The Inventive Sort


While working on another project involving inventors, I decided to see how many West Terre Hauteans had patented inventions. I found more than twenty. Below I look at a few. Not surprisingly, the inventions were related to four of the biggest “industries” related to West Terre Haute in the early 20th century: farming, clay manufacturing, mining, and railroading.

Be it known that I, JAMES LORD, a citizen of the United States, residing at West Terre Haute, in the county of Vigo and State of Indiana, have invented new and useful Improvements in Blast-Chargers, of which the following is a specification.
My invention relates to improvements in ammunition and explosive devices, and particularly relates to the subclass blasting; and the object is to provide an improved and novel blast-charging implement for inserting’ the charge of powder into the holes made in the material to be blasted.
It will be stated prefatory to the description that coal in the mines, especially the bituminous variety, is impregnated with more or less sulfur and that when the vein is struck by the drill and the point encounters sulfur spots or streaks it will strike fire, the same result sometimes occurring in the use of the common iron charging-tube, and in these instances the powder charged is ignited with more or less disaster. Ordinarily the blastholes are charged with powder from a metal tube fixed at its closed end to a rod or stick. The charging-tube is filled with the powder and inserted in the blast-hole, and by vigorous reciprocation and shaking the powder is forced out of the tube into the blast-hole, and then by means of a scraper the powder is worked back to the end of the hole. Each movement 0f the charger or scraper is liable to and frequently does strike fire, and thus causes premature ignition of the blast. It is the design of my present invention to avoid all these defective and dangerous results and to provide a charging tool or implement which is simple in construction, effective and expeditious in the deposition of the charge, and safe in its uses.

James Kirkham was a farmer and concrete laborer, who came with this idea for a new and improved Hen’s Nest in 1908.
hens nest kirkham

To all whom it may concern:
Be it known that I, JAMES KIRKHAM, a citizen of the United States, residing at est Terre Haute, in the county of Vigo and State of Indiana, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Hens Nests, of which the following is a specification.
This invention relates to a novel arrangement for suspending a hens nest within an inclosure wherein as the hen occupies the nest the opening through which she entered the inclosure will be automatically closed; and the object of the invention is to provide a hens nest wherein as the hen is occupying the nest she will not be disturbed by other hens attempting to share the nest with her.
I accomplish the object of my invention by means of the hens nest and its inclosure illustrated in the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, in which Figure 1 is a perspective view of my invention. Fig. 2 is a cross section of the construction shown

Vise and Denham, both miners and neighbors on South Third Street in West Terre Haute invented this, Planoaraph, or coal distributor.

Patented Sept. 10, 1912.
Application filed March 23, 1912. Serial’No. 685,775.
To all whom it may concern:
Be it known that we, ELMER L. Vrsn and CHARLES DENHAM, citizens of the United States, residing at West Terre Haute, in the county of Vigo and State of Indiana, have invented an Improved Goal-Distributer, of which the following is a specification.
Our invention relates to an apparatus whereby coal is discharged from a primary distributer-upon another which is in the nature of a chute adapted to deliver diiferent grades of coal to different receptacles, especially cars for transportation.
The details of construction, arrangement, and operation of parts are as hereinafter described, and illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which- Figure 1 is a side elevation of the entire apparatus. Fig. 2 is a perspective view of the first or primary distributing chute. Fig. 3 is a plan view of the main coal distributing chute, as viewed in perspective. Fig. 4 is a perspective view of one of the pivoted gates arranged and locked in alinement with one of the fixed sectional partitions- Fig. 5 is a diagrammatic plan view of a portion of the distributing chute or platform showing the arrangement of the fixed angular and longitudinal sectional partitions.

Brickworker Ross A. Clem came up with this handy device
brick embosser
Patented Apr. 16, 1935 UNl-TEm STATES BRICK EMBOSSING DEVICE RossA. Clem, .West Terre Haute,.Ind., assignorto. Joseph Entwistlc, Terre ,Haute, Ind,
Application October. 16, 1933, ‘SerialNo. 693,807
9 Claims.
This invention relatesto the art of brick makingmachines and particularly to means for embossing or-forming-.patterns or designs on-the bricks as they. may becut from’the column’of clay. ‘The invention is intendedtobe applied-to that type of abrick cutter wherein a movable carriagereceives acolumn of clay and a revolvingreel is car’ried byj’the carriage to cutthroug’h the column’by’ a multiple number of wires spaced apart to define :the thicknesses of the bricks,
such machinebeing wellknown-to those versed in’ the art and the details of whichdo nOt specifically ‘ent’er into my invention.
important ‘object ofthe invention is toprovide an attachment which-maybe applied to the type of machine above indicated so that each brick as cutmay be’embossed or intended to produce the desired face. thereon simultaneously’with the cutting of “thebrickifromthe column of clay. Itis a=further objectef the invention to provide such a devicezthat may be applied to themaChine Without interference-of other parts thereof {and which will-work automaticallytherewith.
2A further important-object of the invention is to provide means for retaining each individual brick rigidly inplace on=’the platen-as the cutting wires :move through the claycol’umn whereby the cuts throughthe1-column are in planes perpendicular-to” the axis of the column and do not curve as would’be the case-should thecolumn’acciden tally be shifted while the cuttingis taking place.
“These and other objects and advantages will becomeapparent to those versed in-the art by the following description of one particular form of the invention” as-illustrated’by the 7 accompanying drawings, in’which Fig. l is -a fragmentary perspective view of a brick cutter with a single embossing device in position;

