Founded in 1902 by Alban Eavenson and J. Walter Levering in Philadelphia, the Eavenson & Levering plant scoured wool so it could be processed into yarn. The firm moved to Camden in 1906 and expanded so rapidly that it incorporated in 1916. At one time Eavenson & Levering processed 50,000,000 pounds of wool a year. A major employer, at one time the company had 500 production workers and 100 employed in other capacities.
Alban Eavenson was a son of Jones Eavenson, the founder of the J. Eavenson & Sons Company, which manufactured soap products. This company purchased Adolph Segal's newly constructed but never used sugar refinery at Delaware Avenue and Penn Street. They adapted the refinery to produce soap products, and did business until 1959.
J. Walter Levering was the president of the company for many years. When he passed, he was succeeded in the business by his son, Frank D. Levering, who died in 1943. Grandson John Levering then served as chairman of the board. Another grandson, F. Weir Levering, was president of the Levering-Riebel Printing Company, which was located at 1845 Haddon Avenue in Camden.
With its large workforce, the Eavenson & Levering Company was one of Camden's major employers. During World War II, many Eavenson & Levering employees served America. Some, like Albert W. Laurie, Joseph A. Scheurich, and Charles A. Brunk, made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
At one time Eavenson & Levering was the world's largest wool scouring and carbonizing company, but by the fall of 1951 rising production costs caused the board of directors to reevaluate the company's prospects. A decision was made to close the doors and sell off the assets, and the firm announced its closing on December 7, 1951.
The buildings were sold, and were operated as warehouses for many years. The Mack Warehouse Corporation operated the facility from 1953 into the late 1960s. By 1970 James Gallegher's firms, James Gallegher Inc. trucking and Gallegher's Warehouses Inc. owned the 301 Jackson Street site. The Gallegher company was there as late as 1977. The site was then acquired by Peter Del Grande, whose parents owned Nick and Sophie's Cafe at 7th & Central Avenue in Camden's Centerville section. When Peter Del Grande died in the mid-1980s, the site was tied up in the settlement of the estate for several years. A disastrous fire had destroyed much of the property, and the South Jersey Port Corporation razed everything else save building #70 (the stable), during the mid-1990s.
A History of Eavenson & Levering by Paul W. Schopp
EARLY HISTORY OF EAVENSON & LEVERING
Alban Eavenson was one of the sons in the title “J. Eavenson & Sons, Inc.,” a soap manufacturer with plants located at 20th and Wood Streets. in Philadelphia and along Delaware Avenue in Camden, NJ. Prior to 1900 he was an active member of that firm; He resided at 2013 Vine Street in Philadelphia.
In 1900 Eavenson left the soap works to become a dealer in wool and wool waste. By 1902 he had formed a partnership with J. Walter Levering, a clerk and bookkeeper, who also resided in Philadelphia at 1540 N. Eighth Street. This unincorporated firm became known as Eavenson & Levering. They were primarily waste dealers headquartered at 2025 Naudain Street in the Quaker City.
About 1905 the partners moved their operations across the river to Camden. Eavenson already knew the virtues of locating a manufacturing company in Camden since the soap factory had been situated there since at least the 1890s. Eavenson also knew the soap industry very well. This provided him with the technical knowledge he required for wool-scouring.
Eavenson & Levering immediately began constructing a wool scouring plant on Atlantic Avenue near Ferry Avenue. It consisted of a wool scouring mill, boiler and engine rooms, water tank and a long, narrow warehouse and machine shop. This plant remained the main office for the firm until 1921 when the office staff relocated to the new plant at Third and Jackson Streets. At that point the original plant became another wool warehouse.
Eavenson & Levering remained a partnership until June, 1916 when the two men officially incorporated the business in the State of New Jersey. The specialization of the company created an ever-increasing demand for their services by the rapidly expanding woolen industry. This increasing demand taxed the original plant and warehousing facilities beyond capacity, forcing the company to search for expansion land. They looked at the wide, empty, meadow land surrounding Little Newton Creek (also known as Line Ditch). They acquired this land about 1909 with the intention of constructing the largest wool scouring plant in the country.
The first buildings constructed on the site were warehouses nos. 2, 3 & 4 along with a fire protection water tank near warehouse no. 4. The company erected these buildings about 1910 on what would have been the corner of Pear and Third Streets and provided much needed warehousing space for raw and finished wool.
Building no. 20 appeared next, in 1913. The construction of this scouring mill tripled the capacity of the firm. Along with this mill, the boiler and engine house, smokestack, railroad siding with the coal trestle, dust bins, pipe tunnel and the three wood 50,000 gallon water tanks near the boiler house were all simultaneously constructed. Building no. 20 originally featured a large loading platform on the Third Street end of the mill.
