Hopedale Inventors, page 2
opened his own business. His factory, a brass foundry, I believe, was located on Northrop Street, right
next to the park. His house at 50 Freedom Street was behind the shop - or the shop was behind the
house, depending on your point of view. Boat propellers seem to have been a specialty of his. One
patent mentioned on the website of the Mariner's Museum in Newport News, Virginia gives the following
Charles Roper of Hopedale, MA
Patent no. 807498
Speed-controlling reversing propeller
And here's more, from an obituary.
Charles Francis Roper, Master Inventor, Dies At His Hopedale Home
Hopedale, Nov. 14. - Charles F. Roper died this morning at 10:30 o'clock at his residence, 50 Freedom
Street, from hardening of the arteries.
To the inventive genius of Mr. Roper is due more than 100 different types of machines which turn out
the Draper Co. product daily, chief among these being the automatic screw machines that placed their
designer in the front rank of inventors throughout the country.
He rose to prominence in the Draper Company as an inventor of automatic appliances of so varied a
nature that he had been placed in charge of the company's experimental department, and was closely
associated with the then head of the great plant, the late Gen. W.F. Draper.
It was the discontinuance of the experimental department which led to Mr. Roper severing his
connection with the Draper Co., and the later establishment of the C.F. Roper Co., for which he built a
factory which is in operation now turning out the later inventions of its projector.
Many of the Roper machines are triumphs of simplicity that rank him as a genius in the designing of
such devices, He invented the Roper propeller for motor boats, a very ingenious and practical
appliance, besides numerous other attachments for automobiles, etc. Mr. Roper was a member of no
organizations, preferring his own home above all other attractions. Mrs. Roper died several years ago.
Mr. Roper was interested in the town of Hopedale, which was his home for so long. He was active in
matters for civic betterment, and was a member of the park commission. Taken from a Milford Daily
Sylvester Roper - Father of Charles Roper, inventor of the motorcycle and many other devices.
Jacob Sawyer - Sawyer was one of many men who made improvements to an important device used
in the spinning of threads and yarns known as the spindle. From what I've been able to tell, an empty
bobbin would be placed on a spindle, and, as the thread was spun, it would wind up in a very even and
regular way on the bobbin. At the weaving mill, the bobbin would be placed in a shuttle that the loom
would send back and forth, leaving the thread behind it as the cloth was woven. Over the years, various
inventors devised improvements to the spindle, each designed to make it spin faster and/or require
less power to operate. Sawyer was one of these inventors, and the Drapers persuaded him to move to
Hopedale to manufacture his spindles. He established the Sawyer Spindle Company which was
evidently closely connected to the companies that the Drapers owned. General Draper, in his
autobiography and elsewhere, has written extensively about the history of spindle advances. Here's just
a little of what he wrote, but probably more than you ever wanted to know on the subject.
An important event occurred in 1871, which had a far-reaching effect not only upon our business but
upon the process of manufacturing cotton goods throughout the world. In that year an improvement in
spindles was patented by Mr. Jacob Sawyer, then agent of the Appleton Mills at Lowell, which entirely
revolutionized spinning and was one of the most important inventions of the time. By a change in the
support of spinning spindles he enabled them to be greatly reduced both in weight and in the diameter
of bearings, and the saving in power effected was enormous. The steadiness of running was materially
increased, and this enabled the speed of rotation to be increased also. As the speed which the
spindles would bear was at this time the limit of production of the frame, an increase in capacity for
speed in the spindle meant a corresponding increase in the production of the machine. While with the
spindle in previous use the speed was limited to about 5,000 turns a minute, the Sawyer spindle raised
it to 7,500 turns. At the same time a horse-power would drive about 125 Sawyer spindles at the higher
speed, while it would drive only about 100 common spindles at the lower speed. This increase in
production and saving in power, together with other incidental advantages, caused the very rapid
introduction of the new machines. Over three million spindles were sold in the ten years succeeding
their invention, when this spindle was superseded by one of even greater capacity. During these ten
years the Sawyer spindle underwent considerable modification and improvement, involving numerous
inventions by Mr. George Draper and the author of these memoirs.