Thorp, a farmer on the Paris Road, had finally had enough of his hay scattering all over.
hay retainer

Patented Oct. 10, 1916.
Application filed March 30, 1915. Serial No. 18,154.
To all whom it may concern Be it known that I, JOSEPH W. THORP, a citizen of the United States, residing at West Terre Haute, in the county of Vigo, State of Indiana, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Hay-Retainers; and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description of the in vention, such as will enable others skilled in the art to which it appertains to make and use the same. o
This invention relates to improvements in binders and particularly to devices for binding loads of hay.
The principal object of the invention is to provide a suitable locking device for the free end of the hay retaining pole of the hay wagon.
Another object is to provide a simple and eificient device of this character which can be quickly and easily moved into and out of operative position.
Other objects and advantages will be apparent from the following description when taken in connection with the accompanying drawing.
In the drawing: Figure 1 is a side elevation of my improved device, Fig. 2 is a rear elevation, Fig. 3 is an enlarged vertical section on the line 33 of Fig. 1, and Fig. 4L is an enlarged horizontal section on the line 4.-4 of Fig. 2.
Referring particularly to the accompanying drawing, 10 represents a portion of the hay retaining pole and 11 the rear portion of the hay wagon. Secured on the end of the pole and straddling the same is a metal member 12, the portions 13 which depend from the sides of the pole having channels therethrough, as clearly shown in the sectlons.
Mounted between the channel members are two spring pawls 14: to the inner ends of which is secured a cord or rope 15. Mounted on the rear of the wagon are two vertical parallel toothed bars 16 so spaced apart that each will enter one of the channel members 13 to permit of the engagement of’the pawls with the teeth thereof.
What is claimed is:
A releasable connecting device comprising a pair of vertical parallel ratchet toothed bars, a pair of parallel tubular members arranged to receive the bars slidably therein, the inner portions of the tubular members being formed with longitudinal openings, substantially V-shaped springs secured at one end to the tubular members below the openings and extending through the openings in position to engage the teeth of the bars, the remaining ends of the springs extending toward each other and between the tubular members, and a flexible releasing element connected to the last-named ends of the springs for flexing the springs into and ]gut of engagement with the teeth of the ars.
In testimony whereof, I aflix my signa ture, in the presence. of two witnesses.

Albert G. Godwin was a railroad telegrapher who had time to think when the keys were not clattering.
train order device
Specification of Letters Patent.
Patented Aug. 15, 1911.
To all whom it may concern:
Be it known that I, ALBERT G. GoowrN, a citizen of the United States, residing .at West Terre Haute, in the county of Vigo and State of Indiana, have inventeda new and useful Improvement in Duplicate- Train-Order Devices, of which the following is a full specification. I Y
My invention relates to that class of devices, whereby means is provided for delivering train-orders from the station to the crew of a fast moving train; and the objects of the invention are; first, to provide means whereby paper or other light material bearing train-orders or messages, may be safely handed and delivered to the engineer and conductor of a fast moving train, the two orders being delivered by a single device and handled by but one hand of the messenger, leaving the other hand free to hold alantern or other signal; second, to provide such a device, whereby the order may Joe delivered to the train crew and the device retained by the messenger; third, to provide such a device, which will be effective, durable, light in weight, convenient to use and economical in structure. These objects I attain by means of the mechanism illustrated in the accompanying drawings, in which the figure illustrates the device, holding duplicate train-orders ready for delivery.

And finally, my favorite, butcher Samuel Hudson of N. 6th Street, had a remedy for those damn squeaky hammocks.

My invention pertains to wall hooks and particularly to that class of hooks which are employed in the hanging of hammocks and swings.
Hammocks and swings are usually subjected to heavy loads and their constant oscillation grinds together the constantly contacting metal surfaces of the hooks by which they are supported; for this reason it is only a matter of a short time before a nerve-torturing screech develops, which 1 greatly lessens, if it does not wholly destroy, the pleasurable and soothing sensations produced by the gentle to and fro motion of the hammock or swing.
The principal object of my invention is the production of a hook for hanging hammocks and swintgs which is nonsqueaking and silently efiicien Of course my hook is useful and appropriate wherever any other style of hook can be used; but it is especially adapted for use in those places where an object supported by the hook has a swinging or oscillating motion which, sooner or later, causes an annoying squeak.
To illustrate the best method of practicing the invention now known to me, I have filed a sheet of drawings as a part of this specification, in which the reference numbers wherever used in the several figures denote the same elements.

