Between January 16th and January 29th, a new artifact will be featured daily right here, below this paragraph and on the museum’s Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter channels. Check back on the 16th for more!
Models and Miniatures
Miniature Steam Engines by Hulse
These small model steam engines on wood base were made by William Hulse of Westhampton Beach, New York, in the mid 1900s. The red models are likely from a kit.
This red steam engine has a reversing lever!
Miniature Hand Tools
These tiny tools were made by Joseph Dennehy in the mid-1900s. The tools include: hacksaw, scissors, hammer, protractor square, pliers, cutter, C-clamps, vises, wrenches, ratchets, socket wrenches and sockets, calipers, screw clamps, V-clamps, bearing scraper.
Two-Cylinder Tiny and Miniature Steam Engine
This marvelously tiny steam engine, made by A.P. Isard in 1931, still turns and the pistons move up and down freely. It probably never ran on steam, but very likely did spin using compressed air. (We know the maker and the year because it’s engraved in about 4 pt font!)
This particular two-cylinder steam engine is being displayed because it’s similar to the tiny one. It’s easier to see what’s going on this larger scale. Howard Houck likely made this when he moved to NH from New York City, around 1957.
Model Steam Power Plant
Made by Ernest Nemeth Jr in the 1930s, this model steam plant has interesting proportions. It was certainly a labor of love with many working parts, including several lightbulbs, a pressure gauge, a steam whistle, an oil dispenser, and a generator.
Many of the models we have are small steam-engines. They can be simply built and made to work, which is always satisfying for the builder. These are neither models nor miniatures; they’re full size steam whistles!
Here we have a Five Tone whistle from 1900, made by Welsbach.
This whistle seems to be from a tugboat named “Annette.
Want to hear them?
Model Steam Engine “For Margie”
This miniature steam engine is a 19th Century 20 horsepower Sugarmill Engine, major beam style, built by Fred Sinon in 1984. The brass plaque indicates that it’s for “Margie,” who was Mrs. Sinon.
Model Steam Engine Trio
Carefully constructed bases
Different kind of shape.
Working Steam Engine with Governor
Made by CA Norgren, 1870-1900,
This steam engine with speed control is in working condition after restoration.
Perhaps the most notable feature of this small steam engine is the centrifugal governor – so called because it governs the speed of the engine.. As the flyballs fly outward due to spin, a valve is closed. When the valve closes, the spin speed is reduced, so the balls fall – which reopens the valve in a feedback system.
If you’ve ever used a Polaroid camera, you know that the picture is ejected after you take a photo. Parrish was working on the mechanism for those rollers in 1944.
This is one of Maxfield Parrish Jr’s earlier models – it’s a single cylinder internal combustion engine on wood base, dated in 1924.
Note the differences between the above early model (which reads “It Never Ran Well” on the front) and the model from twenty years later.
The characters stamped into the top read:
MAXFIELD PARRISH, JR.
Parrish also made several models to demonstrate mechanisms.
And here’s one of his other models! When you hold the disc, it changes which arms move.
Miniature Punch Press
Model Punch Press Cell, made by Karl Deubel in 1944. This setup is coil feed into the stamping press which is also equipped with a scrap chopper. A foot pedal is used to operate the press. It’s possible that this was a salesman’s model, but even at its small size, it works and stamps out a pa
Marklin Model Steam Engine, 1900-1935
Marklin Model Steam Engine: Although the German company Marklin is known today for model trains, for many years made they model steam engine kits. This particular model was made around 1900-1935 and comes with many moving parts – including a small working hacksaw.
Gridley Turret Lathe Patent Models
Designed by George Gridley, Models made by Windsor Machine Co, approx. 1905.
At first glance these three turret lathes look almost alike. They were made to argue a case in a patent suit. They demonstrate similarities and differences so that the judge, who might not be mechanically adept, could actually see the mechanism in action.
This is a small, motorized (and functional) metal shaper made by E. P. Czachor of Addison IL in 1963. The difference between a shaper and a planer is that in a planer, the table moves, while in a shaper, the tool moves.
Miniatures by John Aschauer
Visitors to the museum will recognize this next set of miniatures. John Aschauer began working on the model steam plant at age 14 – a miniature version of the double-boiler steam power plant in the shop where he was working as an apprentice. It took Aschauer four years to complete the steam plant. During his life, he spent around 40,000 hours making model machines using a bench lathe, shaper, and drill press – and lots of files, hard work, and patience. (He even made the bench shown!) These machines are scaled to 1/16th size and not only require a great deal of precision to build, but also demonstrate the master craftsmanship in the machine tool industry.
“Igniting Innovation: The Manufacturing Revolution in Precision Valley,” is the name of the visitor orientation film by Edge Factor . The story of Precision Valley is so captivating that the film is an official selection of the Raw Science Film Festival, and Best Documentary at the Ozark Mountain Webfest!
Machine Tool Hall of Fame
The American Precision Museum Machine Tool Hall of Fame provides permanent recognition for those who have made significant contributions to the American machine tool industry, starting in 1765.
The Hall of Fame project was a joint effort of the American Precision Museum and the The Association for Manufacturing Technology. AMT represents and promotes U.S.-based manufacturing technology and its members—those who design, build, sell, and service the continuously evolving technology that lies at the heart of manufacturing. Founded in 1902 and based in Virginia, the association specializes in providing targeted business assistance, extensive global support, and business intelligence systems and analysis. AMT is the voice that communicates the importance of policies and programs that encourage research and innovation, and the development of educational initiatives to create tomorrow’s Smartforce. AMT owns and manages IMTS — The International Manufacturing Technology Show, which is the premier manufacturing technology event in North America.
The Machine Tool Hall of Fame project began in 1982 and forty seven members have now been elected, including four inductees in 2004. As a Hall of Fame partner, AMT provided services that supported the selection of new honorees. Nominees were judged for their inventions, their innovative use of others’ inventions, or their leadership of a machine oriented group. We continue to use these hall-0f-famers’ contributions today.
Below, these individuals are listed in alphabetical order – click their name to read about their work.
Hall of Fame
Rudolph Bannow (1897-1962)
Bannow was born in Sweden and came to the US at 13, learned the pattern maker’s trade, and later became a foreman at the Bridgeport (Conn.) Pattern and Model Works. He bought the company in 1927 and took in Magnus Wahlstrom as a partner two years later. The partnership soon produced a high-speed milling attachment, followed by a version with a quill.
