Monday, August 30, 2010


Dick's Mailer 
A Great Labor Saver, 
Invaluable to Publishers and Others
Rev. Robert Dick
   Born in 1814 in Bathgate, Scotland, Robert Dick's family immigrated to upper Canada in 1821. He became a Baptist minister, journalist, reformer, and inventor. In connection with preaching and publication of books, Mr. Dick, in 1854, commenced to publish a pamphlet in Toronto, the "Gospel Tribune," an inter-denominational Journal, the monthly editions of which soon increase to 8,000. It was in wrestling with the recalcitrant subscription list that Dick hit on the inventions that made him a fortune. Frustrated by the time required to write addresses on wrappers and to check the currency of subscriptions, he devised ways of speeding both processes. He invented an addressing machine which could fix thousands of prepared labels in an hour and act as a ledger and running record at the same time.  
    Superintending everything and helping everywhere, necessity made him groan under the burden of seemingly unavoidable blunders, the mental exactions, and the wretched slowness of the mailing work; for these, he exclaimed, "there must be mechanical relief!" As search revealed none, he then said, "it must be created!" and almost instantly he formed the conception of "Web Wheel," "Paste Fountain," "Pasting Belt," and "Label cutting and Stamping Blades." But as there could be no lessening of his editing and publishing taxation's, it took four years of his scraps of time to put his conceptions of his "Typographical Book-keeping and Mailing Machine" into patentable form. Dick moved permanently from Toronto to Buffalo, N.Y., in 1859, probably so that he could establish his patent in the United States. In later years he refined the patents for the “Union Mailer” with its ancillary processes and added patents for locking type in printers’ forms. By 1868 he claimed that over 300 papers and journals in North America used his system under patent; the 12 in Canada included the Toronto Globe and Leader. 
Dick's Seventh and Best Mailer
     Dick died of pneumonia in 1890, survived by his wife and a widowed daughter. His patents passed to his brother and business partner, Alexander, who had moved with him to Buffalo; Alexander himself made improvements to the “Matchless Mailer,” as Robert’s invention was now known, and was a patentee in his own right of the “Fairy Nest Cradle,” a suspended basket for babies which was
rocked by means of a foot treadle.
For Dick's 1887 Seventh Mailer and Best.
Impossible with any other: --With a Dick Mailer one man has addressed three papers in one second, 182 in a minute, 7,334 in one hour, and 45,000 in one day. No Agents, but write to the inventor, Rev. Robert Dick, Buffalo N.Y., unreservedly. With his send off, success is reached at once.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

TESLA, Power to the People


   Nicola Tesla, writing of the future of Buffalo in 1893, said: "The energy of Niagara Falls is equal to 5,000,000 or possibly 6,000,000 horse power, while 4,000,000 horse power economically directed, would run all the machinery, drive every steamship, run every railroad, heat and light every store and house in the United States.  I believe that it will soon be possible to carry such energy 1,000 miles with slight loss, an that eventually it will be transmitted without any wire. I believe that in thus claiming the waste water power of the world and sending it's energy broadcast, lies the future usefulness of electrical science.  No achievement that can be thought of compares with the possibility of emancipating all that army of laborers which now toils in mine and forest to supply the nation with fuel, and the other army that is needed to transport, distribute and use it."  

.. [As a youth] I was fascinated by a description of Niagara Falls I had perused, and pictured in my imagination a big wheel run by the Falls. I told my uncle that I would go to America and carry out this scheme. Thirty years later I saw my ideas carried out at Niagara and marveled at the unfathomable mystery of the mind.”  

Power to the People, Tesla's Current Reaches Buffalo

Run by Falls Power
Street Cars Operated by the New Current

Buffalo Express/Commercial Advertiser Nov. 19 1896

    The cars of the Buffalo Railway Company began yesterday to move by water-power. The mighty energy of Niagara Falls, harnessed to turbine wheels, and transmitted over copper wires to Buffalo, supplied the force that turned the wheels of traffic and brought nickels to the coffers of the street car company. The success of the transmission of the power was completely and fully demonstrated.

