Tyler turbine manufacturers and patents

Manufacturers of Tyler turbines

Late 1850s

Wm. Dripps & Co., Midway, Chester Co., PA

Edward & Stevens, Winooski, VT

M. & J. H. Buck & Co., Lebanon, NH

Vulcan Iron Works, San Francisco, CA

A large ad in the November 4 1859 Burlington (VT) Free Press includes a description of the turbine, testimonials, and a list of manufacturers. The beginning and ending dates of the relationship of these companies with John Tyler is not known.

Late 1860s

Aetna Iron Works, San Francisco, CA

Sole agents for this coast. (ad in Arizona Miner September 07, 1867). The foundry at the Hanscom and Co. Aetna Iron Works (SE corner of Fremont and Tehama Streets) manufactured turbines, mining and other machinery (1867 San Francisco Directory, p. 47). A November 25 1868 San Francisco Bulletin note (p. 3) on the city's machine shops indicates that Aetna had just built a Tyler turbine. So, by 1867 John Tyler apparently no longer was using Vulcan Iron Works as his West Coast manufacturer.


Robert S. Slaymaker, York County, PA

R.S. Slaymaker is cited as a manufacturer of Tyler wheels in Pennsylvania in an ad in St Johnsbury VT Caledonian (August 9 1867 p 4). After his civil war service, he returned to his home in York County, PA where he was engaged in the manufacture of water-wheels until 1869. (Wiley, S.T. (ed.), Biographical and historical cyclopedia of Indiana and Armstrong counties, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia: Gresham. p 384).


Putnam Machine Co., Fitchburg MA

See images at right from a manufacturer’s pamphlet from the late 1870s. Shows a patent date of 1874 on the front cover and has testimonials from turbine owners dated as late as 1877. Lists Putnam Machine Co. as the "Sole Manufacturer" of Tyler's turbine. (Note that the pamphlet was stamped by Harris D. Mears, 66 Broadway, Lowell, Mass. This is the address for the administrators of the locks and canals of the Merrimack River.)

A Tyler wheel at the 1876 Centennial exhibition was manufactured by Putnam.

Claremont, New Hampshire-based manufacturers of Tyler turbines

John Tyler was based in Claremont and nearby West Lebanon for many years and involved with multiple Claremont companies, so it's natural that this would be a manufacturing hub for his turbines.

1850s-late 1860s

D.A. Clay & Co., Claremont, NH

James P. Upham along with two business partners bought a small machine shop and foundry in Claremont in 1851 which operated under the name of the bookkeeping partner as D.A. Clay & Co. D.A. Clay & Co. was a general machine shop and foundry for several years which manufactured several machines including engine lathes, wood planers, circular sawmills, and Tuttle water wheels, a cast iron water wheel developed and patented by Ebenezer Tuttle in the 1830s and 1840s. In the late 1850s, Clay began to manufacture John Tyler’s patented water turbine which grew into an important part of the D.A. Clay business. The Tyler Wheel was exhibited at the 1856 Crystal Palace Exhibition in New York where it was awarded the highest prize medal for water wheels.


J.P. Upham & Co., Claremont, NH

By the early 1860s, James Upham was the sole owner and changed the name of the machine business was changed to J.P. Upham & Co. which continued to manufacture Tyler turbines. Upham continued to be the sole manufacturer of the Tyler turbine throughout this period. Upham & Co. also manufactured water wheel speed regulators and line of agricultural equipment.

A turbine at the Old Mill Museum at Weston, Vermont has cast into the curb cover: MANUF BY J.P. UPHAM & CO. CLAREMONT, N.H. (personal communication, Dave Peters, Weston, VT)

late 1860s- early 1870s

Sullivan Machine Co., Claremont, NH

In 1868, James Upham became president of the third generation of his machine business still located in Claremont and now named the Sullivan Machine Company with an initial capitalization of $200,000. Throughout the next several decades Sullivan grew and continued to manufacture Tyler water turbines and other mill power transmission equipment including shafting, gears, pulleys etc. Production of Tyler water turbines ceased sometime during the 1880s. During this period, Sullivan shifted the emphasis of their business to mining equipment and continued in that business until 1946 when Sullivan was merged into the Joy Manufacturing Company. Whether Sullivan was the sole manufacturer of Tyler turbines in this period is unclear. There are two ads for Tyler turbines in the 1870 Vermont yearbook - one (p. 155, see below) which suggests that orders for the Tyler turbine be sent to John Tyler who was still residing in West Lebanon NH at the time and another (p. 14, see below) that is from Sullivan (and also states that Sullivan has a "reduced list" of Tyler Water Wheels). A few years later (1873) an ad in the New Hampshire yearbook indicates that Sullivan is the sole manufacturer of the Improved Tyler Turbine; a similar ad in the 1876 edition lists water wheels (inside back cover), but no longer mentions Tyler.

