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A Brief History Of The Jackson & Sharp Company, Car And Ship Builders, 1863-1950


Contemporaries aptly described Job H. Jackson, co-founder of Jackson & Sharp, as the essence of the self-made man. Born on 11 February 1833 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, Jackson came to Wilmington at the age of fourteen. Working as a “grocer’s boy” at a general store, Jackson at sixteen apprenticed himself to a local tinsmith. Before his contract was completed, Jackson was foreman at the shop. He left the tinsmith in 1853, and worked for John H. Adams at Adams’s general store before moving to Altoona, Pennsylvania that same year. There he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. Before the year was out, Jackson was engaged by the Ohio and Pennsylvania Telegraph Company to set up a telegraph line in western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Having successfully completed construction of the telegraph line, Jackson returned to Wilmington in December 1853. Jackson worked for three years at a stove and tinning business. Then Jackson and his former employer John H. Adams purchased a store, selling stoves and housewares. Adams soon retired, and Jackson continued the business with John Flinn until the founding of Jackson & Sharp. 1

Jackson was an active member of the Wilmington community. He helped fund the construction of the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in 1865. Jackson was an incorporating officer of the Ferris Reform School, founded by a bequest from cabinetmaker John Ferris in 1882. He served on the board of directors of the Delaware Hospital in Wilmington, 1889, and also helped incorporate the Minquadale Home for the Aged in 1891, serving on its Board of Managers. Jackson served on the Board of Port Wardens as both a member and president, served on City Council, and also served on the school board. He served as director of civic and financial institutions, and was involved in the management of other rail car companies, a railroad, and was a trustee of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. 2 For Jackson, at least in public pronouncements, the means to his success was easily explained: “The whole story of the Pathway of Success resolves itself down to one little word of four letters, though in meaning as large as can be found in Webster: Work! 3

Jacob F. Sharp was born in New Jersey on 25 April 1815. He moved to Wilmington in 1837 and worked as a carpenter for the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad (PWBR), under construction at that time. He then worked as a house carpenter. In 1840 Sharp went to work for Harlan & Hollingsworth, shipbuilders and rail car manufacturers, as a car builder. He eventually became foreman at the shop. His experience as a car builder was doubtlessly a key element in the success of Jackson & Sharp.

Although not as involved in community life as Jackson, Sharp did serve one term on the Board of Education, and one term on the Board of Health. He took more of an interest in religion as an active member of St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington. He often led religious services for the “inmates” of Wilmington’s almshouse. Sharp died on 2 August 1888. 4

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