New Castle, Delaware
Community History and Archaeology Program 

1872 engraving of Tasker Iron Works courtesy Hagley Museum and Library

Tasker Iron Works


Between Dobbinsville on Rte 9 and the Delaware river is a large grassy park.  There is no readily visible trace of a once-busy iron works except a few pier stumps sticking out of the water at very low tides (#6 on the map to the right).. 

tasker.jpg (372751 bytes)      usgs1906.jpg (63836 bytes)

 The iron works was built in 1873-4  by Thomas T Tasker Sr, a mover and shaker in mid 1800's New Castle.  He was part of creating the Gas Works in 1857 and the Water Works in 1869.  By 1868 (Beers atlas) he owned at least 7 buildings around New Castle.  In the 1870 census, he owned  real estate valued at $200,000.  He lived in the Philadelphia 1st ward with son Steven P. W. Tasker whose real estate $100,000.  The father was born in England. By 1875, the works employed "338 men, 12 boys, constantly increasing"  as opposed to the lighter work in the Walkers Mill  on the Brandywine  in 1889(a cotton mill, then owned byBarlow &Thatcher): "57 hands,--10 men, 17 boys, balance females"


tasker2a.jpg (376450 bytes)Detail of this and 2300 other industrial sites in the late 1800's are available online from the Hexamer surveys via the Philadelphia GeoHistory Network  In the 1875 Hexamer survey, the mill consisted of two large buildings and a number of smaller buildings.  The function of each along with many functional details are shown on the survey.  Click on the images to see enlarged views, or (using their zoomable web viewer) on the GeoHistory website.







Tasker Iron made the news during the Hurricane of 1878:

 New Castle, Delaware

In New Castle, “...houses were blown down and unroofed, trees hurled to the ground, shutters and windows blown off, and chimneys,
awnings, and signs mutilated (35).” Two brick stables were
destroyed. Four of the houses on the upper part of Market Street were carried fully a mile and a half inland by the sudden rise of the Delaware River (35). The banks were broken all along the riverfront. A bank refers both to the shore of a stream and to artificial dikes that were placed along the shores of a stream to keep out abnormally high tides. Tasker’s Bank (Figure 7) suffered the worst, with the employees at the Iron Works being driven from their avocations (32, 35). The railroad along the shore was completely destroyed even though the bank was stone-faced and over 60 feet wide on top; damages amounted to about $25,000 ($380,000) (13,32).  
In Delaware Geological Survey Special Publication No. 22—The Hurricane of October 21-24,1878


Scharf  wrote

The Morris-Tasker Iron Works were established at Philadelphia, in 1821, by Henry G. Morris and Thomas T. Tasker, the principal business being the operation of a pipe-mill. In 1872 the firm was composed of Thomas T. Tasker, Jr., and Stephen P.M. Tasker, who transferred the works to New Castle, where the old buildings of the New Castle Manufacturing Company were occupied until the present quarters were erected. In 1876 the firm was incorporated as the Delaware Iron Company, with S.P.M. Tasker, president; Charles Wheeler, vice-president; and G. Wister Brown, secretary and treasurer. In 1886 a stock company succeeded them under the same name and charter. The capital stock was fixed at five hundred thousand dollars, and the company organized with M.C. McIlvain, president; Jonathan Rowland, secretary; T. Wister Brown, treasurer; Lewis W. Shallcross, general manager. The principal office was established in Philadelphia, but the works at New Castle were continued, with Hiram R. Borie superintendent, who succeeded Joseph R. Tasker in 1883.

The plant embraces thirty-five acres of land on the Delaware River, within the limits of the city. The works consist of a rolling-mill capable of making one hundred tons of pipe-iron per day; a bending-mill, one hundred and six by two hundred and ninety-five feet, operated by a two hundred horse-power engine; a welding-mill, one hundred and forty-one by two hundred and eight-one feet, having a two hundred and fifty horse-power engine; and a finishing-room, three hundred by two hundred and fifty-two feet, with an engine of one hundred and fifty horse-power. All these buildings are of brick, and the engines are of the Corliss pattern.

The machinery has been especially designed for these works, and is adapted for making iron and steel tubes, from one and a quarter to eight inches in diameter, the full product being about eight hundred tons per week. About eight hundred men are employed. Near the works are sixty-two brick dwellings, erected by Richard J. Dobbins, and comprising a settlement known as "Dobbinsville."

There was a marked increase in mill work in this period.  According to the 1870 census "works in cotton mill" was the 2nd most prevalent occupation after laborer in New Castle (1915 residents).  In the 1885 street directory of New Castle (1073 listings including 85 in Dobbinsville),  the number that were laborer, millhand, machinst or ironworker had doubled.  As mentioned above, the mill employed 350 in 1875.

At Home 736

Keeping House 343 1955.00 9177.00
Without occupation 160 8136.84 16422.46
Laborer 123 143.06 1028.57
Domestic 92
Works in Cotton Mill 84 125.00
Carpenter 28 276.32 1625.00
Farmer 19 4573.08 17214.29
Blacksmith 12 335.71 1700.00
At School 11

Machinist 11 856.25 6750.00
Hotel Keeper 10 593.75 4200.00
Clerk in Store 9 200.00 1000.00


1885 street directory
Occupation Count
laborer 361
farmer 30
millhand 23
clerk 20
machinist 19
ironworker 19

Members of well known old families (for example the Deakynes) went to work in the mills.  According to Eckman, re: the property that became battery park:  "In 1706, it was granted to George Deakyne, who drained the marsh, built a dyke along the river and a cart-road from the Strand to Third Street in the approximate location of what was later the New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad bed."  In 1885, three of four employed males in the Deakyne family who lived on Water Street (The Strand) were "iron workers" (the fourth was a mail carrier).