Buildings of the Sullivan Machinery Company.

Main Street, Claremont, NH. 1871. This photo is somewhat misleading since Sullivan also occupied multistory brick mill and factory buildings along the sugar River in Claremont. Photo from from HABS HAER. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/nh0127.photos.104552p/

John Tyler turbine patents

US Patent 12927, 1855

Curb for Water-Wheels, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

Cast iron scroll water wheel with hinged lip (shown in blue) in curb. This patent is something of a dead end – the claim was not carried into subsequent patents (However, even in this original patent the drawing shows that water entering the scroll strikes the convex side of the runner vanes unlike most turbines of the time.)

Improved Water-Wheel, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH.

The basic patent for the Tyler turbine which the design endured. The essentail description and drawings can be recognized in subsequent generations of patents from Tyler.

The key claims are for shapes of the (1) top of the runner and (2) of the runner vanes (and therefore buckets) which are specified to have advantages over previous inventions. The drawing also indicates that Tyler abandoned the hinged lip in the curb that was the basis of US patent 12927 for a different design that had two hinged parts.

Improvement in Water-Wheels, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

Tyler continued to tweak the basic design first shown in US patent 15309 with an air-tight cap in the case cover that fits so so no additional journal box is needed for the runner shaft, and also an improvement of the sliding gate and stem gate.

Improvement in Water-Wheels, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

Tyler continued to refine the shape of the lower scalloped edges of the runner vanes.

Tyler also now describes a handy (but complex and multi-component) step adjuster. The step adjuster provides a method to raise the bottom step bearing upon which the runner revolves to make up for wear that can occur during normal use. This obviates the need to replace the bearing when worn. Interestingly, although described, the step adjuster is not specifically claimed (perhaps because this invention was already known in other turbine designs and Tyler's claim in the application involving the step adjuster was ultimately not allowed.)

Plate shown on the right of step adjuster is from US 52625.

Improvement in Turbine Water- Wheels, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

This is still Tyler's scroll wheel, but this patent is something of a departure from the previous inventions in that not only is water flow in the scroll controlled by the gate, but also by an additional cylinder gate that surrounds the runner inside the scroll. There are attachments so that the gate and the cylinder move up and down together.

Plate from 52625 on right has the movable gate and cylinder rim highlighted in blue.

Improved Water-Wheel, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

Reissue of US 15,309, 1856.

Improvement in Water-Wheels, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

Reissue (same date as RE3015) of 20456 with the addition of specifying the utility of of a two-part hinged lip in the curb (which, oddly, was actually introduced in 15039, not 20456)

Improvement in Water-Wheels, John Tyler, West Lebanon, NH

This reissue combined the improvements from previous patents and reissues and, importantly, resulted in a patent extension of seven years of the original 14 year exclusivity period of the 1856 patent (and therefore until 1877.)

For discussion of this application see United States Patent Office. Decisions of the Commissioner of Patents and of the United States Courts in Patent and Trademark and Copyright Cases. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1876. Pages 159-160 are the patent commissioner's decision to extend John Tyler original patent of 1856 and then first renewed in 1868. It’s interesting to note that John Tyler’s appeal to the US patent office in 1870 stated:

“The wheel, as covered by the two patents, has been largely manufactured, and extensively introduced, and is being made at the present time in almost, if not precisely, the identical form in which it was originally patented.” (my italics).

This statement is a bit at odds with the claims made both in Tyler’s advertising literature which continued to emphasize that the turbine was improved, and, in fact, with Tyler's statements in subsequent patents that the new patents show clear differences from the “form in which it was originally patented.”

Improvement in Water-Wheels, John Tyler, Claremont, NH

This patent shows a major departure from his previous design in terms of the shape of the runner buckets - the vanes are now concave (though Tyler refers to this design as an "improvement in the buckets" of the previous design described in 15309.

Improvement in Water-Wheels, John Tyler, Claremont, NH

Although again stated in the description to be an improvement of 20456 and now also 130608, this patent seems to my (naive) eye more of a new design than modification of the runner vanes from previous patents. Not clear from this image of the runner alone, but the convex side of the vanes receive the water - opposite from nearly all turbines with curves vanes and also opposite of buckets of water wheels. of course, Tyler claims that this is a huge advantage, but his claims are more likely to be marketing hype rather than actual.

See photos of a wonderful vintage salesman's model of the 1874 Tyler turbine.