The Budd Company: An Industrial Icon That Broke The Mold

August 2, 2018 | by Robert Masciantonio


Workers pose at their stations in a workshop at the Budd Company’s Hunting Park plant, 1924. | Image from an extensive collection of Budd Company photographs acquired by Robert Masciantonio

There was a time when almost any product imaginable was being produced in Philadelphia’s “Workshop of the World.” Despite this immense diversity, the city spawned relatively few companies that would ever reach the size or notoriety of corporations like Bethlehem Steel or General Motors. When thinking of the past giants of American industry a few names usually spring to mind–Ford, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Edison, Morgan. The name “Budd” on the other hand is not so familiar. Yet, few companies ever reached the size of The Budd Company, and few men have ever made such significant contributions to their field. Budd broke the mold in the application of stamped and stainless steel for decades, going on to revolutionize rail car and automotive manufacturing, becoming an industry leader in the production of both for over 50 years.

The Birth of Budd

Edward Gowen Budd was born in Smyrna, Delaware on December 28, 1870. From a young age he already showed an interest in mechanical trades. After graduating from high school Budd took an apprenticeship as a machinist with Taylor Iron Works. In 1890, at the age of 20, he moved to Philadelphia and accepted a job as an apprentice machinist at the Sellers Machines and Foundry Company before moving on to another junior position at the Bement-Pond Tool Company, a manufacturer of hydraulic presses. It was not long before he moved up at the firm to become the head of hydraulic press design department. Even as he climbed the ladder at work, Budd stayed busy in his off-time taking night classes in mechanical engineering and drafting at the University of Pennsylvania and the Franklin Institute to further his formal education. In 1898, Budd left the Bement-Pond Company to join the recently formed American Pulley Company as it’s chief draftsman. This company, founded in 1895, though new, had recently found great success with its new stamped steel pulley, designed by a friend of Budd, Connecticut-born Thomas Corscaden. This new pulley was lighter and far cheaper to produce than the cast steel or wood and steel pulleys that preceded it. Budd’s experience as a draftsman and with hydraulic presses, essential to the manufacture of steel stampings, made him a natural choice and he was quick to prove his worth. That same year he patented a new die for producing steel stampings. By 1900 Budd had already patented his own new stamped pulley design. His acuity for not only the practical side of stamped steel manufacturing, but for the conceptual as well were not going unnoticed in Philadelphia’s manufacturing circles.

Reinventing Steel at Hale & Kilburn

In 1902, Budd left his position as chief draftsman for American Pulley to take on a similar position, but at double the salary, with the Hale & Kilburn Company at their plant at 150 North 6th Street. The Hale & Kilburn Company was the world’s premier producer of furniture for rail cars and trolleys. Like its competitors, Hale & Kilburn produced furniture constructed of wood and cast iron, but the company was quick to recognize the value offered by using stamped steel construction and for several years had already been buying stamped components from the American Pulley Company. In his new position Budd was tasked with designing new railroad furniture and retooling their factory to manufacture it, a task he accomplished rapidly. While much of this success was owed to his intimacy with stamped steel production, it was also due to the perfection of the recently created process of “arc welding” by Budd and fellow Hale & Kilburn employee Morris Lachman. Their improved method of arc-welding allowed their stampings and parts to be attached together in ways that were previously impossible. This new line of railroad furniture, lighter and more durable that any other on the market, ballooned the companies profits so much that, by 1904, Budd had become the plant’s production manager and held a seat on the Board of Directors. Demand grew so great that the company built a modern factory adjacent to the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at 17th and Glenwood Streets. Hale & Kilburn moved into their new facility in 1905. With business booming, it was not long before Budd began to work on branching out into more than just furniture.

Budd continued his experimentation with shallow draft steel stamping and produced an all-steel rail car body prototype, yet another technical achievement and a first for Budd. Railway cars at the time were almost entirely constructed of wood, which meant not only the constant danger of fires from the coal stoves that heated them in the winter, but also catastrophic destruction when trains would wreck. Wooden cars would splinter and break apart, with rear cars often shattering those ahead of them creating a mangled wreckage that often caught fire to the detriment of any passenger unlucky enough to survive the initial crash. These design and safety issues lingered for years. Many had advocated for the introduction of all steel passenger railway cars, but the expense of such an undertaking made railroad companies reluctant to take the leap and replace their entire fleet, or so was the case until the Pennsylvania Railroad stepped up to the plate in 1906. This new passenger rail car was built by the Pullman Company, an experienced and respected rail car manufacturer, with Budd at Hale & Kilburn designing and providing the major stamped steel components for assembly. These new cars were noted as being only 10 percent heavier than existing wooden cars, but far safer. Around the same time Budd’s growing reputation led to Hale & Kilburn being contracted to produce the steel body components for yet another rail car manufacturer, the McKeen Motor Car Company of Omaha, Nebraska. Although these unconventional cars were ultimately unsuccessful, the innovative aerodynamic design of the pointed “Windbreaker” gasoline-powered railroad cars would have a lasting impact on Budd. The project would influence his own designs 20 years later when the he created his own “streamliner” cars that forever change how trains were constructed.

Budd became nationally renowned not only for metal fabrication, but also for his willingness to push the limits of what could be made of steel. In 1909, Emil Nelson, the chief engineer at Detroit’s Hupp Motor Company, approached him about creating an all-steel automobile body. At the time automobile bodies, like train cars, were composites of wood, steel, and leather, mounted on a chassis. While steel stamping had advanced significantly by 1909, the shapes and curves required on automobiles remained difficult to achieve. It was so difficult that Nelson could not find a single firm in Detroit that was willing accept his contract before reaching out to Budd and the Hale & Kilburn Co. in Philadelphia. Budd rose to the occasion, confident in his abilities and certain that the future of auto-making was in steel construction. He crafted the car bodies of stamped and welded steel sheet to achieve the requisite shapes. These bodies were sent by rail to Detroit and were assembled and finished to become the Hupmobile Model 32, the world’s first steel bodied car. But this success would be short lived. In 1911, J.P. Morgan purchased the Hale & Kilburn Company for $9 million (the equivalent of roughly $222 million today), and rapidly began replacing their management with new corporate administrators who had little background in metal fabrication or manufacturing. The freedom to experiment and and take on challenging, but risky projects that Budd had previously enjoyed was stifled by his new bosses. Within the year Budd had suffered a nervous breakdown and left for an extended leave in Europe. After two months he returned and handed in his resignation. The company he left would be lost to a series of mergers and gone in under 20 years. However, the company Budd was about to begin would become renowned for its products and applauded for its innovation in the same amount time.

A Titan of Industry Blooms

Edward G. Budd, date unknown. | Image: Wikimedia Commons

The Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company was founded on July 22, 1912 with $75,000 from his own savings and another $25,000 in investments The new company set up an office in the North American building at 121 S. Broad Street. Budd wasted no time robbing talent from his former employer. His co-workers Russel Leidy and Joseph Ledwinka joined him at the newly established firm. Within the year, more investors materialized and the company was able to set up shop in a proper, yet modest, manufacturing operation in a rented single story building at the corner of Aramingo Avenue and Tioga Street. Their first contract was making metal truck bodies for a local coal company, but business soon came picked up: an order for 2,000 bodies from the Oakland Motor Car Company, a subsidiary of General Motors, and another large order from Garford Motors. With this substantial business and smaller contracts with companies like Ford and Buick, the company expanded and moved into two rented floors in Boggs Mill at I and Ontario Streets. The new shop was sufficient for the final welding and fabrication of the steel bodies, but the steel press they had purchased to produce stampings had to be kept in a large galvanized steel shed and the steel sheets were stored in a large circus tent pitched in the adjoining lot.

