Showing posts with label Buffalo Inventors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Buffalo Inventors. Show all posts

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The "House" of Invention

     First Car in England Built by a House From Buffalo!

Buffalo Times, February 22 1931

Harry A. House Jr.
   If that sounds a little strange, it's not.  Not if the house was Harry A. House Jr. of 42 Fordham Drive, Buffalo. He designed, built and drove the first automobile in England. His father is conceded by many to have constructed America's initial automobile, which alarmed the citizens of Bridgeport Conn., in 1866.  Retired now after 15 years as chief engineer of the former Wire Wheel corporation of America here, House works daily in a fully equipped machine shop in the basement of his home, perfecting ideas to swell his total of half a hundred patented inventions.
Got First License in 1897
   The first license that England ever issued, which bears his name, hangs in the club rooms of the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain, to which both House and the Prince of Wales belong. The license was issued in 1897 at Somerset House where deeds and records are kept in London. It was larger than a present day birth certificate and bore the royal coat of arms. House and his father, Henry A. House Sr., went to England in 1889 to join Sir Hiram Maxim (machine gun inventor) in working out a flying machine. Wilbur Wright came to England at the time to view the invention.  Several trial flights ended disastrously and backers of the project eventually withdrew their support. The flying machine was abandoned by Sir Hiram and his two American helpers. 
Maxim's Steam Powered Aircraft -1890's 
Made Steam Driven Vehicle
  The elder House returned to the United States while his son remained in England and began experimentations on a self-propelled commercial vehicle. He evolved a steam driven machine which weighed a ton and a half and which was capable of achieving a speed of 30 miles per hour. The steam was generated by kerosene oil and a funnel led out through the top to carry out the heat.  A license had to be taken out before the steam auto could be operated generally on the roads.  There wasn't any form to cover such a situation, so one was hastily and elaborately devised.  It cost House two pounds (about ten dollars) to take out his first license.   
  The government became interested in the vehicle and as a experiment used it for Royal Mail Service. For Six weeks, Houses' automobile carried the mail from London to Riegate, a distance of 30 miles.  Sharply at 10 the steam car would chug off on it's mission while crowds gathered to see the horseless contraption make it's way over the bumpy roads.
Double Decker Comes Next
  Later house designed a double-decker car with a majestic funnel rearing from the top. This machine was taken to France. The inventor holds a gold medal and two silver for his earlier designs in automotive vehicles. The younger came to Buffalo and took up duties with the Wheel Corporation.  He became chief engineer and invented numerous wire wheel designs and processes for making them. He perfected wheel balances, a foot-lifting jack and auto accessories. During the course of his 19 years in England he was made Vice Consul at Southampton. Today he is 65 and still drives an automobile.
Henry A. House Sr.'s Automobile,
Bridgeport - 1866
  The senior House died in his Bridgeport home, at the age of 90, in December of 1930. He had invented mechanical devises for the airplane, auto and numerous other types of machinery. Altogether he was credited with over 300 inventions. The story is told in Bridgeport that a balky horse caused House Sr. to invent the first automobile. "Better no horse at all than one that balks," he said, according to legend, then he set about designing a vehicle to eliminate the cantankerous horse. 

Editors Note:  Hiram Maxim did actually achieve flight by accident although not "controlled." Just a few feet off the ground then crashed. He used lightweight steam engines.  The area he was testing at did not allow for full takeoffs. The steam engines, although powerful enough to lift the huge aircraft could not hold enough water for anything other than a short flight even if it could take off. Search: Hiram Maxim airplane, for details on his flight experiments in the 1890's. I am still researching the Henry A. House Sr. automobile in Bridgeport Conn. If anyone has information on any of the inventions mentioned in this story, please contact me by email.  

Monday, November 1, 2010

Brodie's "Tin Hat"

He Made the World's "Most Famous Hat"
Local Genius Invented Many War Devices,
But None So Thankfully Received by 
Doughboys as the Famous "Tin Kelly."

