W2565 TO ISAAC B. MCQUESTEN from William Dunn
Oct 12 1883
To: Isaac Baldwin McQuesten Hamilton, Ont.
From: Cooper Institute New York,
When I wrote you last I expected to be at the "American Institute" this week. But the arrangements of acting for another party as well as myself could not be effected on account of the "Fair Authorities" refusing to agree to the scheme. The proposition was to put a Cider Mill on Exhibition, and work it and sell the products in the Building. There was no objection to having the mill put in, or to making the Cider but would not allow selling it. Consequently the idea had to be abandoned because running the Mill under these conditions would be a heavy expense instead of a source of profit. There is another party who wishes me to overlook his exhibit in connection with my own. Whether I can do so or not it is impossible to say, as I hope to be very busy looking after the Setts &c. I intend entering the Setts, Trimmer and a Device for Brazing Band Saws.
This tool I came across in the East and it gave general satisfaction. And a number inquired of me, if I had an article for the purpose. This Brazier I found out was made in a small place in Massachusetts and was merely introduced sufficiently to give it popularity. It is not Patented or at least, after diligent search, I cannot find any trace of it in the Records, and it is not marked on the Machine. Whether it is fair for me to take advantage of this or not is questionable. But I intend getting a lot made and shall improve the device. I know of several parties that want one each and it is only the last few days that I decided to go into the matter. But my late experience has proven to me that to canvas with success a person should be provided with more than one article that is required in any particular line or place of business that the principal article makes necessary to call on.1 I have written to the maker of the Brazier as to what he would charge for a few. Which I could use while the Patterns are being made, but have not heard from him yet. However I hope to have my own out in a week. These Machines complete ought not to cost over 80 cents and I think 65 will cover the cost as they are nothing but light castings with no fitting or finishing. Put together with 4 screws and provided with a Rubber bulb and weighs about 8 pounds in all. Of the utility of the device there is no question, and it does the work, although only $6.00 is charged for it, as well as the [Forges?] that cost from 30 to 50 dollars. This tool has been the means of causing smaller establishments to send their saws when broken out to be repaired, when with this small article the work could be done in 2 or 3 minutes, with but very little practice. To make myself competent to show the advantages of this Brazier, I have spent a part of this week to get instructions from the best men in the City and Brooklyn and have become rather expert at the business.
Those who have used the Trimmer pronounce it a useful tool, but it is too small to devote a great deal of time introducing, it will pay only to do so when opportunities offer. The same as a wrench, or other small tool, although thousands are sold annually, yet it would not pay to start out to find customers, with it alone.
At the Fair I shall strive for the "Gold Medal" whether successful or not I cannot say. The Fair will not be in full blast for another week, although now open.
The expense of the City, getting ready and as well as personal expense has consumed a considerable outlay and left me without a cent, excepting what I have borrowed here. In fact, I had to borrow $10 from the Superintendent of the Cooper Institute, to keep me going, and I have yet to get Circular printed embodying the Testimonials that I have received from the leading manufacturers and do other fitting up, that will entail cost. That I have been economical, I need hardly say, when the whole of my expenses for nearly nine months has not been $400 this in [?] rent, traveling expenses and everything.
That the experiment (although necessary) of introducing this machine in the East, has not been financially satisfactory, I know well, but I have done the best that I could, and am confident that it will turn out satisfactory ultimately, and I think this Fair ought to prove advantageous as a means of introducing and selling, at but little expense.
You will understand the matter, as well as though no further explanations were given.
1 This statement likely discloses Dunn's planned method of operation, which appears to be as kind of inventor/agent who canvasses industries with various tools and patents for sale. In this letter he appears to be scouring the market for tools and devices that either have no patent or which require "improving" and then he sells the devices and the patents. This may have been the case with the Railway Coupler and the Saw Setting Machine, the patents of which he sold to Isaac and Calvin Brooks McQuesten in 1878, such as in W2530, W2536, W2538, W2541. However, the Railway Coupler had already been "invented" and "improved" many times, although it is possible that Dunn actually thought that he had "improved" the coupler:
In 1873 the Janney coupler was patented and went into widespread use and became the standard coupler (U.S. patent #138,405). However, in 1875, there were more than 900 car coupler patents. By 1887, the number of coupler patents had topped 4,000, and by 1900 approximately 8,000 coupler patents had been issued.
Though the market was flooded with literally thousands of patented couplers, [*4] Janney's design was clearly among the best and slowly achieved recognition in the industry. In 1888, the Master Car Builders Association Executive Committee obtained a limited waiver of patent rights--placing much of Janney's design in the public domain--and adopted the design as its standard.
Until the late 1800's, most railroads used the link and pin coupler. This consisted of a large metal link which
looped around a removable pin. Although the coupler was easy to manufacture, it was often responsible for train wrecks when one would break. The coupler was also very dangerous to operate. When dropping the pin in place, there was the danger of catching a finger in the connecting slot, or simply being crushed by the approaching car.
A number of new couplers were designed to replace the link and pin system. In 1887, the Master Car Builders Association selected the Janney Automatic Coupler, invented by Eli H. Janney in 1873, over 40 other designs as a standard design for the railroad industry. On March 3, 1893, President Benjamin Harrison signed the Safety Appliance Act, which made automatic couplers and air brakes mandatory on all trains.
In 1897, Andrew Beard patented an improvement to railroad car couplers commonly called the Jenny Coupler (not to be mistaken for the Janney coupler). It did the dangerous job of hooking railroad cars together, Beard, himself had lost a leg in a car coupling accident. As an ex-railroad worker, Andrew Beard had the right idea that probably saved countless lives and limbs. Andrew Beard received $50,000 for the patent rights to his Jenny coupler.
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