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Joseph Wharton: Quaker Industrial Pioneer, by W. Ross Yates, Lehigh University Press, Bethlehem, PA, 1987. This 413-page hardback is a biography of Joseph Wharton. Wharton is best known as the founder of the first US business school, Wharton School of Finance and Economy at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, in 1881. Wharton also aided Swarthmore College, organized by a committee of Quakers, in Swarthmore, PA, southwest of Philadelphia. He joined the board in 1870. He was a Quaker from Philadelphia. Being industrious is part of the Quaker culture.

Wharton began his career as a bookkeeping apprentice. He invested in zinc mining and processing near Bethlehem, PA and then nickel near Lancaster, PA. His reputation brought him to Bethlehem Iron, later Bethlehem Steel. It was dominated by Lehigh Valley Railroad interests via its board of directors. This led to an early preference for production of rails and later to the armor plate used in battleships and naval guns. Initially Wharton was an outsider, but eventually he took control. The book follows the transition from Bessemer process steel to open hearth. As JP Morgan formed US Steel by buying Carnegie Steel, Wharton sold Bethlehem Steel to Charles M. Schwab (1901), who immediately sold to Morgan interests. Later Bethlehem Steel re-emerged as the second largest US steel company.

Wharton was first to produce zinc metal in the US. It is a component of brass used in cartridge ammunition. He also produced the first malleable nickel metal and worked with the Philadelphia Mint to develop nickel coinage, which proved popular with the public. Later steel electroplated with nickel became a major use. Nickel plating provides a corrosion resistant, lustrous finish to steel parts.

Wharton was an effective lobbyist. He worked Congress for acceptance of nickel coinage, and later as lobbyist for the American Iron and Steel Association. He sought tariffs to protect US industry. Initially tariff protection was part of the Wharton School curriculum, although later free trade was included.

Wharton’s interest in chemical processes gave him exposure to Philadelphia chemists. The book includes a brief summary of the chemical industry in Philadelphia. Philadelphia appears to have been the center of the US chemical industry in the early 19th Century. Chemistry was in its infancy with many basic concepts yet to be discovered. The birth of organic chemistry is taken as 1828, when Friedrick Wohler synthesized urea. Justus von Liebig was first to offer formal education in chemistry at the University of Geissen in Germany in 1822. Until then, one paid a chemist to study in his private laboratory. Best known was James Curtis Booth who became Professor of Applied Chemistry at Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1836. He was born in Philadelphia, attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and had studied chemistry in Germany under Wohler and later Gustav Magnus in Berlin. Wharton knew chemists through work with his brother Rodman making white lead. They attempted production of cottonseed oil using a process developed by chemist Martin Hans Boye, also of Philadelphia. Later Booth was melter and refiner at the US Mint. Wharton was not trained as a chemist, but his businesses kept him in contact with many. He valued their expertise and was conversant in the subject.

Frederick W. Taylor is best known for his system of scientific management and efficiency. Much of his work was done at Bethlehem Steel during Wharton’s tenure. A chapter reviews this work. Taylor proposed a piecework system to reward workers for increased productivity. Eventually Taylor left in a dispute with management. Wharton favored keeping Taylor, but lost out as discussions turned to sale of the company.

The Pine Barrens region of New Jersey is well known for its small pine trees. Wharten acquired land there initially to save the Wharton homestead, which was threatened by a plan to develop better water sources for the city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia had high typhoid rates due to water contaminated upstream. Wharton proposed to collect water in the Pine Barrens and pump it under the Delaware River to the city. Both the plan and the threat evaporated. Funding was unavailable for NJ water and Philadelphia learned to purify its water by filtration. Wharton raised cranberries on his land and sold pine timbers as mine supports. He undertook planting seedling and was an early tree farmer. Other interests in New Jersey included menhaden fishing. After consolidating several acquisitions, Wharton dominated the business. Menhaden was processed for oil and meal. The meal was used in animal feed or fertilizer.

Wharton also mined iron ore in Morris County, NJ. He and Thomas Edison were the largest miners. The ore was low grade and needed enrichment to make it marketable. Edison developed magnetic separators, but his ore required briquetting. When ore from Minnesota’s Mesabi range became available, Edison’s process could not compete and was shut down. Wharton used a less efficient process that did not require briquetting.

This book is a professional quality biography. It tells the story of Joseph Wharton in considerable detail. References, bibliography, index.
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