Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BALDWIN, Matthias William, manufacturer, born in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, 10 December 1795; died in Philadelphia, 7 September 1866. Having a natural inclination for mechanical contrivances, he was apprenticed at the age of sixteen to a firm of jewelers in Frankford, Pennsylvania On the expiration of his service he became a journeyman, and in 1819 he established his own business. While thus occupied he devised and patented a process for plating with gold, which has since been universally adopted. He then undertook the manufacture of book-binders' tools and calico-printers' rolls, and his factory was the first to render this country independent of foreign supply. About 1828 his attention was directed to the manufacture of steam-engines, and at this time he constructed a five-horse-power engine, which was employed in his own works. The commendations that the new engine received induced him to enter into the manufacture of stationary engines, and his business became extensive anal profitable. In the latter part of 18;10 he was permitted to see a locomotive which had just been received from England, and after four months' labor he succeeded in producing a beautiful model, which was exhibited in Philadelphia. His first locomotive, called the "Ironsides," was made for the Philadelphia and Germantown railway, and was placed on the road 23 November 1832. It was a success, and "Poulson's American Advertiser" of that period contains the following notice : "The locomotive-engine, built by 3I. W. Baldwin, of this City, will depart daily, when the weather is fair, with a train of passenger-ears. On rainy days horses will be attached." During" the next three years he received orders for nine or ten locomotives, and in 1835 he moved to the corner of Broad and Hamilton streets. His inventions and improvements in the construction of locomotives are very numerous, and among these perhaps the most important was the flexible truck locomotive, patented in August 1842. His works have acquired a world-wide reputation, and his locomotives have been sent to nearly every foreign country. It is estimated that over 1,500 locomotives left these works completed prior to his death. Mr. Baldwin was a member of the constitutional convention of 1837, and in 1853 of the state legislature. He was also for several years president of the Horticultural Society of Philadelphia. An extended sketch of his life, by the Rev. Wolcott Calkins, has been privately printed.
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