While operating on razor thin margins, Budd expanded again to continue growing his business, purchasing the former Grabowski Wagon factory in Detroit to set up new productions lines closer to his primary customers. However, no sooner had the Oakland car bodies begun arriving from Philadelphia for finishing, word reached Budd that Garford Motors had gone into bankruptcy. This loss of a major contract almost destroyed the company, which, by 1914, employed roughly 400 men. Budd was forced to sell his recently acquired Detroit facility and even appealed directly to John Willys, owner of Garford Motors, to make partial settlement on the contract so Budd could save his own company. Willys agreed, and with a $100,000 check effectively saved the Budd Company from entering bankruptcy itself. With the crisis averted, things began to look up for the company. Garford Motors was purchased by Studebaker, who would become a Budd customer for years. More importantly, the newly-formed Dodge Company sought out a substantial contract with Budd. The Dodge brothers, both of whom had machine and metal working experience, believed firmly that steel bodies were the future of automobiles. By the end of 1914, they had signed a contract for 5,000 new car bodies and fenders to go with them and agreed to pay up to $25,000 for tooling costs. The new contract grew the Budd Company to 600 employees and necessitated a move to larger, purpose-built production facilities. In 1915, the company moved to its final Philadelphia location, at Stockley Street and Hunting Park Avenue.

With the previous contract filled, Dodge put in another for 1915, this time for 50,000 car bodies and parts. Accordingly, Budd expanded yet again as he continued to pick up more automobile contracts. By 1916 the company had 2,000 employees that produced 500 car bodies every day that were produced and shipped to Detroit from Philadelphia. Despite his success, Edward Budd was not the sort of man to rest on his laurels. He presented the Dodge brothers with the first pillarless hardtop roof in 1916, a construction technique which would not become standard for decades. In 1917 he presented the company with a completely steel framed and bodied sedan, developing a more improved welding and fabricating techniques to achieve it. That same year Budd formed the Budd Wheel Company, as a sister operation focusing on all-steel automobile wheels, which Budd accurately imagined would one day replace the wooden spoke wheels most cars of the era still used.

By 1919 the Budd Company was enormous compared to its competitors and held a crucial position in the industry. The company owned dozens of patents on processes necessary to produce steel car bodies, essentially forcing any automobile manufacturer who wanted stamped steel bodied to buy from Budd. The company and factory expanded at such a furious rate that in under a decade the Hunting Park Plant had grown from a single industrial building to a sprawling 15-acre complex. In 1919, it was noted in a report that the plant’s 80,000 windows could alone cover three acres. The company offered cafeterias serving hot food for each department, its own company orchestra, a newsletter “The Buddgette,” company sports teams, and a medical facility with the nation’s first staff factory physician. The plant itself had produced over 600,000 car bodies since its founding, which was, as noted in the Company history, enough to stretch from Boston to Chicago if laid end to end. This growth would continue throughout the 1920s. A sprawling new facility was purchased in Detroit in 1925 to serve as Budd’s Michigan headquarters. This growth becomes even more astonishing when it is taken into account that, in 1917, with the U.S. entry into World War I, almost all production was diverted away from the auto industry in order to build war materials. In two weeks the company had retooled and began production of shell casings, gun carriage wheels, and other assorted ordinance, but the largest contribution was in the production of helmets. Budd’s huge press shop, which had been built for automobile parts, churned out 25,000 M1917 helmets daily, producing 1,150,775 by the time the contract was canceled, by far more than any other producer. While the manufacturer’s stamp codes have been lost to time, if you find a WWI helmet with a “ZC” stamp, the odds are it was made by Budd. When November 11, 1918 came and the war ended it was only another few weeks before the company had transitioned back to peacetime production just as smoothly as it had transitioned into wartime.

Battling the Great Depression 

When the stock market crashed and the economy tanked in 1929 so did the automobile industry. Within one year most automakers had been forced to lay off half of their employees, and their suppliers, like the Budd Company, were forced to follow suit. To Edward Budd this loss of his employees, whom by 1929 numbered over 10,000, stung worse than any loss of profit ever could. He made a truly stalwart effort to retain as many jobs as he could, while keeping his company profitable. Budd turned his attention to finding use for the recently created corrosion resistant alloy know as“stainless steel.” He and his engineers first decided to put it to use in aircraft construction and soon signed a contract for a prototype seaplane between the Budd Company and the American Aeronautical Corporation out of Long Island. It was not a commercial success due to the poor economy, but the all stainless steel Savoie Marchetti seaplane was an engineering marvel. Today it is on permanent display outside of the Franklin Institute. Parallel to this aeronautical venture, the company also formed it’s own Naval Department and soon began taking on contracts building stainless steel hatches, masts, and other ship components for the U.S. Navy. The department would go on to fulfill contracts up through WWII. But the company’s largest success in product diversification was the expansion into railcar building, and it was in this field where Budd would gain most of his enduring notoriety.

Venturing into railcar design seemed a natural choice. Budd and his top engineers all had a background with some railcar design while working with Hale & Kilburn. The company was confident that it could create a faster, lighter, and modern train, but times were tough for the railroads, and new expensive train sets were not in the budget for any of them. Despite this, Budd went ahead anyway and sent his company to work on the development and construction of a new class of stainless steel locomotives and cars. In the ultimate demonstration of his altruistic goal to keep his workers employed, these groundbreaking trains were to be sold essentially at cost to the railroads. It was in this endeavor to build stainless steel railcars that he developed the “shotweld” process, a method a welding that precisely controls the amount of current applied to the metal, allowing the weld to be made without weakening the adjoining steel. This allowed for thinner steel sheets than ever to be welded together. The result was a series of new streamlined trains called “Zephyrs.” These ultra modern and sleek trains succeeded in capturing the imagination of the American public when they went into service in 1934 and were wildly successful. They represented the cutting edge of railroad engineering at the time. Their diesel-electric engines were decidedly modern compared to the the standard steam locomotives of the day, and their innovative use of stainless steel construction set the new standard for all trains that would follow. The Budd Zephyrs remain to this day an iconic example of railroad engineering and design.

A female Budd employee using an electric screwdriver to finish a door in 1935. | Image from an extensive collection of Budd Company photographs acquired by Robert Masciantonio

The diversified company powered through the Depression busy with planes and trains, but the automotive arm did not sit idle and managed to grow as the economy slowly recovered. By 1930, Budd had developed the world’s first front wheel drive car, which later went into production as a Citroën in 1934. Their work perfecting sheet fabrication allowed the company to help design and produce streamlined cars that only a few years before would have been impossible to make. Between 1934 and 1935 production increased 30 percent as they supplied parts to virtually every car company in the country, as well as many in Europe. Money was once again flowing into the Budd Company and before long both the Detroit and Hunting Park Plant were operating at near full employment. However, this growth all came to a screeching halt in December 1941 when the United States was drawn into war for a second time.

