Northampton Press

Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Photos courtesy of Lehigh Lines, Randolph Kulp and Larry OberlyCoplay Cement Company, 1954 Photos courtesy of Lehigh Lines, Randolph Kulp and Larry OberlyCoplay Cement Company, 1954
Coplay Cement Plant No. 1, 1890 Coplay Cement Plant No. 1, 1890

Saylor starts business in Coplay

Wednesday, June 26, 2019 by ED PANY Curator, Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum in Columns

(Editor’s note: This series was written to honor the borough of Coplay on its 150th anniversary.)

Over the years, we have written numerous columns pertaining to the Lehigh Valley cement industry, but I am sure there are many stories that will never be told, as less people are employed in the industry. Modern technology has streamlined our cement plants; they operate more efficiently with a smaller labor force.

Recently, Stanley Christoff, a former employee of Coplay and Dragon cement companies, donated a rare booklet to my friend Larry Oberly for the Atlas Cement Company Memorial Museum. The century-old pamphlet is titled “Cementos Portland Saylors Coplay Cement Manufacturing Company.”

Here is some background on the company for our loyal readers. Saylor Coplay Cement Company was founded by David Saylor and two associates, who decided to construct a cement plan on the west side of the Lehigh River adjacent to the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The land had rich deposits of calcium carbonate, a basic limestone used in the cement process.

They were confident they could produce a cement equal to the cement that was being imported from Europe. The first cement was called natural cement, but after many at-home experiments, he developed the cement now produced by all our plants, Portland Cement. He obtained a patent for the new cement in 1871.

Saylor Cement received awards and notoriety when the product was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Saylor also was given a medal from the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

If you visit Coplay today, one can still view the vertical Schoefer Kilns. I call them pyramids of the cement industry; they are the only verticals in the United States.

Constructed in 1893, they had a short life in the industry when they were replaced by the rotary kiln. The rotary kiln is currently used in the entire industry.

Coplay would have a long history in the area. The last Coplay plant, No. 3, was in need of major improvements. In 1978, the company was sold, and a new Coplay Cement plant was constructed on the site of the old Nazareth Cement Company. The plant was later purchased by Essroc, and in 2017, the company sold its plants to Lehigh Heidelberg.

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In two weeks — a rare artifact of Coplay Cement history.