Throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, approximately 375 acres of rich New Castle County farmland, enclosed by Ashland-Clinton, Center Mill, Snuff Mill, and Creek roads, was owned by generations of Chandler, Green, Kane, Sharpless, and Springer families, among others. As these families divided their farms into smaller parcels for descendants and others wishing to settle in the area, at least two dozen smaller parcels had been created by the early 20th century. In 1927 Urey W. Conway began purchasing various land parcels. By 1939 Conway had purchased 14 adjoining properties totaling approximately 175-acres. Four additional parcels were added over the years, bringing Conway’s total ownership to more than 200 acres.

Conway passed away on July 1, 1951. His will decreed the collection of contiguous Yorklyn properties go to his cousin, Adele Conway Mills of Tulsa, Oklahoma, with the former Wilmington Trust Company serving as executor. Eleanor Annette Marshall (1924-1999) was well acquainted with Urey’s property as it was located on the opposite bank of the Red Clay Creek that served as a border for J. Warren Marshall’s Woodcrest property, her father’s home where she grew up. Preferring the name Bonnie, Marshall bought the 206.48-acre property at auction for $80,000 on May 29, 1952, with financial assistance from her mother, Bertha T. Lamborn Marshall. Bonnie’s intent was to see the untouched stretches of forest, freshwater marshes, open fields, and scenic views of Red Clay Creek preserved for future generations’ enjoyment. Bonnie moved into the former Greene family stone farmhouse that Conway occupied. Bonnie named the property Oversee Farm, pictured below in 1937.

On April 18, 1953, Bonnie sold to developer John Alexander 56.67 acres where the land was flat to lightly rolling along either side of a tributary of the Red Clay Creek. The conditions of sale specified in the deed permitted Alexander to construct up to 10 private dwellings with free-standing garages and storage buildings on subdivision lots of 2.5 acres or more. On December 16, 1953, Konstanty Olewnik, an adjoining property owner to Bonnie, purchased 0.522 acres to “square off” his property. Bonnie lived at Oversee from 1952 until shortly after her marriage.

Bonnie met Benjamin Joseph Reynolds (1927 – 1976), a West Grove, PA, native, whom she married on January 2, 1960. Having moved from Oversee Farm to the Reynolds family farm in New Garden Township after their marriage, Bonnie leased her Oversee farmhouse to various tenants. The Reynolds family occasionally harvested Oversee’s meadows of lush grasses for feeding their dairy livestock during the winter. In addition to operating the Reynolds family’s Green Valley Dairy Farm, Ben, a republican, was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1964 and served until 1972. Bonnie’s father, J. Warren Marshall, was involved in Delaware politics and served as Chairman of the Republican State Committee alongside being President of National Fiber & Insulation and National Vulcanized Fiber Company.

In 1966 Reynolds began developing two large tracts of land west of the Delaware-Pennsylvania state line, one owned by Andrew McIntire and an adjoining parcel owned by John and Isaac Jackson. Broad Run Creek and its valley stretched across the properties. The rich in Kaolin and limestone deposits found in the valley during the later 1800s had been mined out by the early 1900s, leaving open pits and tailing hills strewn about. Reynolds thought it an ideal place to build a self-contained private resort community of more than 480 acres.

What is the present-day name of the community that Reynolds initially named “Shangri-La”? For extra credit, what was the name of the lake Reynolds constructed on the property?


After purchase of the former property, Reynolds set to work laying out his community. Broad Run Creek’s valley made an ideal formation for creating a lake. By forming a lake, Reynolds could eliminate the many open mining pits to either side of the creek. Reynolds created an earthen dam from tailings material across Broad Run valley between 1969-’70. He named the new lake that took several years to form Shangri-La Reservoir, today known as Somerset Lake. Reynolds’ self-contained community included cottages, recreation facilities, and shops. Unfortunately, Reynolds died in 1976 and with construction plans incomplete, and the 28-acre manmade lake nearly full, the project ground to a halt. Photos of the area in 1961, in 1968 with Shangri-La Reservoir under construction, and today as Somerset Lake in 1992 and 2020 are below.

Ten years after Ben’s passing, Bonnie sold 350 acres of the Shangri-La property surrounding what was then called Shangri-La Reservoir to Ernest DiSabatino & Sons (now EDiS Company) and Bellevue Holding Company (now Bellevue Companies) for the development of 477 homes. Additional property (~130 acres) was sold to St. Anthony’s Church in Wilmington for development of a summer retreat. From 1987 to 1994, Broad Run Valley was transformed at cost of $115 million into today’s Somerset Lake community of housing developments, with the St. Anthony’s parcel purchased by New Garden Township in 2018 to developed into a public park complex.

Bonnie was a birthright Quaker and maintained a dedication to Quakerism having served on numerous Quaker organizations and committees throughout her life. She received diplomas from Oberlin College, University of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Reynolds dedicated her life to social service work, world peace, and environmental preservation and protection. Her love of travel included her first cruise at age 13 and climbing the Himalayas at age 73, while her love of photography won her awards in various national and international competitions. She cultivated gardens at Green Valley and Oversee farms and was active in numerous non-profit organizations.

Upon Eleanor’s death in 1999, Oversee Farm was held by Wilmington Trust Company while the former banking institution settled the Marshall-Reynolds Trust. Today the Marshall-Reynolds Foundation gifts millions of dollars annually, supporting local environmental and preservation efforts. To settle Eleanor’s estate, the 121.8 acre Oversee Farm was gifted to the Nature Conservancy on December 1, 2003. Subsequently on December 1, 2006, the land was transferred to the State of Delaware, Department of Natural Resources & Environmental Control (DNREC) and added to the administration of Auburn Heights Preserve, now Auburn Valley State Park.

Oversee Farm is approximately 74% forested and 20% grass pasture land. The hilly forested property rises from the creek’s elevation of 155-feet above sea level to a pair of flat-topped hills near Snuff Mill Road, peaking 210-feet higher than the creek. Underground springs feed a 1-3/4-acre pond shaped similar to reading glasses. The Oversee Pond is part of a Red Clay Creek tributary and includes several small waterfalls. An 1800s stone bank barn and matching stone farm house remain on the property. Delaware State Parks maintains the property and has routed a 1.2-mile, figure eight, paved trail, named Oversee Farm Trail, through the lush piedmont meadows and wooded areas. As funds allow, State Parks envisions Oversee Farm Trail connected to Yorklyn Bridge Trail by additional trails and an iron truss bridge spanning the Red Clay Creek1 and Creek Roads (Rt. 82).