Working Overtime During WWII 

At the time the company was producing the most advanced unibody car in the world, the 1942 Nash. It shifted as rapidly into war production as it had done 23 years prior for the first World War. However, while the military needed Budd-made materials, it also needed manpower. In the first three months of the war, over 4,000 male employees had left for military service and 5,500 women had been hired. Throughout the war roughly half of Budd’s workforce was made up of women, with some departments being up to 90 percent female. Budd’s Naval Department began cranking out the same masts, hatches, and bulkheads it had begun building in the 1930s, but now by the thousands. The company began making artillery shells of all sizes. The Hunting Park Plant was the primary producer of anti-tank rockets for the M1 Bazooka. Other products include a laundry list of aircraft components, truck bodies, vehicle wheels, destroyer smokestacks, assembly jigs for B-24 Liberator bombers, and much more. The scarcity of aluminum prompted the U.S. War Department to reach out to Budd to develop a stainless steel transport aircraft and even built a new facility in Northeast Philadelphia to be operated on contract by Budd. The aircraft, which made its first flight at the Budd Airfield in Red Lion in 1943, became the RB-1 Conestoga. Although only 17 in total were delivered to the U.S. Navy, the plane was innovative and introduced many features now standard on military transport aircraft.

Postwar Diversification and Boom

By the time the war ended Budd employed over 20,000 people at three separate plants. The company worked hard to accommodate the thousands of employees who were now returning from war. Edward Budd himself vowed in front of his workforce to find a position for each and every returning employee, saying of those who had been wounded or suffering from PTSD, “They are still men.” The medical center was expanded to better accommodate returning soldiers with more doctors and new equipment. The company put $15 million into plant improvement and expansions. The Northeast Plant was soon to become known as Red Lion and was designated as the new location of Budd’s rail car operation. By the end of 1945 the plant had already produced its first train car since the war began. A materials depot was constructed in Philadelphia to stock any steel the company would need, and the Hunting Park Plant was modernized and connected by new flyovers, conveyors, and 111 new presses were installed. In a matter of weeks the entire plant had been retooled back to peacetime production. Sadly, it was only shortly after this massive overhaul that Edward Gowen Budd passed away at his home in Germantown on November 20, 1946.

Now without its founder, the postwar boom was still very good for the Budd Company. Automotive sales were at an all time high and so were the company’s profits. The Red Lion Plant, previously leased from the government, was bought outright in 1948, and, by 1949, Budd found itself deferring potential contracts due to a simple lack of manufacturing capacity at all three sprawling plants. That same year the railcar division introduced the Budd RDC, or “Rail Diesel Car,” a self propelled passenger train that became widely popular due to its reliability. 398 RDCs would be built between 1949 and 1962 and many remain in revenue service with railroads to this day. As their RDC production wound down in the 1960s the company scored new contracts producing cars for the Market-Frankford Line. The M-3 aka “Almond Joy” cars became the first stainless steel subway cars produced in the United States. Budd set the standard once again. At this same time the company was introducing their new lightweight electrified passenger train. An improvement on their short lived Pioneer III, the improved units were dubbed “Silverliners” and went into service in 1963 on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s regional rail in Philadelphia.

The Korean War brought decreased sales and steel shortages, but Budd soldiered on, scoring military contracts and building a large addition to its Hunting Park Plant to produce tank hulls and turrets. The company thundered into the postwar era as the largest automotive parts producer in the world. Yet, after Budd’s record-setting auto production in 1955 of eight million vehicles, the following year saw a 25 percent decrease, producing only six million. Budd would remain an automotive company, but the slowdown in production inspired company brass to look into further diversifying, something that they had slowly been moving towards for the past few years. In 1956, Budd dove headfirst into a number of fields. Their aerospace division was working on jet afterburners for the Department of Defense. They formed the Tatnall Measuring Systems Company, focusing on advanced equipment and materials testing. Since 1954 they owned the Continental Diamond Fibre Company, which narrowed in on plastics. They began producing radiography machines and opened a Nuclear Division, a testament to the Budd Company’s constant desire to remain modern and groundbreaking. While these new divisions and subsidiaries had varying degrees of success, the company remained an automotive builder at its heart and continued to push the limits of sheet steel fabrication. The company remained defiantly successful, purchasing new plants and expanding operations and capacity at existing ones. Their success attracted the attention of the German steel and industrial giant, Thyssen. On April 25, 1978, after a vote by Budd’s shareholders Thyssen bought the controlling interest in the company.

The Beginning of the End

Budd remained an American company with its own management, but the timing could not have been worse. The heyday of the U.S. auto industry was coming to an end, which meant the Budd Company went into decline as well. Foreign car imports began to take a serious toll on the domestic car manufacturing. The 1980s marked a turning point for American car makers, whose foreign competition was once limited to Volkswagen Beetles. U.S. companies now faced an array of cheap and affordable Japanese imports that were taking serious bites out of their profits. It was not long until Budd began losing business and losing money. Downsizing was their only option. Budd’s large stamping plant in Gary Indiana was closed, and various other divisions were sold off. Their railcar building operation was separated from the Budd Company proper and reorganized as “Transit America.” The rail division continued to build at Red Lion until finally shutting down in April of 1987. The company that for the last two decades seemed to be growing in every direction was chipped away and forced to consolidate back to to it’s core: automotive components. However, even after the downsizing and with the Red Lion Plant gone, the company was bought out. Although the company’s headquarters moved to Michigan, the original Hunting Park Plant, the true home of the Budd Company, continued with production.

The Budd Company’s Hunting Park plant was closed in 2003. Security detail was terminated after the plant campus was purchased in 2011. The manufacturing complex is now abandoned and has since been largely picked clean by scrappers. | All photographs by Robert Masciantonio

In 1988, an ambitious new expansion and management program was implemented in order to help keep the aging facility viable. By 1993 the Philadelphia plant was doing $300 million dollars in business each year and employed 1,800 people, but it was still losing money. The final blow came on July 19, 2002 when it was announced that the Hunting Park Plant, the production facility where Edward Budd built his company up from a small auto part supplier into an industrial giant, was going to be closing to consolidate production to their plant in Detroit. At the time of the announcement the plant’s 600 employees operated 10 presses and eight assembly lines. By that same time the following year only 120 men remained, and by the end of 2003 the plant, once employing thousands of men through a labyrinth of 20 buildings spread over 75 acres, went dormant. For the first time in 88 years the Budd factory was quiet.

Present Day 

It has been over 15 years since the Budd Company left Philadelphia, when last press fell at 2450 Hunting Park Avenue and the lights went out for good. The economic impact of Budd’s departure was immediately felt in a neighborhood already suffering from the effects of deindustrialization. The closure was felt across Philadelphia and the country in so many neighborhoods and towns. In an attempt and bringing back some of the opportunity lost by the closing of the factory, the sprawling Budd complex was designated a Keystone Opportunity Zone, a special designation that affords tax breaks in order to attract developers to a location. In 2004, the entire 75-acre parcel and its structures were purchased by Preferred Real Estate Investments of Conshohocken, one of the largest real estate firms on the East Coast, and plans for the “Budd Commerce Center” was born. The project was envisioned as an office and industrial park. According to the Philadelphia Business Journal, the proposal had the potential to attract more than 1,000 jobs. It was an ambitious proposition, but things didn’t exactly pan out as planned.

