Frederick Elsworth Sickels

Frederick Elsworth Sickels

Camden, Camden County, New Jersey, USA
Death 8 Mar 1895 (aged 75)
Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 39684214 · View Source
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Kansas City Journal
March 9, 1895, page 3


STRICKEN IN HIS OFFICE. Twenty Minutes From The First Signs Of Illness Life Had Departed - The Deceased Had An International Reputation.

Frederick E. Sickels, an inventor of world wide fame, and for the last seven years the chief engineer of the National Water Works Company, died very suddenly yesterday afternoon at 2 o'clock in a small adjoining, the office of Major B. F. Jones, the superintendent of the company. Mr. Sickels was at the office as usual yesterday morning and appeared in good health.

At noon, he went out to the Midland Hotel for luncheon, as was his custom. He returned to the Water Works building at about 1:30 o'clock, and on going to his office, which is upstairs, complained of nausea. It was suggested to him that he lie down for some minutes and so Mr. Charles Jones and Mastin Simpson assisted him down stairs to the little room adjoining the office of the superintendent. This room contains the only couch in the building. Mr. Sickels nausea increased after he had laid down and Dr. W. F. Kuhn was summoned. He arrived almost immediately, Dr. Kuhn felt his pulse, and knew in an instant from the fluttering of Mr. Sickels heart that the case was a hopeless one.

He tried heroic remedies, however, and administered a hypodermic injection in order to keep up if possible the strength of the dying man. While doing so he asked Mr. Sickels whether he had ever before suffered an attack of the kind. Mr. Sickels replied that he had once before been ill in the same way, and about a minute after saying this breathed his last. His death was entirely painless. The attack from the time he came into his office until he died was not over fifteen or twenty minutes in duration.

The remains were taken to Stine's and Mr. John Sickels, a son at whose house at Quindaro Mr. Sickels had been living for some time past, was summoned.

The funeral services will be held at 2 o'clock this afternoon at the Central Presbyterian church. Mr. Sickels' Pastor will officiate, assisted by the Rev. Dr. S. M. Neel. The remains will then be taken to Paterson, New Jersey, for burial. Mr. Sickels leaves a wife and five children. His wife lives in Paterson.

Mr. Sickels was the inventor of the Corliss engine which was one of the wonders of the Centennial, and the steam shut-off system which revolutionized the steam machinery of the world and is the system in vital use in propelling all ocean steamships.

He was born in Camden, New Jersey in 1819 and was there before 76 years of age. His boyhood was spent in New York City. He was born on a farm and never received more than a common school education. He was for a short time a rod man for the Harlem Road, and then, at the age of 17 years, was apprenticed to the Allaire Machine Works of New York.

While in that capacity he devoted his spare moments to the study of physics, thus laying the foundation of his inventive skill. It was while he was still in the employ of the Allaire Company that he invented the famous steam shut-off. He had noticed in his work that there appeared to be a defect in a stationary engine and set about remedying it. The result was the invention.

It was a very great device, for it reduced the expense of fuel one-half and doubled the power of the steam employed. He secured a patent on his invention May 1829. A certified copy of the original model is now in the patent office. The invention was eagerly taken up by machinists, and Mr. Sickels found himself suffering from numerous infringenments. The most persistent of these infringers was Corliss, the engine builder of Providence, Rhode Island, who had been a fellow apprentice of Mr. Sickels in New York City.

Mr. Corless took advantage of the invention before the patent had been secured, and made use of it in his work. Mr. Sickels had recourse to the courts, and, after years of litigation, obtained protection. His next step was to seek injunctions against the users of the machines, but in this he was unsuccessful. The courts refused the injunctions on grounds of public policy. Had he been successful Mr. Sickels would have been worth millions of dollars.

Mr. Sickels second invention was that known as the differential motion. His purpose was to apply it to the steering of steam vessels. The invention, contrary to the genral rule, was a success at the very first trial. The patent on the differential motion was granted in 1848. His effort to secure exclusive rights over the steering apparatus was as productive of litigation as the effort to secure a patent for the steam shut-off, it was fully twelve years before he was granted protection, and even after that the patent was constantly infringed upon. Wearied of thse adversities, Mr. Sickels turned to civil engineering, He came West and aided in the constructing the Union Pacific Railroad.

He was also one of the engineers who constructed the large bridge in Omaha. He invented a means of anchoring the bases of bridge piers. Between 1840 amd 1842 he secured six patents. Mr. Sickels took a model of his patent to England, but his trip was fruitless on account of the bitter prejudice prevalent there. His steam apparatus was exhibited at the New York Palace of 1853, the London International exposition of 1862 and the Centennial of 1876.

Of late years Mr. Sickels had spent his time in engineering. He took out during that time about twenty additional patents, most of them devices, for ship building. He became the consulting engineer of the National Water Works Company twenty years ago, and seven years ago, he came to this city as the chief engineer.

He, with General Sooy Smith and Mr. Campbell, the engineer of the Croton acqueduct in New York, considered the scheme to tunnel the Missouri River here. This was in 1887, Mr. Sickels declared the idea impractical. Accordingly the Qyindaro station was built, Mr. Sickels was a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, and an abolitionist at a time when to be an abolitionist was a cause for prejudice. He knew all the early inventors of this country, and was the last of the group to die. Such were Howe, Erricson, Cooper, Hoe, Morse, Goodyear and McCormick. His death will be a great loss to the water works company. He had a world wide reputation, and his name found in all the libraries.

Kansas City Journal. March 9, 1895, page 3, transcribed by Rhonda Holton
An American inventor who would have been worth millions of dollars if he had been less confiding in those whom he regarded as friends died a poor man in Kansas City, and was buried in the cemetery at Paterson, New Jersey, by his brother David Banks Sickels.

Frederick E. Sickels, age 76, chief engineer of the National Water Works Company and inventor of the Corliss engine. He was born in either Gloucester Couty, New Jersey or New York, New York in 1819. His father, Dr. John Sickles, was Chief Health Officer of New York City and his mother was Hester Ann Elsworth Sickles.

Young Sickels apprenticed at the Allaire Shops. When Frederick was still a young man he noticed the slow-closing valve in the Watts engine and devised his brilliantly simple method of obtaining the quickest closing valve possible.

Frederick is also in a famous painting "Men Of Progress" where all the subjects are inventors.

In 2007, Frederick E. Sickels received The National Inventors Hall of Fame award for inventing the Valve for Steam Engines. Sickels gave us the first practicable form of expansion gear in 1841
Buried on the 12th of March, 1895.

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  • Created by: Rhonda
  • Added: 20 Jul 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 39684214
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Frederick Elsworth Sickels (20 Sep 1819–8 Mar 1895), Find a Grave Memorial no. 39684214, ; Maintained by Rhonda (contributor 46869790) Unknown.