On May 20, Behind the Steam will examine the pair of Kellogg Switchboard & Supply Company wooden box wall telephones that were once in the Marshall Brothers Mill office (now the State Parks office) and Auburn Heights mansion. Both telephones were found to be functional, and as part of museum renovations, wiring and space was designated for their installation and use. Subsequently, both telephones were restored and now are functional in the museum (but ONLY between EACH OTHER since they won’t work on today’s modern digital telephone systems). A museum visitor can experience the poor sound volume and quality of an early telephone call, unlike today’s modern devices with reliability and quality similar to having a person thousands of miles away sound as if they were right next to you.

The first telephone exchange for the Hockessin area was established December 30, 1899, by the Delaware & Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone Company. Located in Dr. Ball’s Drug Store, the switchboard initially served six subscribers when made operational. Within a couple months the switchboard served a dozen Hockessin area subscribers, including the Marshall family and Marshall Brothers Company.

Quarterly payments, starting in April 1900, made by Marshall Brothers Company to Delaware & Atlantic Telegraph & Telephone Company vary each quarter as posted to the general ledger. This is no doubt the result of toll calls being made. While the Marshalls had a private line between the mansion and mill office, a call to “central” in Hockessin allowed the family to communicate with any other subscribers connected to the Hockessin switchboard. When Israel needed to call one of the vulcanized fibre companies in Wilmington, it required making a toll call.

Any call from Hockessin to Wilmington or Newark, Delaware, or to Kaolin or Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, would have been a toll call during the first years of 1900. There was a device used by telephone operators to document the duration of the long-distance call that determined the cost of that call. What was the device called, and how did it function? Hint: the device was originally designed and patented for use in billiards halls!


For the earliest long-distance phone calls, an operator would simply look at a clock hanging above the operator’s station and note the time on a toll-call card along with an identification for the person placing the long-distance call. When the call was over, parties were to “ring off” with the operator to let the operator know the call was over. The operator then noted the end time on the toll-call card and handed to the supervising operator for calculation of the time spent on the call and logging against the customer’s account for the current billing period. This process suffered from math errors in time calculation, rate calculations, and even logging a long-distance call against a different account than it should have been. If the callers forgot to ring off with the operator at the end of their long-distance call, time accrued until the operator checked the line to find no one talking and would then log out the call.

Henry Abbott was a watch-smith in New York City. Abbott realized that “elapsed time” had value and that many businesses bought and sold “elapsed time” as a commodity. Abbott had nearly three dozen patents, his first in 1876 detailing a means for a watch stem to both wind a watch as well as move the hands to set the time! Billiard halls of the late 1800s covered their operating expenses by charging to use their tables. It was playing billiards that Abbott realized “time is money.”

Recognizing the issues with hand-tallied time tickets, Henry invented an “Apparatus for Recording Measurements of Time, Space, or Quantity” in 1891 (patent 449192). In 1894 the first Calculagraph was installed by Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company to time long-distances calls between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Six years later he received a patent for the Calculagraph (patent 583320), which quickly found use in telephone exchanges across the country as this device actually printed the time on a standard payroll ticket inserted into the device.

Henry, in 1904, improved on his earlier patent by designing a Calculagraph specifically for telephone use where the device was electrically connected to long-distance telephone lines between city pairs of telephone exchanges. While early Calculagraphs relied on a Seth Thomas #10 eight-day, double-spring balance, mechanical clock movement, later Calculagraphs had synchronous electric motor clock movements. The Calculagraph Company of East Hanover, NJ (today named Control Products, Incorporated) estimates there were more than 100,000 Calculagraphs in operation before rotary dialed long-distance technology replaced the need for long-distance operators and the Calculagraph.

Ben Franklin wrote in his Advice to Young Persons Intended for Trade — “Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day at his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expence; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides,” perhaps the first time the phrase “time is money” may have been used. It is the Calculagraph’s long-distance telephone call use that historians cite for introducing the phrase “time is money” into our mainstream vernacular as the device measured time in terms of money.

Inside Calculagraph in addition to the clock mechanism, are three circular printing wheels powered by the clock mechanism. The left wheel is a clock face with a perimeter rotating arrow indicating the hour and a central rotating hour indicating the minute the call began. The center wheel indicates minutes and the right wheel indicates seconds both with rotating arrows in the center. At the start of the call the operator inserts a toll ticket with the ID of the long-distance line being used and pushes the right handle on the Calculagraph forward to print the starting time (left dial) followed by pulling the right handle back to print just the hollow dial faces for minutes and seconds (no central arrows). The toll ticket is then removed and placed in a holder. At the completion of the call, the toll ticket is returned to the Calculagraph where the left handle is pulled. The arrows for the minutes and seconds dials now print to show the elapsed time in minutes and seconds for the call.


More often than not, entrepreneurs and inventors begin their early careers working in an industry that is very much different than the industry for which they might be remembered. The Stanley twins followed their childhood interests in photography to form the Stanley Dry Plate Company but are perhaps best remembered as a premier steam car manufacturer in the earliest years of the 20th century. The Garretts and Marshalls came from farming backgrounds, became saw/grist mill operators, and established their family legacies making snuff and vulcanized fibre, respectively. Even in the 21st century, we find similar occurrences with individuals such as Elon Musk, who founded X.com, an online bank that he turned into PayPal, a venture that, when sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002, supplied the funds Musk desired to start SpaceX (2002), join Tesla (2004), and start SolarCity (2006). Musk will surely be remembered by future generations for one or more of these company’s achievements more than his early financial efforts.
On April 15, Allison Schell, Public Programs Director for Friends of Auburn Heights, presents the 5th episode of Behind the Steam. The topic is “Luxurious Packards” and features the Marshall Collection as well as the Gilmore Car Museum’s Packards. Clarence and Tom Marshall’s love for the legendary brand is well documented. The Packard brothers, William Doud (1861-1923) and James Ward (1863-1928), first became known for another product before becoming focused on automobiles. What was the Packard brothers’ first business venture?