Since the Budd closure there has been significant progress made on the property and several areas of the old plant have seen development and rehabilitation. In 2004, the easternmost parcel of the complex and the 247,000-square-foot sheet steel Phoenix building, constructed in 1988, was sold to GRM Information Management Services for use as industrial document storage. A parcel of land behind the Baker’s Crossing shopping center was sold to Restaurant Depot, and the 1952 Pattern Shop building was purchased and is currently being used by Fresenius Medical Care. The two largest redevelopments to date were by the Salvation Army and Temple University. The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center of Philadelphia was built on the large swath of land off of Wissahickon Avenue, once occupied by American Pulley Company and, more recently, used by Budd as a materials storage yard. Temple University purchased all of the Budd property and buildings east of Hunting Park Avenue, moving into the K building, built in 1922, that still reads “Edward G Budd Manufacturing Company” above it’s entryway. After renovations, the university rechristened it the Temple Administrative Services Building.

Perhaps the most interested redevelopment plan on the Budd site, especially in light of recent political events, is one that never got off the ground. In 2004, with slot gambling freshly legalized, none other than Donald Trump, along with with 76ers owner Pat Croce, began pushing to develop part of the land for a new casino, which was to be called “Trump Street.” After considerable efforts to win over the community and even an offer to buy the Phillip A. Randolph Technical School from the School District of Philadelphia, significant neighborhood pushback successfully killed the casino, and Trump Street never came to be.

Despite the success of unloading the majority of acreage, the 25-acre core of the Budd complex, comprising the vast majority of buildings and floor space, remained unsold and unleased until March 2011, when the remainder was sold to a single buyer. The new owners decided in short order that security, which had almost miraculously kept the property secure for years, was no longer needed or wanted, and security staff was let go shortly after the sale. It was not long before the now unmonitored cameras watched scrappers cut locks and cart away anything and everything of value. The building was again open business and not in a good way. Ultimately, this free-for-all ended in tragedy the following year. On March 28, 2012, two men who had been driving their van inside the building by way of an unsecured shutter door to load up their stolen haul of scrap metal were ambushed. Following a struggle, one man was shot, and the other drove the van through the door to escape. The driver was later found and arrested by police but his partner was not so lucky and died of gunshot wounds on the stairs of a nearby home.In 2013, scrapping activity caused a 25,000 gallon oil tank to leak onto the adjacent CSX railbed, costing the company almost $200,000 in remediation and spurring a lawsuit.

Today the shell that was once the Budd plant is essentially open to anyone who wants to have a look. The copper plumbing and wiring are long gone and virtually anything of value has been stripped away. With the scrappers mostly gone, the building now sees a steady stream of urban explorers, photographers, and graffiti artists. Despite it’s monumental size it would be difficult to spend time there without running into at least a few other people. Several attempts by the City and owner to secure the building have inevitably ended in failure, and would-be visitors have their pick of entrances on virtually every side of each complex. The plant itself is something to behold if only for its sheer scale. Massive press rooms run for hundreds of yards with ceilings several stories high, like a great cathedral of industry. It is impossible not to look out from a room onto the abandoned complex and not be impressed by the amalgamation of towering buildings thrown together over the last 70 years. What is also astonishing is that a facility so large can be completely abandoned. The buildings are currently listed for sale for an undisclosed price and have been for several years now. At this point, any interested developer would be dealing with a shell of a building, making a sale, even for warehouse space, all the more unlikely in a neighborhood overflowing with unused industrial space. Derelict and idle, it seems that the Budd Hunting Park plant will be forced to silently hang on for years to come until fire, demolition, or another use is finally found for it.


On the production floor at the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company’s Hunting Park plant. Images from an extensive collection of company photographs acquired by Robert Masciantonio.

Workshop on the top floor of D building, the tallest building along Hunting Park Avenue, 1924.

Working on a 1926 Dodge Series 116 Sedan, 1925.

Workers, many quite young, in what appears to be a maintenance shop, 1924.

Workers in the pattern shop creating wooden patterns that will later be use to make dies for the steel presses, 1935.

Working on the rear of a car body, 1924.

What appears to be a shop sample of a 1926 Dodge Series 116 Sedan. Notice the two different paint jobs on each side. 1924.

Two massive hydralic punch presses. The Hamilton on the left is rated to deliver 2400 tons of force, 1935.

Although parts could be rapidly stamped en masse, they still required hand fitting and finishing. Here men assemble door components. 1924.

Small part being bent with a jig, 1924.

Shotweld being used on a Hupmobile Model 12-R touring car body, 1924.

Placing of a sedan body on a conveyor, 1924.

Rows of men with their milling machines pose for the camera, 1924.

Railcars being loaded as seen from Crowell Street. This building is currently occupied by Temple University. 1925.

Part of a hydraulic press being moved via a powered wagon, 1925.

Oxyacetylene welding what appears to be a dodge car body, 1924.

Men working on the assembly line finishing Huppmobile bodies, 1924.

Hupmobile touring body being moved, 1924.

Finishing work on a cowl for a 1926 Dodge Series 116 Sedan, 1924.

Finishing work being done door frame components, 1924.

Double hook up of dies on an electric welding operation, 1925.

A portion of machine ship on 6-L. Also shows Ford chain hoist (Triblock) 2 ton on overhead rails, 1925.

A view from atop railcars on the trackage along Crowell Street, 1925.

Budd employee, 1925.

An Avey Mill is used to drill holes, 1924.

A worker uses a drill press to drill fastner holes on a door assembly, 1924.

A view of the plant looking west from the roof. In the background can be see building from the Davis Bros Iron Works, Midvale Steel, American Pulley, and the Vim Motor Works. 1924.

A view inside the newer 1926 Press Shop looking towards Hunting Park Avenue, 1935.

A car body being assembled, 1924.

A blacksmith at work at a forge within the factory, 1924.



About the Author

Robert Masciantonio Robert Masciantonio attended Shippensburg University where he received his BA in Political Science and History. A proud native of Delaware County, Masciantonio carries a lifelong fascination with Philadelphia's deep, layered past. He has an strong interest in photography and architecture, with an emphasis on industry and institutions.


  1. Gale White says:

    Thanks from another Delco inhabitant for this fascinating article. I had looked through some of the archived photos of the Budd Co.when I discovered that a relative had worked there (along with others involved with wood pattern-making and metal molding), but this really put it all into historical context. It’s even more gratifying to learn that Edward Budd himself was such a progressive employer.

  2. Jim Clark says:

    My best friend’s (when I was a youngster in North Philly) dad worked at Budd, he was a machine mechanic and a very good one evidently, got quite a few promotions. He always spoke highly of Budd. Thank you for the great article.

  3. Michael Klusek says:

    Very well researched and written article. I had some relatives who lived in the Hunting Park area and always spoke about the Budd plant. I had no idea it was such a vital company with a long and accomplished history.

