Chester “Chet” Eben Albright, Jr., was a leading civil engineer and builder in Philadelphia. He was born on July 31, 1859, in Muncy, Pennsylvania, and died on March 29, 1949, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was the engineer who planned Willow Grove Park, in 1896, and co-founded Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc., in 1904. He was also chief engineer of the Bureau of Surveys, Philadelphia, 1915-1920.
Chester E. Albright, Jr., was baptized as a child, receiving his middle name Eben. Albright, Jr., normally went by the nickname Chet. He graduated from Lafayette College with a degree in civil engineering in 1883. Albright, Jr., first worked for the Lehigh Valley Coal Company, before starting his own business in 1890.
In 1896, Albright, Jr., was involved with laying out Willow Grove Park, in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia.
In 1904, Albright, Jr., joined Henry B. Auchy in forming the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (today Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters, Inc.). Auchy merged his company Philadelphia Carrousel Company into the new venture. Albright, Jr., purchased the original building PTCI was in, and then transferred the property to PTCI in March 1905, moving on from the business.
In 1910, Albright, Jr., went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to help layout and construct the city’s centennial celebration as part of a firm called Albright & Nebus of Philadelphia. He also traveled to Europe to do work as well. At the end of December 1915, Albright, Jr., was named chief engineer of the Bureau of Surveys of Philadelphia. His appointment was briefly contested, but he held the role for four years until the beginning of January 1920.
Albright Family history
Albright, Jr., was the son of Dr. Chester E. Albright, Sr., and had two brothers, William and Joseph. The Albrights hailed from Muncy, Pennsylvania.
The Albright family had been in Central Pennsylvania for many years, dating back to the pioneer era. Doctor Chester E. Albright, Sr., was born in 1831. According to reports, Albright Sr.’s grandfather and two great aunts (when children) were kidnapped by people from a nearby Native American tribe. Albright’s grandfather escaped while his two great aunts did not.
Dr. Albright went on to become a physician, and held two patents: a vehicle spring reliever and an improvement in managers. He operated a business which he started in selling what were called “coin purses,” which he had patented.
In 1902, Dr. Albright, handed over operations of the business to his two sons who by this time lived in Philadelphia – Albright, Jr., and William – to operate in his interest. This created a conflict, because the two sons thought they purchased the facility (based in Philadelphia) and were to be giving him a royalties cut on all goods sold.
This disagreement came to a head in a civil court case, which was decided on July 30, 1908. In the Lewisburg Journal, it was reported that Dr. Albright won the court case, with the court finding that the business still belonged to him. That meant that the two sons had to return all accounting back to their father. The sons continued appealing their case, all the way to the Supreme Court with a final decision being handed down on October 5, 1916, against the brothers.
However the circumstances led up to this court case, it clearly divided the two sons from their father. Dr. Albright passed away on February 2, 1910. Albright, Jr., and William contested the validity of Dr. Albright’s will because Dr. Albright had removed them from his will. Dr. Albright’s estate was valued at $200,000 (nearly $5 million in 2017 US dollars).
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, this litigation was “famous.” The case went to a jury trial which was decided against the brothers in 1912.
Albright, Jr.’s family
Albright, Jr., married Jennie Kessler, who lived until 1957. They had three daughters: Geneva, Marguerite, and Elsie.
Albright, Jr., was a life member of the Engineers Club of Philadelphia, and was a senior member of the civil engineering firm Albright & Friel, Inc., when he passed away on March 29, 1949, at the age of 89. He was interred in Muncy Cemetery in Muncy, Pennsylvania, and was survived by his wife and three daughters.
This article is part of a series of biographies about individuals involved in the amusement park industry. To read other articles in this series, click here.
I have a wide variety of interests, from sports to politics, music to Star Trek. I write about the history of amusement parks on my website, The Amusement Parkives, which I founded in 2016.