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Manufacturers Index - Watson-Stillman Co.
Last Modified: Oct 5 2018 9:41PM by Jeff_Joslin
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Dudgeon develops the first portable hydraulic jack
In 1849 Eliphalet Lyon was running a drug store in New York City, and one of the young men who spent his evenings at the store was Richard Dudgeon, a scientific researcher for Allaire Iron Works. There was a stone yard down the street and one day Dudgeon said that he thought he could build a portable hydraulic press that would handle stone more easily; the idea of the hydraulic press was not new but only as a large and heavy stationary machine. Lyon offered to pay Dudgeon to develop his idea. After considerable experimentation and trials, Dudgeon was successful and in 1851 obtained a patent for the very first portable hydraulic press. Lyon, doing business as E. Lyon, and with Dudgeon's assistance, began manufacturing hydraulic jacks out of the back of his store. The jacks were very successful and by 1854 the business was profitable. Dudgeon repeatedly asked to become a partner but was rebuffed. Information on these early years is hard to come by but we suspect that other products were introduced during the 1850s, including ones of interest to us: metal shears and punches.

Dudgeon & Lyon
In 1859 Lyon finally agreed to enter into a partnership and Dudgeon & Lyon was created. Lyon refused to relinquish any of his control of the business and the following year Dudgeon sued to dissolve the partnership and prevent Lyon from manufacturing hydraulic products. Lyon claimed that he was of unsound mind when he made the agreement, an argument the court rejected. Instead, the court ruled that the business was to be placed in the hands of a receiver, the assets sold, and the proceeds split between the partners. Neither of the men were placed under any restrictions on their future business activities.

After the dust had settled from the dissolution of their partnership, the two men started separate competing businesses to make hydraulic jacks and related equipment. Lyon established E. Lyon & Co. in 1860, and Dudgeon did business as Richard Dudgeon. See the Dudgeon entry for the continuation of his story.

E. Lyon & Co.
By 1880 the company was quite successful and had added polishing and buffing lathes to their product lineup. That was only a diversion and the company continued to focus on hydraulic products: jacks, pumps and metal-working machinery. Eliphalet Lyon died in 1883 and operation of the company passed to the company's superintendent, Thomas H. Watson, and Lyon's step-son, Francis H. Stillman. In 1886 the business reorganized as Watson & Stillman.

Watson & Stillman
Under Messrs. Watson and Stillman the business continued to expand, and by 1888 they had outgrown their premises at 470 Grand Street in New York. They bought the shop of engine maker William Munzer at 210 E. 43rd Street and moved to those larger premises. Growth and diversification continued. Watson died in 1896 and Stillman assumed sole control of the business.

Watson-Stillman Co.
In 1904 the company was again squeezed for space. This time they reorganized as the Watson-Stillman Co. and moved out of the City to much larger premises in Aldene (now Roselle), NJ. Francis Stillman died unexpectedly in 1912. His son, Edwin A. Stillman, who had graduated with an engineering degree only four years earlier, took over the company.

From October 1910 The Metal Industry

Despite Edwin's inexperience the company continued to thrive under his leadership. By 1945 Watson-Stillman Co. had over 700 employees. In 1954 The Watson-Stillman Co. was acquired by locomotive maker—and budding conglomerate—H. K. Porter Co., and became the Watson-Stillman Press Division of H. K. Porter Co., with Edwin Stillman as its president.

Further research is needed to connect the dots up to the present day. We do know that today the assets are owned by Farmington Manufacturing Co., which continues to make Watson-Stillman hydraulic products.

