of commutators, other motor parts, trolley parts, controller parts, car fittings, etc. A visit to their factory shows a very busy scene. The works extend along Doughty Street from Columbia Heights to Furman Street. The company has a number of patented specialties, which have given good satisfaction and which recommend themselves to users of electric railway apparatus. ..."

As the Columbia Machine Works the business was described as follows in Street Railway Review, 1 Oct 1897, "The Columbia Machine Works, manufacturers of electrical railway supplies of every description and specialties of various kinds, have recently made a large number of improvements in their factory, and have extended their business in a great many different lines. This business was established in 1893 by John C. Buehler, has been carried on every since by that gentleman, who has had associated with him different gentlemen at different times, and under various firm names, prior to his last and most important compact made about the first of this year. On that date Frank H. Platt became a member of the firm and considerable new capital was added to the business. ..."

Twenty-two years later Moodys Manual of Railroads and Corporation Securities (1919) had this entry, "Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Co. (The).- Inc. in 1902 in N.Y. Manufacturers of electric railway supplies. Plant located at Chestnut Street and Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. Capital Stock.- Authorized and outstanding, $300,000; par $100. On Feb. 8, 1917, company filed notice at Albany, N.Y., of an increase of stock to $900,000. Officers: J. G. Buehler, Pres. & Treas.; L. O. Smith, V-P & Gen. Mgr.; A. A. Green, V-P.; W. R. Kerschner, V-P.; A. M. Smith, Sec., Brooklyn, N. Y. Directors: J. G. Buehler, L. O. Smith, W. R. Kerschner, Mrs. L. O. Smith, Brooklyn, N.Y. General office, Chestnut St. and Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, N. Y." By this time offices and works were located at Atlantic Ave. and Chestnut St.

An article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 6 Nov. 1920, had the following to say, "[Columbia Machine Works, at Atlantic ave. and Chestnut st.] Before the war this great corporation, two acres of rolling mills and foundries, roaring forges and clanging hammers, specialized in metal work for street railroads. Then came the great deluge. It had done shipwork. It was asked by the Government to specialize in shipwork. Now the peace time output of this great block of factory buildings was divided between railroad parts for both steam and electric roads, gear cases, trolley poles, car hoists, truck parts, special machinery for the repair and handling of cars and castings of brass and aluminum. For ship construction, they manufacture cargo fittings, shackles, stanchions, davits, etc. The U. S. Government, faced with the task of bringing out of the everywhere into here a giant merchant marine almost overnight, came to the Columbia Machine Works post haste with orders for parts of the 150 ships built by the Submarine Boat Corporation out at Port Newark, N. J. ... The Columbia Machine Works and Malleable Iron Co. was incorporated in New York State in 1902. It ranks among the great plants of its kind in America."

The founder was John G. Buehler (1857-1936). Buehler was born 26 December 1857 in Germany and immigrated to the U. S. in 1879. In 1898 John G. Buehler of New York, NY, was granted two patents for ball bearings. These are available on google patents, nos. 613489 and 613490, published 1 November 1898. John G. Buehler appears in the 1925 New York State Census, age 68, occupation Machine Works, living in Bayside, Queens. By the time of the 1930 U. S. Census he had retired and gave his occupation as "None." His death notice in the New York Times, 8 Dec. 1936, pg. 25, read, "Buehler - John G., of 221-21 Corbett Road, Bayside, L. I., on Dec. 7; survived by his wife, Frances; a son, John G., Jr., and a daughter, Mrs. Leo O. Smith. Relatives and friends invited to attend Masonic services of Tuscan Lodge, F. and A. M., No. 704; Orient Lodge, No. 138, R. A. M.; Damascus Commandery K. T. officiating, at 8 P. M., Wednesday. Also member of Fraternity Council, No. 504, Royal Arcanum. Interment 10 A. M. Thursday, Flushing Cemetery."