The next two buildings to be constructed on the site were a one-story addition to the Third Street end of no. 20 for shipping and receiving and building no. 40. E&L first used the latter building for carding and combing operations. The George Kressler Construction Company began both of these buildings in November 1915.
With two exceptions, the firm constructed the remaining portions of this facility between 1916 and 1920. With the completion of buildings no. 50 and 60, building no. 40 became the scouring mill and building no. 20, the carbonizing mill.
AT EAVENSON & LEVERING
EMPLOYMENT AT EAVENSON & LEVERING
During the years 1905 to 1920, Eavenson & Levering, along with other great industrial plants in Camden, absorbed much of the successive waves of ethnic groups immigrating to the city, giving them employment and a future in a growing America. This aided the city government in dealing with increasing tensions between the established residents of Camden and the newcomers.
Employment at Eavenson & Levering varied somewhat over the years with the peak occurring during the First World War and lasting into the 1920s and with a second, artificial, peak during WW II. In 1912 the firm had 350 in its workforce. This figure stayed fairly constant until 1918 when employment swelled to 500 to meet the demands of World War I.
By 1927 Eavenson & Levering had more than achieved their goal of becoming the largest wool scouring plant in the country; they were the largest in the world! At that time they employed 425 people. During 1937, despite the Great Depression, they had an employment roster of 430 males and 55 females.
On the eve of the Second World War the workforce had slipped slightly to 412 males and 20 females. However by the end of WW II the payroll list had soared back to 500. This was, unfortunately, the swan song for Eavenson & Levering. With changes that had occurred in the woolen industry, organized labor problems, a buyout by another firm, and with the importation of wool material from war-torn countries to bolster their economies, the services that Eavenson & Levering offered soon were no longer required. The company contracted with the Samuel A. Freeman Auction Company of Philadelphia to hold a machinery auction in 1952, completely stripping the plant of its wool-scouring capabilities.
SERVICES AND PROCESSES OFFERED BY EAVENSON & LEVERING
During the early years of the plant(s) in Camden, Eavenson & Levering offered five main services to their clients. These consisted of sorting and pickering, scouring, carbonizing, carding and combing and storage of grease (dirty wool) and finished wools. In later years, the company discontinued carding and combing. At no time did Eavenson & Levering own any of the wool it processed. The company operated strictly as a commission scouring mill.
The services Eavenson & Levering offered were vitally necessary, for when a mill owner or wool commission merchant purchased wool it was known as being in the grease. This means that the wool was dirty and contained vegetable matter like burrs, seeds and straw. It also contained yolk: a combination of wool grease, dung and suint or body sweat.
Speaking in the present tense, the following is a contemporary description of what you would have observed if you had visited the plant during its operational days:
Shipments of wool arrive by either boxcar or ship. One major transportation company for domestic wool is the Merchants and Miners line, which brings wool from the southwest. If wool arrives by ship, it is transported by horse and wagon to one of the company's warehouses to be weighed and to await the next step in processing. The combined warehousing space at E&L has a capacity in excess of 65,000 bales of wool. At any given time the wool in storage is insured for 4 to 7 million dollars. Wool arrives from every corner of the globe. Thousands of bales of wool moving in and out of the plant each week contributing a significant amount to the local economy and its commerce.
Sorting is an operation that requires much space and time. It is performed on the top floor of building no. 7 by experts who handle each and every fleece checking for length of fibre, soundness and elasticity, fineness of hair and color. Many years of training are required to become a competent wool sorter. A large amount of space is needed to keep the various classifications of wool separate from one another. Samples are clipped and sent to the in-plant lab for analysis to design a customized treatment plan for each shipment of wool.
The wool is then sent down to the second or third floor of building no. 7 for opening, willowing and pickering. The opener machine spreads the wool in smooth, even layers until a batch is evenly distributed into a big pile like a layer cake. This machine, like the willower and pickerer also removes some of the foreign particles in the wool. The wool is then cut into and slices are carried to the hoppers of the willowers or pickerers. The willowing machine loosens the fibres of the wool fleece and the pickering machine removes some of the larger pieces of vegetable matter (i.e., burrs, etc.). Different machines are used depending on the geographical origin of the wool. The opener, willower and pickerer all work on similar mechanics: inside of these machines are cylinders embedded with pins or burrs. These cylinders revolve and engage the wool for straightening the staple and to remove vegetable matter. If the wool is to be scoured, it is sent by chute to the scouring mill in Building no. 40.
