Holyoke Machine Company

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Holyoke Machine Company
IndustryMachine industry, miscellaneous heavy industry
Founded1863 (1863)
DefunctAugust 2017
Headquarters514 Main Street,
Holyoke, Massachusetts, United States
Area served
Key people
Stephen Holman (founder)

The Holyoke Machine Company was an American manufacturer of industrial machinery, best known for its work in paper manufacturing equipment and water turbines. The company, formed in 1863, was founded by Nathan H. Whitten, T.C. Page, T. B. Flanders, Richard Pattee, and S. S. Chase, after the Holyoke Water Power Company's machine shop had been sold off.[1] Stephen Holman, the company's treasurer, president, and largest shareholder during different times in its first decade, is credited as its founder, though the nature of his early involvement is not well documented.[2][3] Holman would purchase the Company's foundry works in Worcester in April 1873, a second manufacturing branch which remained open for several decades.[4]

The best known among turbines manufactured by the Company was the Hercules turbine; a design developed by engineer John B. McCormick, who improved upon the Francis turbine, it was the first true mixed flow turbine of a high efficiency.[5][6] With a maximum efficiency of 87%, a considerable improvement over previous designs of the era, the turbine would become ubiquitous in mills in the United States, as well as Europe.[6][7]

The central location of the company, and its design improvements for various papermaking machinery such as Fourdrinier machines, contributed to the paper making and textile economy of Massachusetts and more specifically the paper industry of the Berkshires, granting ready-access to machinery that often had to be shipped great distances from other manufacturers.[8] In addition to turbines and papermaking machinery, the company was also known to have produced a wide variety of cast parts and custom orders. Among those known were Thomas Edison's personal elevator at his Orange, New Jersey laboratory, as well as doors for the US Capitol Building.[9][10]

With a changing market steering away from 19th century water-turbine factories, the business went into decline and entered bankruptcy in 1948, when it was bought by Irwin Sagalyn, who closed its foundry and changed the business's focus.[10] At the end of 1950 the company auctioned off all of its remaining tools for the purposes of manufacturing turbines, papermaking tools and other mechanical machinery, choosing to focus entirely on its precision roll and filter business in the paper and textile industries.[11] Citing the shrinking of an American industrial base, changes in technology and its specialization in those industries, Irwin's son, owner James Sagalyn, dissolved the company in August 2017, leaving one competitor working on the same technology, Badger Roll and Machine of Green Bay, Wisconsin to handle remaining customers, many in the Greater Springfield area.[10]


  1. ^ "Notes- Nathan H. Whitten". The Iron Age. Vol. LXXVI. September 7, 1905. p. 618.
  2. ^ "Was Founder of Holyoke Plants; Stephen Holman, Oldest Williams Alumnus and Prominent in Manufacturing World, Dead". Springfield Union. Springfield, Mass. October 14, 1912. p. 1. He was formerly head of the Holyoke Paper company and later organized the Holyoke Machine company
  3. ^ "New England Manufacturing News- Massachusetts". Commercial Bulletin. Boston. November 14, 1874. p. 4.
  4. ^ "Sale of Real Estate". Massachusetts Spy. CII. Worcester, Mass. April 4, 1873. p. 1. The W. A. Wheeler property on Thomas street has been sold to Stephen Holman of this city, the largest owner in the Holyoke machine company, whose works are located in Holyoke. The price paid is variously state at $110,000 to $125,000.
  5. ^ "Holyoke Hercules Turbine Web Page". French River Land Company. 2006. Archived from the original on October 17, 2018.
  6. ^ a b "Water Motors". Encyclopædia Britannica. XXVIII. Cambridge: University Press. 1911. pp. 383–384.
  7. ^ Water-Wheels and Turbines. Engineering Mechanics. III. March 31, 1883. p. 231.
  8. ^ McGaw, Judith A. (1987). Most Wonderful Machine: Mechanization and Social Change in Berkshire Paper. Princeton University Press. p. 165.
  9. ^ "Author: "Holyoke Machine Co"". The Thomas A. Edison Papers Digital Edition. Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on August 16, 2019. Retrieved August 16, 2019.
  10. ^ a b c Kinney, Jim (July 24, 2017). "Holyoke Machine Co., oldest manufacturer in Paper City, shuts down and plans to auction off equipment". Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  11. ^ "[Advertisement] At Auction, the Valuable Machinery and Equipment of the Holyoke Machine Company (Exclusive of Filter and Roll Shops)". Plain Dealer. Cleveland. November 8, 1950. p. 34. NOTE: The Holyoke Machine Company is concentrating its future manufacturing activities on its roll and filter business and is disposing of all machinery and equipment not required for these purposes

External links[edit]

External video
Holyoke Machine Company, Holyoke Manufacturers; a short student film about the company in its final years
Appleton Mill Hydroelectric Restoration, 1986 restoration of a 1903 Holyoke-Hercules turbine in Lowell, since demolished in 2008
Remnants of 150 year-old Holyoke Machine Company auctioned-off, WWLP-22News, August 3, 2017