  There has not been at any time since the first dynamo began to revolve at the falls, any doubt that the energy could be brought successfully to Buffalo.  Never-the-less, the experiment was the greatest ever attempted in conveying such a volume of power to such a distance, and cautious people waited until yesterday, when the first practical application of the power in Buffalo was made, before crowing too much over the new force that is to revolutionize business and bring mills and factories and people to the Electric City.
   At 10 o'clock in the morning Niagara Falls power was turned on to the system of the Buffalo Railway Company and all the cars on Main Street between Ohio Street and Cold Spring Barns were operated by Niagara Falls Power, also the cars on East Ferry Street and Kensington Ave. 
   The test was made in this part of the city in order that the general public might have an opportunity of observing the test of running the cars by electricity generated at Niagara Falls, conveyed to Buffalo over long distance wires from the power house of the Cataract City.  In every respect the test was satisfactory. Motormen had no difficulty in running their cars smoothly and on time. There was no hitch. There were no delays. The experiment was an experiment no longer. It was a complete success. Not many of the thousands of passengers who rode through Main Street, knew the cars which they rode were propelled by power generated 26 miles away, and borrowed from the worlds mightiest cataract.
   For years the eyes of the whole world were on Niagara Falls and Buffalo.  The transportation of power from the mighty cataract to the great city at the foot of the lake was an event that called for the world-wide interest of electricians, scientists and businessmen. It meant the revolutionizing of industry.  
   Today the mighty waters of Niagara revolved the wheels of the street railway system of this city, proving beyond a doubt that the power can travel, that the wheels of factory and of mill can be turned miles away from the cataract by the power generated at Niagara Falls. It is a great day for Buffalo, a day to be made memorable by the successful test of one of the greatest electric feats known to the world. 
     There was no ceremony at the turning on of the power, but at the power house were a number of officials who closely watched the test. One of the officials of the Buffalo Railway Company, who closely observed the testing of the power as it was tried for the first time this morning, said:   "It is like the work of an expert watch maker.  Every part of the intricate mechanism of the watch must be closely inspected, every minute detail closely observed. We are regulating the mechanism and the power much as a watch-maker regulates a watch. We will let the cars run for several hours by Niagara Falls Power, observing it's action carefully, then switch it off and make use of our observations. Presently we will have everything just right and then the new power will be used continuously. Todays test has been very satisfactory. That is all that can be said at present.”
 Following the line along the river bank, for a distance of about 26 miles, the electric current travels to Buffalo. Today the people of this city have the opportunity to observe the practical and successful working of the energy generated at Niagara Falls.
The Edward Dean Adams Power Plant,  the first power plant at Niagara Falls, the ‘father’ 
of the modern electric power plant. This plant opened in 1895. Was the first big plant to 
generate and transmit current by means of Tesla Polyphase System."


Thursday, August 26, 2010

The "AERO-AMPHIBIOUS VOYAGE" of Mr. WISE - (part two)

