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Walter Cresson, Saw Manufacturer - Philadelphia, PA

  Walter Cresson - Philadelphia Sawmaker, (1815-1893) 1 of 16  


"... there were several small industries started by Jonathan Paul in 1840, J. Bringhurst in 1842, James Turner in 1843, and Walter Cresson in 1845."

Edward E. Simmons
Simmons Hardware Company

Several other writers and historians of the era also mention Walter Cresson, a sawmaker.  Among them are Edwin T. Freedley, J. Leander Bishop, J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, William J. Buck, and R. A. Smith.  All of them however, supplied only a few words confirming that such sawmaker existed.  Contemporary writings are limited to short notes in The Directory of American Toolmakers (EAIA, 1999) and listing in the Hand-saw Makers of North America (Schaffer, 1999).

This sketchy picture was a motivation for ongoing research and a summary of my findings are presented here.

The most successful discovery of new information is from the Pennsylvania State Reports-Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, (Philadelphia, 1881), Vol. 91, compiled by court reporter Norris Wilson.  In this publication the case of Walter Cresson is recorder under the title "Cresson's Appeal".  The case was reviewed by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on June 20th, 1879 and consisted of:

"Appeal of Walter Cresson from the decree of the court confirming the report of the master in certain proceedings for a partnership account, wherein Ann R. Cresson, administratrix of the estate of William Cresson, deceased, filed a bill in equity against said Walter Cresson." (1)

The document provides testimony of Walter Cresson, Ann R. Cresson, a widow and "administratrix" of the estate of William Cresson, and report of court appointed master for reexamination of the facts.  Based on those findings, we can establish a time frame for saw manufacturing business, partnership arrangement between brothers, and how business and finances were managed. 

The document also shows date of business dissolution and sale to Henry Disston, describes proceeds received from sale and investment in new business venture.  I used this document as most reliable basis for a timeline to compile this review.

 1881 Pennsylvania State Reports (PDF)

Walter and William Cresson

Walter Cresson was born in Philadelphia, March 11, 1815.  His parents, John Head and Rachel (Walter) Cresson, were members of the Society of Friends, and in the doctrines of that faith he was carefully educated and trained. About the year 1842, however, he joined the Protestant Episcopal Church, in which he was for many years an earnest and faithful worker.

On May 29, 1844, Mr. Cresson married Alice Hannum, daughter of Joseph and Ann (Fairlamb) Hannum, of near Concordville, Delaware County, Pennsylvania. The Hannum family were among the early settlers of Delaware (formerly Chester) county, and the old homestead where this marriage took place had been occupied by them for several generations.(2)

William Cresson was born in Philadelphia November 12, 1810.  He became blind in early childhood as the result of an illness. In spite of this affliction he was well informed on all subjects, and was gifted with a cheerful disposition and good sound judgment. He married on May 11, 1853, Ann R. Leedom, born on May 21, 1811, daughter of Jonathan and Sarah (Jones) Leedom. They had one child, Lucy Cresson, born on March 30, 1854.(3)

In 1837 William Cresson, the older of two brothers, had a merchant business on 14 N 14th Street.  At that time Walter did not appear in the M‘Elroy's Philadelphia Directory for 1837.  William and Walter lived with their father John H. Cresson at 314 N 6th Street.  The father held a position of secretary and treasurer at Mine Hill and Schuylkill Haven Railroad Company.

Sometime before 1839 Walter joined William and they worked together as merchants with their business located at 14 N 14th Street.

It appears that there were no changes in the business for several years.  The directory listings for business location are all the same through 1839 - 1841 period.

In 1842 small change appeared in the M‘Elroy's Philadelphia Directory.  In addition to separate listings, combined listing was also placed.  Now they appear as Cresson William & Walter, merchants, at 14 N 4th Street.  I am not sure of the meaning of this change.  It is possible that they became formal partners a year before.


Notes & Bibliography

1 of 16  

Disston Saws

Saw Vises


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