The company was organized under an ordinance of
the District of the Northern Liberties in 1838, with an authorized capital
of $100,000, divided into shares of $50 each. In 1844 it was incorporated
with its capital stock limited to $200,000. Its purpose was to ‘construct
and maintain suitable works for the manufacture of high carburetted hydrogen
gas from bituminous coal and other substances, for the purpose of public and
private illumination in the district of the Northern Liberties, or in
streets dividing that district from those opposite.’
This plant is noteworthy because it was the first to extract gas from native
supplies of bituminous coal along the Monongahela, Ohio, and Allegheny
Inventor Joseph Battin was appointed superintendent of the Gas Works, by the
Board of Managers of Northern Liberties in 1841. He contributed much to gas
technology by perfecting a machine for breaking and screening coal in his
own shop near the gas works. Battin obtained the first U.S. patent granted
for a ‘coal-breaking machine’ in 1843. Further refinements on the breaker
caused Pennsylvania coal land operators to sign lucrative agreements with
Northern Liberties remained the only private gas company after the 1854
Consolidation of the municipalities in Philadelphia County.
It operated until 1956 when the Philadelphia Gas Works absorbed it.
© Roy E. Goodman and David G. Orr, Ph.D., Workshop of the World (Oliver
Evans Press, 1990).