Editor: Where we left him last issue; "We desire much that he should afford the citizens of Buffalo to do him justice, by making good his losses by the former ascension...Several of our prominent citizens have already led off by liberal purchases of tickets.  Let each bear a part, and send up the navigator of space next time, with a heart as light as his vessel."
Buffalo Morning Express Aug 7, 1847
   There was a large concourse of people gathered on the outside of Morris's garden yesterday, to witness Mr. Wises 63rd ascension, and we are happy to say the number inside was considerably greater than on the former occasion. At a few minutes after 4 o'clock the word was given to "let her go" and he ascended just beautifully to the height of about a mile, the wind carrying him in a southerly direction over the city, thus giving our citizens a fine view of the flight.  Mr Wise has furnished us with the following account, from his logbook, which will be read with interest:
For the Morning Express
From aerial Log of 63d Voyage.
Buffalo City, August 6, 1847
    Left Morris's Garden at precisely six minutes past 4'oclock with the aerial ship Rough and Ready under ballast.  Wind, due south, rising slowly--Threw over some ballast--men, women and children scrambling out of the way. Ascent became more rapid.  Rising and traversing parallel with Main St. and a little east of it. As I rose the current bore more for the lake.  4 o'clock 15 minutes, pass the beach and right up the centre of the Lake, began to feel chilly upon the thoughts of a ducking.  One mile out on the Lake, threw out more ballast to reach the great eastward current.  Got up to 4,000 feet and struck a current at the rate of 20 miles per hour up the Lake--This won't do, I shall get out ten or twelve miles before I may get the easterly current, and probably be blown into Canada where I would stand a chance of arrest for contraband.  Open valve and come down within speaking distance.  Making direct for a brig several miles out going to Buffalo.  "Ahoy, What vessel?" "Brig Eureka, Captain Burnell."  "Will you lower a boat Captain, if I come down?" "Certainly", answered Capt. Burnell.  "Then I will be down presently." Came down with all dispatch--the brig laid too, but I got astern of her several miles before her boat was manned and lowered.
   Struck water at 4 o'clock 35 minutes---The balloon first rebounded and glanced over the water in a ricochet manner with wind drawing me up the Lake.  Discharged more gas to sink my car and cause more resistance in order to enable the yawl to overtake me. At 5 min. to 5 o'clock the yawl of the Eureka manned by Jno. Stratten, Jno. Dowd, Jno. McFee, Wm. Padman, and Chas. Angell as jolly a set of boys as ever pulled an oar or spun a yarn, hauled up to me and took me in tow, and in a short time set me safe on board the Brig where I had the pleasure of wagging the hand of Capt. BURNELL, who, upon my thanking him for his kindness, very promptly replied, "It is but a duty to fellow man." If ever it fall within my power to return the favor, I shall never, under any circumstances forgo to carry out the sentiment of Capt. BURNELL.  Thus ended my 63d trip which partook some what of a triple character, being a sort of an Aero-amphibious voyage, and made rather a variety in the progress of the profession.
    I am also under obligations to Mr. Coleman and another gentleman whom I cannot name, for their attention and kindness in bringing me on shore from the Brig after she struck in the channel. To the large and respectable audience who honored me with their presence on this occasion, I return my thanks, particularly those who paid for the right; and those who were so numerously on the outside, must excuse me for the sand I dropped on them in the hurry of my departure.
Buffalo Daily Courier  August 7, 1847
Professor Wise, The Aeronaut
 "Yesterday afternoon, according to previous announcement, Mr. Wise made his sixty-third ascension, from Morris' Garden, corner of Main and Tupper streets. Great interest was evinced throughout the length and breadth of the city, to see it. All sorts, sizes and conditions of people were assembled to witness his flight. We were glad to see a good number on the inside of the Garden. The outside, and indeed the adjacent streets and lanes, were filled with carriages, and a mass of human beings, all anxious to see what they could. After there had been several pioneer balloons sent up, and the curiosity of such as chose to examine the principal one had been satisfied, Mr. Wise prepared himself in the car for his lofty voyage. About four o'clock, after some preliminary trials, he gave the word 'let go,' and amid the cheers and hurrahs of the enthusiastic assemblage, he floated off most grandly. The ease and self-possession which he evinced; the confident air he assumed, showed to our mind conclusively that he was master of his profession. After he was up, he went immediately over the city, in the direction of the lake, thus affording an excellent view of the ascension to the thousands on the housetops, etc."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


The Buffalo Courier Friday July 30th 1847
Arrival  Extraordinary!      At Morris's Garden!         
Takes this opportunity of informing the Ladies and Gentlemen of this city and vicinity, that he will, at the request of numerous citizen, make his 62nd Grand Atmospheric Voyage, on
Saturday Afternoon on July 31, 1847,
between 3 and 4 o'clock, from Morris's Garden corner of Main and Tupper Streets
     The Capacity of this enormous vessel is Sixty-Five Thousand Gallons, and it requires for one inflation of Hydrogen gas, one thousand eight hundred pounds of sulphuric acid; one thousand five hundred pounds of iron, and twelve thousand pounds of water.  The method of generating hydrogen gas by the decomposition of Water, is of itself, an interesting and mysterious process;  Fifty-Five Thousand Gallons of which will be made and introduced into the Balloon under the immediate eye of the spectator.  During the process of inflation, Mr. W. will be pleased to answer any inquires regarding the nature and Philosophy of the same.
Doors open at 12 o'clock when the inflation commences.
  At 1p.m., small balloon will ascend
  At 2, a pioneer balloon will be launched 
  At 2 1/2 a Pilot Balloon will point out the direction of the wind
  At 3 1/2 Mr. Wise will hitch his car to the Aerial Vessel, and after floating a few minutes between earth and air, by a single cord, will detach himself from Terra-firma and ascend to the Region of The Clouds!
Seats in the gallery affording a complete view of the whole operation, reserved for Ladies. Reserved seats 50 cents; circle 25 cents. Doors open from 12 p.m. to 6 o'clock p.m.
Commencing at 8 o'clock precisely
     Mr. Wise is expected to return from his ascension and give the audience 
          an account of his excursion.
     A good Band of Music will be in attendance during the afternoon and evening.
          Single tickets 25 cents.  One gentleman and two ladies, 50 cents.

