Samuel Wheeler (member) 1810
Ironmaster and Inventor
Samuel Wheeler born at Weccaco, Philadelphia, June 20, 1742, died in May, 1820, aged 78 years. He is buried in Christ Church cemetery. He was a legendary ironmaster and during the Revolution he served in the Continental army where his reputation as a skilled iron worker reached General Washington, who was looking for a way to stop the British passage across the North River, but not use 2 armies on either side to do it. Washington’s plan was to place a chain across the Hudson River at West Point to prevent the passage of British ships. The chain had to be large and strong enough to stop the passage of the ships, which was no easy feat, but was completed expertly by Wheeler. The chain, which worked at first, was ultimately cut by building a fire underneath one of the links and hammering it until it broke.
Wheeler also made a new style of cannon out of bars of iron by welding them lengthwise. His new design was used at the Battle of Brandywine and shot further and more accurately than the other cannons as well as weighing much less. It was a marvel at the battle and was praised by all the officers on the field; however, the original was lost and taken by the British as a spoil of war and put on display in the Tower of London. Napoleon then utilized this design for all of the cannons used during his campaign.
Wheeler wasn’t just a weapons designer though. He also made many improvements in mechanics, in hay-scales, hoisting-machines, screws, lanterns for light-houses, and in a new successful method of laying stones for light-houses. He constructed the handsome iron gates to old Christ Church, Philadelphia. After the war he was elected a member of the House of Representatives in the State Legislature for the County of Montgomery, where he had removed his family for safety. At the time of his death, he was the oldest justice of the peace in the County of Philadelphia, a member of the American Philosophical Society, and a vestryman of Gloria Dei and Christ Church.