The Baldwin Locomotive Works was the largest and most successful locomotive building firm in the world. It was begun as a machine shop owned and operated by Matthias W. Baldwin in 1831. Baldwin turned out its first locomotive engine from its shop in Philadelphia in 1832; within a few years the company was producing two a month and employed 240 men. By 1852, 500 engines had been produced; by 1861, 1,000; and by 1868, 2,000. At that point, the company employed between 1,600 1,700 men, and was one of the very largest machine works in the nation. In 1906 Baldwin began construction of a large auxiliary plant in the Philadelphia suburb of Eddystone. In 1928 the Broad Street plant was closed and all work transferred to the Eddystone Plant.
Baldwin had been forced by hard financial times to take on a series of partners between 1839 and 1846, and the firm's name changed repeatedly as a result. It was known as Baldwin, Vail & Hufty (1839 1842); Baldwin & Whitney (1842 1845); M. W. Baldwin (1846 1853); and M. W. Baldwin & Company (1854 1866). After Baldwin's death in 1866 the firm was known as M. Baird & Company (1867 1873); Burnham, Parry, Williams & Company (1873 1890); Burnham, Williams & Company (1891 1909); it was finally incorporated as the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1909.
The company's phenomenal growth ended with in the mid 1920s as the United States railroad industry began its long decline. Despite various mergers and acquisitions and an increased attention to the development of diesel engines a slow but sure decline set in. Baldwin declared bankruptcy in 1935. World War Two brought a temporary respite, but after the war the steam locomotive was obsolete and orders rapidly diminished. The Westinghouse Corporation bought Baldwin in 1948 but was unable to turn the company around. In 1950 the Lima Hamilton Corporation and Baldwin merged but in 1956 the last of some 70,541 locomotives was produced.
History of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, 1831-1902, (1902); A Short History of American Locomotive Builders in theSteam Era, John H. White, (1982).