John Wise
   John Wise was The 19th century's, most successful and most famous aeronaut. “Coupled with his enthusiasm, generosity, and scientific curiosity, clearly marked him as the most distinguished and experienced of American aeronauts."   In the nineteenth century many ascensions were made just for the novelty of the event, but John Wise's approach was from a scientific perspective. Each ascension gave him a chance to conduct scientific investigations of the atmosphere, pneumatics and hydrostatics.  It also gave him the opportunity to develop a more advanced flying machine. Wise was the first to observe the "great river of air which always blows from west to east" in the higher regions of the atmosphere. Today we call this phenomenon the jet stream.  He also developed the ripcord safety mechanism, and in 1838 developed a balloon that would collapse into a parachute if deflated or ruptured in flight.  It actually saved his life when his balloon ruptured at 13,000 ft. and he survived the descent.  
   John Wise promoted the advantages of balloon transportation. In 1843 he conceived a project for crossing the Atlantic Ocean and asked Congress to appropriate $15,000 for the project. Congress, however rejected the appropriation.  He is credited with the first U.S. airmail transportation in 1859. Although  the balloon only traveled 30 miles due to unfavorable weather and never made it to NY City from Indiana it was still considered official.
Buffalo Morning Express - Monday August 2, 1847
Monsieur Eugene Godard Balloon in Buffalo
Main and Clinton Streets - July 1858
    On Saturday afternoon, pursuant to notice, Mr. Wise made an ascension from this City.  The day was clear and pleasant although a stiff breeze was blowing from the south west, which it was feared by many anxious spectators on the outside of the Garden, would prevent the aerial voyage. However at 1 o'clock,  the inflation commenced and the balloon filled much faster than the Garden, when at 4 o'clock precisely, when the word was given to "let her go" and Mr. Wise and his aerial craft rose quickly and most beautifully into the space above, amid the cheers of the multitude.  The wind carried the balloon to the northward and eastward in a rapid but most graceful manner and her progress was upward and onward until some fifteen minutes after leaving the Garden, she began to decline behind the higher lands at the north, and was out of sight.
    The Ascension was made under disadvantage circumstances, but so perfect and so beautiful was it, as to settle in the minds of the people of Buffalo, a large concourse of whom honored the occasion with their presence on the outer side of the Garden----the fact that this aeronaut never fails. After remaining mid-air about 25 minutes, he made the earth again and landed at the pleasant Village of Williamsville.
According to John Wises Log of the Flight, It wasn't that easy (Ed.)  