In 1936, while delivering a pattern, Bannow got the idea for a machine built around the head the firm was producing. He sketched the Bridgeport turret milling machine on a paper bag while sitting in his truck. The first Bridgeport mill was shipped in 1938, and more than a quarter million have been built. This versatile machine became the foundation of the “tool and die” business of thousands of small job shops.
Thomas Blanchard (1788-1864)
Born on a farm in central Massachusetts, Thomas Blanchard started inventing machinery at age 13 with an apple-paring mechanism. The later invention of a tack-making machine gave Thomas Blanchard a reputation, and he was sought out by gun manufacturer Asa Waters, a supplier to the United States Armory in Springfield, to see whether he could improve the lathe for turning the oval base of gun barrels. Blanchard did, with a machine that used a cam motion.
In 1818, Blanchard went on to invent an efficient machine for turning irregular wood rifle stocks, automating what had been a job of hand-carving and furthering the ‘American System’ of interchangeable parts. Blanchard’s famed copy lathe not only turned gun stocks; its chief utility turned out to be producing wooden lasts for shoemakers. Later on, the same principle was applied to the shaping of metal.
In 1849, Thomas Blanchard invented a machine for bending wood that was used to make plow handles and larger shapes for ships. In his later years the inventor built steamboats and then moved to Boston, where he served as an expert on patents.
E.W. Bliss (1836-1903)
E.W. Bliss was born EIiphaIet WiIIiams Bliss, the son of a physician. He went to work on a farm at ten, showed an early aptitude by making and selling toys for pocket money, and was apprenticed to Charles W. Metcalf, who ran a general machine shop probably in or near Cooperstown, NY. After completing his apprenticeship, Bliss worked in the Syracuse shops of the New York Central railroad and then for the Charles Parker gun factory in Meriden, Conn. He was managing that factory four years later when he enlisted for the first battle of Bull Run.
After the war he returned to Meriden but soon moved to Brooklyn, NY, to serve as superintendent for Andrew Campbell, producing printing presses. Bliss went to New Haven to start his own business, which failed, and in 1867, he returned to Brooklyn and started a partnership with John Mays. After five years, Mays sold his interest to Bliss’ cousin, J. H. Williams for $15,000. After another ten years, Bliss bought Williams out for $10,000, forming the E. W. Bliss Co. Later Bliss acquired his principal competitor, the Styles & Parker Press Co., and, at the time of his death, the Bliss factory covered 85 blocks in Brooklyn and employed 13,000 people.
Wallace E. Brainard (1912-1976)
Raised on a ranch in the San Fernando Valley, Brainard taught himself technology. He was an apprentice telegrapher and radio operator, worked on a merchantman, joined a technical crew for C. B. DeMille that developed servo-coordinated cameras for films such as Ben Hur; did electro-hydraulic work in the early aircraft industry at Vultee, Northrup, and Hughes. His experience in tracer control in the aircraft industry led him to advanced machine-tool development and he was supplied as a part-time consultant to the Vance NC machine-tool program at Wright Field.
Hughes planned a parts-making line that would have three machine tools with a Hughes control and contracted with Kearney & Trecker to develop the line and tool changer for the machines. Brainard moved with the contract to K&T as Director of Technical Operations in 1956. The contract was terminated when the Hughes control proved unsatisfactory and Brainard headed the K&T team that designed the tool changer and the Milwaukee-Matic II with a GE control, a development that changed the nature of manufacturing. A series of larger machining centers, the Gemini (a single remote computer-controlled machine tool), and a computerized manufacturing system for Allis Chalmers followed. He retired in 1969.
Edwin R. Fellows (1865-1945)
One of the original classic original machine designs is the Fellows Gear Shaper. Several machines of the molding-generating type had been developed using a rack tooth as a cutter. Fellows used a complete gear as a cutter, solving all the problems that had made such cutters impractical before. This was a gear that was cut oversize, hardened, and then ground accurately to shape with back and side clearance and top rake. The key to the process lay in the grinding machine Fellows designed to produce these cutters, a machine that foreshadowed production gear grinding machines.
Previously a window dresser, untrained in engineering, Fellows started with Jones & Lamson in 1889 and became a draftsman working on designs for the Hartness flat turret lathe. But Fellows became interested in gearing and was soon working nights on gear-cutting ideas. Within a few years he had worked out the idea for the gear shaper, overcome the derision that the experts heaped on his idea, and in 1896 formed the Fellows Gear Shaper Co. He delivered the first machine the following year and in 1899 received the Franklin Institute’s John Scott medal for the design.
Joseph R. Brown (1810-1876)
After an apprenticeship in Pawtucket (RI), Brown began to produce small tools in Providence, and was briefly involved in a partnership with his father to produce and repair clocks and watches. When his father went west, Brown stayed behind and continued the shop alone, eventually taking on a local boy, Lucian Sharpe, as an apprentice.
Brown developed an automatic linear dividing machine and was able to develop and produce a small caliper that depended on main and vernier scales cut on the dividing machine. His reputation for accuracy brought a contract to build the Willcox & Gibbs sewing machines. That in turn required machine tools. He improved the turret screw machine of Frederick Howe, then he transformed the bed-type milling machines of the gun makers with a knee and column to produce the universal milling machine, making it a true tool-room machine. This was followed by a formed milling cutter for gear teeth which could be sharpened by simply grinding away the face of each cutter tooth. Finally came the universal grinding machine, completed in 1876 and, like the universal milling machine, the start of a long line of machine tools.
William L. Bryant (1875-1931)
Bryant was hired as assistant draftsman at Jones & Lamson while in his third year of engineering at the University of Vermont and became head draftsman in 1900. He worked with Hartness on the design of lathes with the turret on a cross slide. He became interested in grinding and thought in terms of chucking the work as was done on the lathes so that operations could be combined. This could move grinding machines from the tool room to the production floor.
Bryant applied for his first patent in 1902, for other features in 1906, and started his own company in 1909 with the backing of J&L. The machine had three independent grinding heads: one small, high-speed wheel for internal grinding, a larger wheel for the outside diameter, and a cup wheel for the face. Cams and stops made the cycle automatic, except for loading and unloading, permitting the rapid production of bearing races for the growing auto industry.