Information Sources

  • 1853 advertising broadside, Dudgeon's Patent Portable Hydraulic Press, Or Lifting Jack
  • The 1853 New York Exhibition's Official Catalogue indicates that Eliphalet Lyon, agen, 466 Grand street, New York City exhibited Dudgeon's patent portable hydraulic press.
  • The 1854 New York Industrial Exhibition's Reports from Commissioners indicates that Eliphalet Lyon of New York City received a Silver Medal for Dudgeon's patent Portable Hydraulic Press.
  • 1860-07-28 New York Times Law Reports: The Inventions of Hydraulic Jacks, reports on a lawsuit, Eliphalet Lyon v. Richard Richard Dudgeon.
  • 1863-11-14 Scientific American notes that patent 40,443, for a crutch, was assigned to Eliphalet Lyon of New York.
  • 1878-08-10 Scientific American, Business and Personal column: "Hydraulic Presses and Jacks, new and second hand. Lathes and Machinery for Polishing and Buffing metals. E. Lyon & Co., 470 Grand St., N. Y."
  • March 1880 The Railway Purchasing Agent has ads for both E. Lyon & Co. and for Richard Dudgeon, often on the same page. "Lyon's patent punches and shears... polishing and buffing machinery. E. Lyon & Co., 140 Grand St., New York, sole manufacturers."
  • 1899 issues of American Machinist had a series of relevant items. The 1899-08-24 issue (page 21-781) had an article on The Dudgeon Steam Wagon, designed by Richard Dudgeon. The article provides some historic background on Dudgeon's invention of the hydraulic jack. He built his first steam wagon about 1856, which was lost in a fire in 1858. A new one was built in 1866 ("in the Dudgeon shops, 24 and 26 Columbia street").
  • The 1899-09-14 issue of American Machinist had a letter to the editor: "Referring to article on the steam wagon, I might say that I was an apprentice in Mr. Dudgeon's shop when the wagon was built. Your article states that the boiler was made by Nichols, New York City. As I remember the matter, Mr. Dudgeon built it in his own shop. He certainly expanded the tubes, and while doing so he invented his expander. The tubes in that boiler were the first ever expanded with a roller expander. J. J. / Hespeler, Canada". We speculate that the writer was John Jardine of the A. B. Jardine Co.; in 1889 John Jardine and his brother patented a tube expander of their own design but similar in principle to the Dudgeon design.
  • The 1899-09-28 issue of American Machinist included a letter to the editor from T. H. Stillman of the Watson-Stillman Co. "I have just run across a little item on page 873 of your September 14th paper, relative to hearsay regarding the "Dudgeon" experience on hydraulic jack; this a mixed story. About 1849 Mr. Dudgeon was a workman in the Allaire Works, and one of a crowd of men who made their night headquarters in a drug store of my step-father, Mr. [Eliphelet] Lyon. The Ward Smith stone yard was at the foot of the street. This caused him, in that drug store, to broach the subject of a device, which he thought he could build, for handling stone easier than was then being done, by what he called a portable hydraulic press, the features of the latter tool then being well known. Mr. Lyon set him to work under pay, and developed the idea, and kept him at it after he himself had become discouraged, and finally developed the hydraulic jack, patented in 1850 in the joint names of "Dudgeon & Lyon." This jack is now in the possession of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, to whom I presented it two or three years ago, as I considered it too valuable a piece of machinery to remain any longer around our shop, where it had been through all the changes in shop location of former years." The description of the 1850 patent being jointly to Dudgeon & Lyon is doubly incorrect; that patent was granted in 1851, and was granted solely to Dudgeon and not assigned to anyone else.
  • May 1906 Machinery. "THOMAS H. WATSON.—Thomas H. Watson, of Watson & Stillman, died on April 6, at his home, 411 Lexington avenue, New York City, from inflammation of the brain, following a severe cold contracted about two weeks previous. He was born in England, in 1836, but came to this country with his parents when he was two years old. After an apprenticeship in an East side machine shop in Sheriff street, New York, he became foreman for the firm of Dudgeon &- Lyon, about forty years ago. This firm was dissolved in 1860, and Mr. Watson became superintendent for Eliphalet Lyon, the surviving partner. In 1876 he became a partner in the firm of E. Lyon & Co., the other partners being his former employer and Francis H. Stillman. On the death.of Mr. Lyon, in 1883, Mr. Watson and Mr. Stillman formed the firm of Watson & Stillman, at 470 Grand street, moving to their present quarters, 210 East 43d street, about 18S5. Mr. Watson had not been actively engaged in the business for the past two or three years."
  • April 1908 Cassier's Magazine has a biography of Francis H. Stillman.
  • March 1912 Cassier's Magazine.

    FRANCIS H. STILLMAN, president of the Watson-Stillman Company and a prominent figure in the engineering world and machine tool industry, died suddenly on February 18 of intestinal hemorrhage, at his late residence, at Brooklyn, N. Y. The day before his death he was at his office as usual and apparently in the best of health.

    Mr. Stillman was born in New York on February 20, 1850, and was the only child of Paul Stillman, who was connected in an official capacity with the famous Novelty Works, which in the early fifties of the last century was the principal machine shop of New York.

    It was in the schools at Mystic Bridge, Conn., that Mr. Stillman obtained his early education, and from there he entered Milton College, Wis. He followed the plan advocated by eminent educators at that time of interpolating a course of shop training between academic courses, and took an apprenticeship course in the shop of the Cottrell & Babcock Printing Press Works, at Westerly, R. I., afterwards entering preparatory classes in the Cooper Union, passing from there to the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University, and graduated with the degree of B.S. in 1874.

