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Hoopes Bros. and Darlington, ca. 1910. ©Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA. they made daily shipments to the Pacific coast and regular sales to Europe, Australia, and the West Indies. The company was renamed Maple Avenue Nursery in 1885, and in 1886 even received an order from the White House via then-President Grover Cleveland. By 1898, the trio’s acreage had reached 600, and the firm was now the largest producer of peach trees in the country. A decade later, HB&T purchased an 800acre farm in West Goshen, and by the turn of the century, the company had sales offices in West Chester, Nashville, and Philadelphia, and nearly 1000 acres in cultivation. The company apparently remained prosperous through World War I, but struggled after the stock market collapsed in October 1929. In 1934 the firm sold 78 acres to the borough of West Chester for a reservoir. It stayed afloat during World War II, but was formally dissolved in July 1948. Through both the distribution of plants and production of seedlings, these nursery owners of West Chester laid the groundwork (pun intended) for plant distribution throughout the nation. “Although it used little machinery and produced no smoke, HB&T was a product of the industrial age just as surely as railroads and steel companies,” wrote Jones. “From its origins in a preindustrial agricultural market town,

HB&T became an integrated firm that produced and marketed goods all over the world. In the process, it helped spread the name of West Chester as well, and provided an example for other local entrepreneurs to follow.”

Hoopes Brothers & Darlington Wheel Works The second company to make a mark here in West Chester was Hoopes Brothers & Darlington Wheel Works, which manufactured wooden spokes and wagon wheels, and was founded by brothers William and Thomas Hoopes. Their parents, Thomas and Eliza, had a farm just north of town near the modern junction of N. New Street and the Route 322 bypass equipped with a saw mill and grinding equipment. As a way to reduce their shipping costs, New Englanders contracted with the brothers to "rough finish" wooden spokes using a steam-powered lathe. The pair cut their first spokes in 1866 and moved their operation into the borough in June of 1867, in a mill on E. Market Street on the east side of the railroad. The brothers brought their cousin Stephen P. Darlington into the business as a partner in September 1868. In the beginning, the trio manufactured only spokes, but in 1869 started producing complete sets of wheels, as well as other products

like hatchet handles. By the summer of 1872 the company employed nearly 100 men, who cut, hauled, and turned wood using steam-powered circular saws, lathes, a large belt sander and planes. The company had invested heavily in new equipment and building in the months leading up to the financial crash of September 1873. The 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was the only bright spot in the decade's otherwise bleak economy. Company morale got a boost when the firm's Keystone Brand and Dorman Patent wheels won a medal at the Exposition, and the company sent wheels to subsequent international expositions at Paris in 1878 and Melbourne (Australia) in 1880. In 1908, Ford introduced the“Model T," and the automotive market boost was felt in Chester County; by 1910 there were four automobile dealers in the borough, so the HB&D's directors decided to add automobile wheels to their output. In August 1912 they began advertising their new product, and only a month later the directors voted to buy two more "automobile wheel machines." For the rest of the decade, the company introduced other up-to-date devices, and the company entered the 1920s as the manufacturer of a full range of wheels with both rubber and iron tires. By 1958, HB&D was one of only two or three wheel makers remaining in the coun-

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Profile for The WC Press

The WC Press Locally Made Issue - September 2019  

Voice of the Borough

The WC Press Locally Made Issue - September 2019  

Voice of the Borough