The Packard Electric Company was formed on June 5, 1890, around the same time as Israel and Elwood Marshall purchased the burned-out woolen mill at Yorklyn. The Packard Electric Company advertised electric bells, burglar alarms, gas lighting, and arc and incandescent electrical lighting plants during the late 1800s, and the Packard Electric name lasted into the mid-1920s. The Packard brothers owned the New York and Ohio Company, which manufactured Packard electric lamps. The plant eventually became the Packard Lamp Division of General Electric.

Of the two Packard brothers, James Ward Packard was the inventor while his brother, William Doud Packard, preferred to concentrate on running their several electrical businesses. Thirteen of the 43 patents the brothers obtained were devoted to electric lamp manufacturing operations. The patents included electric lamp construction techniques and manufacturing equipment, including mercury vacuum pumps, electric lamp sockets, and fuse-wire holders for circuit fusing.

The earliest Packard patents are dated in the late 1880s, with later Packard lamp patents assigned to the Westinghouse Electric Company. One of the difficulties that competitors to Edison encountered was developing a lamp that didn’t infringe on the original Edison patent. Competitors looked for manufacturing process advantages as well as design feature differences to avoid infringement on Edison patents. James Packard’s various patents addressed both the design and manufacturing processes of lamp manufacture.

Packard electric lamps became very well known and widely used, and the Packard lamp design, manufactured though Westinghouse, was a major competitor to Edison’s electric lamp business. The Packards worked with George Westinghouse, who promoted Tesla’s polyphase alternating current (AC) power system against the Edison/General Electric direct current (DC) power system. Without the ability to offer an electric lamp that did not infringe on Edison’s patents, Westinghouse and Tesla would not have been able to compete.

Westinghouse’s use of “stopper in a bottle” lamp construction got around the Edison patent, which allowed inventors such as James Packard to add features producing lamps superior to what Edison offered through General Electric. One of Packard’s patents added an intermediate support means for long fragile carbon filaments inside a lamp thus limiting a long filament’s tendency to vibrate and break from mechanical flexing fatigue. The addition of Packard’s filament support greatly increased lamp life for railroad, trolley, and automotive applications that subjected lamps to constant vibration. The glass enclosures were frosted to more evenly disperse the filament’s incandescence and made with ribs for decoration as well as to add strength to the glass.

The 1892 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago was lit using Westinghouse AC power system, which employed more than 200,000 Westinghouse-built Sawyer-Man stopper electric lamps in the lighting fixtures. The success of the Westinghouse demonstration at the Exposition is considered a watershed event that proved Tesla’s polyphase AC power distribution systems were in fact superior to the Edison-General Electric DC power distribution system. The Packard Electric lamp patents used by Westinghouse for the display, including on carousels and other rides, demonstrated superior life expectancies against competitor’s lamps further proving Westinghouse and Packard Electric produced superior lamps to Edison/GE.

Lamps of the 1890s only had a few hundred hours operating time, and often the electric used during a lamp’s short lifetime was more costly than the lamp’s purchase. The brighter the bulb the shorter it’s lifetime generally. As Westinghouse lamps were of the “stopper” design, the company’s rebate program returned burned-out lamps to the factory. Stoppers were removed from the glass envelope, the filament replaced, and the stopper returned to the bulb envelope once the envelope had been cleaned inside. This greatly reduced the cost of a Westinghouse lamp to that of an Edison-GE lamp.

Packard electric lamps were easily identified by the paper tag that was placed in the cement which held the base to the glass. The script “Packard” as their logo along with the bulb’s candlepower and operating voltage were printed on the tag.


Later this month, on March 18, the Friends of Auburn Heights presents Behind the Steam: Mountain Wagons at 7pm online. Featured contributors will be the Collection on Palmetto in Clearwater, Florida, and the Seal Cove Auto Museum of Mount Desert Island, Maine. For this month’s question, we researched the early history of the Marshall Steam Museum’s Stanley Mountain Wagon.
Tom Marshall has written extensively about the use of the Stanley Mountain Wagon while owned by the Marshalls. Clarence, traveled to Cochituate, Massachusetts, to purchase the 1915 Model 820 Mountain Wagon from George Monreau for $1,700 in 1946. The vehicle had originally been owned by the Litchfield Shuttle Company of Southbridge, Massachusetts.
While we don’t have detailed records of exactly how the Model 820 was used by Litchfield Shuttle Company, we know that the term mountain wagon was first used to describe shallow wooden wagons pulled by horses that featured of multiple bench seats for hauling passengers. These wagons were well-sprung for a comfortable ride and included a canvas top as a sunshade.
How do you think the Model 820 Mountain Wagon might have been used by Litchfield Shuttle?

If you are a reader of Tom Marshall’s writings, you may remember Tom writing that when the Mountain Wagon arrived at Auburn Heights, it came with angled side boards and had been used to haul logs out of New Hampshire. During Auburn Heights tours, we often mention that the Mountain Wagon started life as a lumber vehicle in New England.

Litchfield Shuttle Company was founded in 1843 by Pliny, Festus C., and Leroy Litchfield for the manufacture of loom shuttles! Initially known as the L.O.P. Litchfield and Company, in 1878 the company was granted incorporation under Massachusetts law as the Litchfield Shuttle Company. The initial capital investment was $21,000, and by the start of the 1900s, Litchfield had become the largest shuttle and shuttle-iron manufacturer in the country. Litchfield made shuttles for weaving cotton, wool, silk, linen and jute, along with bobbins. With changing weaving technologies, wooden shuttles were no longer in demand, and the company closed down in the early 1950s after the factory contents were sold at auction.

According to company history from the Quinabaug Historical Society, Litchfield initially made shuttles from Persimmon Wood due to its hardness. The company eventually changed to Dogwood before settling on Applewood for its superior hardness, tight grain, and ease of machining qualities for making shuttles. There are references to combing the New England states for quality Applewood that would be sorted through and premium prices paid.