During these ten years also, our company was in almost continuous litigation, both against infringers
of our patents and to defend ourselves against the claims of other inventors who desired to divide the
field with us. One of these suits was brought against the so-called Rabbeth spindle of that day, and it
was decided in our favor by Judge Shepley after a long and hotly-contested litigation. After the decision
came a settlement, which we made easy for the past in consideration of full acknowledgement and
payment for the future. When the papers were signed, Mr. Jenks, who had been building the infringing
spindles, told us that our victory would prove a barren one, since Mr. Rabbeth had invented a new
spinning device on an entirely different principle, that would supersede all others and be outside of our
patent claims. He invited my father and myself to the shop of the Fales & Jenks Machine Company to
see it, and the sight convinced us that the Sawyer spindle had received its death blow.
The new Rabbeth spindle was based on a principle that was perhaps not new theoretically but was
new practically, in this connection. The bearings of the revolving shaft were left loose, though not free to
turn, and this enabled it to be run at a speed substantially without limit. It was christened to top or self-
centering spindle, and though these names may be misnomers, the names, as well as the spindles,
have gone into general use in the trade, which has absorbed tens of millions of them. The Sawyer
spindle was limited in speed. With an unbalanced load it would vibrate and gyrate, at 7,500 turns pr
minute (as would the common at a slower speed), so as to become useless. The Rabbeth spindle, on
the contrary, will bear any speed desired, and the limit of production of the frame is transferred from the
speed that the spindles will bear to the speed that is practical for other parts of the machine.
Returning to Rabbeth's early experiments, the first few spindles tested in the shop or Messrs. Fales &
Jenks attracted more attention, and deservedly, that any other invention in cotton manufacturing during
the present generation, prior to the invention of our Northrop loom. The spindles were found capable of
unlimited speed and capable of carrying absurdly unbalanced loads, one of the tests made for visitors
being the running of a broomstick as a bobbin on the spindle, at a speed of fifteen or twenty thousand
revolutions per minute, which was accomplished with reasonable steadiness. Orders poured in rapidly
from these exhibitions, and the facilities of Messrs, Fales & Jenks' extensive works were insufficient to
supply the demand for them. Meantime, Mr. Rabbeth having sold his interest in the patent application to
Mr. George Draper, my father, a combination of the two spindle interests was effected by enlarging the
capital stock of the Sawyer Spindle Co., which had been formed to bring the Sawyer inventions into use.
George Draper & Sons were made the sole selling agents of the new organization, and the Fales &
Jenks Machine Co., the Hopedale Machine Co., and later, other machine builders manufactured the
patented spindles under license.
For the seven years from 1873 to 1880, our largest branch of industry was the manufacture of the
Sawyer spindle, with other improvements accompanying it; as the Rabbeth, like most new things,
needed modification to make it practical. The business was successful and the growth substantial,
increasing form 140 hands employed in '73 to 200 in '80, but we were terribly hampered all this time by
From 1874 to 1880 we had continuously both offensive and defensive suits in court, and generally
several at a time. During these years, either my father or I was present at the taking of all evidence,
amounting to more than ten thousand printed pages, and in important emergencies both of us attended
the hearings. It is fair to estimate that for these six years I spent more than half the days either in court
or legal consultation, or in conduction experiments required to show the scientific side of the various
cases. I testified frequently as an expert and found myself gifted to a satisfactory degree with the faculty
of so stating facts that cross-examination could not shake them. Draper, William F., Recollections of a
Varied Career, pp. 180 - 183.
Gilbert Thompson - Is the idea of using fingerprints for identification an invention? Well, not in quite the
same way that the temple, spindle improvements and the bobbin battery were, but still I'd say close
enough to include here. Thompson moved to Hopedale in 1849 when his mother joined the Hopedale
Community and lived here until he joined the Army in 1861. A number of histories of fingerprinting credit
him with being the first American to make use of fingerprints for identification. Here are what two of
in 1882, Gilbert Thompson of the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, used his own fingerprints on
a document to prevent forgery. This is the first known use of fingerprints in the United States. Aladdin
In 1882 Gilbert Thompson, an American engineer building railroads in Mexico adopted "the practice of
pressing his thumb print on wage chits for his workers to combat forgeries." The Forensic Scientist
Almon Thwing - Thwing seems to have been something of an inventor, perhaps even being one of the
earliest individuals to attempt to produce an automobile. Below is a brief account of his life, printed
some years ago in the Milford Daily News.