Edward P. Bullard (1872-1953)
In 1900, while at the Paris Exposition for his father’s firm, he discovered the needs of the French auto industry and began immediately to design a machine that combined the advantages fo the vertical lathe or boring mill and the turret lathe, producing the vertical turret lathe. Later, when he was general manager for the company, he led the development of the vertical multiple-spindle ‘Mult-Au-Matic’ that was to become a major machine tool for the mass production of parts in the growing auto industry.
He served as president of Bullard for 40 years, through two world wars and the boom and depression between, a period during which Bullard became and remained the largest machine-tool builder in the U.S.
Frank Lyman Cone (1868-1936)
Cone learned carpentry, blacksmithing, and general mechanics on his father’s farm. In 1891 he became a general repairman for the Connecticut River Railroad in a branch repair shop in Windsor, Vermont. In 1895 he moved to the Windsor Machine Co. which had started in the old Robbins & Lawrence Armory after Jones & Lamson moved to Springfield, Vt.
After George Gridley joined the company and began to develop his single-spindle automatics. When National Acme bought Windsor Machine in 1916, Cone resigned. He started designing a new automatic and formed Cone Automatic Machine Co. to build it. His first machine was a conventional single spindle, but the second was a four-spindle machine that broke with all previous designs. He put all the cams at the top on one long shaft. This made it possible to build large multiple-spindle machines that had the operating positions down at a convenient working height.
Ralph E. Cross (1910-2003 )
When Cross joined the Cross Co. in 1933, the company was down to three people-his father, brother, and himself. The company had been a pioneering builder of engines and gears, but at that time the only profitable product was a gear-tooth rounding machine developed by the senior Milton Cross in 1912. Ralph Cross ceased all other operations and concentrated on the machine tool. As he concentrated on engineering, the company pioneered transfer machines, developing preset tools, tool control systems, sectionalized transfer lines, ballscrew feed units, and computerized machine tool systems.
Starting in 1960, he spent several years in Germany establishing engineering and manufacturing there. These were later expanded to Britain. Long a proponent of increased training of applications engineers, he headed the SME Engineering Education Foundation, and endowed a chair in manufacturing technology at MIT.
William Davenport (1861-1937)
Born on a farm in Vermont, Davenport started to learn his trade in a button factory in Rutland, then for six years in the tool room and as a scalemaker at Fairbanks Scale Co. in St. Johnsbury. Following a year in Georgia with Rome Scale Works, he joined Brown & Sharpe Mfg. Co.
In 12 years there, first as a machinist and later as a designer, he designed the Brown & Sharpe automatic screw machine. Next he went into business for himself designing special machines for clock manufacture which at first he had built for him at Morse Twist Drill & Machine in New Bedford. The first unique five-spindle Davenport automatic screw machine was introduced in 1910. Later he moved to his own shop in Springfield, Mass, and in 1919 he moved to Rochester, NY. Although he built a substantial factory, for the next thirty years there was usually a long list of customers waiting for a Davenport—-a wait that sometimes extended to two or three years.
Charles B. DeVlieg (1892-1973)
Charles B. DeVlieg designed the Jig mill in 1943, which was his most significant contribution to the machine tool industry. But this invention followed a difficult career hindered by events out of DeVIieg’s control, notably the Depression.
DeVIieg began as a journeyman macninist but grew impatient with the work and became a tool designer for Ford. Later he switched to Dodge Brothers as an assistant master mechanic and then went to Kearney & Trecker as a works manager. In the mid 1920s, DeVIieg developed a bed-type milling machine on his own, but, lacking production resources, sold the design to Sundstrand. Then in 1929, DeVIieg’s attempt to start his own company was diverted by the Depression. Finally, in 1939 DeVIieg Machine Co. got off the ground with a machine that could make aircraft supercharger blades in a fraction of the time. With back orders on hand and impatient to wait 18 months for two boring machines to be delivered, DeVIieg built his own, the design of which he later improved to become the Jig mill.
Edwin R. Fellows (1865-1945)
One of the original classic original machine designs is the Fellows gear shaper. Several machines of the molding-generating type had been developed ing a rack tooth as a cutter. Fellows used a complete gear as a cutter, solving all the problems that had made such cutters impractical before. This was a gear that was cut oversize, hardened, and then ground accurately to shape with back and side clearance and top rake. The key to the process lay in the grinding machine Fellows designed to produce these cutters, a machine that foreshadowed production gear grinding machines.
Previously a window dresser, untrained in engineering, Fellows started with Jones & Lamson in 1889 and became a draftsman working on designs for the Hartness flat turret lathe. But Fellows became interested in gearing and was soon working nights on gear-cutting ideas. Within a few years he had worked out the idea for the gear shaper, overcome the derision that the experts heaped on his idea, and in 1896 formed the Fellows Gear Shaper Co. He delivered the first machine the following year and in 1899 received the Franklin Institute’s John Scott medal for the design.
Robert M. Gaylord (1888-1980)
After receiving his B.A. degree from the University of Minnesota, Robert Gaylord worked for companies in Minneapolis and Rockford, Illinois. In 1915 he married Mildred Ingersoll, a girl he had met while working in Rockford. Then in 1917 he went back to Rockford as vice president at Ingersoll Milling. He became president of the company in 1928, a post he held for 40 years. He made lasting changes in the methods of operations. One was his requirement that management justify the replacement of machines less than ten years old, and justify the retention of machines over ten years old. Under his leadership the company pioneered transfer machines for automobile powertrain components, and developed machines for battleship armor plate and tank hull construction. In 1968, he turned the CEO post over to his son, Edson, but continued as chairman.
Frederick V. Geier (1894-1981)
Frederick Geier shaped Cincinnati Milacron into an industry leader by stressing research and product development. Geier joined his father’s cornpany when he was 22 and the firm was still called Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. Under his direction, the firm established in 1926 a basic-research department to study chip formation and cutting mechanisms. In 1934, when Geier became coresident, the firm began building machine tools in Western Europe. Geier stressed expansion of the company’s product line through internal development instead of the acquisition of other companies.
Geier remained president until 1958 and remained active in the firm until 1976. The firm’s 1970 decision to change its name to Cincinnati Milacron, to reflect a broad product line that included more than just milling machines, is a tribute to Geier’s leadership and vision for the company.
