Title: Wire manufacturer
Birthdate: May 1, 1822
Death Date: April 9, 1904
Plot Location: Section 108, Lot 2
Working with metal was a multi-generational passion for the Darby family. Edward’s father, also named Edward, was a metal toymaker near Birmingham, England in the early 1800s. Young Edward had already become a “wire worker” when he married Mary Ann Mander in 1846. They came to Philadelphia sometime around 1847 and had their first of four sons, Edward James, in 1848. Two daughters completed the family as Edward turned his skills with wire into a profitable business.
A partnership with Joseph Bayliss was formed in 1854 known as Bayliss & Darby Manufacturing, using the trade name, Pennsylvania Wire Works. Edward bought out his partner in 1876 and changed the name to Edward Darby & Son. When the second son, Henry, joined the business it became Edward Darby & Sons. Gradually they expanded into other metal products, as shown in this advertisement.
Products made by wire manufacturers today fall into two categories. Wire mesh can range in size from window screening to fencing as well as very large filtering applications. Wire cloth is a finer, tighter weave used in filtering and straining, particularly in the food and pharmaceutical industries.
As the Darby sons worked with their father, they built this five-story office building on Arch Street next door to the Betsy Ross House. The news story below illustrates their product diversity. At the turn of the century they won a contract to provide iron work for the new U.S. Mint on Spring Garden Street.
Mary Ann died in 1899 and Edward was laid to rest beside her five years later, leaving his wealthy estate behind. The five surviving children spent modestly on “cradle graves” for their parents. Such graves were popular at the time, resembling a bed with a headboard, footboard and two sides containing a flower garden.
Although Edward James was vice president at the time, another son, George, would become president. The company went into receivership in 1917 following the embezzlement of funds by the treasurer. George was then replaced by Edward. The company was renamed Edward J. Darby and Son, Inc. but his term expired when his life did in 1926. His only son, Edward Albert Darby, died in 1931 and the Great Depression motivated the remaining children to sell the firm in 1935. The new owners kept the name and good reputation. Edward would be pleased to know the company he started remains in business to this day (visit darbywiremesh.com).
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