July 31, 1847
John Wise Balloon Lafayette Indiana - 1859
    "4 pm precisely, started with aerial ship "Rough and Ready" under ballast and brisk gale from the S.S.W.  Wind moving at the rate of a mile per minute. Started with considerable ascending power but the current was so strong, that in order to make a more perpendicular rise I was obliged to throw over 30 pounds of ballast, which having lightened the vessel, together with a strong horizontal force, caused it to pitch and girate with a desperate motion.  Also a stiff breeze rushing down upon me from above, so as to partially turn the balloon in the net--Work throwing the valve, which is at the upper central point, one third down the side, placing it in a position that made it very unmanageable in a quick decent...."
    His route took him over Grand Island toward Niagara Falls. This was the first ever aerial observation of Niagara Falls, (and Buffalo, for that matter), his reaction being one of disappointment after such high expectations in his mind. ...Upon reflection I concluded that this must be Grand Island, and immediately my attention was drawn to a search for Niagara Falls, as I heard a slightly rushing noise of a waterfall. My eye soon rested upon it, and after scanning it for a few moments I involuntarily cried out "Is that the Falls!? And no wonder, "It had the appearance of a little cascade rippling through the meadow of a gentleman's country seat. I was disappointed, for my mind seemed bent on a soliloquy on Niagara's raging grandeur, but it was a bubble; it looked too small. The scenery of the great panorama surrounding it could only absorb my mind.  The little frothy bubble had too much the appearance of a foaming glass of London brown stout to bring my mind wholly upon it's grandeur, it looks like a little humbug when viewed from the clouds."
     Upon the discovery that Niagara Falls could not interest me from above, I concluded to make my landing at the first village in my track, Williamsville.  When three miles from this place I commenced a rapid descent, which, with the prevailing gale, tossed the vessel to and fro at a fearful rate, and at one time in a fair way of coming in contact with the church steeple of the village, which must inevitably been pulled along, had I been entangled on it, but a quick discharge of ballast enabled me to clear it, upon which I waved my hat, and soon the villagers were all in motion.  Over fences and gardens, lanes and creeks, and in every direction did the Williamsville men run to help me down.
    Unfortunately for me, however, the impetuosity of the "Rough and Ready" was such that nothing was fast enough to reach her in time, and in another moment she dashed against a tree, where after chafing and careering for a few moments, she hurled the car through the branches of the tree, and lodged it in the foliage of a tree on the opposite side.  Across the creek dashed my Williamsville friends, and while I grappled a firm hold in the Hickory limbs, several men clambered the tree and secured my car in it's branches.  Here then I commenced a rapid discharged of gas from the valve, as well as from the breaches in the balloon.. In fifteen minutes more we brought her down upon the ground, some what the worse for wear in appearance, but so as to be repairable in a few days for a future flight.  From the time I left the ground until I touched it again, occupied 35 minutes. Time of flight 19 minutes.
Buffalo Daily Courier - Monday  Aug. 2nd  1847 
     "Mr Wises Balloon ascension on Saturday Afternoon went off beautifully, grandly.  We regretted, however, to see many of our citizens, particularly in carriages, avail themselves of Mr. Wises enterprise, by gratifying their curiosity with an outside view, while within, their were hardly enough to cover expenses".....Mr. Wise was brought back to this city about 8 o'clock in the evening, by H.B. Evans, Esq., of Williamsville... 
    The custom in which he made balloon ascensions was to advertise the ascension and sell tickets to a complete afternoon event so as to cover expenses.  Creating the hydrogen gas to inflate the balloon at the time, was crude and expensive.  Because many Buffalonians chose to take the "cheap seats" at the event(free), John Wise lost $327. This was such an embarrassment to the citizens and newspapers of the city that they invited him back to try another ascension "so he might be indemnified for his loss on the first."  He answered; "From the friendly representations made to me since my last ascension by a large number of citizens of Buffalo, as also from the unsolicited and unexpected friendship of the press generally in this city, I am induced to risk the cost of another ascension, on Friday next.  John Wise, Buffalo, Aug. 3rd 1847

End Of Part One

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mark Twain Begins New Job Today at the Buffalo Express!

Buffalo Express  August 21 1869
Mark Twain
Olivia Langdon Clemens
  Being a stranger it would be modest and unbecoming in me, to suddenly and violently assume the associate editorship of the Buffalo Express without a single explanatory word of comfort or encouragement to the unoffending patrons of the paper, who are about to be exposed to constant attacks of my wisdom and learning. But this explanatory word shall be as brief as possible.  I only wish to assure parties having a friendly interest in the Journal, that I am not going to hurt the paper deliberately and intentionally at any time.  I am not going to introduce any startling reforms, or in any way attempt to make trouble. I am simply going to do my plain, unpretending duty, when I cannot get out of it; I shall work diligently and honestly and faithfully at all times and upon all occasions, when privation and want shall compel me to do it; in writing, I shall always confine myself strictly to the truth, except when it is attended with inconvenience; I shall witheringly rebuke all forms of crime and misconduct, except when committed by the party inhabiting my own vest; I shall not make use of slang or vulgarity under any occasion or any circumstances, and shall never use profanity except in discussing house-rent and taxes.  Indeed, upon second thought, I will not even use it then, for it is unchristian, inelegant and degrading-though to speak truly I do not see how house-rent and taxes are going to be discussed worth a cent without it.  I shall not often meddle in politics, because we have a political editor who is already excellent, and only needs to serve a term in the penitentiary in order to be perfect.  I shall not write any poetry, unless I conceive a spite against the subscribers.
Mark Twain Lecturing
     Such is my platform. I do not see any earthly use in it, but custom is law and custom must be obeyed, no matter how much violence it may do to ones feelings.  And this custom which I am slavishly following now, is surely one of the least necessary that ever came into vogue. In private life a man does not go and trumpet his crime before he commits it, but your new editor is such an important personage that he feels called upon to write a "Salutatory" at once, and he puts into it all that he knows, and all that he don't know, and some things he thinks he knows but isn't certain of.  And he parades his list of wonders which he is going to perform; of reforms which he is going to introduce, and public evils which he is going to exterminate; and public blessings which he is going to create; and public nuisances which he is going to abate.
     He spreads this all out with oppressive solemnity over a column and a half of large print, and feels that the country is saved.  His satisfaction over it is quite enormous.  He then settles down to his miracles and inflicts profound platitudes and impenetrable wisdom upon a helpless public as long as they can stand it, and then they send him off Consul to some savage island in the Pacific in the vague hope that cannibals will like him well enough to eat him.  And with an inhumanity which is but a fitting climax to his career of persecution, instead of packing his trunk at once he lingers to inflict upon his benefactors a "Valedictory".
Twain's Buffalo Home
     If there is anything more uncalled for than a than a "Salutatory" it is one of those tearful, blubbering, long winded "Valedictories"- wherein a man who has been annoying the public for ten years cannot take leave of them without sitting down to cry a column and a half. Still, it is custom to write Valedictories, and custom should be respected.  In my secret heart I admire my predecessor for declining to print a Valedictory, though in public I say and continue to say sternly, it is custom and he ought to have printed one. People never read them any more than they read the "Salutatories", but nevertheless he ought to have honored the old fossil-he ought to have printed a Valedictory. I said as much to him, and he replied:  
"I have resigned my place--I have departed this life--I am journalistically dead, ain't I?
"Wouldn't you consider it disgraceful in a corpse to sit up and comment on the funeral?"
    I record here, and preserve it from oblivion, as the briefest and best "Valedictory" that has yet come under my notice.----Mark Twain