James Gleason (1868-1964)
James Gleason is the name behind Gleason gears and wheels. At the age of 14, Gleason began working in the Rochester, NY company owned by his father William Gleason, who had earlier developed the first practical bevel-gear planer. Gleason first traveled as a company salesman and helped the company focus on bevel-gear making instead of continuing to produce a general machine-tool line.
As an inventor, Gleason received 36 patents, including those for a generating action machine (1907), the first spiral-bevel generator to use a circular fice-milling cutter (1919), and the Formate generator (1938). When his father died in 1922 Gleason became President and guided the company in developing the first successful method of producing hypoid gears (1927) and the Curvic coupling, which had a major effect on machine-tool design.
George O. Gridley (1869-1956)
Fresh from a farm, Gridley worked at the Waterbury Button Co. for only a few months before James Hartness brought him to Jones & Lamson as his secretary. In 1899 he became superintendent of the Windsor Machine Co., then operating in the old Robbins & Lawrence Armory. He developed an automatic turret lathe and followed in 1907 with a four-spindle automatic screw machine built around a spindle carrier that supported the spindles between two disks mounted on a central shaft.
Later he joined with Maxwell Evarts to buy the company and they moved it into a new plant in Windsor. In 1916 they sold to National Acme (who joined the designs as the Acme-Gridley). Tiring of retirement, Gridley started the Gridley Machine Co. in New Britain, to produce a new design. In 1929, he sold to New Britain Machine, continuing as a consultant with the company until his death. Gridley held more than 60 patents on his machine designs.
John H. Hall (1781-1841)
John Hall is the only elected member of the Hall of Fame for whom we have been unable to locate an image in order to produce an etched master. If you are able to locate an image of Mr Hall, please notify the Museum.
Born in Portland, Maine, Hall worked in his father’s tannery, then set up shop as a woodworker, machinist, and boat builder, but turned to the making of guns. In 1811 he devised an odd-looking breech-loading rifle and ended up supervising the production of this rifle at Harpers Ferry Armory. For the 21 years that he ran the Rifle Works it served as a development laboratory for the Ordnance Department. He devised and built sturdy milling machines with guides and stops such that truly interchangeable parts were produced on machines operated by boys.
In 1826, friction between Hall and the Superintendent of the Armory led to a resolution in Congress calling for a study of the “fabrication, cost & utility” of Hall’s rifles. The detailed report “on Hall’s machinery” said, “Arms have never been made so exactly similar to each other by any other process. (The) machines we have examined effect this with a certainty and precision we should not have believed, till we witnessed their operation.” After this, Hall’s ideas spread rapidly to Springfield Armory and the private armories. He devised gaging systems to maintain accuracy and when Simeon North began building Hall rifles in Connecticut, the gaging system insured that parts were interchangeable between rifles from the two armories.
James Hartness (1861-1934)
James Hartness patented his fIat-turret lathe in 1891, replacing the then popular barrel arrangement with a circular flat revolving plate mounted on a low carriage. Hartness began his career in Cleveland and then moved east when he received a job through the mail from Stasker Bolt Co. in Winsted, Conn. After three years he moved to Union Hardware Co. in Torrington.
In 1888 Hartness was hired as superintendent for Jones & Lamson, which had recently moved to Springfield, Vt. There he soon angered associates by focusing production on turret lathes. Protected by a three-year employment contract, he ignored the conflict and redeemed himself with the invention of his flat-turret lathe. In later years, Hartness also received patents for a roller feed, the Lo-Swing lathe (which he sold), the Comparator, and other designs for a total of 120 US and 48 foreign patents. He is also noted as a catalyst, spurring the formation of two companies: Edwin Fellow’s gear-shaper company and William Bryant’s internal-grinder manufacturing firm. Hartness had hired both men and later helped them set up their companies.
James N. Heald (1846-1931)
After graduating from Worcester Polytechnic, Heald became a partner with his father in the blacksmith shop, foundry, and machine shop his family had operated for 60 years in Heald Village near Barre, Massachusetts. In 1903, James Heald obtained financing to buy the firm from his father and moved it to Worcester. He had already developed a lathe attachment for both internal and external grinding and a successful drill point grinder. In 190S, Heald introduced a rotary grinder for the sides of piston rings. This brought him in contact with the problems encountered with cylinders for auto engines. Up to that time, boring, reaming, and lapping were the usual methods. Grinding was ruled out because of the difficulty of rotating the engine block around the cylinder centerline. The thin walls would spring away from the boring tool, causing an uneven surface. In 1905, Heald devised a grinding machine with a planetary action that was so well designed that such machines differ little even today. Heald’s grinding machine quickly became the standard production method for both auto and aircraft engines. Later Heald added automatic size control, and developed hydraulic table feed and centerless internal grinders.
John Herkenhoff (1905-1996)
Minster Machine was started as a machine shop in 1896 by Anton Herkenhoff and built its first press in 1926. The following year Anton’s son John graduated from the University of Dayton in mechanical engineering and started work for the company. He worked on the design of a large double-crank straight-side press to stamp bases for gasoline pumps that greatly expanded the company’s capability. Starting with clutch patents for oil-drilling equipment developed by Anton, Minster introduced presses with multiple disk air friction clutch and brake on the same shaft. John Herkenhoff became General Manager in 1935 and President in 1939. Under his management, researchers at Minster obtained 61 patents, including the straight-side single-crank press, the transfer press, a series of improvements in air friction clutches that culminated in1947 with one that fitted in the flywheel of open-back-inclinable presses and doubled the speed possible with mechanical clutches.
Frederick W. Howe (1822-1891)
Howe designed numerous innovations for historically important manufacturers. Howe was apprenticed to the famous Gay, Silver shop in North Chelmsford, Mass. Between 1847 and 1856, he and Richard Lawrence jointly developed numerous innovations for Robbins & Lawrence in Windsor, Vt. —the location of the American Precision Museum today. Among Howe’s designs were several for milling machines. Then he built milling machines for a Newark firm and worked for the Simeon North company in Middletown, Conn. Next, while at the Providence Tool Company’s armory, he interested Joseph R. Brown in machine tools. The first Brown & Sharpe machine was an improved version of a turret screw machine that Howe had designed while at Robbins and Lawrence. Howe also inspired Brown to invent the universal milling machine. Next he organized quantity production of Elias Howe’s sewing machines and finally returned to Brown & Sharpe as President.
