Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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DAVENPORT, Thomas, inventor, born in Williamstown, Vermont, 9 July 1802; died in Salisbury, Vermont, 6 July 1851. He was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to a blacksmith, and his opportunities for education were limited. In 1833 he began the: study of electro-magnetism, and in 1835 exhibited :a rotary engine driven by electricity, at the Rensselaer institute in Troy, and the Franklin institute in Philadelphia. Late in the year he constructed a smal1 circular railway driven by an electro-magnetic engine. Patents were secured, a company formed, and the manufacture of electro-magnetic engines, as a motive power, begun. But in New York City in 1837, by the dishonesty of its agent, the company became embarrassed and was disbanded. In the prosecution of his experiments he found that a bolt of iron could be drawn with great force into a helix of wire whenever the battery current was suffered to pass through the coil. He immediately constructed a small engine on this principle, which resembled a little steam-engine, the repeated reversal of the magnetic poles producing a movement like that of a piston-rod, instead of the rotary motion hitherto employed. Patents were secured, engines manufactured, and he began the publication of a newspaper, "The ElectroMagnet," which was printed on a press propelled by one of these engines. His experiments were so numerous and costly as to exhaust his resources, and in 1842 he returned with his family to his home in Brandon, Vermont, and thence to Salisbury. In 1846 he turned his attention to the application of the electric current to the strings of musical instruments. As applied by him, the impulsive and evanescent nature of the tone is changed at the will of the player into a full, perfect, and prolonged vibration. The caveats protecting this invention were prepared for filing in the U. S. patent-offic6, when he was stricken by a fatal illness.
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