, a name remembered mainly as a railroad, was in its heyday a multifaceted industrial giant. Originally established as the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad
in 1833 to transport anthracite coal, the pioneering 94-mile line evolved into a mighty corporation serving eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Operations included coal mining, iron making, canal and sea-going transportation and shipbuilding. With its great complex of shops for locomotive and car building and repair, and constant advances in railroad technology, the company held a position of leadership in the railroad industry for over a century.
By the nature of the territory which it served, the P & R fueled the Industrial Revolution which led the United States to economic leadership. With lines reaching out to the North, South, East and West, the P & R served the heart of the most densely industrialized area of the nation and by the 1870s became the largest corporation in the world.
During this period the P & R established a subsidiary, the Philadelphia & Reading Coal and Iron Company
to gain control over the vast anthracite deposits being mined for shipment over its lines. As one of America's first conglomerates, this attracted the infamous “robber barons” of the latter 1800s, such as Carnegie
. During the company's final spectacular attempt at expansion through control of lines to New England, Canada and the West, the formidable J.P. Morgan
pulled the financial rug out from under the Reading, and forced the company to settle into its traditional role as a regional railroad–mainly a carrier of anthracite.
During the 1890s, to ward off government efforts to break up monopolies, the P & R’s owners created a new holding company named Reading Company, to own on paper, the P & R Railroad and the P & R Coal and Iron Company. Finally, a Supreme Court ruling forced a complete separation of the P & R entities. On January 1, 1924, the P & R Coal and Iron Company became independent, and the Reading Company became the railroad's operating name.
After World War II as America began to turn away from coal as its major fuel, the Reading’s fate began to turn as well. Dragged down by the failure of surrounding lines on which it depended for traffic to offset the loss of the coal business, The Reading entered bankruptcy in 1971. Its operations were taken over as part of the federally financed CONRAIL, on April 1, 1976. Certificate:
Common Stock, issued in the 1930’sPrinter: American Bank Note Company Dimensions:
7 1/2” (h) x 11 1/2” (w) State: PA-Pennsylvania Subject Matter: Iron Companies
| Mining and Related
| Coal Companies Vignette Topic(s): Male Subject
| Winged Wheel or Gear
| Industrial Scene Condition:
Vertical fold lines, punch hole cancels in signature areas and body, and has some toning and edge faults from age.