Winthrop Ingersoll (1865-1928)
Born in Cleveland, Ingersoll was a good athlete and wanted to be a professional baseball player, but his father wouldn’t let him. He formed a partnership with W. R. Eynon in Cleveland in 1888 to make cutters for slab milling, then found existing machine tools were not heavy enough to drive these cutters and started making machines. In 1891 Ingersoll was lured to Rockford to take a spot in a new industrial park there. Ingersoll began to make fixtures, as well as machines and cutters, which allowed him to assume the total responsibility for the output of his machines. He developed the concept of the adjustable rail, or portal, machine before the turn of the century and built one for General Electric in 1903, which weighed almost 400,000 pounds.
About 1905, he abandoned standard machines to build only special machines. He built the first machine for cylinder blocks for Ford’s Model T around 1909 and designed and built the first transfer machine ever built in the U.S. in 1924. These two machines-the portal-type machine and the transfer machine-originated with Ingersoll.
Edward J. Kingsbury (1893-1973)
After getting a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT and joining his father’s business, the WilkinsToy Co., he saw a need for an automatic drilling machine to drill through the hard spots in the cast iron machine, and in 1920 he became head of the Company, now Kingsbury Machine Tool. In 1923 he developed the concept of placing the drilling machine units around a rotary table to obtain high production by simultaneous multiple-station drilling–the beginning of the rotary transfer machine.
Ralph Kraut (1908-1985)
Born in Chicago, Kraut moved to Fond du Lac when his father went to work for Giddings & Lewis. He started as an indentured apprentice at G&L, then got his BSME at Wisconsin, worked as a production engineer at A. 0. Smith, then spent four years at General Electric as a student engineer, later working in inspection and experimental, sales and advertising, accounting, and finally as a traveling auditor. In 1935 he returned to G&L as assistant works manager.
An active reservist, he served in the infantry during World War II first as a Captain, served in the Pacific with the Xth Corps, then was G-3 of the 6th Division during the invasion of the Phillipines during which he was promoted to Lt Col. Immediately after V-J Day he returned to G&L as President. Under Kraut, G&L pioneered in NC, working with GE to produce the first NC skin mill, and signing a research contract with MIT immediately after MIT completed the original contract for the Air Force. G&L soon developed its own controls. He greatly broadened the firm’s operations, acquiring Cincinnati Bickford, Kaukauna Machine, Kelly Reamer, Prescott, Gisholt, and Gilman in the US and Fraser in Scotland.
Ebenezer G. Lamson (1814-1891)
In his early twenties, Ebenezer Lamson set up a cutlery business with his brother and an uncle in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. That firm, Lamson & Goodnow Co., prospered and continues into the 21st Century. When he became interested in the machinery that made cutlery, Ebenezer Lamson joined with another partner, B. Buchanan Yale, and in 1858 purchased the assets of a private armory called Robbins & Lawrence Company in Windsor, Vermont, the factory that is now the site of the American Precision Museum. In 1868, Russell Jones, a textile manufacturer, agreed to move his equipment to the Windsor area, and the company was reorganized as Jones, Lamson & Company. The owners soon discovered that cotton textile manufacturing and machine building were not compatible businesses. In 1876, the machinery manufacturing branch of the business was separately incorporated as Jones & Lamson Machine Company. In the mid 1880s the business fell on hard times, and Lamson began to look for tax concessions and sources of funding. This need became known in Springfield, Vermont, 20 miles south. Springfield offered the manufacturing company the financial support it required, and in 1888 the business and machines moved there. Aided in no small measure by lathe inventor (and Hall of Fame member) James Hartness, the Jones & Lamson business prospered in Springfield and became one of the world’s most significant machine tool manufacturers.
Abraham B. Landis (1851-1923)
Abraham Landis was the sixth of seven children of aPennsylvania carpenter. A. B. Landis started as an apprentice to two of his older brothers, Franklin and Ezra, who manufactured steam engines. He and his brother F.F. formed a partnership to build farm machinery, which they sold to the Geiser Co. in Waynesboro, Pa.
While working for Geiser, A.B. developed the Landis universal grinding machine. In 1890, he and F.F. formed a new partnership to manufacture cylindrical grinders, later reorganized as Landis Tool Co. Later still, the Landis Machine Co. was organized to sell A.B.’s threading machines.
His contributions to the manufacture of engines for the budding automobile industry were particularly prolific. His 1903 patent for an automatic magazine feed and release for short cylindrical parts enabled efficient grinding of connecting rod pins. The 1905 specialized grinder for automobile crankshafts eliminated torsion in the shaft by mounting the work on two live heads, counterbalanced by the journal bearings. Roll-grinding improvements permitted smooth finishes on automotive sheet metal for the first time. In 1910, he left both Landis companies and opened an engineering laboratory, developing a camshaft grinder with automatic feed.
Franklin F. Landis (1845-1932)
Brother to Abraham Landis, at 17 he entered John A. Snyder’s machine shop in Mount Joy, Pa. He became manager in 1865, then left to become a toolmaker in the Norris Locomotive Works in Lancaster. In 1867 he started his own shop in Lancaster, later taking in his brother Ezra as a partner and A. B. as an apprentice. He started making patent models, then producing steam engines. He sold the company but continued as manager. In l876, he and A.B. started a partnership to make portable steam engines for farm machinery, they sold this to the Geiser Manufacturing Co in Waynesboro with F.F. continuing as chief of design. He had designed a cylindrical grinding machine in l872. After A.B. had developed this, they started a new company in l889 to manufacture it. First called Landis Bros. it later became Landis Tool Co. While working for Geiser, F.F. designed a bolt-threading machine with rights going to Landis Tool, but it was not until 1903 that the Landis Machine Co. was formed to produce it. F.F.’s other developments included a steam plow with ten blades, a threshing machine, machines to make concrete blocks, electric time clocks, a shock absorber for automobiles, and a method for maintaining a constant water level in steam boilers.
Richard E. LeBlond (1900-1995)
LeBlond entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis by cornpetitive examination. In the middle of his third year, the signing of the treaty limiting the size of the Navy forced most of the class to resign. He transferred to Purdue, graduating in mechanical engineering in 1922. He immediately went to work for The R. K. LeBlond Machine Tool Co., which had been founded by his father. He started as a lathe hand and worked in various departments until he became Works Manager. He led the company from 1940 to 1965, producing lathes for large caliber guns during the war and, after the war, developing automated lathes to machine the line and pin bearings of crankshafts. Development contracts with General Electric produced the first continuous-path numerically controlled lathe in 1960 and a low-cost NC lathe with threading capability in 1964. Precision NC lathes for jet-engine components were assembled and tested in a controlled environment.
