John Clayton Backus

John Clayton Backus

Birth
Smethport, McKean County, Pennsylvania, USA
Death 15 Mar 1931 (aged 65)
Buffalo, Erie County, New York, USA
Burial Smethport, McKean County, Pennsylvania, USA
Plot Sec 4 575
Memorial ID 64415357 · View Source
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McKean County Democrat, Thursday March 19, 1931 page 1

DEATH SUMMONS J, C, BACKUS, LOCAL INVENTOR
Smethport residents were shocked Sunday by news of the death of J. C Backus, prominent Smethport civil leader, manufacturer and inventor which occurred in Buffalo Sunday afternoon. Mr. Backus, who had been in poor health for some time past, had gone to Buffalo on Tuesday of last week to receive medical treatment.
Mrs. Backus and son, Edward Backus, left for Buffalo early Sunday morning and were at the patient's bed side when the end came.
John Clayton Backus was born in Smethport March 14, 1866, the son of Major John C. and Mary Windsor Backus. The father was a prominent Civil War soldier and one of the leading attorneys of Northwestern Pennsylvania. He was educated in the local schools and read law in his father's office.
Although possessing the training necessary for entry to the legal profession, Mr. Backus, possessing a natural mechanical leaning, turned to inventive experiments. He invented a patent check locking system for hats, coats and umbrellas and organized the Backus Novelty Co. to manufacture the product, starting as a stock company and eventually becoming sole owner of the concern, which has operated a large factory in Smethport for many years, being regarded as one of the town's best industries. The ingenius locks found a ready market and some of the world's largest hotels and public buildings are equipped and are still purchasing the checking system. In addition to the check locks, Mr. Backus's factory manufactures other novelties invented by him. One of his most ingenius inventions is an indoor golf machine which has been enjoying increasing sales during the past two years.
Mr. Backus was the first man to invent a successful pinsetting machine for bowling alleys which was place on the market in 1905, being sold by the Brunswick-Balke-Callendar Co and manufactured at the plant Holmes & Gilfillan in Smethport. Most of the bowling alleys of America were equipped with this device and Mr Backus royalties totalled a huge figure. He later invented a new an improved pin-setting mnchine and a the time of his untimely demise was engaged in litigation against the Brunswick company, alleging that a new machine they are now manufacturing is an infringement on his new
patent. Mr. Backus won his suit and at the very time of his death indications pointed to a verdict favorable to him in an appeal taken by the Brunswick company.
In addition to his successful manufacturing enterprise, Mr. Backus was one of the organizers and a large stockholder in the Smethport Garage Co. and was extensively identified with the production of oil, in addition to other business ventures.
He was a prominent as a civic leader, having served as a member of the borough council for several terms and was active in securing the first Main street pavement.
Mr. Backus took the initiative in the matter of securing electricity for Smethport in 1922. Leading a successful crusade for a local bond issue, the well known citizen was honored by the borough council in being delegated a committee of one to carry out the project, which he did in a highly satisfactory manner. His plan of building a transmission line to Mt. Jewett was carried out and he devised the efficient street lighting and distributing system here. This great amount of labor was cheerfully given to the town.
Mr. Backus was a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, of the Smethport Conopus Club and a former president of the organization. He was also active in the McKean County Motor Club.
He was a member of the local Masonic fraternity, of the Coudersport Consistory and of the Zem Zem Temple, Mystic Shrine, Erie With "Clayte" Backus public spirit amounted to a creed. He was indefatigible in his efforts for the upbuilding of Smethport. It was due to his efforts that the Smethport Fire Department was completely reorganized a few years ago along lines which make it one of the most efficient volunteer fire-fighting organizations in this section. His efficient factory force formed a nucleus of the organization and a fire alarm has been a signal for complete cessation of activities at his factory, which is located a few doors from the fire station, and employes man the department's motor trucks as quickly as any paid fire-fighting force could do.
Mr. Backus was united in marriage to Miss Lucy Blake of Eldred. Beides his wife, he is survived one adopted son, Edward Backus, of Smethport; two sisters, Mrs. Lucy Seger and Mrs. Nellle Cutler, of New York, and one brother, Merle E Backus, of Smethport.
Interment was in Rosehill cemetery.
[Abstracted form a lengthy article]


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Gravesite Details walked and compiled by Nancy Thomas and Becky Hakes Oct 2005

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  • Created by: MSue
  • Added: 19 Jan 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 64415357
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for John Clayton Backus (14 Mar 1866–15 Mar 1931), Find A Grave Memorial no. 64415357, citing Rose Hill Cemetery, Smethport, McKean County, Pennsylvania, USA ; Maintained by MSue (contributor 47040510) .