Litchfield might have used the Mountain Wagon for hauling high-quality Applewood to their plant in Southbridge, Massachusetts. Additionally, one can envision the Mountain Wagon loaded with wooden crates of finished shuttles being taken to the railroad station for shipment a short distance from the factory.


On Thursday, February 18, the FAH Behind the Steam program examines the Westinghouse Model RC Regenerative Radio currently on display in the Marshall Steam Museum. Known as the Radiola RC when Radio Corporation of America began selling the model, this radio was a collaboration between Westinghouse Electric Company and General Electric who commercially developed the “audion” or “valves” (what we refer to as electron vacuum tubes today) used within the radio. Featured guest for Behind the Steam will be Donna Acerra, Professor of Communication at Northampton Community College, discussing the early history of radio. 

Offered between 1920 and 1923, the Radola RC consisted of the Westinghouse RA Tuner and Westinghouse DA Detector-Amplifier packaged in a single enclosure, selling for $130 ($1,800 equivalent in 2020). It is estimated that approximately 145,000 units were produced at the start of the 1920s. Station KDKA of Pittsburgh, PA, the first commercial radio station (owned by Westinghouse Electric), might have been received on the Marshall Radiola RC at the start of the 1920s. Clarence probably chose a closer AM station (commercial FM radio would not happen until 1937) with a stronger signal for listening. What local radio stations might Clarence and Esther have listened to?

It is likely the Westinghouse Radiola RC was a wedding gift to Clarence and Ester in June 1921. There were numerous privately owned amateur radio stations broadcasting during daytime hours (random schedules and times) and at night listeners might tune into distant stations in Canada, South America, and Europe depending on ‘atmospherics’ and the state of the ‘ether’. In radio’s infancy, the ether or atmosphere above the clouds, was described as medium in which radio energy traveled between transmitter and receivers. The physical condition of the atmosphere, or atmospherics, on any given day affected early radio wave transmission and determined the quality and how well distant stations might be received.

In Wilmington, in 1920, the last year of licensed amateur-only radio before licensed commercial radio, there was 3RE operated by Joseph A. Barkley, 3WF operated by Albert Briggs, 3BE operated by Frederick R. Gooding, 3KK operated by David L. Ott, Jr., 3UO operated by Robert K. Pierson, 3NP operated by Leroy H. Ryan, and 3OX operated by Joseph S. Tatnall. These stations operated between 24 and 1,000 watts of transmitting power. Starting with a ‘3’, these stations were all in the nation’s 3rd radio licensing district.

The U.S. Commerce Department began issuing commercial radio licenses in late December 1920 but it wasn’t until 1923 that several northern Delaware radio stations applied for commercial licensing. Wilmington had WHAV, WOAT, and WPAW by June 1923. WHAV and WOAT were 50-watt stations while WPAW was licensed as a 10-watt station. All three were limited-hours operations and short lived.

The closest radio stations ‘as the crow flies’ would have been those in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ roughly 40 miles distant. These stations would have had the strongest signals (500-watt transmitters or higher) and thus been the easiest to tune in with the early vacuum tube regenerative technology. There were also stations in Baltimore and the nation’s capital which were more distant but still could be received in Yorklyn.

Four Philadelphia stations were associated with large department stores in downtown Philadelphia. Radio broadcast stations were popular with department stores as they supported the store’s radio department and could be used for store advertising. All three AM stations began operations in mid-March 1922 with two still operating today. Perhaps the best-known today is WIP Radio started by Gimbel Brothers atop their Philadelphia department store. WIP was Philadelphia’s first commercial radio broadcast station and lasted in various programming formats and frequencies until 2014 when it transitioned to being an FM broadcast station.

John Wanamaker’s WOO in Philadelphia was perhaps the most widely listened to. The first of two stations the department store chain operated; WOO offered daily programs on the world’s largest pipe organ with an orchestra. WOO is known to have been heard in South Africa, Norway, France, Germany as well as the west coast of the USA. While WOO lasted until February 1929, WWZ in Wanamaker’s New York City store operated until late 1923. Interestingly both of these AM radio stations began as American Marconi Morse Code stations (WHE in Philadelphia and WHI in New York City) in 1911 transmitting and receiving wireless telegraphy messaging of Wanamaker sales information until late 1921.

WDAR began operations in 1922 broadcasting from the Lit Brothers department store in Philadelphia and is now WJMX. The other AM station still existing today is WFI (now WFIL, a Christian based station). WFI’s license was originally granted to Strawbridge & Clothier department store.

Of the non-department store broadcast stations that operated in the Philadelphia and Camden area, one is still broadcasting in 2021. WCAU started in 1922, changed call letters on several occasions (WOGL, WGMP, WPTS) before becoming WPHT. WGL in Philadelphia operated between February 1922 and December 1924 while WRP in Camden, NJ operated from March 1922 until August 1923.

The next closest stations to Yorklyn, DE would have been those in Baltimore, MD (~75 miles distant) and in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. (~115 miles distant). WKC operated in Baltimore while nine stations were in operation in D.C. between 1921 and 1925; WDM, WDW, WEAS, WIL, WJH, WMU, and WPM. WCAO, and WEAR. Ten stations in New York City and Newark, NJ (~125 miles distant) might have been received by the Marshall Radiola RC including New York City stations WBAY, WDT, WEAF, WJX, WJZ* and WWZ along with Newark NJ stations WAAM, WBS, WDY, and WOR* (* – still operating today).

Pictured is the UV-200 Detector electron vacuum tube (right, upper) and the UV-201 Amplifier electron vacuum tube (left, lower) used in the Westinghouse Radiola Model RC Regenerative Radio. One UV-200 and two UV-201 tubes were required for the Model RC. There were numerous manufacturers licensed to produce these tubes and they went through several mechanical changes (longer pins, change of base material, etc.) during the period they were manufactured. Both tubes were functionally equivalent in internal construction except that the UV-200 had a trace amount of Argon added to improve performance. The UV-201 and its variants was the most popular tube of the 1920s.