Does anyone know anything more about these inventors or their creations?


Who Was James Furlong?


A shack on a crooked bluff on the eastern fringe of a small town.  A shambling thing, barely defying gravity.  Looking as if the punishing January winds might sunder it, send it reeling over the bluff into the vaporous bottom lands below.  Iced fingers seeping, no stabbing, through the cracks in the wall, surging through broken panes stuffed with rags and paper.

Let no one kid you.  January can be a wicked month.  Even the warmest fires fall in battle to January.  The month comes to bite the face, make fingers rigid, curl the body until it longs for the womb.  The worst of Januaries can wither a soul.

A shack above the bottoms at West Terre Haute on a January day is not a place to be with ebbing strength, all fortitude gone, hope lost somewhere along the path behind him.  But that is where James Furlong found himself on January 19, 1914. 

He had been there but a few days.  Somehow his life had led him to West Terre Haute.  Somehow he had met two men squatting in the shack who had let him join them.  The shack was just a few hundred feet from a “hobo jungle” enlivened by many passers-through during warmer months (West Terre Haute was known as a good place for a handout or a day’s paid work).

Furlong’s companions went out that Monday morning, likely to scrounge for food, clothing or wood for the fire.  James Furlong was alone.  Did he look around and see nothing but his misery?  Was his vision clouded or did the restless night and frigid morning bring him clarity? Why this day as the day of decision?  Why this place? What interior vein opened to let his last drop of hope trickle out?

Who knows? 

What we do know is that he dug into his poke.  In it was his razor of silvered steel.  Did he see it as an instrument of peace when he opened the blade?  Even with a sharp razor it must take determination to use it.  There must be some strength left in a man to impel the needed force.  James Furlong used what strength remained in him, willed the blade to cut across his neck, felt it bite deep.  He lay back, letting the warm blood bathe his chest.

It was then his “friends” returned to the shack, saw James in a red pool.  One grabbed a rag to place on Furling’s throat, hoping to dam the flow of blood.  The other ran out and down Paris Avenue looking for help.  Dr. R.J. Danner was found and hurried to the shack.  “Doc’ had seen a lot of blood in his life (and within ten years would see his own spilled by his lover’s enraged husband) and knew there was little to be done.  He asked Furlong his name.  James told him.  With time fleeing he also told him he had only been in town a few days and that he was 65 years old.  Danner then asked the golden question, “Why?”  James Furlong gave him the quintessential answer: He “was tired of living.”

Though he knew there was nothing left to save him, Danner had Furlong sent to Union Hospital on the north side of Terre Haute.   Too late.

James Furlong may have been surprised to learn that he made the front page of the Terre Haute Tribune the next day.  A short paragraph down the page told his meager story.  The last line said, “No arrangements have been made for the disposal of the body as he was unknown here.”  One wonders how many papers in other places where James Furlong lived would have ended the story the same way.



So who was James Furlong?  I wondered if I could find out, so I began a search for him, some glimpse that might tell me how or why he came to die in West Terre Haute.  The only clues I had were his name and his age.  I checked census records, military files, city directories, all the usual suspects of the historian’s craft.  I found several James Furlongs, but none that could be said to be our James.  Even eliminating those who were born at around the same time, but appeared in records after 1914 was of little help.

He was likely not in the area because he had family there.  There were no Furlongs listed in any of the Vigo County records until the 1970s.  I was left to surmise.  Furlong is a name often associated with the Irish.  His age was right for the Hungry Time of the Irish Famine.  Were he and his family, victims of the famine, forced to leave their home for America.  Were they of the haunted Skalpeen class, the itinerant farm laborers so effected by the terrible want brought on by the famine?

Did he once have a family, a job, a life?  Was he a farmer, a craftsman, or merely a man forced to take on whatever job was at hand?  Did losing them slowly diminish him?  What road brought him the West Terre Haute?  What happened in those two or three days in town that forever forestalled his next step?

Who knows?

As for James Furlong’s body.  I could find no record of how or where he was buried.  Most likely, the unknown man was buried in an unmarked grave in an unknown place.

Just this morning I did my annual presentation on being a historian and the uses of history for an AP History class from Carmel High School.  Of course I quoted Santayana, talked about the importance of knowing history, and how history is used.  I talked of primary sources, external and internal criticism, of the changeover to social and minority history, etc.  But I also told them that no matter what rather high sounding rhetoric we historians may use, the very essence is to remember.  And I am a professional rememberer.  And everyone who has ever lived deserves to be remembered.

We only know James Furlong from his death, but he is remembered.