Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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WETHERILL, Samuel, manufacturer, born in Burlington, New Jersey, 12 October, 1736; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 24 September, 1816. His family came to New Jersey from England in 1682, and his ancestor, Christopher, gave to the Quakers the land on which their first meeting-house in Burlington, New Jersey, was erected. In earn life Samuel settled in Philadelphia as a house carpenter and builder, but afterward he entered business, and was the first manufacturer of cloth, jean, and fustian in Philadelphia. He also engaged in dyeing, fulling, and in the manufacture of chemicals, and subsequently was the first in the United States to make white lead. Toward the close of his life he abandoned his business, except the manufacture of drugs and chemicals. During the war of 1812 his firm determined to undersell foreign merchants whose goods were imported to the ruin of its business. In this it was successful; but in 1813 the establishment on Twelfth near Race street, Philadelphia, was burned, it is believed, by enemies to the manufactory. At the time of the Revolution he actively supported the cause of independence, supplying clothing gratuitously to Washington's army at Valley Forge when it was most needed; he joined with some other Quakers in military service in the defence of Philadelphia. For these actions and for taking the oath of allegiance to the United States he was disowned or excommunicated by the Quaker meeting of which he was a member. In February, 1781, several of the Quakers who had been disowned for similar causes joining with him, he founded an independent Friends' meeting, called the Society of Free Quakers, which is a society believing in defensive war, hence sometimes called "Fighting" Quakers. This society, which still exists, denies the right of excommunication for any cause. Mr. Wetherill was clerk or presiding officer of this meeting from its foundation until 1810, was a popular preacher until his death, and numbered among his audience many persons of distinction. He was instrumental in raising a large sum of money for building the Free Quaker meeting-house, obtaining the subscriptions of Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, John Cadwalader, and others of note. He published several short theological tracts in defence of the society. These are remarkable for their ability and forcible expression, but have long been out of print, and are extremely rare. The principal one is "An Apology for the Religious Society of Free Quakers in the City of Philadelphia, showing that all Churches who excommunicate act inconsistently with the Gospel of Jesus." --His great-grandson, Samuel, inventor, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 27 Nay, 1821, is the son of John Price Wetherill, who was vice-president of the Academy of natural sciences in his native city in 1834-'53. In 1850 Samuel began to experiment with the newly discovered product of zinc ores, and to determine whether this could be substituted for white lead as a paint. His experiments led to his engagement with the New Jersey zinc company in 1850-'2, and in the latter year he invented the "furnace process," which consists in reducing mixed coal and ore by the direct action of heat and a cold blast upon a furnace-bed having small holes, each producing the reducing flame. Subsequently he invented the tower process of separating the solid impurities, in which the velocity of the fan-attachment, which impels the products into the collecting bags, lifts the white zinc seventy feet into a tower, leaving the ashes at the base. This was afterward improved by Mr. Wetherill by causing the products thus treated to pass through a film of water. In March, 1853, with Charles J. Gilbert and several New York capitalists, he entered into a contract for forming the Pennsylvania and Lehigh zinc company, and he erected works under his patents, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to reduce the zinc ores in Lehigh county. These works went into operation on 13 October, 1853, when the first "zinc white" made in the United States was manufactured by Wetherill's process in combination with the bag process of collecting that was previously invented by Samuel T. Jones. The works were conducted by Gilbert and Wetherill in 1853-'7, and in that time delivered 4,725 tons of white oxide of zinc. In 1854-'9 he conducted a series of experiments for the manufacture of spelter, the first spelter from the Lehigh ores being made by him in 1854 by passing the vapor of oxide of zinc through a bed of incandescent coal in a muffle-furnace. Afterward he experimented with vertical retorts, which he patented, and his services were procured for the manufacture of metallic zinc at Bethlehem under the Pennsylvania and Lehigh zinc company. In 1857 he sent an ingot of his spelter to a firm of sheet-iron rollers, and they returned to him the first sheet of zinc that was rolled from metal extracted from Pennsylvania ores. At the beginning of the civil war Mr. Wetherill recruited a squadron for the 11th Pennsylvania cavalry, and entered service as captain on 19 August, 1861. He became major on 1 October, 1861, and was mustered out on 30 September, 1864. He was brevetted lieutenant-colonel, United States volunteers, on 13 March, 1865.--The second Samuel's brother, John Price, manufacturer, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 4 August, 1824 ; died there. 17 September, 1888, was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania in 1844, and engaged in the manufacture of white lead until 1878. He was identified with the commercial interests of Philadelphia, was one of the oldest members of the board of trade, of which he was for several years president, was a member of the Centennial board of finance, and a director of the American steamship company and of the Pennsylvania railroad company from 1874 till 1888. Mr. Wetherill was a member of the Constitutional convention of Pennsylvania in 1872, and was instrumental in introducing many reforms.
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