Another officer at Columbia Machine Works was Leo Oscar Smith (1885-1938). Leo O. Smith was John G. Buehler's son-in-law. He married Buehler's daughter, Anna M. Buehler (1892-1939) in 1913. As A. M. Smith or Anna M. Smith, she was sometimes listed as an officer or director at Columbia Machine Works. Leo O. Smith's death notice in the New York Times, 9 Feb. 1938, pg. 19, read, "Smith - On Feb. 7, 1938, Leo O., beloved husband of Anna M. and father of John A. and Marie D. Smith. Services at his residence, 78 4th St., Garden City, Wednesday at 8:30 P. M."

Also important at Columbia Machine Works was Wilson R. Kerschner (1872-1919). The Electric Railway Journal, 28 June 1919, pg. 1297, had the following obituary of W. R. Kerschner, "W. R. Kerschner of W. R. Kerschner & Company, Inc., New York City, died of plural pneumonia on June 21 at the age of forty-seven years. Before coming to New York City in 1910 Mr. Kerschner was in the electric railway supply business in Allentown, Pa. In 1915 he organized W. R. Kerschner & Company, Inc., and arranged to handle the products of the Keyes Products Company, Cincinnati Car Company, Albany Car Wheel Company, Charles I Earil and the Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company. Mr. Kerschner was vice-president of the Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company, Brooklyn, N. Y., with which he was associated for twenty-two years. Mr. Kerschner's presence at conventions and at other electric railway gatherings will be missed. He was well known in the industry and popular because of his loyalty to his friends, readiness to do his share in anything which came up and unfailing good humor."

Secretary at the Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company was Charles Buehler (1888-?). Charles Buehler was not John G. Buehler's son. He was born in New Jersey, the son of Christian Buehler, and may have been a nephew, although I have not been able to establish a clear relationship. Charles Buehler, age 29, born 30 Jan. 1888, registered for the World War I draft in 1917 when he was "Secretary & Office Mgr., Columbia Mach. Works & M. I. Co., Chestnut & Atlantic Aves., Bklyn." In 1942 he was no longer employed at Columbia Machine Works, but at the Industrial Home for the Blind, 520 Gates Ave., Brooklyn.

Christian Buehler (1858-1915) was also associated with Columbia Machine Works in its early years. His obituray in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 30 April 1915, pg. 2 read, "Christian Buehler, 56 years old, died yesterday at his residence, 153 Weirfield street. He was born in Germany and had been a resident of Brooklyn for thirty-three yers. He was a member of Tuscan Lodge, F. and A. M.; Court Bedford, I. O. Foresters, and Fraternity Council, No. 504, Royal Arcanum. He is survived by his wife, Louise, and two sons, John G. and Charles. His funeral services will be held tomorrow night at 7:30, with interment on Sunday in Evergreens Cemetery."

Another figure at the Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company was James Grady (1857-1916). On his death a notice appeared in Electric Railway Journal, 30 Sept. 1916, pg. 123, "James Grady, who was connected with the Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company, Brooklyn, N.Y., for twenty-two years and was for many years vice-president and general manager of the company, died at his home in Brooklyn on Oct. 18. Mr. Grady had not been well for some time and more than a year ago disposed of his interest in the company and retired from the management. He was born in New York City on Sept. 6, 1857. He is survived by his widow and nine children." In 1903 James Grady was awarded U. S. Patent 733185 as assignee to Columbia Machine Works and Malleable Iron Company for a Brake Handle used on streetcars.

This ad for Columbia Machine Works dates from 1901 when their offices were located at 18 Fulton St., in downtown Brooklyn.

Two years later the company had moved to Atlantic Ave. and Chestnut St. in the East New York section of Brooklyn. This ad dates from 1903, and names the company Columbia Machine Works & Malleable Iron Company. J. G. Buehler, James Grady, W. R. Kerschner, and C. Buehler are named among the officers.

This ad is from much later, 1921, when their Brooklyn location was joined by an office on Church St. in Manhattan, and other offices in Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago. The Manhattan telephone directory listed Columbia Machine Works at 255 Chestnut St., Brooklyn, through 1949.

home | about me | list of images | see what's new

Copyright (c) 2016 Walter Grutchfield