A seminal moment in the history of the American pipe industry occurred about 185 years ago in Philadelphia, at a firm founded by two families later immortalized by SEPTA in a subway stop.
In 1832, a company called Morris, Tasker & Morris began using a revolutionary process to produce wrought-iron pipe in the cellar of a shop at Third and Walnut Streets, according to a 1917 edition of Cornell University’s Sibley Journal of Engineering.
The company’s founders, Thomas P. Tasker and Henry and Stephen Morris, used an imported British manufacturing method called butt-welding, which became the basis for modern pipe-making. Previously, urban gas-lighting systems conveyed gas through iron pipes made from old rifle barrels, screwed together.
As gas-distribution companies such as Philadelphia Gas Works created more demand for pipe, the industrialists expanded production at a new site on Fifth Street in South Philadelphia called the Pascal Iron Works.
The plant, which at its peak employed about 2,000 people, occupied two square blocks between the streets that would later take their names — Tasker and Morris. The two families, long forgotten for their ironworks, have been conjoined in the modern public mind by the Tasker-Morris subway stop that adopted the paired street names.
The ironworks outgrew Philadelphia in 1872 and moved to New Castle, Del., according to Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, the Southwest Philadelphia burial site where Tasker is interred.
In 1899, the ironworks was merged into a much larger company called National Tube Works. In 1901, U.S. Steel bought National Tube and nine other companies and consolidated manufacturing in McKeesport, Pa., near Pittsburgh, which went on to become the center of American pipe-making in the 20th century.
National Tube Works went into decline in the 1970s. U.S. Steel shut the last pipe mill in 2014.
In January, Dura-Bond Industries of Export, Pa., bought the shuttered pipe mill. It plans to revive operations there this year.