Nearly 1,000 products manufactured between 1920 and 1926 used one or both of these first-generation commercial vacuum tube types. They found use in radio frequency detectors and amplifiers and audio frequency amplifiers. Obviously no longer available, radio collectors have constructed modern electronic equivalent circuits that perform similar to two valves. The construction of such valve equivalents, the addition of a horn speaker, outdoor antenna, batteries or DC power supplies, and a sufficient ground connection would be all that is needed to have the Westinghouse Radiola RC sounding as Clarence once heard it.


Popcorn has been around for centuries. Ceremonial wreaths, necklaces, and ornaments on the statues of Aztec gods contained ears of popcorn, corn kernels, and popped flakes Native American dance rituals of various indigenous peoples included corsages and headdresses made with ears of popcorn, corn kernels, and the flowery petals of popped kernels. The Iroquois and other tribes believed that quiet, contented, spirits lived within each kernel. These spirits become angry when their peaceful kernel home became too hot. Exhibiting their displeasure, a popcorn spirit danced aggressively, resulting in the spirit’s kernel home jumping about. Eventually the corn kernel exploded as the outraged spirit exited his home in a flash of smoke (steam water vapor) to seek a more comforting kernel home.

Later this month, on January 21st at 7 PM, the first program of 2021’s Behind the Steam series will occur. The topic is the Cretors Steam Popcorn Popper and how Charles Cretors’s first steam-powered peanut roasting machine, constructed in 1885, became the start of a family-owned business into the 21st century. Pictured right: an electric Cretors Popcorn Machine at the F.G. Lindsay Store circa 1925, Washington, D.C. (Shorpy Photographs).

The worldwide popcorn market, including both ready-to-eat and pop-it-yourself categories, is projected to reach $15 billion by 2023. The popcorn we enjoy today is grown to ensure very few “old maids” (unpopped kernels) and that the endosperm (soft core material) within each pericarp (shell) explodes into the largest butterfly or mushroom shape possible. Americans love to lather on butter, caramel, salts, and seasonings to enjoy this tasty snack.

Without the benefit of Cretors’ machinery that revolutionized the consumption of popcorn, how did Native Americans and even early American settlers prepare popcorn?


Before the introduction of Charles Cretors’s machinery, popping corn was not a simple task. Ideally a harvested kernel stripped from a corn cob needs to contain around 14% moisture. A kernel’s typical popping temperature is near 350° Fahrenheit. As the kernel’s temperature rapidly rises past 212° Fahrenheit, the encapsulated endosperm moisture transforms to steam and pressure builds within the pericarp. When the steam pressure within the kernel reaches approximately 130 pounds per square inch, the shell violently ruptures while the steam entrapped within the endosperm explosively expands the soft endosperm material forming the classic mushroom or butterfly shape. A popped kernel is referred to as a “popcorn flake.”

Due to the pericarp’s impervious characteristics, the eating of unpopped popcorn kernels may break teeth and do not digest in our stomachs, resulting in intestinal pain and discomfort. Native Americans placed kernels in a mortar and crushed them with a pestle to form a flour. Sifted through coarse cloth to remove shell fragments and debris, the flour can be mixed with milk, honey, fruit, and similar flavorings and served as a morning meal. Popcorn soup made from the popped kernels was enjoyed by the Iroquois and other tribes. Popcorn flour was dried and mixed with honey to form a biscuit for consumption on hunting trips providing quick nourishment similar to a shack.

Native Americans formed large shallow flat clay pans that they could set on rocks atop a hot bed of embers. The bottom of the pan was lightly covered with corn kernels followed by covering the kernels with a thin layer of coarse sand or fine gravel to insure uniform heating of the kernels. An earthen or bark cover kept the kernels from leaving the vessel upon popping. Once the last of the ‘spirits’ vacated the kernels, the pan was removed and the popped corn kernels were picked out, the sand/gravel blown off, and eaten. Alternatively, a couple ears of corn might be placed in an earthen crock filled with coarse sand or fine gravel where the kernels popped on the cob (pictured).

While only the wealthiest American settlers might have access to one of Benjamin Thompson’s (inventor of the thermos bottle as well!) early 1800’s stove designs, cast iron stoves became widely available in the mid-19th century, consuming wood or coal for fuel. For most Americans, cooking was performed at open hearth fireplaces or at a classic campfire-type configuration until the 1900s. Popcorn was often cooked over an open fire, including a cabin fireplace heating the structure, in enclosed wire baskets. Where covered pans were used, in place of sand or gravel, animal derived oils of the day such as bacon fat, lard, or tallow were used. Cretors’ invention was based around a steam engine continuously agitating the corn kernels at a controlled temperature in a pan containing special blend of fats, oils, and ingredients. The cooking aroma from Cretors’s secret blend of bacon fat, butter, salt, and seasonings transformed popcorn from a novelty to a mainstream snack food. Cretors graduated popcorn to being about the sights, sounds, and smells of it being prepared as well as the taste of the salty flakes.

Today we have all sorts of flavorings to enhance our popped flakes. Southwest Native Americans, such as the Navajo, Hopi, and Ute, gathered peanuts, which were heated along with the corn kernels in the sand-filled pans. A small blend of roasted and shelled peanuts, placed in a stone mortar, were ground to a butter-like consistency with a pestle. Added to the mortar’s peanut butter might be honey or Boxelder Tree sap (a southwestern native of the Maple Tree with a unique taste more reminiscent of caramel than maple), ground rock salt, and other finely ground native plant seeds, berries, and leaves. As the popcorn flakes and peanuts were picked from the popping pan, they are dipped in the mortar’s “flavoring” before eating.


For FAH volunteers who have worked on one or more of the collection’s Stanleys, it is learned early on that some of the screw and bolt fasteners used on various parts of the engine and body are not standard thread sizes found in common use today. In checking the author’s copy of List of Parts Used to Make a Complete Model 735 Car,  issued by the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. of Newton, Massachusetts, on April 1, 1918, we find various lengths of #5-32 Round Head Machine Screws and ¼”-30 Fillister Head Machine Screws listed (the first number is the diameter, the second number is the threads per inch). Today, the common sizes in use would be #5-40 or #5-44 and ¼”-20 or ¼”-28.

