Chicago Steam Sugar Refinery, Belcher’s Sugar Refinery
Life Span: 1859-1871
Location: N. Water, East of Rush Street Bridge
Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1859
THE NEW SUGAR REFINERY.– The new sugar refinery just erected by Mr. Belcher, near the mouth of the river, on the North Side, was put in motion for the first time on Saturdary. Everything worked smoothly, and it is expected to be ready to fill orders by the 1st of April. It is stated that twenty-four families hare emigrated to this city, the heads of which will be employed in this establishment. This is one of the most important additions to the business of our city, which has been made for many years.
Chicago Tribune, October 14, 1859
CHICAGO SUGAR REFINERY.—The Chicago Sugar Refining Company are just completing an addition rto their Refinery, four stories high, sixty feet wide and sixty-five feet in depth, giving them most extensive premises. Their business must, from these indications, be both sweet and profitable.
Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1859
CHICAGO SUGAR REFINERY.
Its Origin and Success.
We know of nothing of a local character that can prove of more substantial interest to our readers than details of of the progress which manufacturing, especially in articles of staple character, is making in our city at this time. We have heretofore, and frequently, set forth to our own citizens and also to outsiders, the attractive position of our city as a great manufacturing, as it has been for many years a great commercial, centre. The results from those suggestions have been manifest in the establishment of many branches of manufacturing industry, and among others, the one named at the head of this article.
In the early part of the autumn of 1858, after surveying the field pretty thoroughly, the Chicago Refining Company was inaugurated under the Corporation laws of Illinois. Its principal originator was Mr. William M. Belcher, whose name is as familiar with this branch of manufacturing industry, as is that of Winfield Scott in the strategy of war. Mr. Belcher, as all know, was at the head of the immense establishment of the same character in St. Louis, for many years. The capital stock of this new Company as started was $30,000, but in the erection and completion of the necessary buildings and apparatus, nearly $70,000 were expended. The first and present officers are:
- President—William M. Belcher, of St. Louis (Corrected to Chicago).
Secretary—H. W. Hunter, of Chicago.
Treasurer—E. S. Hunter, of Chicago.
Superintendent—R. W. Bender, of Chicago.
These gentlemen, with the exception of the President, give their entire personal attention to the business of the concern, and are admirably qualified for their position—being young, ambitious and thoroughly devoted to their calling. And here let us say that the Chicago Refining Company is not, as is generally supposed, a branch of the St. Louis concern, but an entirely separate and distinct institution.
About the first of September, 1858, the ground was first broken for the erection of the buildings now occupied by the Company, and on the 16th of April following, the establishment was completed and the machinery set in motion. The main edifice is 60 by 106 feet, five stories high, with an addition recently erected 60 by 50 feet. The Retort room is 36 by 36 feet, and the Engine room 84 by 20. This comprises all the room now occupied by the Company. The engine used is one of Pittsburgh manufacture, of 40-horse power, with a Doctor engine of just one half its capacity, the power to run them being obtained from two tubular and two flue boilers. There is also a stationary steam fire engine, of peculiar beauty and great power, located in the engine room, plentifully supplied with hose, for the emergency of a fire, which is almost an impossibility. It requires about 15 tons of Ormsby coal per day to run this machinery with the vigor needed.
As we have before said, on the 16th of April, of the present year, the Chicago Refining Company commenced operations. At first 50 men were employed, and about 20,000 pounds of sugar per day went through the refining process. This quantity was soon increased to 40,000 lbs. per day, requiring services of about 80 men, and this last is about the quantity now daily undergoing the like transformation from the most offensive and unpalatable looking stuff to an article of extreme beauty and excellent quality.
From this daily consumption of 40,000 lbs. of the raw material is produced about 100 bbls. of Refined White Sugar and about 30 bbls. of Syrup. The Sugars mostly used by this company for refining are the Melados, Muscovado, New Orleans, and Polanzillas or Yucatan Sugar. The appearance of the latter article very clearly indicates the semi-barbaric origin of its manufacture. It is put up in cakes of conical shape, weighing two or three pounds each, and thoroughly enveloped in a species of cane top. It is extremely black and uninviting in appearance before it passes through the refining process, but when ready to leave the refinery is an excellent and attractive article of yellow sugar. There is not much of this article comes to the American market, but it is readily taken by this company when it can be obtained. It is put up in Yucatan by the Indians of that country, one Indian perhaps supplying one barrel during the season.
The process of refining is very intricate, and perhaps a few persons have any conceptions of the many manipulations the article referred to has to undergo before it is considered ready for the market. The principal article in the process is bone dust. This is obtained from the bone dust manufactory of Walter Lester, situated on the North Branch, and from Milwaukee and St. Louis. This Refinery consumes perhaps 150,000 pounds of this article per year. Little or no blood is used, as that article is only needed for a different class of sugars than those refined at this establishment.