Buffalo Times April 4, 1926
Canadian infantry of the 27th Battalion with
a Lewis machine gun and steel helmets
   It seems that there can't be much romance in hat making, ordinarily, and not if it's an ordinary kind of hat. John Leopold Brodie, No. 806 West Ferry Street, found romance in his creation however, romance and adventure in quantities to satisfy almost anyone. It was Mr. Brodie who invented the Tin Hat of war-time fame. To Mr. Brodie thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands allied soldiers owe their lives. Many of the doughboys with a streak of curiosity to peek over the top of a besieged trench, were saved from an army blanket and last post honors by the tin hat.
   Mr. Brodies' hat was first chosen by the British Government, and later by the United States Government, as the most efficient life saving hat of more than 40 models offered them. Tests proved that the hat was so constructed that it was practically bullet proof, and the cushioning cage inside, resisted the shock. Under service conditions it was found that the hat cut down on head wounds by 60 percent.    
    Mr. Brodie has many inventions to his credit. One was a chain steel visor attached under the tin hats and so arranged as to pull it down in front of the eyed for protection from shrapnel. Another war time invention was a message carrying rocket which could be set for a certain distance as the case might be, and save sending a man a man out under fire to a sure death. Also a face protector for tank operators, other were service smoke helmets and gas alarms, most of which saw a great deal of  active service in France.  He is also said to have developed the "stop and go" traffic light.
   He was born July 10th in Riga Russia and had an adventurous career. As a young man, Mr. Brodie  went to South Africa and was subsequently interested, as an owner, in the development of diamond and gold mines there, and eventually made a fortune in gold and diamonds at the Kimberly and Johannesburg treasure mines. For several of his years there he was closely associated with Cecil Rhodes. He returned to England and invented a chemical process for the manufacture of salt and engaged in that business until 1914. He is said to have refused a Knighthood in England and to have come to Buffalo just after the armistice to live, solely because his wife (Eleanora Thompson), wished to live in the city of her birth. Mr. Brodie for a number of years has been one of Buffalo's most distinguished citizens, richest of all local war millionaires and possibly the wealthiest man in the city. He received his U.S. citizenship in 1924.
   Although reticent about discussing the invention of the most famous hat in the world, he says he conceived of such a hat after statistics showed that about 750 out of a thousand wounded soldiers were suffering from head wounds.  One of the tests that Mr. Brodie put his hat through in order for the government to accept it from among 40 or 50 others,  was to put it on his head and allow it to be struck with a heavy steel bar.  He had so much confidence in  his invention that he was even willing to have the government inspectors shoot at the hat with a 45 caliber revolver while he was wearing it.  This was not considered necessary, however. 
   Mr. Brodie is asking a royalty for the use of his invention from the United States Government. So far he has received nothing but the heartfelt thanks from the thousands of American soldiers.  They didn't know who to thank for the hat when they were in the trenches, and they probably never will know, but they say thanks just the same.
   During the first year of World War I, none of the combatants offered steel helmets to their troops. The soldiers of most nations went into battle wearing simple cloth caps that offered virtually no protection from modern weapons. German troops wore the traditional leather Pickelhaube, also of little protective value.
    The Brodie helmet (also called the shrapnel helmet or Tommy helmet, and in the United States known as a doughboy helmet) was a steel helmet designed and patented in 1915 by John L. Brodie. The War Office Invention Department was asked to evaluate the French Adrian design but they decided that it was not strong enough and was too complex to allow quick mass production. The design submitted by John L. Brodie offered advantages over the French design as it could be pressed from a single thick sheet of steel, giving it added strength. The British Army first utilised the helmet in September of 1915 but it was not until the spring of 1916 that the helmet began to be issued to British troops in large numbers. It was first used in battle in April 1916 at St Eloi. Troops from other countries in the British Empire also used the Brodie helmet as did the United States when they entered the war in 1917. The United States Government initially purchased some 400,000 helmets from Britain.


Editors Note:  For the record, newspapers in general do not always get every fact correct regarding subject matter (not a big surprise). There were  some conflicting minor biographical information in articles written at different times I found about John Brodie. If ever any reader has additional information regarding John Brodie, that may differ from what I have, feel free to bring it up to me, and I will take it into consideration. Thanks

Monday, September 20, 2010


   American ingenuity is ever striving for startling effects. It is never satisfied. Ordinary achievements seem beneath its attention. It looks beyond, even if the object of its aim be more or less fantastic. One of the latest freaks of mechanical skill is the contsruction, by Louis Philip Perew, of Tonawanda, NewYork - a small town near Niagra Falls - of a gigantic man. Parew, with all the ardour of a modern Frankenstein, has endeavoured to make his man as life like in appearance as possible. Not only is its outward form a close model of a human being, but within it have been secreted mechanical devices which endow the automation with weird properties, making it even more nearly resemble an intelligent being....The Frankenstein of Tonawanda has brought into existance a thing of wood, rubber, and metals, which walks, talks, runs, jumps, rolls its eyes - imitating to a nicety almost every action of the original on which it is founded... By W.B. Northrop - extract from article published in Strand Magazine of London, England.