Pictured below is a Craftsman Vanadium-series open-end wrench or spanner, as it is referenced in Britain. Sears Roebuck & Company (owned by Stanley Black & Decker since 2017) contracted with various tool manufacturers to produce the Craftsman line sold through Sears-branded catalogs beginning in 1927. In 1932, Craftsman introduced “Vanadium Steel” wrenches that tested 50% lighter yet 200% stronger than their previously offered wrenches.

Note that the open-end wrench pictured below is marked 3/8 W and 7/16 W. A quick check using a ruler reveals the openings physically measure 11/16″ and 13/16″ wide, respectively. While the wrench and others in the set were produced long after Stanley steam car production ceased, what sort of fastener is the wrench designed for?

In the 1800s, as the Industrial Revolution was taking hold worldwide, screw and bolt fasteners were manufactured by any number of ironworking shops. One can only imagine the diversity of screws and bolts produced. The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, at the urging of Congress, released a report in 1861 defining a set of fastener standards based on the work of William Sellers that the U.S. Congress adopted as the “United States Thread” standard. The U.S. Navy, as well as many of this nation’s railroads, converted to using only United States Thread-compliant screws, bolts, and nuts by 1870. The great advantage being that compliance ensured screws and bolts, and their associated nuts, were interchangeable between manufacturers.

After World War I, it was realized that while a standard existed, there were issues that needed addressing. The National Screw Thread Commission was established by an Act of Congress in 1918 and by 1921 issued a preliminary report of the Commission’s recommendations. As a result, the “American National Standard” form of screw thread was born based on the existing standard. The American National Standard includes two series: National Coarse-Thread and National Fine-Thread, both in use today. In 1948 the National Standard Thread was changed to the Unified National Standard Thread, when the U.S. standard was adopted by Britain and Canada for use on war equipment.

In developing the National Standard screw thread, the Commission adopted many of the principals and specifications of the Whitworth Thread, which was used by British railways and industry. The Whitworth system, defined by Joseph Whitworth in 1841, became the world’s first screw thread standard and was the British standard until replaced with British Association Standard Thread. A difference not adopted was maintaining Sellers’s 60-degree thread angle instead of the 55-degrees used on Whitworth threads. Whitworth rounded the peaks and valleys of the thread, which Sellers left flat. The rounded edges and corners reduce stress points where fractures often originate providing Whitworth threads superior fatigue strength. The Whitworth thread was a preferred choice for many American locomotive builders for firebox stay bolts in the 1800s and early 1900s due to strength advantages while Sellers threads were extensively found throughout the rest of the locomotive.

The wrench pictured in our question is for Whitworth bolts! The Whitworth system defines a bolt based on the diameter of the bolt shaft and not the dimensions across the flats of the bolt’s head or matching nut, as is current practice in the United States. Thus, the wrench pictured will work for either a 3/8″ or 7/16″ diameter Whitworth Thread bolt. The U.S. National Standard would use a 9/16″ wrench (the distance across the flats of the bolt’s head or nut) for a 3/8″ diameter bolt with either National Coarse or National Fine threads.


The image below was broadly circulated in the Diamond State a century ago as a proposal for a Delaware roadway. Who originated the proposal, and was the roadway ever constructed?

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Delaware’s roads were considered some of the worst in the nation. As most of the state consists of a flat plain of sandy soil not much higher than sea level, the land does not dry quickly, especially a century ago when large stands of timber covered vast stretches of the state. There were several north-south roads established as “King’s’ Highways” by the Levy Courts in the late 17th century. Delaware typically called north-south routes a “State Road” or King’s Highway and east-west routes a ‘”County Road.”

In the late 1800s, with the development of the steam carriage, electric carriage, and eventually the motor carriage, the need for improved roads became increasingly important. The Roosevelt administration pushed for federal aid in constructing better roadways throughout the country. In 1911 the National Highways Association was established with Board Chairman T. Coleman du Pont leading the organization. The organization established a national “good roads everywhere” movement with a vision that the U.S. would have a network of well paved roads, including Delaware.

By 1910 there were nearly 1,000 registered vehicles in Delaware. The image above was generated in 1912 as T. Coleman du Pont’s vision for a boulevard he was willing to fund and construct the length of the state. Du Pont is quoted in a 1912 Scientific American article as desiring the road to be “constructed of water bound macadam or concrete base, on top of which will be laid asphalt and stone mixed; or a surface composed of water bound macadam with a half-inch covering of asphalt and trap rock to make it dust and water proof.” An objective of du Pont’s boulevard would be the elimination of “twists and sinuosity” of most existing roads by following the principal that a “straight line is the shortest distance between two points.”

Du Pont’s new company, Coleman du Pont Road Incorporated, would acquire a 200-foot right-of-way through each of Delaware’s counties (later reduced to 60-foot). After constructing the boulevard, each 10-mile segment completed was to be turned over to the state to maintain. Eventually known as the Du Pont Highway, it was designated U.S. Route 13 north of Dover and U.S. Route 113 south of Dover. Fully completed in 1923, it became the nation’s first divided highway.

For more photos and a detailed history of the Du Pont Highway’s construction, the U.S Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Library has “Historic context for the DuPont Highway U.S. Route 113, Kent and Sussex County, Delaware” (https://rosap.ntl.bts.gov/view/dot/40800 ) from which the images were obtained.


During Steamin’ Days and private tours, we often tell visitors that laid out before them is the evolution of the automobile from birth to maturity. The museum’s story revolves around the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, but a similar story might be told for any number of other manufacturers of the era. Once pointed out, visitors begin noticing lighting evolving from removeable kerosene lamps to carbide to acetylene gas lamps and finally to electric. They notice the evolution from wood bodies to aluminum and steel, from tillers to right-hand steering to left-hand steering. But there are many more stories hidden away within the Marshall Steam Museum yet to be told.