Since the commencement of operations in the refinery, all the sugars and syrups that could be turned out have met with a ready sale, almost entirely to jobbers in this city, and probably if the capacity of the establishment of this Refinery, almost the entire supply of these articles was obtained from New York. Now little or none comes from that city.
The following is the description and present prices of the Sugar and Syrup manufactured by the Company:
These articles have all an established reputation in our market, and meet with ready sale.
The capacity of the establishment is continually being extended by the introduction of additional machinery, and probably no branch of manufacturing was ever inaugurated in this or any other city with more flattering prospects of success.
We commend to the attention of our citizens and all others, the successful results here mentioned, in the hope that the marked success of the Chicago Refining Company may induce new investments in other and equally prominent and staple manufacturing operations. We think the fact is pretty thoroughly established that no locality, at least in the West, affords so attractive and profitable field for like enterprises as the city of Chicago.
Elevated view of men and ships near the McCormick Works and the Chicago River during the Chicago Fire of 1871. Photograph taken from south bank of river, east of Rush Street, showing McCormick Works in the center on the north bank of the river. The Sugar Refinery is to the right of McCormick’s factories.
Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1859
William M. Belcher, Esq.-A Correction.—In our article in yesterday’s issue on the Chicago Sugar Refinery, we stated that the President of the Company, Mr. Belcher, was a resident of St. Louis. This is a mistake. Mr. Belcher resides in this city and gives his undivided attention to the interests of the establishment which he originated.
Chicago Tribune, July 24, 1860
ALMOST FINISHED.—The tall chimney of the Sugar Refinery approaches completion. It is to be 150 feet high.
Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1860
Though the main structure of this extensive establishment in its erection belong to a previous season, yet enough has been done and is still in progress the present summer to demand reference here. Additions hare been made to the original structure which largely increase its capacity and have required nearly a million of brick. A noble cylindrical smoke-stack is now being built, which is to be carried 150 feet high. The base is square and 17 feet on each side, and rises 47 feet high. The masons on this improvement are Messrs. Wallbaum & Bauman.
Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1860
A Beautiful Invention.
At the Sugar Refinery, on the north side of the river, there is in operation an attachment to a steam boiler, which unites wonderful simplicity and success of operation, replacing thempump in feeding boilers, and doing away with
all the various and complicated movements and appliances to such end. We had heari before of Giffard’s Injector, and have read where it has been described by high authorities in steam matters. An opportunity is given as above for our citizens and practical men to witness it in its beautiful and perfectly complete utility.
Messrs. Walworth, Hubbard & Co., No. 181 Lake street are the exclusive agents for the Northwest, and by them the Injector is being introduced into an use it will rapidly extend and widen.
The Giffard Injector was invented by the Frenchman whose name it bears but a few years since, and has been adopted extensively in France and England. Messrs. Sellers, the well known machinists of Philadelphia, control the patent in the United States, and have erected extensive machinery for the manufacture of this instrument, for which they have already extensive orders for locomotives and boilers of every class.
By means of a small brass, cylindrical instrument, with three inlet or outlet pipes, and two valve handles, one working within the other, water can be drawn from a moderate height or distance, without working piston or other force than the mere velocity of a jet of steam, taken from the boiler and forced in grain below the water line.
A steam pipe is taken from any convenient part of the boiler to this instrument; the steam pipe, soon after it enters, is surrounded by the supply water and the two are soon brought in contact and together then pass through a reduced or conical shaped opening (in a No. 8 instrument only five-sixteenths of an inch in diameter,) the steam and water united now pass through an open space, (literally in the open air, for you can see them in motion through openings in the machine,) into another tube of about the sue size and shape as the one they leave, in which tube is situated a check valve to prevent the water coming back from the boiler; this check valve is moved and the steam and water together rush past it into the boiler.
The water is drawn along with the steam upon the same principle by which a body of water at rest will, when in contact with a pipe through which water is flowing rapidly,
through a small opening in that pipe, join the water in motion, flowing along with it. This instrument forces water into boilers at all times when the steam is up, requiring very little attention—is easily adjusted to the requirements of the boiler by turning a lever to regulate either the water or steam supply, and the engineer can, at any time, after a little experience, judge of the amount of water passing by the position of the levers or handles.
This injection must inevitably replace pumps and “doctors” on steamboats and other boilers for forcing water into them, and we commend an inspection of it, not only to those who are immediately interested in steam boilers, but to the curious in seeing interesting and beautiful machinery.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
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