Buffalo Express Sept 2, 1900
Walking Automaton is a Mechanical Wonder
This Man May Walk For Years Without Rest or Sleep,  
Yet Never Feel Fatigue or Need For Food or Drink
Tonawanda Man Invents a Graven Image in the Form of 
a Man That Does Not Live, But Gives All Evidence of Life
May tour the continent to advertise the Pan-American

Perew and the "Automatic Man"
   A walking automaton has been invented by Louis Philip Perew of Tonawanda, which eclipses, so far as known, any other similar invention ever made. Of heroic proportions this mechanical wonder is shaped in very way like a man. Not only can it walk but it's eyes roll, it's head turns and all it's joints move naturally.
   It can even talk. To test the powers of the giant fully, it is proposed to walk him across the continent accompanied by only two human companions.  It is expected that other and similar walking men will be made and toured through the country in order to advertise the Pan-American Exposition.  A man that walks is a common sight. A dead man that walks is occasionally beheld by sailors on a Saturday Night.  But a man that walks long distance that never was alive is something so  unheard of that it is hard to believe that such a one could exist.  But exist it does, and walk it can, as any doubters will soon be able to see. For nine years Louis Philip Perew labored with his body and his brain at a huge undertaking.  Now the work is finished and he has a graven image made of wood and metal, in the likeness of a man.  And it walks!
    Seven feet five inches high, of  excellent proportions, this mechanical man is to every appearance a human being.  He is well formed, of heroic stature, and has a dignified military carriage. He has the quick step of the perfect heel and toe walker.  His features are of the typical American and so natural that one would imagine them of natural flesh instead of aluminum.  He is dressed in the height of fashion in a white duck outing suit and cap of the latest shape.
  Eyes of perfect blue roll in the head and gaze upon those who surround him, putting a feeling in the awed spectator that half convinces him that the automation is something more than a mechanical construction.  Such is the giant soulless man that has been made in Tonawanda, and that will walk, it is expected, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Automatic Man and Carriage
   It was in 1891 that Louis Perew struck upon the idea of a walking giant. For weeks and months he worked diligently. At last he had a figure carved  out of wood, three feet high, attached to a cart. When placed on a smooth surface, and provided that someone pushed the cart, the wooden figure would walk as though pulling the entire rig himself.
   Tonawanda men thought they saw much money in the building of an even larger automaton, purchased a share in the idea and had it patented.  A large figure was built and attached to an immense and very heavy vehicle. A man was put inside the rig to propel it by hand, and exhibitions were given about the streets of the village. It's leg motions, although patterned after mankind's, was still crude. There was a quiver and a jerk as the legs came forward that was not natural. The inventors moneyed friends became less enthusiastic, and in the end let the automation project drop.  In 1899, Charles A. Thomas of Cleveland, Ohio ran across the old automation and became interested in it's development.  Under Thomas's backing the U.S. Automaton Co. was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York.  Money was at once spent in lavish sums in the purchase of the very best material; the service of able mechanical engineers were secured and inventor Perew was given a free hand in the construction of his automaton.
Rear View of Apparatus
  After months of hard labor in the spacious hall of the old abandoned armory in Main Street, the mechanical giant began to grow. One week ago it stood before the stockholders of the company completed and ready to walk at the bidding of it's owners.
  In the company of Mr. Perew, the Courier correspondent was shown the automaton and it's mechanical make-up. A signal from the inventor caused assistant Fred Michaels to set the mechanism to work.  There was a slight dull noise, the giant raised it's right foot, and with the ease of a human being took a step forward, following with the left foot and so on, until the automaton was encircling the spacious hall, pulling a beautiful rig at a rate of speed far in excess of an ordinary walk of a good size man....Mr. Perew placed an obstruction in the path of the approaching giant. With eyes turning in their sockets the huge man seemed to discern the act of the inventor and when near the obstruction it stepped upon the obstacle and down to the floor again with perfect ease and went on its way, creating no other noise than that mad by heavy tread of 13 1/2 shoes.  Corners of the hall were turned in such a manner  as reminded the spectators of a living being, while the perfect action of the hip, knee and ankle joints, almost convinced the onlookers that the giant was imbued with life.
Louis Philip Perew - Inventor
   The carriage to which the automaton is attached resembles an electric delivery carriage.  The head of the figure is of sufficient size to permit the planting in the place where the brains are in a man, a complicated clock work, which when wound, causes the eye movement while the automaton is in motion. In its chest will be constructed a cell which will be placed an up-to-date phonograph, which will do the talking for the giant.  Attached directly in front of the carriage holding chains in his massive hands, the mechanical man can be driven at a rate of speed of fully four miles an hour.
  It is the intention of the company to hold a public banquet and  place the Automaton on exhibition.  Afterward it will be sent to New York City , where it will start on a trip across the country to San Francisco to test its walking power and gain for it a national reputation.  The company intends to build and sell the automatons for advertising purposes, and it is rumored that the Pan-American officials are looking into the advisability of using them for advertising the Exposition.
  The local automaton, according to well informed mechanical engineers, conforms with modern mechanical laws.  It's hip, knee and ankle motion is so perfect that a close inspection is necessary to prove that the automaton is not alive.  Aside from this Mr. Perew has invented a Merry-Go-Round, cigar lighters and a device for towing boats in the Erie Canal, the latter now being in the hands of some capitalists, who will at an early date will begin the construction of a mile of the device near Tonawanda.
Much credit is due J.A. Deschinger, who is assistant superintendent of construction, for the excellent workmanship of the automaton. He has labored night and day with the inventor to make the giant a success and it was due to the tenacity of Deschinger and Charles A. Thomas, vice president of the Company,that such obstacles have been overcome in it's construction as would have discouraged most other men long ago.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

