Thursday, March 3, 2011

Early American Inventors of Scottish Heritage. Most Names Are Lost to History

I have on several occasions listed Scottish inventors, but this list is of American Scots early in our history. The list was taken from Scotland’s Mark on America by George Fraser Black, Ph.D.  The book is now in the public domain. The quotation below is from the forward of the book.

“As Scotland gave to the world the knowledge of the art of logarithms, the steam engine, the electric telegraph, the wireless telegraph, illuminating gas, the knowledge of chloroform, and many other important inventions, it was to be expected that the inventive faculty of her sons would not fail when transplanted to this country. “

Hugh Orr (1717-98), born in Lochwinnoch, inventor of a machine for dressing flax, took a patriotic part in the war of the Revolution by casting guns and shot for the Continental Army, besides doing much to encourage rope-making and spinning. His son, Robert, invented an improved method of making scythes and was the first manufacturer of iron shovels in New England.

Robert Fulton (1765-1815), of Ayrshire origin through Ulster, was, as everyone knows, the first to successfully apply steam to navigation.

Hugh Maxwell (1777-1860), publisher and newspaper editor, of Scottish descent, invented the "printer's roller" (patented in 1817), cast his own types and engraved his own woodcuts

Henry Burden (1791-1871), born in Dunblane, inventor of an improved plow and the first cultivator, was also the first to invent and make the hook-headed railroad spike "which has since proved itself a most important factor in railroad building in the United States." His "cigar boat" although not a commercial success was the fore-runner of the "whale-back" steamers now in use on the Great Lakes.

William Orr (1808-91), manufacturer and inventor, born in Belfast of Ulster Scot parentage, was the first to manufacture merchantable printing paper with wood fibre in it, and made several other improvements and discoveries along similar lines.

Cyrus Hall McCormick (1809-84), inventor of the reaping machine, was descended from James McCormick, one of the signers of the address of the city and garrison of Londonderry presented to William III. after the siege in 1689. Of his invention the French Academy of Sciences declared that by its means he had "done more for the cause of agriculture than any other living man."

Samuel Colt (1814-62), inventor of the Colt revolver, and founder of the great arms factory at Hartford, Conn., was of Scots ancestry on both sides. He was also the first to lay a submarine electric cable (in1843) connecting New York City with stations on Fire Island and Coney Island.

Alexander Morton, (1820-60), the perfector if not the inventor of gold pens, was born in Darvel, Ayrshire.

James Oliver, born in Roxburgh, Scotland, in 1823, made several important discoveries in connection with casting and moulding iron, was the inventor of the Oliver chilled plow, and founder of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, South Bend, Indiana.

Alexander Davidson (b. 1832) made many inventions in connection with the typewriter, one of the most important being the scale regarding the value of the letters of the alphabet. As an inventor he was of the front rank.

Andrew Smith Hallidie (b. 1836), son of a native of Dunfermline, was the inventor of steel-wire rope making and also the inventor of the "Hallidie ropeway," which led up to the introduction of cable railroads.

James P. Lee, born in Roxburghshire in 1837, was inventor of the Lee magazine gun which was adopted by the United States Navy in 1895. His first weapon was a breech-loading rifle which was adopted by the United States Government during the Civil War. Later he organized the Lee Arms Company of Connecticut.

Rear-Admiral George W. Baird (b. 1843), naval engineer, invented the distiller for making fresh water from sea water, and patented many other inventions in connection with machinery and ship ventilation. James Bennett Forsyth (b. 1850), of Scottish parentage, took out more than fifty patents on machinery and manufacturing processes connected with rubber and fire-hose.

John Charles Barclay, telegraph manager, descendant of John Barclay who emigrated from Scotland in 1684, patented the printing telegraph "said to be the most important invention in the telegraph world since Edison introduced the telephone

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