W2554a TO [ISAAC BALDWIN MCQUESTEN ] from L. G. Mowat
Aug 1 1876
To: Isaac B. McQuesten [Hamilton]
From: Hamilton, Ontario
To gentlemen of the Hamilton & North [Halton??] Railway I have, in making up the trains in several cars, having all the different kinds of couplers, all of which are attended with a great deal of danger excepting "Dunn's Patent Coupler."1
I have worked this coupler and it is entirely free from the risk of body injury. Were ours supplied with this coupler, trains could be made up in much less time, and with less labor. It is always ready. Couples promptly with the ordinary drawheads with the link either attached to the Tender; or with the push-bar of the Locomotive.
The cars can be attached from the top or side of the cars, thereby doing away with the necessity of climbing up and down between the cars to uncouple them; which, alone, is life, time & money. There is no time lost in searching for pins.2
1 From the late 1870s into the mid-1880s, Isaac McQuesten and his brother Calvin Brooks were involved with William Dunn's efforts to patent and sell railroad car couplers as well as other products such as boiler feeders, seal locks, and band saws. It is not known how Isaac and Dunn met nor is it certain how much money Isaac invested in Dunn's patents, but it is quite apparent that he invested a significant amount of money in the early years of their cooperation, money which he was later quite eager to recover after Dunn failed to make the venture profitable.
In 1883, at least five years after Isaac first became involved, he started to grow rather suspicious of Dunn's activities. Dunn claimed that his agent Mr. Alanson [possibly "Alison"] had duped both Isaac and himself and had been receiving money from both of them for services and acquired shares in the coupler patent for which he paid less than the optimum price (W2573).
Although Dunn worked in the north-eastern U.S. and Isaac lived in Hamilton, Ontario, at the time, Dunn would remind Isaac not to "interfere" with what he was doing. It seems Isaac had agreed at an earlier date to give Dunn a great deal of freedom in deciding exactly how to pursue his business (W2573, W2599, W2615, W2648, W2643). Unfortunately, Dunn had very little success through the years and while he requested money to cover expenses he really never seemed to make any money, and occasionally advised that they involve another party to help with sales (W2595, W2599). The McQuestens were reluctant to do so as Dunn's lack of success had already left the brothers operating at a loss. Dunn even admitted that he was not a very good salesman and sometimes remarked that he did not think that he could make much from sales but he nontheless complained when treated with distrust (W2611, W2623, W2643, W2667). Dunn may have been incompetent, but it is also possible that he was defrauding Isaac by "playing dumb."
2 It is likely that Isaac decided to become involved with Dunn after receiving a number of glowing testimonials and other encouraging letters regarding the train car couplers that Dunn had either designed or improved. Other testimonials exist in the Whitehern archives but have not been included here (W2548, W2553, W2550, W2551, W2549, W2547). For a glowing testimonial regarding the improvements Dunn patented in 1885, see W2552.
In spite of the many testimonials, Dunn's patent of the car-couplers was not purchased by any railroad car manufacturer, and Isaac's involvement with Dunn eventually contributed to his bankruptcy in 1888. See W2652, W2511, W2520.