For example, every vehicle in the museum (with the exception of the Penny Farthing currently on display) has a minimum of four wheels. Perhaps in the future, a temporary display might detail the evolution of the automotive wheel and tire. In 1916 an estimated 6,470,832 wheels, tubes, flaps, and tires had to be produced for the 1,617,708 steam, electric, and internal combustion-powered horseless carriages manufactured that year. Estimates also indicate that due to the lack of robust rubber tire construction, not to mention the deplorable condition of American roads, the 3-million-plus passenger vehicles in use in 1916 consumed an average of eight tires per year! The result was American industry produced upwards of 20 million tires annually in 1916 to keep pace!

While the 1914 Ford Model T included in the collection highlights one of the three primary technologies vying for supremacy during automotive adolescence, future investigations might highlight the impressive impact Henry Ford and the Model T provided in multitudes of ways. People think of the Model T as the first mass-produced, mechanically complex commodity manufactured but rarely recognize Ford’s insight in taking the fundamental operation of a meat packing plant and reversing it (put something together instead of cutting it apart as a series of operations or steps) for mass production of almost any manufactured commodity.

Now step back a bit further to realize that every Model T from 1908 until 1927 required four wheels with tires (and perhaps a spare). Ford’s suppliers, such as Firestone, had to maintain large-scale, efficient, high-volume production operations not only to supply Ford but Stanley, Rauch & Lang and their competitors as well! The adolescent period of the automobile not only introduced mass production but the need for standardization of products, which provides yet another opportunity for interpretation and display.

The first vehicle to move under its own power (steam) on American streets, and the world’s first amphibious vehicle, was constructed by Oliver Evans of Delaware and demonstrated on Market Street and the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia in 1805. The first sale of an American-built self-powered vehicle was a steam car constructed by S. H. Roper of Massachusetts, which sold in 1889. Soon to follow was an electric car sold to J. B. McDonald, which William Morrison of Des Moines, IA, constructed in early 1892 and exhibited on the streets of Chicago in September of that year. The Stanley twins constructed their first car in 1897, a year before the first internal combustion car was sold by Alexander Winton to Robert Allison of Port Carbon, PA, in 1898.

The first public car show was held in Madison Square Garden, New York City, in 1890, where 34 makes were exhibited. Only 3,700 cars of all makers were produced in 1899, rising to 11,000 vehicles by 1903, with Locomobile/Stanley the top seller for 1900 through 1903. A total of 44,000 vehicles valued at $93.4 million were produced in 1907, followed by 85,000 cars of all models in 1908. Production climbed steadily upward, reaching 485,000 cars in 1913 and just prior to World War I. Automotive historians suggest this output was muted from what it might have been. The Marshall Steam Museum’s Model T represents that story as well.

What factor, event, or otherwise was responsible for muting American horseless carriage production, especially for internal combustion engine powered vehicles, right after Alexander Winton sold his first Winton in 1898?



Our Founding Fathers realized that if this country was to prosper, a means to protect intellectual property was needed. Thus in 1790 President George Washington signed the bill creating America’s patent system. A patent doesn’t grant the right to make, sell or use a product incorporating a patented idea, but rather permits the person(s) having the idea to determine how they wish their idea to be used (license, sell, assign/transfer, gift, etc.) while excluding others from making, selling, importing or otherwise creating an equivalent for some period of years. It was the U.S. patent system that inhibited the rapid expansion of early automotive ideas and designs.

In 1879 George B. Selden of Rochester, NY, applied for a patent for a gasoline-powered engine that might be used in a 4-wheeled vehicle. This was long before anyone thought it worthy putting an internal combustion engine in a carriage, thus rendering it “horseless.” Selden had conceived the idea and constructed a prototype so that he could file a patent application (with George Eastman, no less, as witness!). For the next 16 years, Selden kept updating his application and using similar legal patent regulations to keep the patent application alive until 1895, when he allowed the patent to be issued (Patent 549,160, November 5, 1895). Today patents expire in 20 years; however, in Selden’s time, it was 17 years. Selden effectively stopped the construction and sale of most gasoline-engine powered horseless carriages until 1912 unless a royalty was paid.

The Stanley twins ran afoul of patent law as well, but not Selden’s. They had patented (Patent 663,836) their rear axle differential and later granted sole use to the Locomobile Company when they sold their early steam carriage business. When the twins re-entered the horseless carriage business and introduced a re-designed Stanley Steamer in 1902, it retained a chain drive similar to what they had sold Locomobile but with a re-designed differential. A court case soon developed over the differential’s design, and instead of suffering the expense of a court battle and possibly losing, the twins moved their steam engine to a rear-axle mounting and direct gear drive between the crankshaft and differential, thus avoiding the claimed patent infringement of the twins’ licensed patent to Locomobile!

Selden sold all rights for his patent in 1900 to the Electric Vehicle Company, which enforced it rigorously. Alexander Winton’s Winton Motor Carriage Company was one of the first targeted. As a result, the Manufacturer’s Mutual Association, which later became the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, was formed to fight both Selden and Electric Vehicle Company. Having lost the patent challenge, manufacturers were forced to pay a royalty fee for every gasoline-powered vehicle manufactured. Thus, at the start of the automobile age, every gasoline-powered horseless carriage sold included a licensing fee that raised the catalog price and effectively limited the desire of gasoline-powered carriage manufacturers to risk expanding with new models and features.

The Selden patent became a thorn in Henry Ford’s plans when his Ford Motor Company was denied a license to use the patent in 1903 after forming his company. That didn’t stop Ford, and he continued with plans for the production of his Model T. Ford’s Model T debuted on October 1, 1908, and within weeks the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers filed a patent infringement case against Ford Motor Company. Nearly a year later, Ford lost his case, similar to others who challenged the Selden patent.

Unfazed, Ford appealed, which none of the others had previously attempted. For the appeal, Ford dove into the intricacies of Selden-patented gasoline-powered engine against the Ford-designed engine. Selden’s engine was based on the Brayton thermodynamic cycle (constant-pressure engine similar to a jet engine but using pistons) and not the Otto thermodynamic cycle (relies on varying pressures to operate) Ford had embraced. Ford easily won the appeal in January 1911, and with only a year left in the patent’s life, further contesting by the Association was not pursued. In 1912 the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers quietly changed their name to the Automobile Board of Trade and by 1914 were known as the National Automobile Chamber of Commerce with the purpose of promoting all horseless carriages. A look at automobile production records reveals that for 1912 and subsequent years, automotive production roughly doubled annually until World War 1.