Almon Thwing: Hopedale Inventor
A copy of a handwritten bill of sale supplied by Bruce Kingsbury, a Wayland resident, indicates that
Almon Thwing, a Hopedale machinist and inventor, had built and installed a community clock in
Wayland. Thwing was born in Uxbridge, the son of Benjamin and Anne Thwing, on July 21, 1808 and
was married to Sarah Ann Darling of Uxbridge on September 13, 1832. For a short period he resided in
Uxbridge, Medway and Grafton before coming to Hopedale where he became one of the most valued
members of the Hopedale Community. He held several Milford town offices with credit and his golden
wedding observance in 1882 was more of a town rejoicing than a family celebration. As a point of
interest, there was a newspaper item published in 1914 which stated that the remains of an ancient
automobile had been uncovered in a building being torn down on Front Street. It was believed to have
been at least 40 years old at that time and thought to have been built by Almon Thwing of Hopedale, an
inventor and machinist. The name of the Thwing family has been given to a street in Hopedale and the
name is still retained. In his "History of the Town of Milford" published in 1882, Adin Ballou states,
In respect to its topography and altitude above the level of the ocean, I engaged Mr. Almon Thwing of
Hopedale to make examination and measurements which would enable me to place on record
numerous interesting particulars worthy of transmission to after-times, as well as gratifying to the
curiosity of the present generation. Thwing's effort in 1879 takes up three pages in Ballou's book.
Milford Daily News, Date not given.
Among Almon Thwing's Hopedale relatives were three sisters; Anna, wife of Ebenezer Draper,
Hannah, wife of George Draper and Sylvia, wife of Joseph Bancroft. Two of his daughters, Susan
Thwing Whitney and Anna Thwing Field wrote of their days as children in the Community for Hopedale
Reminiscences. Susan's story about the post office was the inspiration for Lynn Hughes's picture book,
To Live a Truer Life: A Story of the Hopedale Community.
The Thwing home was across the street from the present site of the Bancroft Memorial Library. It was
eventually moved to Union Street and the house now on the corner of Hope and Hopedale streets was
built by his niece, (the daughter of his sister, Sylvia Thwing Bancroft) Lura Bancroft Day, and her
Miscellaneous Items on Hopedale Inventions
It's one thing to get a patent on an invention; another to defend it. William F. Draper spent a very large
amount of the first twenty years after the Civil War in court, defending Draper patents against companies
violating them, and defending his company against suits from others. If interested in details, you can
find more about it in his autobiography, Recollections of a Varied Career.
The Draper monthly, Cotton Chats, frequently wrote about new inventions and improvements to Draper
products. Bound copies of Cotton Chats may be seen at the Bancroft Memorial Library in Hopedale.
Other Draper publications, such as Textile Texts, also tell of product development and company history.
The Draper brothers [Ebenezer and George] not only improved on their father's [Ira] invention, but also
continually developed improvements for the weaving industry and acquired pertinent patents and
businesses. In 1856, George Draper purchased an interest in Warren W. Dutcher's innovative
reciprocating loom temple and convinced Dutcher to move to Hopedale Village from North Bennington,
Vermont. The Draper brothers became partners with Dutcher in the Dutcher Temple Company, located
behind the Draper factory on Hopedale Street where Social Street and Union Street once crossed Water
Street. (This street configuration and the temple shop buildings were eliminated later in the 19th century
with expansion of the Draper plant.) Kathleen Kelley Broomer, National Register Nomination, Section
8, page 5.
Other patents owned or acquired by the Draper brothers [Ebenezer and George] in the early years of
the company included the parallel underpick shuttle motion, first patented by Warren W. Dutcher in
1846. The Snell & Bartlett let-off (1857) and Stearns parallel motion (1859) were original Draper
patents, as was the frog with loose steel (1863). First made as an attachment for mason looms and
later used on every loom built in the nation, this device greatly improved the boxing of the shuttle by
decreasing the movement required of the binder. The Metcalf hand-threading shuttle (1868) was the
first practical self-threading shuttle. Its development contributed to eliminating the industry practice of
threading a shuttle by sucking the filling through a hole in its side, known as the "kiss of death." Cotton
Chats, June 1941.
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