ALFRED TOMKINS, a resident of Pittsburg [sic], Pennsylvania, engaged in the business of building heating furnaces
and also concrete work, is known throughout the country for the reliability of his work, and is the first member
of the Tomkins family to have taken up his residence in this country, his ancestry having been English.
John Tomkins, father of Alfred Tomkins, was a native of England, in which country and in Wales his entire life
was spent. For the greater part of his life he was engaged in contracting for the sinking of shafts for mines,
etc., in England and Wales, and it was under his supervision that some of the most important mine shafts were sunk.
Among them were the "Risker Mines," this name being given to them because of the great danger attached
to the sinking of the shafts and the working of the mines. Explosions in them were numerous by reason of the accumulations
of gas, and the loss of life attending them was great. Mr. Tomkins married Catherine Jones, also a native of England.
Alfred Tomkins, son of John and Catherine (Jones) Tomkins, was born in Stockton, county Durham, England, February
27, 1868. He was a student at the public schools of that town until he had attained, the age of twelve years and
was then apprenticed to learn the trade of brick masonry. He followed this for a period of thirteen years, in the
meantime attending night school in order to acquire a good education, for which he was very eager and which was
an excellent equipment for his future business career. He emigrated to the United States in 1891, settling in Pittsburg
[sic], Pennsylvania, where he took up his trade of brick masonry and followed this for about two years. Owing to
a strike which was then in progress he abandoned this and accepted a position as engineer, and later became foreman
of the Linden Steel Company, a position he filled very efficiently and which gave him considerable insight into
the deficiencies of the heating furnaces in use at the time. At the end of two years he established himself in
business in a small way, and invented an improved heating furnace, a specimen of which he built in No. 3 mill of
the Oliver Tin Mills. So satisfactory was this to the firm that they had all their mills equipped with the Tomkins
Improved Heating Furnaces, and it was but a short time before other mills became aware of the decided advantages
offered by this style of furnace and it was generally adopted, not only in the state of Pennsylvania, but in West
Virginia and Canada, and its fame is constantly growing. The best testimonial to its excellence is the fact that
Mr. Tomkins employs no solicitors to exploit his invention, but the orders come pouring in as the furnace becomes
more generally known. In addition to building these furnaces Mr. Tomkins is engaged to a considerable extent in
concrete work, and has erected more than one hundred dwelling houses. He is also the inventor of a machine for
hoisting materials, which is intended for buildings to convey material to the different floors, such as brick,
mortar, cement, beams, lumber, etc., and the engine can also be used to drive concrete mixers, circular saws, or
other machinery before or after the elevator or conveyor are put in use; the engine having a large sized belt or
pulley wheel for this work. He is also the inventor of a hot water car heating system for automobiles, using the
cooling waters from the water jacket of engines to heat car. His business is a prosperous and growing one, and
he has the respect of the entire business community. He is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
He married, April 19, 1886, Ellen Lings, daughter of Thomas Lings, of county Durham, England, and they have had
a number of children, of whom six died in infancy. May died December 23, 1906, at the age of twelve years; and
those now living are: Beatrice, Violet, Elsie, Nellie and Alfred.
A Century and a half of
Pittsburg and her people.
By: John Newton Boucher
The Lewis Publishing Company
Allegheny County Pennsylvania Biographies
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