  4. Cyndi Lunsford says:

    I find it revealing that the author doesn’t mention the discrimination that happened at this plant. Um, why don’t you mention that black folks weren’t hired to work at this plant at the time that blacks were populating this neighborhood beginning in the late 40s/early 50s after the war and were shunned by the Budd company and lots of other companies at the time.
    We were coming back from the war with the new GI bill and the whites were selling us their houses but we couldn’t get their old jobs..

    1. Robert Masciantonio says:


      The article’s focus was a general history of the Budd Company and it’s many ground breaking achievements. Past discrimination in hiring practices, redlining, white flight, and other social issues in Philadelphia during the post WWII period were beyond the scope of the article.

      You are absolutely correct that many companies discriminated against African-Americans in in the past, and yes, the Budd company may well have been one of them. However, I can say with certainty that the Budd Company began hiring African-Americans as far back in the 1930s, and continued to hire workers of all races up through their demise. My personal collection of Budd Company photos almost entirely dates to the 1920s, but there are an abundance of photos available from the Halgey Museum and the Temple University Urban Archives that attest to the diversity of Budd Co’s workforce in the 1940s and 50s.

      1. Cyndi Lunsford says:

        Hi Robert,
        I truly didn’t mean to make it sound like the company was totally racist. They hired black folks in the cafeterias and maintenance departments but they really weren’t interested in hiring welders or other skilled laborers that paid more money until the 1970s…maybe some in the 1960s…I was a little kid, in a nearby Catholic school and remember my dad trying to get a job at that plant for years while we were living in Swampoodle. Just being a little kid, I couldn’t understand why my dad couldn’t get into “Budd” and my mom being disappointed. My dad was a cook in the Navy during WWII so he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t even get into the cafeteria even though he was a skilled welder. He just wanted to get into the door so that he could get the benefits for his young family. Soon, my mom stopped being a stay at home mom and began working at Film Corporation which I think was on Allegheny Avenue.

        1. Linda Taylor says:

          My Dad who was black worked at the Budd Company, the Red Lion plant as a welder. He went there in 1950 when I was a baby and retired from there in the 1980s. I’m not sure if the Red Lion plant and Hunting Park are one and the same but it was definitely Budd. My Dad passed recently, Oct. 13, 2019, and he loved working at Budd.

          1. Yeah. My Dad (William Nicholas) A.K.A. “Nick”, was an African American welder, who often bragged that he was the first “black” welder at Budd – Hunting Park plant, after leaving his job at New York Ship. He worked there for 40 years, then became a welding instructor at AirCo Technical school.

        2. Beverly Przepioski (Joseph Przepioski) says:

          I learned &enjoyed the articles. My father worked at the RedLion Plant for years as a sheet metal worker. Today I’m wearing his watch they gave for working from 1936 to 1971. Engraved the Budd Co with his nameand those years of service. It’s 50 years old and still working. He did piece work for his jobs where he made most of his money. Great benefits for him,my mom, and me when I was young. He had benefits till the day he passed at the age of 95. Thank you for all the informative information that I was never told.Pictures were so nice to see. Mr. Budd took care of his workers with doctors, nurses and anytime they were hurt. My dad was hurt took care of him very well. They even had a eye doctor for the workers. I remember his name Dr. Yick. We even went to his private practice for our family.It was a rough job for my dad but the Budd Co took care of there workers as best as they could at that hard era of time. Wow again Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Sincerely Beverly Przepioski (the oldest daughter) By the way they couldn’t say his last name so they called him Pollock Joe. That’s how they knew him.

      2. Paul budd says:

        I just found out this is my great grandfather I am Paul Richard Budd how neat

    2. William Thompson says:

      That’s more whining and blaming by another person living in the past. I was a Budd employee for 20 years and worked with a lot of blacks and other minorities. There’s always somebody ready to bring that ancient history stuff back up. How about you worry about today and not 60 years ago. How bout that.

  5. Thad says:

    What a great article. I was aware that the Budd Company had pioneered shot-welding for stainless bodywork, but didn’t realize how far back the innovation went. And knew nothing of Edward Budd. Sounds like a remarkable, admirable man.

    Love all the photos, past and present!

    Articles like this are why I support Hidden City. Thanks!

  6. TonyM says:

    What a wonderful history lesson on a very overlooked industrial giant. This kind of history should be a part of school curriculum to inspire our kids. Whether a person’s goals and dreams are master-craftsman or industrialists, Budd’s history of quality and innovation exemplifies quality, success, and business acumen. Edward G. Budd provides a very powerful role model and example of how to persevere, attain success, and provide for employees. I hope there is a book growing from this historical survey. Well done!

  7. James says:

    Edward Budd would be in the class of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John Wanamaker, Wideners who helped expand transportation in Philadelphia, the Strawbidge and Clothier families who spread their stores. Numerous other industralists in this country who invented things that serve us well today.

    SEPTA bought the Silverliner IVs and they were delivered 1974-76. A Korean Company built the Silverliner Vs and the factory in South Philadelphia is now closed. SEPTA will need a billion dollars to replace the Silverliner VIs around 2026 when they will be 50 years old.

    Where will we find manufacturers to make what SEPTA will need to replace in 2026? A foreign company which will set up shop and then close when they receive no further orders?

    We need to find people willing to set up factories and to keep running them to take care of orders now and in the future.

  8. Joseph J. Menkevich says:

    Thanks for the article & photos.

    I worked at the Red Lion Plant in the 1980’s where we made passenger trains and automotive frames.

    During WWII they made airplanes (flying box cars).

    Many of those old presses were still in use when I was there.

    I also have a collection of photographs I took when working.

    I just got my pension buyout last year – Thank You Budd.


    1. Gerry Deeney says:

      Great article! Let me add one note about how Budds innovative process continued through the years. As Ford celebrates the output of 10 million Mustangs you should be aware that this vehicle was originally developed in the Budd Philadelphia Experimental Shop in the early 1960’s and subsequently given to Ford’s Lee Iacocca, who was a personal friend of Budd’s chairman Gil Richards. While Budd sought no recognition, you should be aware that the original Mustang was inch for inch a duplicate of the Budd concept car.
      Gerry Deeney- 1950-1993

    2. James A Zeek says:

      Yes, Gary. I started my Tool and Die Apprenticeship At Budd in 1966. In a small display area I saw what looked like a Mustang body and asked why it was there. I was told it was made in the Budd Experimental shop and Ford decided to produce it. I’ve told many people over the years that the Mustang was a Budd development vehicle, and of course no one I’ve told has believed me. I thank you for confirming my memory.

    3. Beverly Przepioski (Joseph Przepioski) says:

      If my dad had a pension buy out for my dad please inform me . I’m ahead of his estate. Write the information on my e mail address. bveldorado54@aol
      com Let me know please as soon as you get this message. Or do I have to write to somewhere else. Thank you very much. Beverly Przepioski

  9. MaryAnn Paris says:

    Thank you, Sir, for this very fine piece, remembering a truly innovative company. I have been retire from Budd for the past 13 years and I have many fond memories of the people who helped make The Budd Company remarkable. Thank you, again.

  10. Carole Mack says:

    Reading this brought tears to my eyes; especially the photographs. I worked 32 years in the office and whenever it was necessary to go into any of the shop areas I was in awe. The plant took on a life of its own and to see it this way is very sad.