Richard K. LeBlond (1864-1953)
A machinist apprentice for five years in Covington, Ky, while studying drafting and mechanics at night, he then worked in a type foundry in St Louis while attending Washington Univ. In 1887, at 23, he started his company in Cincinnati with three employees to make type and small tools and gauges for the printing industry. In 1891, he contracted to produce lathes for Lodge & Davis. The next year he began producing the first lathe of his own design, a 14-in. engine lathe. He followed with designs for single and multiple-spindle drills, chucking lathes, bicycle crank lathes, cutter grinders and milling machines.
He developed his first gear-driven headstock in 1903, and then began to develop crankshaft lathes for the automobile industry. During the Depression he developed the Regal, a low-cost, high-performance engine lathe produced in volume using an assembly line. During World War ll, he produced gun boring, rifling, turning, and breech milling machines for gun tubes. He was working on a series of new lathe headstock designs and a range of milling machines at the time of his death at age 89.
William Lodge (1848-1917)
Lodge had his apprenticeship in theEnglish machine-tool industry and arrived broke in Cincinnati in 1872. After eight years with John Steptoe, he had saved enough to start his own firm. This became Lodge & Davis, whose export activities exceeded the capacity of the firm. So while Davis sold the machines, Lodge helped start other firms to supply them. Later Lodge & Davis split up over Lodge’s desire to concentrate on a single type of machine. The original firm eventually became American Tool, and Lodge’s new firm became Lodge & Shipley. By 1900 there were 25 machine-tool firms in Cincinnati, and the formation of about half of them had been strongly influenced by Lodge.
Richard P Moore (1896-1987)
Moore was born on a Connecticut farm and stopped school after the eighth grade to work full time for his father, a surveyor. In 1915 he went to Bridgeport and worked for Remington in the milling department and then the toolroom, next for various job shops and in the toolroom at Singer. During this period he went to night school to complete his education, then set up his own shop which soon became noted for handling the difficult, precise jobs. Jig borers, at the time, used end masures or unhardened leadscrews compensated for using hardened and ground leadscrews, in 1932. This machine and its successors eventually gained worldwide recognition. Next came the invention of the jig grinder, which extended accurate hole location to hardened work. This machine has essentially the base, table, and column of a jig borer, with a grinding head that reciprocates over an adjustable distance, carries a small grinding wheel through an orbital path, and can be set at an angle to grind tapers. Then came the universal measuring machine and a succession of measuring instruments. Moore is credited with giving metalworking plants an additional decimal point of accuracy.
Simeon North (1765-1852)
North is now generally credited with the invention of the milling machine-the first entirely new type of machine invented in America and the machine that, by re- placing filing, made interchangeable parts practical. In 1795, North began to produce scythes in a mill adjacent to his farm in Berlin, Conn. Four years later, he obtained a contract to make pistols and began to add a factory to the mill building. By 1813, he signed a contract to produce 20,000 pistols that specified that parts had to be completely interchangeable between any of the 20,000—the first such contract of which any such evidence exists. The first known milling machine was in use by 1818. At about that time, North was sent to John H. Hall, superintendent at Harpers Ferry (Va.) Armory, to introduce his methods of achieving interchangeability. In 1828, North received a contract to produce 5,000 Hall rifles with parts interchangeable with those produced at Harpers Ferry. North had a 53-year contractual relationship with the War Dept. The report of Charles H. Fitch prepared for the 1880 Census credits North with a key role in developing manufacture with interchangeable parts.
Charles H. Norton (1851-1942)
The creator of production grinding was first exposed to grinding at Seth Thomas Clock Works.He joined Brown & Sharpe in 1886 and was assigned to discover the reason for problems with Brown’s universal grinding machine, producing a machine that was heavier but still not capable of using the full width of available wheels. In 1890 he went to Detroit with Henry Leland, and in six years as a partner in Leland, Falconer & Norton (later became Cadillac) he gained experience with production machine tools and the problems of making automobiles. Back at Brown & Sharpe, he designed a plain cylindrical grinder, then wanted to design a heavy machine with wide wheels and high horsepower that could eliminate the final lathe cut before grinding. Unable to sell his ideas, he left and joined the Norton Emery Wheel Co. (whose founder was no relation) where he proceeded to develop production grinding machines that proved critical to the development of the automobile industry The machines made plunge cuts and had micrometer movements so parts could be ground to specified sizes on a production basis.
John T. Parsons (1913-2007)
Parsons played the pivotal role in the development of numerical control. His company had made a number of manufacturing innovations in producing land mines, bombs, rockets, and helicopter rotor blades during World War 11. In 1947 he and Frank Stulen developed a method to produce contoured templets for checking blades by calculating successive machine positions on an IBM multiplier and then manually setting the positions on a boring mill. When Parsons learned that Lockheed was planning an aircraft with sculptured weight reduction pockets he convinced the Air Force by a series of demonstrations that this method could be adapted to a three-dimensional numerically controlled machine tool. He obtained a contract to develop such a machine with IBM to produce the data input device and Snyder to build the machine. Though MIT later took over the contract, his was the concept, the principles, and the persuasion that started numerical control of machine tools.
Louis Polk (1904-1991)
Polk’s association with City Machine & Tool Works in Dayton began as a messenger boy. He returned to the firm as a designer after graduating from the University of Miami in Ohio in 1926. Five years later he was general manager and in 1941 merged the company with Sheffield Machine & Tool, becoming president of the resulting Sheffield Corp. He is best known for the development of the column-type Precisionaire dimensional comparator. These gages played an important role in airplane production during World War II. Later they were widely applied to machine tools, providing a method of in-process gaging on a variety of machines. Sheffield concentrated on developing a variety of gages and measuring systems and a line of grinders using an in-process optical comparator to obtain precision. After Sheffield was acquired by Bendix in 1956, he continued to head the firm until 1963. Long active in standards development, he was a delegate to the 1960 conference that replaced the meter bar with an isotopic wavelength of light, served on many standards boards and committees, often as chairman, and was chairman of the U. S. Metric Advisory committee.
