Machine of the Month: The Silent Salesman

Machine of the Month: The Silent Salesman


This machine was made here sometime between 1876 to 1888.
We know that because of the company name that it uses.
In 1869-70, what is now the Museum’s building became a cotton mill. Across the brook, the machine shops were building various things, including this small no. 5 turret lathe. Both divisions were called Jones, Lamson & Company.
The cotton mill continued as Jones, Lamson & Co. until it closed in 1886. The machine shops changed their name to Jones & Lamson in 1876. They kept that name when they moved to Springfield, Vermont, in 1888.



Fast forward to the mid-20th century. The modern Jones & Lamson acquired this machine, polished it up, and took it to trade shows as a showpiece of where the company had come from. Somewhere along the line, it came to be called the Silent Salesman.
In the late 1960s, J&L changed hands. Someone in high office allegedly said, “We don’t make or sell machines like this. Get rid of it.”
For many years the Museum had an ally at J&L in Fay Kingsbury. Fay was in touch with our founder, Ed Battison, and was able to arrange for important machines to be saved from scrap. This machine is one of Fay’s many saves.

From the left, here is a photo of Vermont Governor Phil Hoff, our founder, Ed Battison, and Fay Kingsbury. on the museum’s opening day in 1966.
From Vermont Life Magazine, Autumn 1958: “The first turret lathe. This man was one who worked on it.”

And here is another interesting photo.  It’s from Vermont Life Magazine, Autumn 1958.  The caption is, “The first turret lathe.  This man was one who worked on it.”

Well, none of it’s true except maybe that the man “worked on it” in the sense of cleaning and polishing. I wonder if he got in trouble when the magazine was published.
The earliest turret lathes were made around 1840. The earliest to survive in America is one made here by Lamson, Goodnow & Yale, dated 1861. The Museum has it on display.

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