Thomas Rogers

Thomas Rogers

Groton, New London County, Connecticut, USA
Death 19 Apr 1856 (aged 64)
Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey, USA
Burial Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey, USA
Plot Lot 383-491, Section 8
Memorial ID 11595463 · View Source
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THOMAS ROGERS, the founder of the large locomotive-works at Paterson which bear his name, and which rank among the finest and most successful enterprises of their kind in the world, was born in the town of Groton, New London Co., Conn., on March 16, 1792. He was a lineal descendant of Thomas Rogers, one of that hardy band of pilgrims who came to this country in the historic "Mayflower" and planted the first seeds of civil and religious freedom on the shores of the New World.

At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to learn the trade of a house-carpenter, and in the summer of 1812 he removed to Paterson, N.J., at that time a village of small proportions, but which was enjoying a season of prosperity because of the demand for goods of American manufacture which the war with Great Britain engendered. Mr. Rogers served personally in the army during a portion of this struggle. The declaration of peace in 1815 reduced many of the village manufacturers to bankruptcy, and the condition of business at that time afforded anything but a promising outlook for the future. Mr. Rogers was then working at his trade as a journeyman carpenter, and even at that early period attracted attention by his close application to business, his excellent judgment, and extraordinary force of character. A short time afterwards he formed a copartnership with Paul Rutan, and with a capital of about fifty dollars entered upon the general building business. While so associated they built the woodwork of the residence of the late Judge Philemon Dickerson, corner of Broadway and Straight Street, which is now one of the oldest houses in the city. Other ancient landmarks in the city were also erected by Messrs. Rogers & Rutan at that early day.

A few years after the formation of the firm, and while they were still doing business as builders, Mr. Rogers became acquainted with Capt. Ward, who, having witnessed the power-loom in operation during a tour in Europe, had come to Paterson for the purpose of introducing the manufacture of cotton-duck. Mr. Rogers, whose skill as a mechanic had already become known, was employed by Capt. Ward to make the patterns for his looms, and soon after purchased of the latter the exclusive right of making them, a business which he afterwards successfully carried on. About this time he entered the machine-shop of John Clark, the elder, where the manufacture of power-looms was then being carried on on a large scale. These looms were built principally of wood, and Mr. Rogers’ excellent qualities as a workman and strong inventive powers enabled him to do more work than any of his fellows, and to suggest many valuable improvements. In 1819 he associated himself with John Clark, Jr., and under the name and style of Clark & Rogers engaged in the manufacture of machinery. The firm commenced work in the basement of the Beaver Mill, which had been built at an early period by Mr. Clark’s father, and while still at that point Mr. Rogers visited Mexico and other distant sections, where he received large orders for looms and other machinery. In 1820 the concern moved into the "Little Beaver Mill," and in the following year took into partnership Abram H. Godwin, Jr., the firm-name changing to Godwin, Rogers & Co. They now commenced spinning cotton, and building machinery for that and other purposes. In 1822, finding their accommodations too limited, the firm leased the cotton-mill erected by Robert Collett on the present site of the Danforth Works, and which is still standing in the rear of the Danforth lot, next to the race. Subsequent additions were made to this mill by the firm. Their business kept increasing, the number of persons employed being sometimes as high as two hundred, and the establishment was successfully carried on until the summer of 1831, when Mr. Rogers withdrew, taking with him $36,266.05 as his share of the profits of the concern.

Having purchased a mill-site on the upper raceway, he immediately commenced the erection of the Jefferson Works, which were finished and put in operation before the close of the next year. His design was to occupy the lower stories of the building in the manufacture of machinery, and the upper stories in spinning cotton. The latter, however, was never commenced, the demand for machinery increasing in a short time to the full capacity of the works. The Jefferson Works were literally an encroachment on the forest. Between Spruce and Mill Streets all was swamp covered with pines, about as densely inhabited by snakes as it now is by human beings. On the upper race no factories had been put up except two little cotton-mills and a small machine-shop, the latter owned by Messrs. Paul & Beggs.

In the early part of 1832, Mr. Rogers associated with himself Messrs. Morris Ketchum and Jasper Grosvenor, of New York, under the name of Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, a title that remained unchanged until Mr. Rogers’ death on April 19, 1856.