Francis A. Pratt (1827-1902)
Pratt was born in Woodstock Vt., served a seven-year apprenticeship, and then spent four years as a contractor at Gloucester Machine Works before moving to the Colt plant in Hartford, Conn. Two years later, he became superintendent of the Phoenix Iron Works in Hartford. He is generally credited with the design of the Lincoln miller (named for the owner of Phoenix) starting from an earlier miller designed by Lawrence. In 1860, Pratt and Amos Whitney, a contractor working for Phoenix, began moonlighting and received a contract for a thread-winding machine. This partnership grew into Pratt & Whitney, producing more than 7000 Lincoln millers over the next 40 years, as well as lathes, drilling machines, shapers, presses, drop hammers, and a variety of special machines. The firm became the leading exporter of machines and financed the development of the Rogers-Bond comparator and began to produce gauges. Pratt headed the firm until his retirement in 1898.
Henry Prentiss (1848-1943)
Prentiss started work in the treasurer’s office of a cotton mill in Massachusetts, then went to Cincinnati as treasurer of the White Water Valley railroad. In 1875, he moved to New York and began to manufacture taps, dies, and small tools, and opened a store at 14 Dey Street to sell machine tools. In time there developed a group of machine tool companies known as the -Big Six” (Cincinnati Bickford, Cincinnati Grinders, Cincinnati Milling, Cincinnati Planer, Gould & Eberhardt, and Lodge and Shipley). Prentiss represented them all, plus Blanchard, Giddings & Lewis, and others, in a territory that included, in its early days at least, the entire country. In 1893 Prentiss gave the region beyond Pirtsburgh to his Western representative, thus creating Marshall & Huschart, whose territory later divided again to create Motch & Merryweather. Prentiss continued to operate in the East until 1942, when the war brought an influx of orders that put more strain than he could take on both his personal energy (he was 95) and the capital of his firm. On March 1, 1942, the firm shut down, but Prentiss had shaped the method of machine tool distribution in the United States.
William Sellers (1824-1905)
Sellers started in Philadelphia in partnership with William Bancroft, in a firm in which Bancroft was the innovator. After Bancroft’s death, Sellers took the lead in innovation: the first of what would amount to 90 patents was issued to him in 1897. Sellers had started with the purpose of building machine tools, making them heavier than they had been made by others. He was one of the first to abandon the beads, moldings, and embellishments. He painted them gray. In 1862, he developed a planer with a rack- and-pinion worm drive to provide uniform table motion. In 1864, he proposed a standard thread form with a flat top and bottom that came into widespread use and eventually became an international standard. He played a leading role in the development of the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and saw to it that the exhibits concentrated on the American achievements in machinery. For ten years he financed Frederick W. Taylor’s metal cutting research. His company built a large multiple punch for structural forms that produced hole patterns indicated by a punched paper tape that actuated pneumatic punches, a forerunner of modern NC.
Henry D. Sharpe (1872-1954)
A son of Lucian Sharpe, (who, though a trained machinist, was the commercial half of the partnership with Brown) took on the same role in Brown & Sharpe after his father’s death in 1899. He expanded the famed apprentice program, tolerated neither alcohol nor tobacco, constantly policed the product quality, wasted no money on fancy offices but maintained a factory that was considered to be one of the finest in America.
Lucian Sharpe (1830-1899)
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Sharpe signed on to a 5 year apprenticeship in 1848 under Joseph R. Brown, to learn to be a watchmaker. His father paid a fee of $50 a year plus $2.50 a week for board. Sharpe made his own set of watchmaker’s tools and built his watchmaker’s lathe. In addition to mechanical skills, he soon demonstrated administrative ability. He wrote business letters for Brown, some in French. When the apprenticeship was completed, he was made a partner in J. R. Brown & Sharpe. Disturbed by the confusion of gages for measuring the thickness of wire and sheet metal, Sharpe led the development of what became the standard American Wire Gage. He also developed the Brown & Sharpe apprentice program that became the model for such programs. Woodbury has written that “it was Brown who was the mechanical genius and Sharpe who was the outstanding businessman, but one who thoroughly understood, appreciated, and encouraged the work Brown was doing.”
Ambrose Swasey (1846-1937)
Swasey took his apprenticeship in Exeter (NH). He and Worcester Warner went from there to Pratt & Whitney as machinists. Later Swasey became a foreman in gear cutting and developed a new method for making gear-tooth cutters while Warner was coordinating company displays, including the 50-machine exhibit at the Centennial exhibition. When they started their own firm, Swasey developed the machines and did the engineering for the astronomical telescopes for which the company also became famous. The first machines were lathes for hand-held tools used in the plumbing supply business, but these were soon followed by a succession of turret lathes.
Frederick W. Taylor (1856-1915)
Over a period of 26 years, Taylor conducted research in metal cutting that converted it from an art to a science. After an apprenticeship as a patternmaker in a steam-pump works in Philadelphia, he started as a laborer at Midvale Steel. He soon proposed a central tool grinding facility and invented an improved tool grinder. He went to Stevens at night and finished the mechanical engineering course in three years. He became chief engineer at Midvale and started tests to study the different methods of cutting. He began working on the composition of tool steel and left when the then president would not let him include tungsten. He served as general manager of a firm operating pulp mills in Maine, later worked as a consultant on shop management, developing his ideas on piece rates and time study. Then he went to Bethlehem Steel to improve the output of their machine shop and resumed his Midvale research. Working with Maunsel White he developed with chrome, tungsten, and critical hardening temperatures what we know today as high-speed steel. He completed his cutting tests, having used 800,000 pounds of steel and spent $200,000. He titled the treatise that made a science of metal cutting ‘On the art of cutting metals.’
Francis J. Trecker (1909-1987)
Trecker (a son of a founder of Kearney & Trecker) graduated in engineering at Cornell, worked for Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, a consulting firm, and spent two years in Washington on defense subcontracting before joining K&T. When he became president in 1947, he moved all controls research to the main plant and greatly increased spending on R&D. In 1950 he began producing NC profilers and skin mills and in 1953 joined with Hughes Tool under the Aircraft Industries Assn. to develop an NC transfer machine. After that he brought Wallace Brainard from Hughes to develop a single machine combining the features of the Hughes line. The result was the Milwaukee-Matic, the first true machining center, a new type of machine that completely changed the nature of the world machine tool industry. Finally he pioneered in the development and use of computerized combinations of machines into cells, systems, and factories.