P.S. --- I am grateful for the kindly way in which the press of the land have taken notice of my irruption into regular journalistic life, telegraphically or editorially, and am happy in this place to express the feeling.

EDITORS NOTE:  Although Mark Twain actually had written an editorial or two before this one in the Express, this was the first one he signed. The others were anonymous. Being the 100 year anniversary of his death I thought it best to include the article in it's entirety, word for word as he wrote it, out of respect for his writing style. In too many places I found it paraphrased and sentences "adjusted" to today's English.  I had to rewrite it completely before publishing. 

Editors Note: Jan. 12, 2010 Mark Twain has been in the news a lot lately especially since we think his works need to be re-written to today's standards. Maybe we should take a little "white-out" to his original manuscripts too and burn any of his volumes with the original script. Teaching children a false truth is dangerous. It is better to read the original and then explain why it was written in that manner, what was acceptable then and why, then what is acceptable now and why. Now you have a true learning experience. Stop this censorship, it's a dangerous precedent.

A Young Mark Twain

Trivia: Where did Samuel Clemens pen name "Mark Twain" come from?

"Mark Twain" The call made by River Boat Pilots when making soundings of the River.

Friday, August 20, 2010


  Commercial Advertiser   August 8th   1873
     The annual Exhibition and Fair of the Erie County Agricultural Society will be held on the grounds of the Society at Hamburgh on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Commencing September 30th.  A liberal and comprehensive premium list is offered which cannot fail to draw out a good exhibition.
     The grounds of the Society which are among the most beautiful and picturesque in the State, have been put in capital order.  The half mile track will be in first rate condition.  In addition to the liberal Society premiums for speed, a special purse of $100 is offered by C.J. Hamlin, Esq., to be trotted for by horses six years old or under, raised in the county, and whose sires are kept in the county for stock purposes.
    A refreshment saloon will be kept on the grounds during the fair by Daniel Prindle.  The opening of the Buffalo & Jamestown Railroad has added greatly to the facilities for reaching the grounds.  Special trains will be run during each day of the fair.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Historic Buffalo River Tour - 2017

The Historic Buffalo River Tour    -  32 Years

This two hour presentation by The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc. covers the history, architecture, and technology of the grain elevators, flour mills, and other industries on the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal, along with a general history of the Erie Canal, inner harbor area, and more. Photographs, maps and video further enhance this original educational experience. This is the original tour begun 32 years ago by the IHC. When choosing your Grain Elevator tour this year, go with the original Historic Buffalo River Tour. Experience counts! Don't Miss the Boat!

For complete schedule and details go to:   
Looking forward to another great season,
don't miss the boat!
The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc.