Soon after the formation of the firm of Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, public attention began to be directed to the construction of railroads and railroad machinery. The road from Jersey City to Paterson was then approaching completion, the iron-work for the Passaic and Hackensack bridges being made by Mr. Rogers. An order was also filled for one hundred sets of wheels and axles for the South Carolina Railroad. Mr. Rogers next commenced making wrought-iron tire for car-wheels, and after some difficulty succeeded. Preparations for locomotive building had been made by Paul & Beggs, and they had a small engine nearly completed when the building took fire and was consumed on May 18, 1836, the locomotive also being destroyed. In 1835 some buildings were begun by Rogers, Ketchum & Grosvenor, with a view to the manufacture of locomotives. It was not, however, until eighteen months later that the first locomotive, the "Sandusky," was completed, a trial trip to Jersey City and New Brunswick and return being made on Oct. 6, 1837.

As the establishment, growth, and development of locomotive manufacture in Paterson is elsewhere given in this work, it will not be necessary to further trace in this connection the expansion of the large and important business which Mr. Rogers established, and which from very small beginnings has become one of the largest of its kind in the world, an average of an engine a day being turned out in the works. Mr. Rogers remained the clear-headed, enterprising, and intelligent manager of the enterprise until his demise in 1856. The concern was then reorganized under a charter, with the title of the Rogers Locomotive- and Machine-Works; William S. Hudson, who had been for a number of years the valuable assistant of Mr. Rogers, being chosen mechanical engineer and superintendent, and Jacob S. Rogers, son of Thomas Rogers, assuming the office of president, a position that he fills with ability at the present writing. Mr. Hudson died, and was succeeded as superintendent by Robert S. Hughes, the present genial and efficient manager of the concern in Paterson. The works have been gradually enlarged and improved, and are perfectly adapted to the uses for which they were designed. A view of them may be seen on a neighboring page of this work.

The personal characteristics of Thomas Rogers may be detailed in a few words. Springing from New England ancestry, with the blood of the Puritans circulating in his veins, he early manifested a strong inclination for mechanical investigation, and subsequent opportunities enabled him to develop the strong natural talent in that direction which he possessed. As an individual he was possessed of a strong will, great energy of character, strict integrity, and a positive enthusiasm in mechanical work. Possessed of small capital at first, so that he was compelled to divide the products of his labor and genius with wealthier partners, he was the soul and support of the enterprises with which he was connected, and gave to each of them whatever measure of success they severally attained. He was an indefatigable worker, retired early at night, and arose early in the morning, and applied himself closely to his labors. As a mechanic he had no superiors, and he seemed to possess a fertility for invention such as few men have ever manifested. He made many important improvements, some only of which he patented. One of these was for "counterbalancing" the section of a locomotive-wheel opposite to the crank, for which he filed specifications in the Patent Office on July 12, 1837. Another remarkable novelty which he introduced was in making the driving-wheels of a locomotive with hollow, spokes and rim, the latter being cast solid on the side opposite to the crank. The spokes were oval, and the rim very much the same shape as that used at the present time. This kind of driving-wheel is in almost universal use in this country. He also designed a valuable valve-motion for locomotives as early as 1845, which he still further improved in 1847. He was also one of the earliest advocates of the "shifting-link" motion, and did more towards its successful introduction on American locomotives than any other person. He earnestly advocated outside connected engines, as distinguished from inside connected ones, and introduced the system of heating the sheets of a locomotive boiler red-hot after they were prepared to be riveted together, and then allowing them to cool slowly, the object being to obviate the danger of cracking. He was also the first builder of locomotives to use expansion plates, so as to relieve both the boiler and frame from the strains due to the lengthening of the boiler when under steam, as well as to provide for its shortening when cold or cooling down,— a system that is now in general use.

Mr. Rogers was in no sense a public man, although he took an active interest in the affairs of his own locality and bore his part nobly in sustaining the institutions that were established for good around him. He left to his family a large estate, acquired through long years of intelligent and faithful labor, and not only placed his name among those who have added something valuable to the discoveries and inventions of their age, but by his achievements has reflected more credit upon the city which he selected as his residence and place of business than any one that has ever resided there. His name will ever be closely associated with the industries of the city of Paterson.

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  • Created by: Gregory Speciale
  • Added: 23 Aug 2005
  • Find A Grave Memorial 11595463
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Rogers (16 Mar 1792–19 Apr 1856), Find A Grave Memorial no. 11595463, citing Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Paterson, Passaic County, New Jersey, USA ; Maintained by Gregory Speciale (contributor 31762373) .