The LaBelle nail works, located at the head of Thirty-first street -- called "LaBelle" avenue sometimes -- manufactures steel nails exclusively. It formerly bought its pig iron from the producers, preferring this course to investing in a blast furnace. It has also bought its steel recently.
The present LaBelle mill was built in 1852 by Bailey, Woodward & Co., the firm consisting of 22 men, prominent among them being Messrs. Bailey, Woodward, Linch, Freeze, Spaulding , Doty, Wallace, Harden, and Glass, whose names are so familiar with the nail industry of this section. It had 25 nail machines, eight boiling furnaces and two heating furnaces, and cost $60,000. It has grown by degrees until it now members 142 machines in its factory. Its buildings are convenient and extensive, the original two-acre site of the mill having expanded into a much more roomy property and the original buildings into mill, forge, and warehouses giving capacity for manufacturing and storing at least six times as many nails as where started. It has now a capacity of about 1,340 kegs of nails per day. With the advent of the steel nail its boiling furnaces, greatly increased in number, were abandoned, but it has a complete plate mill, and is one of the solidest and most completely appointed mills in the vicinity.
The Labelle Company was one of the first to decide that it is a wholesome idea to diverge from the timeworn path and seek a new and shorter route to the goal. They determined to adopt the Lauth method, and contracted for a new mill, which includes the 24-inch Lauth three-high plate train. The train will have two rapid-working steam lifts, one of which will raise the billet from the lower to the upper roll at the rate of sixteen passes in thirty seconds. The other will raise the small middle roll at the same rate of speed, up and down against the upper and lower rolls, as the billet passes crosswise between the bottom and middle rolls alternately, in being widened to the 13 inches to which it is made, preliminary to the three final passes lengthwise, which is given to finish it. The top screw of the housing will be operated by power.
The Lauth process makes it possible to produce steel nails from old steel rails. By using this raw material the company secures a cheap supply and avoids the necessity of investing in a costly steel plant, as all the other nail factories in the city and vicinity have done.
The Labelle is at present under the management of H. M. Priest, President, and C. A. Robinson, Secretary. Capt. William H. Travis is manager. The Labelle's nails sustain the reputation of Wheeling in this time wherever they are sold. The management is liberal and capable. It was the first Wheeling mill to settle the recent labor difficulties with its striking workmen, and it settled them on a basis satisfactory to the employes, but which yet kep faith with the non-union workmen employed during the strike.
The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, September 14, 1886.
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