George Westinghouse
       The first series of tests of the new Westinghouse air-brake for freight cars was made on the main line of the Erie near Alden,  November 4, 1887, which was witnessed by over 100 railroad men and other gentlemen of Buffalo.  The test was made with a train of fifty freight cars of the Pennsylvania, standard style, thirty eight feet and 4 inches long, and weighing about 30,000 pounds each.  The entire train was 1,900 feet long with an enormous weight of 2,000,000 pounds.
The Old Style Brakeman had to set 
brakes on each individual car 
by hand
    In 1869, George Westinghouse patented his first air brake. Prior to this development, mechanical brakes were used which had to be individually applied to each car by brakemen.  The problem with the first straight air brake, it applied braking pressure to the front cars sooner than the rear.  By 1873, he developed the triple valve, the key component in the creation of an "automatic" air brake. Instead of using compressed air directly from the locomotive,  his system placed a reservoir of air under each car and charged them from a continuous brake pipe linked to the locomotive.  That way if the air pump failed or the train parted, air stored on each car could apply the brakes automatically-- an especially useful fail-safe feature.      
     Although the plain automatic air brake 
was a great improvement over the straight air brake, in an emergency the system still applied the brakes to the last cars in a train later than to the first cars in a train. To remedy that condition, George Westinghouse invented the quick action triple valve in 1887. It automatically vents air from the brake pipe locally on each car, which applies the brakes more quickly.  During competitive trials in 1887 - 1888, the Westinghouse design proved so superior that it was made the universal standard.  The air brake was perhaps the most important single railroad invention of the period.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fire Department "Shorts"

Amoskeag Horseless Engine
  In 1897 it was suggested in Buffalo to run a horseless fire engine.  Fire Commissioners Davis, Malone and Grattan accompanied by Chief McConnell departed for Boston December 5th to witness a test of the Amoskeag horseless fire engine.  The Commissioners did not regard it as a desirable thing. It weighed 17,000 pounds and ran on wheels with iron teeth which, it was thought, would ruin some of the fine asphalt pavement.
   The membership of the Fire Department in 1889 was 275 men. The equipment included, twenty one engines(including fire boat), 20 hose wagons, four chemicals, and six hook and ladder trucks, with two steamers and one chemical in reserve.
  In October, 1837, in accordance with a prayer of petition long before presented to the common council by Millard Fillmore and others, a bell was bought and placed on the terrace market, to be used for fire alarms and other emergencies.  This is all that was used until the telegraph fire alarm system was put into use in 1865.
  September 10, 1895, Edward Gardner was the first person in Buffalo to be convicted of turning in a false fire alarm. Fined $50 by Justice King. In November of 1816 a special meeting of trustees was held. The meeting directed the trustees to adopt measures for securing a supply of water for fire purposes, "by means of water courses, aqueducts, reservoirs or otherwise." At the same meeting they were directed to "obtain twenty ladders and two fire hooks;"  and every occupant of a house was required to "provide himself with a good leathern fire bucket, and all chimneys were required to be cleaned every two weeks."

Fire Boat in Action on Buffalo Waterfront

   Like a swan the fire boat W.S. Grattan, September 1, 1900 sped on it's initial trip from it's cradle at Nixons Ship yard, Elizabethport  NJ.  The fireboat was christened the W.S. Grattan, in honor of the Fire Commissioner, as little Miss Lucia Grattan stood at the bow and smashed a bottle of wine on the nose of the boat as it slid down the ways amid the cheering of 1,000 people, and the blowing of many whistles in the Harbor. The Fire Commissioners were all present on the stand, as was also Chief McConnel. The boat is 118 feet long and is built entirely of steel.  She is able to make over fourteen knots, and will crush ice twenty inches thick.

Driver John H. Downing of Engine 13 
Answers an Alarm

Be sure to visit my other fire fighting links: FIRE FIGHTING IN THE HORSE DRAWN ERA post, and the the fire fighting in the horse drawn era special Video Page in the EXTRA EXTRA SECTION in the right hand column.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Look Ma, No Horses!

  The first public test of the 
Elieson Motor in the United States was made on the tracks of the 
Buffalo Street Railroad Co. March 10, 1888 

The Commercial Advertiser March 4, 1888

The accompanying picture shows the electrical locomotive which it is proposed to test soon off the tracks of the Buffalo Street Railroad Company. This car is a reproduction of a photograph showing a locomotive which was-and is believed still is-at work on the lines of the North Metropolitan Tramway Co., London.  It was built under the patents of the Elieson Electric Company Limited, of No. 31 Liverpool Street, London. A locomotive like the one in the picture has arrived in New York from London, destined for Buffalo. In use an ordinary street car is hitched to it. It is understood that the motor will reach Buffalo in a few days, when the test will be made, and the public, no doubt, be given a chance to judge of its suitability for Buffalo Streets.

It is not claimed that the new motor is cheaper than steam, but it is noiseless, and can therefore be used in the streets. It is claimed to be cheaper than horses, and both cheaper and more trustworthy than the cable system. The motor was shipped to this country at the expense of the Elieson Electric Co., of London, England, who have had their system in successful operation at home for several months.