    1. Jay McGill says:

      Good afternoon I am in Virgina and I see that you used to work in the office I was wondering if you can give me some insite or any kind of information that would potentially help me out in anyway possible thank you in advance if you are able to or know who i could call to get some help

  11. Cholly R says:

    I started employment at Budd Co.in 1958.There were approximately 7,000 people working there at the time. This article is a wonderful tribute to the Budd employees from way back when to 2003 when Budd Co. at Hunting Park was closed. I am reminded of the many hours spent working there.The Budd Co. is still a large family. There are many groups of workers who meet regularly. I am Vice Chairman of UAW 813/757. We hold two meetings and a luncheon a year. Our attendance is usually from 200 to 300 members. Budd Co. is still a great family.

    God bless America
    God bless the UAW
    To hell with the NFL


    1. Robert Masciantonio says:


      I am happy to hear that so many former ex Philadelphia Budd employees remain connected.

      You can still see the faded UAW logo on the old union hall at 2332 W. Hunting Park Avenue across the street from the Budd Plant. It is a Banquet Hall now.

    2. John R. Leidy says:

      My grand father and father worked for Budd.
      They both loved the company. My grandfather, Russell C. Leidy was one of the original 9 employees. My dad, John C. Leidy joined in 1950 or 1951 in Detroit. I worked there two summer, 1972, 1973. My dad worked in the Stamping division. Would love to see the collection of pictures to perhaps see my ancestors at work!

    3. Beverly Przepioski (Joseph Przepioski) says:

      Where are the meetings? I would love to go and meet some of his friends. I hope in Pennsylvania. Let me know by contacting me at bveldorado54 @aol.com Thank you. Beverly Przepioski is his daughter of his estate.

  12. Christopher Houck says:

    My Grandfather, Father, Uncles & an Aunt worked at Budd for many years.
    I was there for one summer as a vacation replacement worker.

  13. Matt Miller says:

    Robert I have been researching Budd for more than 5 years now and would like to talk to you about your photos and Budd documents.
    I will be in Detroit the first week of Sept for research.
    Please Email me. Matt

  14. Jay McGill says:

    I was reading this article and I see that people still have memory of BUDD company I am looking for some information regarding BUDD company if anyone is able to help out please this is a very sensative and important subject. I am looking for BUDD company Union rep who can give me the contact information for a worker from specific shift and a specific line as well. If you can provide me with any information i would greatly appreciate it.

  15. Silverliner says:

    My husband and I met while working at The Red Lion Plant. Also, my father, brothers and grandfather worked at Budd. This was a great company to work for; but unfortunately, I believe its demise can be blamed on politics of the day.

    Jay McGill, if you’re searching for union information, contact the Headquarters of United Auto Workers (UAW). Or, try this toll-free number: 1-888-345-BUDD. This is the Benefits Administration Department in Troy, Michigan, where they have info on all Budd employees. There is a retiree helpline here: 1-800-221-8120.

    During the 1980’s the Budd Red Lion plant in Philadelphia was in full swing. They had all three assembly lines humming along with orders from AMTRAK, CTA (Chicago Transit authority) and other subway and rail lines around the world. Even without computers, this company was highly efficient and ran like a Swiss watch.

    One special order I recall was for the King of Morocco. He owned an 80-mile rail line. In this case, the King went all out for his self-propelled baby with Paris-designed interiors. His official emblem of two lions with front paws in the air and other embellishments was cast in bronze within a specialty forge in Philadelphia. The bronze emblems were about 5-foot tall, and one was placed on the front and back of each of his private railcars.

    Budd not only hired thousands of employees, but engaged local smaller companies for specialized work and supplies. Because Budd railcars were manufactured from a specialized, highly durable steel (from U.S. Steel), they were anti-corrosive. The parts market for Budd railcars continues on today because they held up so well over the years.

  16. Silverliner says:

    Thought I would include this story, which happened approximately 1970. From time-to-time, I would work in both the auto and rail divisions of Budd. This time, I was working in the auto. A Budd executive from Detroit decided to pay a visit to the Red Lion Plant Automotive Division. He drove to Philly in his special-made Lincoln Town Car. Through Budd, the car was stamped out in anti-corrosive stainless steel, then given a “brush” finish. Well, this was the most gorgeous thing on wheels! From a distance, it simply appeared as a silver painted car; but up close….Wow!

  17. David Reaves says:

    This is a really great article about a favorite subject of mine. Anyone who loves American railroading knows who Edward G. Budd was! His personal story, and that of his company, are inspiring on many levels.

    I’m writing a book on the Northeast Corridor’s high-speed electric ‘Metroliners’ that Budd built at Red Lion in the 1960s. Since Budd’s operations records are these days nowhere to be found, it’s been hard coming up with much information about the Red Lion plant. I would look forward to hearing from anybody that can give me details about its layout.

    Kind Regards,
    David Reaves
    Recklinghausen, Germany

    1. Susan Pfunke says:

      Hi David,

      My father, Robert Pfunke, worked at the Red Lion Budd Company Railway Division for many years. I may have some information that could help you with what you are looking for.

      Susan Pfunke

  18. Per Ahlstrom says:

    I have been researching Budd history for about 8 years now. My focus is the automotive division 1913-1942. The importance of Budd for the development of the automobile cannot be overstated. No other company has had the global position to almost immediately implement its inventions all over the globe. Up until 1927 Budd’s all steel bodies were in principle structured the same way as composite bodies, the difference being that the framework was in steel rather than wood. This worked well on open bodies, the warping of bodies and doors could easily be adjusted to make everything fit. When Budd started producing sedan bodies for Dodge they ran into terrible difficulties. Ledwinka describes how the massive amount of welding caused the bodies to spring out of true when they were taken out of the jigs. This meant that the doors would not fit, especially as they too were severely warped.
    After endless sleepless nights Ledwinka decided that they could not continue with this nightmare. He realized that the sedan bodies had to be designed in a completely different way to take advantage of the inherent properties of steel. And the sides of the cars had to be pressed in one piece. As the steel industry didn’t produce sheet steel wide enough to do this, Ledwinka had to start by inventing a method to weld narrow sheets together and heat treat the welded, wider sheet so it could be stamped without cracking.
    This technology was first used on the 1928 Wolseley in England and on the 1928 Dodge Victory Six.
    This new technology revolutionized the way cars were built. The tradition carried on from the horsedrawn carriages was finally broken. The economic structure of the car industry changed from labor intensive to capital intensive, which meant that the whole coachbuilding industry was eradicated and the small, independent car manufacturers who couldn’t afford the huge up front investments the new technology required, were stamped out of business.
    The demand for wider sheet steel also changed the steel industry, which had to build new, wider rolling mills to satisfy its automotive customers.
    I would very much like to get in touch with other researchers of Budd history. I have some unique material which corrects some of the misunderstandings that have become part of the accepted history on Budd. And I need more pictures – some of which illustrate this article – for a book on how the modern car body came to be.
    I live just north of Philly and can be reached at 267-907-5853