Inside building 40, the scouring mill, are located 13 scouring machine trains which consists of three or four vats or bowls containing a scouring liquor consisting of water, carbonate of potash and dissolved soap, usually palm or olive oil soap. The water is pre-treated using a Permutit water softening system. The wool introduced into the scouring train by an automatic loader and is moved about each bowl by a series of rakes. It passes into successively cleaner liquors until it reaches the last bowl where it is rinsed.
Each step of wool processing is carefully monitored for quality assurance. When wool is being scoured at the boiling point of the Liquor, 212 degrees it is only 18 degrees short of being destroyed by temperature.
After the wool has been scoured it is sent through rollers to extract the excess fluid and then it is inserted into the steam heated dryers. Humidity in the dryers is vigilantly monitored to maintain a 12% moisture content in the fibres.
While the wool is no longer “in the grease” it is still not completely rid of burrs and vegetable matter which can seriously interfere with further processing; so if the client requests it, the scoured wool is sent to the carbonizing mill in building #20.
The carbonizing mill contains seven acid trains on the first floor. The mechanical operations of carbonizing are very similar to scouring.
Basically, carbonizing is a chemical process used to remove burrs and vegetable matter from the wool without hurting the fibres. Wool, after scouring, is placed in a train of large bowls or troughs in which there is a solution of sulphuric acid and water. After a submergence of about 20 minutes, the wool is sent through rollers to extract any excess acid solution and then sent into steam heated dryers where the acid is given an opportunity to chemically “burn” the foreign matter it has impregnated. After leaving the dryer, the wool is sent through another set of rollers to crush the burned vegetable matter into dust. The wool is next fed into the willowers and dusters to remove the dust which is sent through metal ducts to outside dust collectors. The carbonizing mill has 39 crushing roller sets operating in it. An alternative method of carbonizing is to substitute Aluminum Chloride for the sulfuric acid.
Buildings no. 50 & 60 originally operated as a carding and combing mill. Carding and combing operations consists of running the somewhat matted but fluffy wool (as it comes from the scouring or carbonizing mill) through a machine that is about 30' long. This machine, with revolving cylinders covered with a wire fabric, further cleans and separates the wool fibres which are removed from the machine by a fast moving comb. The wool at this point is called a sliver. It is then sent through another comb where the short fibres of wool, noils and paint clips, are further removed. After completing this operation, the wool is wound into a ball called a “top.” Eavenson & Levering would either ship the tops to the client or warehouse them until the client is ready. The firm discontinued carding and combing operations in the late 1920s.
After the wool had been processed according to the client’s wishes it is sent to building 41, at the back of the plant. The wool is packed into mechanical balers, baled and sent to the warehouse to be prepared for either storage or shipment.
The main storage for shipping and receiving at Eavenson & Levering consists of warehouses nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5a and 6; the old mill on Atlantic Ave. is also utilized for storage. If the client is not ready to use the wool that E&L has processed for them, it will be stored for a fee.
In the mid-1940s, modernization efforts at the plant produced a mono-rail handling system for easier movement of the bales of wool. This system was installed throughout the plant.
As late as 1951 the company continued to install new equipment in the plant, indicating that the decision to cease operations may have been a sudden one.
UTILIZATION OF THE EAVENSON & LEVERING BUILDINGS
LATER UTILIZATION OF THE EAVENSON & LEVERING BUILDINGS
The original plant on Atlantic Ave. today serves as one of the warehouse properties of the HWR Corp. This company has numerous warehouse holdings throughout Camden. This building burned sometime between 2000 and 2002. At the main plant at Third and Jackson, wool scouring operations came to an end in late 1951 with the equipment auctioned off in February, 1952. However, it should be pointed out that the National Worsted Mills, Inc. of Jamestown, New York, bought out the Eavenson & Levering firm in the late 1940s. It is possible that this was a case of another wool scouring company buying out the competition and closing down the purchased plant.
Regardless of the reasons, from 1952 until the mid-1990s, these structures functioned as warehousing space. By 1953, although the name Eavenson & Levering was retained, the plant complex became known as the Mack Warehouse Corp. buildings.
Sometime during the 1960s the complex changed hands and the new owner was James Gallagher, Inc. It became known as Gallagher’s Warehouse. Around 1977 ownership changed again, and Mr. Peter Del Grande took possession. This resident of Collingswood, New Jersey would make headline news in the mid-1980s by dying under mysterious circumstances. Some accounts listed it as suicide while others theorized a mafia “hit” caused his demise.