    In the meantime, the first patent for a hydraulic jack had been taken out by Richard Dudgeon, with whom was associated Mr. E. Lyon, the stepfather of Mr. Stillman. In 1880 the firm of E, Lyon & Co. ‘was formed, consisting of Mr. Lyon, Mr. T. H. Watson, long associated with Mr. Lyon during the latter’s manufacturing career, and Mr. Stillman. Upon the death of Mr. Lyon, in 1883, Mr. Stillman organized the firm of Watson & Stillman, to conduct the business of manufacturing hydraulic jacks, presses and other hydraulic machinery. This firm was incorporated in 1904 as the Watson-Stillman Company, and Mr. Stillman remained its president up to the time of his death. Under his direction his firm early became prominent in the hydraulic engineering field, and Mr. Stillman was at the time of his death perhaps the most prominent American engineer on hydraulic machine-tool construction, while his firm has built upwards of 4,000 different types and sizes of hydraulic machines and now has a large and active plant at Aldene, N. J.

    ...A portrait, with biographical sketch, of Mr, Stillman was published in the issue of this magazine for April, 1908.

  • 1945 book Prominent Families of New Jersey, Volume 1, by William Starr Myers. "A. A. Stillman—Since 1912 Edwin A. Stillman has been president of the Watson-Stillman Company, of Roselle, manufacturers of all types of hydraulic machinery and forged still pipe fittings. The company employs approximately seven hundred people at the time of writing.

    "Mr. Stillman was born November 13, 1886, in New York City, son of Francis H. and Irene (Bancroft) Stillman... [Francis H. was] born in New York City in 1851, was graduated from ale University...in 1874, and then was associated with E. Lyon & Company, manufacturers of hydraulic jacks and other hydraulic equipment. The Lyon company was established by E. Lyon, who was Francis H. Stillman's stepfather. From its inception, in 1848, E. Lyon & Company continued under that name until 1886, when a new partnership was formed and the name of Watson & Stillman adopted. The partners were Thomas H. Watson, who died in 1896, and Francis H. Stillman, who passed away in 1912...

    "Edwin A. Stillman...entered Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, where in 1908 he received the degree of Mechanical Engineer. In that year he formed his initial association with the Watson-Stillman Company, so continuing down to the time of writing. He became president of the company in 1912, and so continues today, assisted by a capable staff of officers and workers. J. W. Delano is vice-president and treasurer of the company; A. G. York, vice-president in charge of sales; L. L. Brown, vice-president in charge of manufacturing operations; R. W. Dinzi, vice-president in charge of engineering; F. A. Hutson, secretary; Francis H. Stillman, Edwin A. Stillman's nephew, assistant secretary..."
  • Blog article on Richard Dudgeon.
  • From the findagrave page on Eliphalet Lyon: "Eliphalet Lyon, son of Ephraim Lyon and Sarah Darrow, first opened his eyes to the light at Waterford, Conn., July 26, 1816, where he lived with his parents until 1835. He worked on his father's farm, but was given a good common-school education, and taught one term when but eighteen years old. Leaving home at eighteen, he went to New York City and entered the drug-store of Dr. T. D. Lee, serving as a clerk for three years, at the end of which time he became u full partner in the business. Three years later he became sole proprietor, and for more than a quarter of a century continued the business at No. 470 Grand Street, finally leaving it in 1865. Previous to this, and as early as 1860, he became interested in the manufacture of machinery, and this business he still continues, the manufactory being located on the site of his former drug-store. With him are associated Mr. T. H. Watson and Mr. F. H. Stillman, the latter a son of his wife by a former marriage. The business employs some forty men, and is conducted under the firm-name of E. Lyon & Co. Mr. Lyon has been a stanch Republican since the organization of that party, notwithstanding that his father was an earnest Democrat. Mr. and Mrs. Lyon are members of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church. Each has been three times married. Mr. Lyon's first wife was Rachel De Pew. His second and third wives were sisters,-Ann M. and Lydia, daughters of David and Mary Rogers. To the latter he was married May 19, 1874. Mrs. Lyon has one son, Francis H. Stillman, by her first husband, Paul Stillman. Mr. and Mrs. Lyon reside on the family homestead of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. David Rogers, at Waterford" (D.H. Hurd, History of New London County, Connecticut: with biographical sketches...). Eliphalet Lyon died 1883-03-23.
  • The Farmington Manufacturing Co. website page on Watson-Stillman provides a brief and rather inaccurate history of that company.