Next time you visit the Marshall Steam Museum, take a moment to look beyond all that is displayed and let your mind wonder to how it all happened. The Marshall Steam Museum is more than a collection of steam cars and a few era artifacts. Hidden about are stories related to automobiles, the industrial revolution, banking, dealerships and selling automobiles, railroads, steam power, electrical power, galvanized sheet, clay mining, working conditions, and so much more.


On occasion a visitor to Auburn Heights brings with them an item they no longer wish to keep but surmise it may be of interest to someone they know who volunteers. Such was the case recently during the August Volunteer’s Day at Auburn Heights. I was presented with a pair of original boxes containing glass plate negatives by a retired individual who volunteers with the AVRR. To paraphrase, “These probably came from a house in Cedars (near Greenbank) in the 1960s and have been in my parent’s basement since then. They may be of interest, and you’re free to do what you think best.”
One of the exposed 5” x 7” glass plate negatives the individual thought I might find of interest. While I don’t own a proper digital scanner for large glass plate negatives, I am able to perform a rough scan with my flatbed scanner using room ambient light to see what visual wonders the century-old glass plates might reveal. I digitally scanned each of the plates and converted the scan data to a positive image. As the plates were originally just lying loose in the boxes, they were more properly repacked with paper dividers and cushioning as they will eventually be added to the Thomas C. Marshall Collection at Hagley Museum & Library, where high-quality digital scanning equipment exists.
The image below was described by the giver as believed to be inside Marshall Brothers Paper Mill. After scanning, the image was studied in greater detail, and our belief is that the image is more than likely the #1 Fibre line in the #1 Fibre Mill at Marshall’s National Fiber & Insulation Company at Yorklyn. The image is definitely not the industrial rag paper process in Marshall Brother’s Mill as originally suggested. The puring tanks in the background are part of a fibre-making process and not a papermaking process. We have glass plate negatives of the Insulite Mill’s prototype endless fibre machine, and the steam heated rotating can driers in the foreground are configured differently than those of the Insulite Mill (and paper mill as well). We believe it may be the #1 Fibre Line because the configuration of equipment is very similar to Israel Marshall’s patent and what was developed in the Insulite Mill starting in 1900.
While the photographer is unknown, the fact that the glass plate negatives were manufactured by the “Stanley Dry Plate” division of Eastman Kodak Company reminds us of the many boxes of Stanley Dry Plates in the Thomas C. Marshall Collection at Hagley Museum & Library, which includes a few images similar to the above. The Stanley twins sold the dry plate business to Eastman Kodak in January 1904, which places the images after that date. For the image to be the #1 Fibre Mill, it would have to be after 1906-07 as that is the time period that the #1 Fiber Mill began operation.
Some archivists and historians, based on one image, would not agree a strong enough case has been presented to conclude the boxes of images might have been taken by Clarence Marshall. Other images, which we’ll share in the answer, indicate that if the photographer wasn’t Clarence Marshall, it was someone closely related to the family.
The image below is from another of the glass plate negatives and provides positive proof the images, if not the glass plate negatives themselves, are of Marshall origin. The building pictured is undeniably related to the Marshall family. What is the building pictured, and how is it related to the Marshalls?

The second image of this month’s question is where the Marshall industrial rag paper involvement began – Thomas S. Marshall’s Homestead Paper Mill at Marshall’s Bridge, Kennett Township, PA. This is the mill where Israel and Elwood learned the papermaking trade from their father! Documented photos in the T. Clarence Marshall Collection at Hagley Museum & Library as well as photos in the Charles S. Philips Collection at the Chester County Historical Society confirm the mill’s identity.

A similar image dating from sometime in the 1880s has been displayed in the Marshall Museum and used for various publications. In that image the mill is definitely in operating condition as there is not the uncut growth of plants and grasses around the building. In this image, which has to be post 1904 due to being in in the Stanley-Kodak box and the timeframes of the other images, the mill looks more unused and neglected. While we don’t know the exact year when the Marshalls stopped making paper at the Homestead Paper Mill, indications are it was in the first decade of the 1900s. Marshall paper mills at Wooddale and Yorklyn were steam-powered, efficient, and offered more capacity than the primarily water-powered Homestead Mill.

The dirt road in the foreground is Creek Road (Route 82). Center right is where the road makes a sharp right heading to Old Kennett Pike. Where the road goes behind the mill it crosses the Red Clay Creek to become what we know as Marshall Bridge Road today.

Sharing several of the other glass plate negative images, the photograph below includes the date “August 4, 1915” written on the edge of the glass plate, along with the caption “Marshall’s Meadow, Yorklyn, DE.” The photo, taken from the area where the water tower now stands, shows the West Chester, Kennett, and Wilmington Electric Railway tracks in the foreground. Benge Road is to the left, and Auburn Mill Road is just beyond the row of trees. While we’ve been amazed at the flooding of the Red Clay in recent years, especially twice in one week this past August, it is obvious from Clarence’s photography of multiple floods, the creek swelled above its banks a century ago!

Tom Marshall wrote about the building featured below. Folks today often see the door in the white stone wall on Creek Road as you approach Yorklyn Road’s Iron Bridge and wonder what it was for. It was the door to the spring and ice house for the Snuff Mill Superintendent’s home (a Mr. Durham according to Tom), which was built in the latter 1800s. Becoming known as the “Boarding House” when it was operated by the Jackson family, in 1937 it was razed. Tom, in his writings, noted that the porch frequently collected the occasional stray autocarriage of the era! One of the Garrett Snuff Mill buildings is at the right edge of the image, the remnants still standing close to a paved Creek Road today.

Our final image is of Yorklyn a century ago, taken from atop the high hill across from Auburn Heights. In the foreground is Lower Snuff Mill Row which were snuff mill worker’s homes. The Garrett mansion (behind trees) and 1904 constructed superintendent’s homes are center right. The Garrett Snuff Mills are in the foreground center left with Marshall’s National Fibre & Insulation mills in the distance with their water tower and tall smokestack dating the photo to sometime in the late nineteen-teens or later.