Theodore Trecker (1868-1955)
Trecker was born in Peru, Illinois, where his parents had moved when they came from Germany in 1851. When he was 18, he moved to Milwaukee and entered apprenticeship at the Wilkin Manufacturing Co. which produced saw-mill machinery. After his three-year apprenticeship, he went to work for the Kempsmith Manufacturing Co. in Milwaukee, a pioneer builderof milling machines. At Kempsmith,he met E.J. Kearney, and, in 1898, the two men started Kearney & Trecker, concentrating entirely on milling machines.
Among the firm’s early technical innovations were the replacement of the belt drive via cone pulleys with a geared feed box (and later a geared spindle drive), flood lubrication, and power rapid traverse. Kearney, who was secretary-treasurer, died in 1934, but Theodore Trecker ran the company until July 1947.
Eli Whitney (1765-1825)
A poor boy, Whitney made nails as a child and saved the money to pay his way to Yale. A prospective job in Georgia was filled before he arrived, and he found work assisting the manager of a plantation. Here he learned of the problem with cotton as a crop, because its short staples could not be separated from the seeds. He soon devised a machine to do the job, but set ‘the royalty so high that planters refused to pay and the machine was pirated. Famous but still poor, Whitney got backing for an arms works and in 1798 obtained a government contract for 12,000 muskets, on the promise to complete the contract in two years, using improved machinery. It took him eight years and, contrary to legend, the guns did not have interchangeable parts. Small groups of parts were filed to be interchangeable, then marked and hardened. Nevertheless, Whitney was successful enough to obtain a second contract for 15,000 muskets, followed by other contracts. The ‘Whitney milling machine,” wrongfully identified as the first milling machine, has since been determined by Woodbury and Battison to date from much later, probably about 1827. Whitney, however, captured the popular imagination more than any other person in the history of metalworking. Even when the legends that have grown up around him are stripped away, he remains a major figure.
Leighton A. Wilkie (1900-1993)
Born in Winona, Minnesota, Leighton Wilkie, while working for his father at Wilkie Machine Works, perfected and successfully marketed the Universal Wilkie, a tool for aligning connecting rods that had been developed in his father’s garage. Moving to Minneapolis in 1926, Wilkie turned his sights to manufacturing, and in 1929 developed the Continental Process, a method of stamping parts out of metal quicker and at less cost than processes currently available. His most important contribution to manufacturing, however, came in 1933 when he invented the metal cutting band saw. He called the machine a DoALL, and later gave the same name to his company. Wilkie developed the philosophy of demonstrating tools to prospective customers so that they could see the benefits and be able to purchase the product immediately. This philosophy carried through to his establishment of a marketing arm for his firm that includes over 60 industrial supply centers in the United States where machines and tooling are demonstrated and sold. The DoALL organization, with its chain of local outlets, became the largest national distributor of machine tools.
David Wilkinson (1771-1852)
In 1794, Wilkinson designed a screw-cutting lathe with a slide rest on which he obtained a patent in 1798. In 1806 he developed a smaller version in which two bearing points were in line on the front prismatic way while the third rested on a flat rib at the back of the bed. Once the front way had been made as straight as possible the flat way could be contoured with a file to correct for irregularities that remained in the prismatic way. It is not known how many of these lathes Wilkinson produced in his own plant, but in 1848 a Senate Committee found that there were more than 200 such lathes in use in government workshops alone. Henry Maudslay, the Englishman who is generally credited as a lathe pioneer, produced a lathe in 1800 that had many of the features of the 1798 Wilkinson patent. Lathes produced in America universally used these features until about 1840, and some were produced until about 1901. Wilkinson produced other types of machinery, using a centerless technique to grind spindles for textile machinery. Robert S. Woodbury, in his “Studies in the History of Machine Tools” said that “we may credit David Wilkinson with being the founder of the American machine-tool industry.”
Behind the Scenes
Plan to attend a staff-led Behind the Scenes Tour—an opportunity to visit staff-only areas, and view artifacts in storage. This is a rare opportunity to see the structure and restoration work at the National Historic Landmark, Robbins & Lawrence Armory, home to the American Precision Museum since 1966.
Our new display, which takes place within the overall ‘Shaping America’ exhibition, demonstrates what it takes to have precision.
Featuring tools that measure speed, power, time, distance, hardness, and weight, the exhibit features Edison’s Gage Blocks, a ballistic chronograph, and more.
Our signature exhibit, Shaping America, explores how the machinists and tool builders of this region’s “Precision Valley” played an important role in determining the course of American history. The exhibit examines how advancements in machining drove industrialization, changed the face of war, and allowed for the development of our modern consumer culture.
The exhibit begins in the 1840s, right here in Windsor, Vermont, where the American System of Manufacturing was born. Combining the extensive use of interchangeable parts with mechanization of production, made this new system of manufacturing set the standard for making more products faster while using fewer resources. Discover many of the earliest machines—and the people behind them—that helped change the way the world manufactures and the way we live.
LEFT: Thomas Blanchard’s original copying lathe from 1818. Blanchard’s new machine accomplished in a fraction of the time, theslowtedious work that highly skilled craftsmen had been doing manually before his invention.
RIGHT: Blanchard’s early inventions evolved into solid and strong machines like this one. Made in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and sold to the British Government in the 1850s, this machine tool operated in the Enfield Armory for over 100 years.
Further along in the exhibit, investigate how advances in arms and ammunition manufacturing, developed at the 1846 Robbins and Lawrence Armory, helped determine the outcome of the Civil War.
Still recovering from a divisive Civil War, the exhibit explores an era of rapid industrial innovation. Machines once devoted to creating the tools of war were repurposed for consumer goods. Machine tools and the products they created, evolved and advanced, developing into the backbone of American industry. Automobiles, planes, and countless other mechanical marvels become accessible and affordable to a broad range of consumers.
At the heart of the exhibition space, the Innovation Station brings the history of manufacturing to life. From machines over 100-years-old to state-of-the-art automated machine tools, visitors may explore the recent history of manufacturing and its rapid development. The Innovation Station offers the rare opportunity to watch these impressive machines in action and learn about the skills and training required to create, run, and maintain them. The Innovation Station celebrates advancements in machining and aims to inspire the next generation of innovators in manufacturing.
Welcome to the American Precision Museum’s Collections Online!
Come inside and explore our archives, photographs, artifacts and more.