  19. Gary Weise says:

    (Your comment is awaiting moderation.) Note this is the spell check edited version of what I posted above. Obviously I should have done such before making the previous post. Can you use this to replace that?
    Great article, thank you so much for writing it. My maternal grandfather Harry E. Garrison “AKA Bud Garrison” worked at the Budd Co. his entire life. He ended up being their Comptroller. I understand he went with other Company officials to Wall Street when the Co. had it’s initial stock offering. I was told he was asked to write the history of the Company the last year he was there before he retired. I’m not sure when that was but I know he was retired before 1965. As I recall part of that optional assignment involved going to Europe for 6 months or so. For some reason my grandfather and grandmother didn’t want to go. Apparently that decision meant he didn’t get to write the history. I had the great privilege of working for the Budd Co. in the summer of 1965 as a “management trainee” between my Junior and Senior year as a Civil Engineering student at the U. of Delaware. I worked in the Maintenance Dept. at Hunting Park. I think a guy named Charlie McManus(?) may have been the Dept. Head. I worked with a full time Civil Engineer in the Dept. It was a fantastic experience which I’ll always remember and be extremely thankful to have had. Your article makes me want to dig in my resume records and see if I can find anything concrete about that time. I have numerous memories from that experience and stories that were shared by family members. My mother was a widow for 25 years but ended up marrying John Edwards who was the head of Marketing for Budd at one time. It would be great to connect with you and share more if you are interested.
    Gary V. Weise, P.E., MBA

  20. Gary Weise says:

    I can be reached at 904 635-0623

  21. Arthur F. Scaltrito says:

    Nepotism should have been a word synonymous with the Budd company. I worked there from 1975 to 1977 is a die Setter at heavy equipment operator. My father started working there the year I was born 1954 as a tool and die maker Class A and remain there until his retirement in 1991. Was also a UAW shop steward there I had two uncles that were tool and die makers. I had an uncle who was plant superintendent of the Gary Indiana plant. I had an aunt who was working for the Budd company system Technologies in Fort Washington Pennsylvania. I made a lot of money for someone in their twenties I had a new car and a boat when I was 22.

  22. Arthur F. Scaltrito says:

    My uncle Louie was a great tool and die maker.
    My uncle Tony was a great tool estimator.
    I worked in the R building I had rigging experience from working at Trailmobile.
    I made $6.05 per hour for The Budd Company in the 70’s.
    My father is 93 and still belongs to Local 813 UAW.
    And collects a Pension.
    I was laid off 13 times in 2 1/2 years.
    So sad a great company go down.

    1. oliver durham says:

      first black apprentice 1959 to 1993 toolmaker 734 658 3309 leave message

  23. Bob Balan says:

    There were many innovation which are not mentioned in your research. The Thunderbird and stainless steel concept of the Lincoln Continental. Many features of spotwelding. Vehicle frame hydro forming. Production robotics testing. Magnetic levitation (mag lev) trains. These were all Budd innovations. Read with interest the comment on nepotism. Yes, there was lots of that but once hired in, that person had to be able to do the job. It was not necessarily a bad thing. I hired in in 1965 and worked in the Philly plant on Huntingpark Ave. Started as a quality inspector. Worked in all aspects of that job from assembly inspection, press,steel, statistical and layout. Got into manufacturing engineering and moved to Rochester, Michigan in 1981. That’s when the engineering HQ was moved from Philly. Travelled to the Philly plant many times on business. Saw the decline. So sad. Finally retired when much of Budd was sold to Martenria. Saw a lot in my 42+ years there.

  24. David Ballard says:

    Thank you for a very interesting history. The founder of the Jenkintown consulting firm I work for, Gellman Research Associates (GRA), was Aaron Gellman, who was Vice President of Planning at Budd in the 60s. He left Budd to start GRA in 1972, and later became the director of the Transportation Institute at Northwestern University. https://www.mccormick.northwestern.edu/news/articles/2016/01/transportation-scholar-aaron-gellman-dies-at-eighty-five.html

  25. Paul budd says:

    Did any one know all Edwards grandchildren First of 5 born may27 1961 Lynn second born April 29 1962 mark Anthony Budd third born June 3 1963 John gregery Budd fourth born Dec ,3 1964 Micheal Edward Budd and last born Sept 27 1966 Paul Richard Budd this was are grandfather very proud to be part of such a man my father Mike Budd Edwards 4 sons he is alive and doing great he justed turned 80 years old thank you all who have been apart of this part of history God bless everyone any questions email me at pbuddman33@gmail.com I have some old pictures my dad had tucked away I can share

  26. Gus Malavolta says:

    Thank you for such a great article and photos of the budd company. My father along with myself worked at the hunting park plant fortunately my dad was able to retire from budd I was not so lucky I came in towards the end. I have incredible memories of working on operating presses and in operations department using the spot welding machines assembling different components for the auto industry.Considering everything you wrote about Edward Budd and his magnificent accomplishments they should make a movie about him. Thank you very much for bringing back such fond memories of working along side my dad at the budd company of Philadelphia.

  27. Jim Pauley says:

    I’m proud to say that my aunt, Anna DiGiugno was one of the 5,500 women hired at the start of WW2, and worked at the Hunting Park plant for over 50 years!
    Anna will celebrate her 93rd birthday in a couple of weeks.

    The Budd Company played an important part in the history of Philadelphia, and certainly this country. Thank you for sharing your research and photos. Great stuff!

  28. Ronald Gruno says:

    From Ron Gruno
    During WWII my Mom worked at
    Hunting Park Ave. I believe she
    was a supervisor there. She was
    able to bring home a mortar
    shell , unloaded of course.
    I kept it all these years until
    recently donated it to the SW
    Florida Military Museum located
    in Cape Coral Florida, which has been on display for a while and
    a note stating same and Co.
    name recognition. If any body
    comes down this way, look me up, as I volunteer at the museum.
    Thanks for the article of the
    Budd history.

  29. Ronald Gruno says:

    From Ronald Gruno
    Thank you for reply. Just to
    add for your preview; my family
    Lived in NE Philly, I went to
    Frankford H.S (not too far from
    Frankford Arsenal.

  30. Brian Trexler says:

    My Father, Raymond Trexler, retired from the Hunting Park location around 1991 after 42 years there. They called him “Cape May Ray or “Half-a- Day Ray” as he would always take a half day on Friday to get a jump start on the weekend down the shore. He was a tool and die maker and some sort of foreman. Sadly, Dad passed 3 years ago and he loved how we would show him Budd stuff, websites, etc on our cell phones when we visited Cape May. He loved taking selfies as long as we didn’t put him “On the Air”. I have a stamped Budd 75th anniversary ashtray on my dresser to this day.

    1. Hey Brian,
      My father William Nicholas, worked within the same time frame, in the tool and die department, and also retired around the same time as your father Cape May Ray. My father, 97 years old, recently passed in May, 2121. He also built his house in here in South Jersey – Glassboro, NJ
      Over the years, we recorded and kept a diary of his life, and all of the people he remembered throughout his life. I’ll check the pages of the book, to see if there’s a mention of Trexler.
      I too, am in possession of an old Budd anniversary edition ashtray, and a silver platter of some sort, as well as old torches and specialty tools, he swiped from the company, over a 40 year period.

