Aetna Foundry and Machine Shops

The Aetna Foundry and Machine Shops, established in 1848 by a partnership named Lowry, Lamb & Co., operated for most of its existence at the southwest corner of Second and Adams streets in Springfield. John C. Lamb became sole owner in 1855. Aetna was one of the city’s earliest industrial plants, and its complex was a landmark in Springfield through the second half of the 19th century.

1859 city directory advertisement

1859 city directory advertisement

During its early years, the Aetna Foundry manufactured 2,000 to 3,000 plows annually. Woolen machinery also was in operation in part of the building. Later, the business turned exclusively to foundry work. Products included steam engines, mill machinery and railroad castings.

In 1891, a new corporation, headed by president E.F. Smith and vice president Herman Pierik, took over operation of the Aetna Foundry from Lamb.

“They have a very flattering local and foreign trade in the manufacture of building fronts, brass and iron castings of all kinds, machinery for mining, castings for railroads and rolling mills, and many other kindred lines of work,” the Illinois State Journal’s 1892 Souvenir of Springfield reported.

Old Aetna Foundry buildings in 1902

Old Aetna Foundry buildings in 1902

“… They are the sole manufacturers of the Aetna Steam Pump, … (which) has many important advantages over others. … They are attracting a wide and growing market and have given perfect satisfaction wherever used.”

The Aetna Foundry moved to 908-18 E. Monroe St. in the late 1890s, but closed in 1907 or 1908.

Its last listing in Springfield city directories, in 1908, indicated Aetna Foundry and Machines by then specialized in manufacturing hoisting machinery and coal mine equipment. For example, the 1906 Illinois Annual Coal Report included the information that Aetna had manufactured 6-foot-diameter “sheave wheels” for a new mine in Williamson County. 

More information: Springfield city directories, 1897-1908, Sangamon Valley Collection, Lincoln Library. Souvenir of Springfield 1892, hardcover publication produced by the Illinois State Journal (State Journal-Register library).bridge

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.


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2 Responses to Aetna Foundry and Machine Shops

  1. William McCombs says:

    Thank you for that information. There is a man hole cover that I saw with the name Springfield Illinois Foundry. I was just wondering about its history. William

    • editor says:

      Mr. McCombs: There have been a couple of companies calling themselves the Springfield Foundry in Springfield, Ill., as well as in several other Springfields around the country. My best guess, if Illinois was definitely identified on the cover you saw, is that the manufacturer was a business that operated in the late 1930s and 1940s at 1819 E. Kansas St. The owner was an African-American, the Rev. Lyman Hubbard. I’m emailing you a brief story about Rev. Hubbard and the foundry. Thanks for reading, and thanks for asking.

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