The plant complex is not used at all today. The South Jersey Port Corp. had some interest in it but the property remained tied up in the Del Grande Estate which includes IRS tax liens until the early 1990s. Wool warehouses 1 thru 6 burned down in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, the South Jersey Port Corporation razed the remaining portions of the plant, with the exception of building #70 (the stable), during the mid-1990s. All of the company’s records disappeared with the post-demolition rubble.
Camden Courier-Post - March 17, 1936
POWELL REARRESTED AS COUNTY
"Joey" Powell, former boxer who was arrested by city police in
connection with a South Camden holdup and subsequently released, was
rearrested by county detectives last night.
was taken into custody on orders of Prosecutor Samuel
who also ordered the arrest of a second suspect.
Camden police turned the case over to the prosecutor's
office after the arraignment of Walter Lewandowski, who was caught in
a police trap Friday night as he allegedly attempted to steal a $800
at the Eavenson
& Levering Company's
plant at Fourth Street and Ferry
He formerly was
Two Others Implicated
Lewandowski implicated Powell, 25,
46 Woodland Avenue, and Leonard Rogalski, 20, of 1219 South Tenth
Street, in a plot to steal the payroll, according to Police Chief Arthur
Powell thereupon was taken into custody and questioned,
then, according to Colsey, he was released temporarily, in his own recognizance,
pending further investigation. Rogalski was not arrested until County
Detectives James Wren and Casimir
Wojtkowiak took him in last night. The same detectives arrested
Powell. Both suspects were charged with attempted holdup and robbery
and committed to the county jail.
Lewandoski,24, of 924 Atlantic
Avenue, also in county jail, committed without bail by Police Judge Lewis
According to Chief Colsey, Lewandowski made a statement in
which he accused Powell of plotting the holdup and making him the “goat”.
"The holdup was Powell's idea” Colsey quoted Lewandowski as saying. "He got me in on
it, and Rogalski was supposed to take part, too. Rogalski got “cold
feet” though, and Powell sent me in while he was supposed to watch
"Instead he beat it because he
had tipped off the police that the place was going to be held
Released After Quiz
On the strength of Lewandowski's statement, patrolman Edward Suski was sent to arrest Powell. After questioning, however, the former pugilist was released.
"We found no evidence against
Powell," Colsey explained. "Lewandowski's story
looked like an attempt to get himself off easier.
"We turned the case over to the
prosecutor's office, as we always do after making an arrest that seems
to clear up the case."
When Lewandowski showed up, Carr and Koerner pointed revolvers at him. He fled down a stairway and Carr fell on him. The two grappled and the detective says the man pointed a .32 caliber pistol at him. Carr overpowered him with blow on the head with the butt of his revolver.
Camden Courier-Post - March 18, 1936
ORDERED TO FACE INQUIRY BY MRS. KOBUS
Detective Stanley Wirtz, suspended by Police Chief Arthur Colsey yesterday pending investigation into charges that he supplied the guns and an automobile for a holdup, has been ordered to appear today before Commissioner Mary W. Kobus, director of public safety.
Detective Chief Lawrence
yesterday charged that
had supplied the guns and automobile to be used in the holdup and then
inside the plant to capture the bandits.
No motive for the detective's action were revealed by Doran.
"I advised the commissioner," Justice Lloyd said, "to go cautiously with the investigation and gather the facts before taking any action. It is a common thing for officers to lay traps for men who are prone to commit crime, although they have no business to encourage crime. I think it is bad policy to suspend any policeman before the facts of the case have been heard."
Wirtz came after an
investigation was ordered into a statement made by Walter Lewandowski, 24 of
924 Atlantic Avenue, who was
captured when he attempted to hold up a clerk at the wool scouring
company, Ferry Avenue and
Jackson Street. Lewandoski claimed he had “been framed" and named
Joseph Powell, a police stoo1 pigeon, as the one who planned the holdup
and then informed
has been a police informer for
some time, according to Chief Colsey.
The latter said he had taken Powell into custody for questioning and had released
him in his own recognizance. Chief Colsey
admitted Powell had given police the tip resulting in Lewandowski’s
Lewandowski was nabbed, his gun was loaded with blank cartridges. This
gun, according to Chief Doran,
Wirtz to Powell, who in
turn gave it to Lewandowski. Another youth, Leonard Rogalski, 20, of
1219 South Tenth Street, was
supposed to take part in the ho1dup, but "got cold feet and ran
away” police were told by Lewandoski.
"Stanley Wirtz, Camden city detective, supplied the gun and the automobile used in the attempted holdup of the Eavenson & Levering Company payroll office Friday night. Statements were given us by three suspects all tally.