PEOPLE COUNT - Making Sense Out of the Census

                                          Herman Hollerith,

At 20 years of age
    American inventor, born February 29, 1860 in Buffalo, New York, and graduated  from Columbia in 1879. Through a friend he got a position at the Census Bureau as a statistician to help solve problems analyzing the enormous amounts data generated by the 1880 census. He joined MIT in 1881 where he taught Mechaniclal Engineering and devised a system of encoding data on cards through a series of punched holes. He left MIT in 1883 and worked at the U.S. Patent office  as an assistant patent examiner. He resigned a year later and received a patent for his machine in 1884. 
  Following the 1880 census, the Census Bureau was collecting more data than it could tabulate. As a result, the agency held a competition in 1888 to find a more efficient method to process and tabulate data. Contestants were asked to process 1880 census data from four areas in St Louis, MO. Whoever captured and processed the data fastest would win a contract for the 1890 census.
  Three contestants accepted the Census Bureau's challenge. The first two contestants captured the data in 144.5 hours and 100.5 hours. The third contestant, a former Census Bureau employee named Herman Hollerith, completed the data capture process in 72.5 hours.
  Next, the contestants had to prove that their designs could prepare data for tabulation (i.e., by age category, race, gender, etc.). Two contestants required 44.5 hours and 55.5 hours. Hollerith astounded Census Bureau officials by completing the task in just 5.5 hours!
  Herman Hollerith's impressive results earned him the contract to process and tabulate 1890 census data. This system proved useful in statistical work and was important in the development of the digital computer. Hollerith's machine, "read" the cards by passing them through electrical contacts. Closed circuits, which indicated hole positions, could then be selected and counted. 

  Each Hollerith tabulator was equipped with a card reading station. Clerks opened the reader and positioned a punched card between the plates. The 1890 Hollerith tabulators consisted of 40 data-recording dials. Each dial represented a different data item collected during the census. A sorting table was positioned next to each tabulator. After registering the punch card data on the dials, the sorter specified which drawer the operator should place the card. The clerk opened the reader, placed the punch card in the designated sorter drawer, reset the dials, and positioned a new card to repeat the process. An experienced tabulator clerk could process 80 punch cards per minute.

   The Hollerith system was clearly a great leap forward. It took years of hard, patient work to complete the invention. He joined the Census Office in 1879, but didn't file his first patent until 1884. He first put his machines to work in 1887 in Baltimore—just about the time the Census Office was limping through the final stages of manually tabulating the 1880 census. At that rate, the 1890 census would be out of date by the time it was completed. 
   The population was growing about 25 percent a decade, to more than 60 million in 1890. And more information was needed on each of those 60 million people.  It really proved itself in the real census of 1890. Complete results were available two years sooner than the previous census. The data was more thoroughly analyzed, too, and at less cost—an estimated $5 million less than manual tabulation, nearly ten times greater than the predicted saving and a smaller amount of manpower than would have been necessary otherwise. The system was again used for the 1891 census in Canada, Norway and Austria and later for the 1911 UK census.
   In 1896, Hollerith formed the Tabulating Machine Company, opening a shop in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC. This international company leased and sold tabulation machines to census bureaus and insurance companies.  He provided machines for the 1900 census count, but had greatly raised his leasing prices. Hollerith, secure in his monopoly over the technology, knew that the Census Office would have to pay whatever he demanded. It did, but when the office became the permanent Census Bureau in 1902, it began to explore other options.   Barely skirting patent restrictions, Census Bureau employees were able to create their own tabulating machine, more advanced than Hollerith's, in time for the 1910 census. Census Bureau technician James Powers was able to secure the patent for this machine, and he started his own machine tabulation company in 1911.

   Hollerith's company continued to grow as it adapted its machines to do more jobs. For example, in 1906, Hollerith added a plugboard control panel so that new machines would not have to be rebuilt to do new tasks. Business continued to grow, and so did the company. In 1911, Herman Hollerith merged Tabulation Machine Company with three other companies to create Computing Tabulating Recording Company. In 1924, the company was re-named International Business Machines Corporation, better known as IBM today. Modified versions of his technology would continue to be used at the Census Bureau until replaced by computers in the 1950s. 
   Although Hollerith worked with the company he founded as a consulting engineer until his retirement in 1921, he became less and less involved in day-to-day operations. Hollerith retired to his farm in rural Maryland, where he spent the rest of his life raising Guernsey cattle.  He died of a heart attack in November 1929 in Washington D.C. and buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown.