Disston Saws

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Keystone Saw Works - H. Disston & Sons, Inc. - Phila., PA

  Hamilton Disston, 1844 - 1896

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Philadelphia was greatly shocked on Thursday morning, 30th ult., when the sudden death of one of her most honored citizens, Hamilton Disston, became known.

The subject of this notice occupied a position altogether unique and distinct from other men. His influence in the community was so broad that apart from his position as head of the largest concern of the kind in the world, it permeated every department - social, financial, political, charitable and religious - yet he deprecated anything that savored of personal conspicuousness.

He was essentially a man of the people, and the employees of the firm had the feeling that at any time, and under any circumstances, Hamilton Disston could be depended upon to advise, to counsel, and if need be to give both time and money in cases of necessity.

His genial temperament and active mind brought him into contact with a wider range of people than is usually the case with men prominent in business life. In his younger days he was "one of the boys" of the Volunteer Fire Department and as he merged into politics he made thousands of acquaintances and with that magnetism peculiar to leaders of men, he was always regarded as their friend.

Thus among the rank and file of the city that mourn his loss and honor his
memory, as well as in the business and financial community, the name of Disston will stand as a synonym of industry, integrity and progress, in all that pertains to the best interests of the community.

Mr. Disston’s death was due to heart failure. He was found dead in bed at eight o‘clock in the morning.

Mr. Disston had not been in good health for two or three years. He went abroad in 1893 for needed recreation, and returned much better. His condition had never been considered as serious, and was attributed to the cares of the great enterprises in which he was chiefly interested, which demanded his close attention.

Last year he had an attack of typhoid pneumonia, which left him weak, and symptoms of heart trouble developed. For some months he had been under treatment for disordered heart action, but there was no thought of its being serious. It was observed that he became fatigued easily, and on Tuesday, at his office in the Bullitt Building, he complained of weariness and also of pain in the region of the heart. He attributed it to the pressure of business matters which for the time demanded his personal attention, and thought a little rest would restore him.

On Wednesday he was in Newark, N. J., attending a meeting of the National Saw Company. Returning late in the day he spent the evening with Mrs. Disston at the theater.

Hamilton Disston was born near Fifth and Wood streets, Philadelphia, on August 23. 1844. His father, the late Henry Disston, was the founder of the largest saw manufactory in the world, the products of the plant being known in all the markets of the universe. The works, which now occupy over 30 acres of land at Tacony, and employ over 2000 men, grew from a little shop in a basement, with an office on the first floor.

As business increased, a manufactory was established at Front and Laurel Streets, where Hamilton, who was the oldest son, learned the saw making trade, going through all the departments as a workman, and eventually becoming a partner with his father.

On the death of Henry Disston, in 1878, the business was incorporated in the hands of his sons, Hamilton, Horace C., Albert, William and Jacob S., Hamilton becoming president and representing also his mother’s interest in the business. Albert soon after died and his mother, who died last year, left her interest to her sons.

Hamilton Disston‘s education was acquired in the public schools. His familiarity with all the details of the business and his close attention to its management soon made him the controlling spirit of the great enterprise, which prospered as it had in the hands of his father.

With rare judgment he introduced improved machinery, which increased the productive capacity on the works without greatly adding to the number of employees. He was mindful of the value of close relations with the men in his employ and from his custom of daily visiting every department of the works in which he had himself obtained his knowledge of the business, he was acquainted with his men personally and recognized their abilities.

In return he was rewarded with their loyalty to the establishment and to his personal fortunes. In matters of wages there was never any serious dispute.

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