Buffalo Morning Express  March 11, 1888
     If anything were needed to convince the Buffalo Street Railroad Company that the city is ripe for rapid transit, conclusive proof was furnished yesterday in the general outpouring of the population to witness the exhibition trip of the new electric motor. A regular circus-day crowd lined the main street sidewalks from Seneca Street to The Genesee, and never was the triumphal chariot at the head of a glittering cavalcade hailed with greater demonstrations of delight than were seen on all sides when the imported precursor of better street car facilities finally made its appearance. We are looking forward with longing to the time when we can sell our horses, put in a big engine and a lot of dynamos, and become an electric railway from end to end, said President Watson. But such radical changes ought not, on Elieson as a matter of business policy, to be made until it is conclusively proven that electricity can be economically used as a substitute for horse-power.
 “Do not expect too much of it. In the first place, the wheels are lighter and the flanges much narrower than our standard car wheels, and for this reason it is apt to jump the tracks unless great care is exercised. This will materially reduce the possible speed. Then, again, Mr. Robison, the expert electrician, who will operate it, is wholly unacquainted with the route over which it will travel, and has had no experience in running it over our tracks. So, from beginning to end it will be a cautious trip, with no attempts to make the possible 12 miles an hour.”  The Press party, President Watson, and some of the street railway employees took their places in the car, the starting-bell was rung, the lever thrown over, and the exhibition trip was begun.
Main Street Buffalo
    A crowd of from 200 to 300 had gathered at the barns, and the teams standing in the street and hitched to the fences suggested a country fair. The small boys ran along on the sidewalk on either side shouting and gesticulating, fresh recruits taking the places of those who fell out, thus keeping up the excitement. At every street corner a large assemblage was gathered, and as the first exponent of coming rapid-transit swept by,  the men cheered and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs. It was more like the march of an army with banners than a simple test of a new propelling device.

   Electrician Robison stood in the front door of the motor cab with his right hand upon the speed regulator, while with the other he grasped the cord of the warning bell.  While rounding curves and crossing switches, as well as at the intersections of the principal streets, the speed was brought down to a snail's pace as a precautionary measure; but while traversing the long blocks where the track is in excellent condition, the Motor was permitted to bowl along at the rate of eight or nine miles per hour for short distances, to show what it was capable of doing in actual service. Up and down the grades it moved at about the same rate of speed, the power being shut off wherever gravity would give the requisite propulsion. The motion of the car was pleasanter and less jerky than where horse power is used, particularly in starting and stopping, while the noise was reduced sufficiently to permit of easy conversation without raising the voice.  

    Finally, just at five o'clock, the excursionists reached the waiting-room at the corner of Niagara and Main Streets once more, and the party dispersed, pleased and happy in the thought that the feasibility of rapid transit, so far as the public is concerned, has been demonstrated at last in the streets of Buffalo. Yes, the people turned out March 10, as they might be expected to a circus parade, as the mayor and aldermen enjoyed the first trip in the United States on the street railroad tracks of Buffalo by motor power.

Rapid Transit Moving Up & Down Main Street Around 1900

    The motor is of the storage battery style, carrying a charge of electricity lasting four hours. It is about 10 ft. long, nearly 11 ft. high, and weighs 6 tons. It takes four hours to charge the battery, which contains 90 secondary cells, each, one inch long, 12 in. wide and 5 or 6 in. thick. Each cell contains from 10 to 13 metal plates. The whole battery weighs about 2 tons. It is placed in the motor between double floors. As soon as the motor has ran its four hours the battery is taken out and another, ready charged, slipped into place. 
  The electricity is transmitted by means of a cog wheel 4 ft. 6 in. in diameter, which runs horizontally. This controls a series of smaller cogs, which in turn drive a crank that imparts the motion. It is not claimed that the new motor is cheaper than steam, but it is noiseless, and can therefore be used in the streets. It is claimed to be cheaper than horses, and both cheaper and more trustworthy than the cable system. The trial trip of 21 miles was made in half an hour, and was a decided success. While rounding curves and crossing switches, as well as at the intersections of the principal streets, the speed was brought down to a snail's pace, but, while traversing the log blocks, the motor was permitted to run at the rate of eight or nine mile per hour for short distances. If the Buffalo company is satisfied with the experiments which it will make daily, the question of putting the electric machinery in its own cars will be considered, for it can be placed in any car.