Lewandoski worked at the Eavenson
plant, but was laid off there February 28. On March 3 he had money
coming to him and he returned to the plant. Joseph Powell accompanied him. Powell talked to Lewandoski then of the payroll, and
suggested the holdup. Powell then got in touch with Stanley
Wirtz, and told him that Lewandoski was going to stick up the
payroll March 4.
on that night loaned Powell a car but someone got cold feet, and the
holdup was not attempted. The following week, on March 13, last Friday, Wirtz
took a car to Powell’s home and there turned over to him two guns and
the automobile. Wirtz
then had detectives posted at the scene to arrest the
bandits when they made the holdup attempt.
met Lewandowski and Rogalski and drove them to the plant. There Powell
turned over to his two companions the two guns that had been given him
Rogalski got cold feet and refused to go through with the holdup. Powell
then went into the plant with Lewandowski. After Lewandowski went in the
door, Powell ran from the building.
was outside the building. He did not catch Powell."
was doing police work. I was brought into this case on a tip that a
holdup was going to be staged and I had no knowledge of the guns or the car. I didn't know what it was all about
but merely was there to perform my duties as a policeman.
is 37 and lives at 1197 Thurman Street. He was one of the first of the
new policemen to be appointed to the department in 1924 after Civil
Service was put into effect following the adoption of Commission
government in 1924. He is a veteran of the World War and got a special rating
for that reason when he took the Civil Service examination. In 1931 Wirtz was appointed as an accident investigator in the detective bureau and has served in that capacity ever
since. He has a good reputation as a policeman and has never been in
four years ago
figured in an automobile accident that caused serious injury to one of
was not arrested until County Detectives James Wren and Casimir
Wojtkowiak took him in Monday night. The same detectives arrested
Powell. Both suspects were charged with attempted holdup and robbery and
committed to the county jail.
Lewandowski also is in county jail, committed without bail by police Judge Lewis Liberman Saturday.
Camden Courier-Post - March 19, 1936
TO HEAR FATE IN BANDIT QUIZ TODAY
Decision on any action to be taken
Wirtz, suspended Camden detective charged
with having furnished the guns and automobile for a holdup, will be made
today by Commissioner Mary W. Kobus and Police Chief Arthur
P. Orlando, however, said he would place the
case before the grand jury.
The charge involved the attempted holdup of the Eavenson & Levering Company payroll, in which one of the alleged bandits was captured at the scene last Friday night.
"No charges have been preferred against Wirtz,” Mrs. Kobus announced after the investigation.
"And I don't believe any charges will be made," Colsey commented, adding:
Wirtz was suspended Tuesday after County Detective Chief Lawrence T. Doran announced Wirtz had admitted supplying the pistols and car, allegedly used in the abortive attempt to obtain a $800 payroll at the wool-scouring plant.
William B. Macdonald, court stenographer, recorded the statements made by each man,
"All three made full statements
to us;" Colsey said and then declined to reveal
what the statements contained.
Denies Stories Clash
''No, I wouldn't say so."
Wirtz appeared briefly before the
commissioner and chief at the start of
probe, which was conducted in Mrs. Kobus'
office. He left the room after about two minutes and told reporters,
"I refused to make a statement. I made one yesterday and that is
"He said he had been In court all day and was nervous,” Mrs. Kobus said.
Asked for a statement at the
conclusion of the investigation, Mrs. Kobus said:
"No charges have been preferred
against Wirtz. This was not a hearing on any
charge. This was an investigation of reports which I read in the
newspapers. It is the duty of the police officials to investigate any
such report, and Wirtz and the other two detectives who
figured in the case were called in to make statements. 'This was not, a
trial and I do not care to make a statement now about what went
Doran said Wirtz, admitted dealing with Powell and giving Powell two
pistols and an automobile for use in the holdup. As a result Powell,
who had been arrested and released by city police, was rearrested by the
In addition, Leonard “Rags” Rogalski, 20, of 1219 South 10th Street, was arrested by the county detectives. They said Lewandowski told them Rogalski originally was intended to take part in the holdup but got "cold feet", and backed out at the last moment.
Powell, Lewandowski and Rogalski are
held in the county jail.
"I have nothing to do with the discipline of the police department. I will present the full facts of this holdup to the grand jury and, that body may take any action it desires."
Jury to Get Case
"I will give the grand jury the full facts. The members
will decide for themselves what action to follow."
This charge was no-billed, Doran said.
"He was listed as a mental case,"
said, "and was examined by the county physician and pronounced O.K."
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