      1. I meant to type, my father passed in May, 2021. (now where is that trusty edit button) lol

  31. Brian Trexler says:

    As I think of it…my Grandfather Herbert Gomeringer got my father the job at Budd all those years ago.

  32. Ryan Krause says:

    My grandpa Frank Krause worked there for many years until his retirement in the mid 1990’s. Always spoke highly of Budd. He received management training before the start of the Korean War and immediately started working again right after the war. Back when companies really appreciate and took care of their employees. Thank you for the research on Budd Company.

  33. This blog is very useful for everyone There was a time when almost any product imaginable was being produced in Philadelphia’s “Workshop of the World.” Despite this immense diversity, the city spawned relatively few companies that would ever reach the size or notoriety of corporations like Bethlehem Steel or General Motors.

  34. Eva Monheim says:

    My father (Andrew Shast worked for Budd from the 1940s until December 31, 1979) worked at the Budd Company and knew one of the Budd sons. My dad was a millwright and invented numerous safety features on the presses like the emergency buttons. The industry had many accidents and Mr. Budd was always concerned with safety and losing workers. My dad was the first OSHA inspector for the company. The company even had a Safety Calendar each year and would give out prizes for the best safety slogans. My sister and I won $25 savings bonds for our slogans.
    Stories were told around the dinner table about how Mr. Budd was so approachable and would come on the floor to talk with the workers. In the 1970s Budd had about 15,000 workers and it was the largest employer in the City of Philadelphia at the time.
    Food and flower vendors would park themselves outside the factory and sell their products to workers either for meals or for purchases on their way home.
    The company had three shifts working continuously – Fisher Body chassis were stacked on the trains in the railyards waiting for shipment. As the passenger cars passed the company on the Reading Railroad (now Septa) you could see the flatbed trains snaking their way through the railyard. It was an amazing site.

  35. Thomas P. Clark says:

    After graduating from high school in 1953 I applied for an apprenticeship at the BUDD hunting park plant. I worked in 5R, 5l and what was known as the tank shop in those days. In 1955 I was drafted into the Army. Due to my short stature I assigned to the Tank corps. I was assigned to an M48 Tank both here at Ft. Benning and on the East/West border in Germany. hopefully they were ones had worked on. I returned to work in 1957 and completed my training in1959. In late 1959 Budds went into the boom part of their cycle and it was 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. The bust came in Oct. 1960 I was out of work for six months a new experience for me.
    I finally got a job at Frankford Arsenal where the training and schooling I received at Budds was a great help with my advancement in government service.

  36. Linda Reider says:

    Extraordinary historical information and photographs! We must capture history before it is lost. I worked at both Hunting Park and Red Lion in the offices in the 70’s and 80’s and was so proud to be a part of what made Philadelphia so special in a once-dominant industrial nation.

  37. Lauren Deutsch says:

    My dad worked for Budd’s Nuclear Systems Division. I was told that when the place was shut down, it was filled with concrete because of the radioactive contamination in parts of the building. I don’t know where that place was located. Do you? You’re welcome to get in touch with me.


    I own a 1931 Ford Model A Truck with the BUDD Cab

  39. Neil Glenney says:

    Firstly I would like to say a great big Thank You to the Hidden City Team & to Robert Masciantonio’s 2018 well crafted 5,000 + word historical story about the Budd Company. This is a story that must be told. This is a company that has had such positive impact on so many people’s lives over so many years.
    Secondly, I wanted to mention how I came across this very informative research work published by Robert. I an currently writing a book about ‘Reshoring Manufacturing Businesses back into the USA’. It was just natural to start my search with a company that has greatly impacted my entire career.
    I started working at the Hunting Park campus back in 1968. I was going to college at night and when I found that Budd’s would help pay for my education it was a slam-dunk decision to begin working in their engineering group as a design-draftsman. I still have a vision of looking out those big 2nd floor windows in our department seeing that giant TastyKake Factory across from our company parking lot. That memory of coming in that side entrance from that parking lot & getting the morning Daily News Rag, along with a Hot Philly Pretzel, can never be forgotten. I spent 2 years eating that high cab breakfast before going off to work at the Red Lion Plant on a project assignment installing a new Ford Econoline Frame Assembly Line.
    Finishing that assignment I took a leave of absence for a short time to finish my school work & near the end of that time I was offered to go to Budd Detroit and work on a new Modular High-Cube Shipping concept being developed. I worked 1/2 time for 1 year at the Detroit Plant & the rest at the Ford Dearborn Development Shop. This assignment ended up to start shipping the 1st trial finished Mercury stamping shipments from the Budd Gary, IN Plant to the Ford St Louis Assembly Plant. I then spent 6 years working at the Budd Gary Plant.
    I worked for Hank Plefka, who came from Budd Phila, and his boss was our Plant Manger, Ken Hockenberry who also came from Budd Phila, both were the 2 best leaders I have ever come across in all my years working in any industry. Unfortunately I began to see to many changes coming to our automotive markets by foreign competitors & I decided to pack up “cold-turkey” with my wife & 3 small children and move to Phoenix, Arizona – soon landing a key position with a major Fortune 100 Company in their Computer Manufacturing Division. Plenty of good things happened with this company except after 2 years they decided to move me into a different industry sector relocate to a SW city location.
    At that point I remembered what Hank always told me about working at Budd Company “if you can work successfully at Budd Company you can work on anything – anywhere with any business”. He was right – I spent the last 44 years working in my own engineering company that I started in 1980. I am still going strong & have no intentions of slowing down – except to write the book I am currently working on these days. You can take a peak at my company & what we do at http://www.confacs.com
    My Final Note: I most likely have already said more than you had time to read on this comment… but please take a look at a wonderful 2011 published book by Paul Clemens Titled ‘Punching Out’ – One Year in a Closing of an Auto Plant. It is about Budd Detroit Closing in 2006 their 2million square foot stamping plant. He also has a lot of details about the closing of the Budd Gary Plant in 1982. Plenty of ties back to Hunting Park Plant also in this book with many great photos and layouts of the press rooms.
    Again – Thank You & I appreciate this Comment Space to tell you all about my Budd Company great memories!

  40. Steven Taylor says:

    Great work. My grandfather worked in the pattern shop during the 1920s and 1930s I rode many streamliner trains and saw the BUDD Company name. I knew it was a special organization and skilled work force.

  41. Ted Heffernan says:

    My Father, Ted Heffernan started with Budd in the 60’s at Continental Diamond Fiber Plant in Bridgeport, PA. After sucessfully redisigning the manufacturing process He began a 25 year career with Budd in management. By 1978 my family was living in Michigan, where He was Senior Vice President on the board of directors when the company was bought out by Thyssen Steel. I worked many summers at Budd Plants on the production lines. I worked at Hunting Park Ave, Gindy Trailer in Downingtown, and Milford Fab Works in Michigan where the DeLorean prototype bodies were one of my projects.In the mid 80’s I made a sales call to the Hunting Park site where his name was still stenciled on his parking spot. Many fond memories. I attended many plant tours of the other Budd locations with my Dad. Railway at Red Lion, CDF in Newark De, and Phoenixville, PA to name a few. I met many great men & women through my exposure to Budd Co. I still have many of my dad’s mementos in my office to this day. Thanks for the story. Well Done!

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