Evans, Oliver

Evans, Oliver
b. 13 September 1755 Newport, Delaware, USA
d. 15 April 1819 New York, USA
American millwright and inventor of the first automatic corn mill.
He was the fifth child of Charles and Ann Stalcrop Evans, and by the age of 15 he had four sisters and seven brothers. Nothing is known of his schooling, but at the age of 17 he was apprenticed to a Newport wheelwright and wagon-maker. At 19 he was enrolled in a Delaware Militia Company in the Revolutionary War but did not see active service. About this time he invented a machine for bending and cutting off the wires in textile carding combs. In July 1782, with his younger brother, Joseph, he moved to Tuckahoe on the eastern shore of the Delaware River, where he had the basic idea of the automatic flour mill. In July 1782, with his elder brothers John and Theophilus, he bought part of his father's Newport farm, on Red Clay Creek, and planned to build a mill there. In 1793 he married Sarah Tomlinson, daughter of a Delaware farmer, and joined his brothers at Red Clay Creek. He worked there for some seven years on his automatic mill, from about 1783 to 1790.
His system for the automatic flour mill consisted of bucket elevators to raise the grain, a horizontal screw conveyor, other conveying devices and a "hopper boy" to cool and dry the meal before gathering it into a hopper feeding the bolting cylinder. Together these components formed the automatic process, from incoming wheat to outgoing flour packed in barrels. At that time the idea of such automation had not been applied to any manufacturing process in America. The mill opened, on a non-automatic cycle, in 1785. In January 1786 Evans applied to the Delaware legislature for a twenty-five-year patent, which was granted on 30 January 1787 although there was much opposition from the Quaker millers of Wilmington and elsewhere. He also applied for patents in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Hampshire. In May 1789 he went to see the mill of the four Ellicot brothers, near Baltimore, where he was impressed by the design of a horizontal screw conveyor by Jonathan Ellicot and exchanged the rights to his own elevator for those of this machine. After six years' work on his automatic mill, it was completed in 1790. In the autumn of that year a miller in Brandywine ordered a set of Evans's machinery, which set the trend toward its general adoption. A model of it was shown in the Market Street shop window of Robert Leslie, a watch-and clockmaker in Philadelphia, who also took it to England but was unsuccessful in selling the idea there.
In 1790 the Federal Plant Laws were passed; Evans's patent was the third to come within the new legislation. A detailed description with a plate was published in a Philadelphia newspaper in January 1791, the first of a proposed series, but the paper closed and the series came to nothing. His brother Joseph went on a series of sales trips, with the result that some machinery of Evans's design was adopted. By 1792 over one hundred mills had been equipped with Evans's machinery, the millers paying a royalty of $40 for each pair of millstones in use. The series of articles that had been cut short formed the basis of Evans's The Young Millwright and Miller's Guide, published first in 1795 after Evans had moved to Philadelphia to set up a store selling milling supplies; it was 440 pages long and ran to fifteen editions between 1795 and 1860.
Evans was fairly successful as a merchant. He patented a method of making millstones as well as a means of packing flour in barrels, the latter having a disc pressed down by a toggle-joint arrangement. In 1801 he started to build a steam carriage. He rejected the idea of a steam wheel and of a low-pressure or atmospheric engine. By 1803 his first engine was running at his store, driving a screw-mill working on plaster of Paris for making millstones. The engine had a 6 in. (15 cm) diameter cylinder with a stroke of 18 in. (45 cm) and also drove twelve saws mounted in a frame and cutting marble slabs at a rate of 100 ft (30 m) in twelve hours. He was granted a patent in the spring of 1804. He became involved in a number of lawsuits following the extension of his patent, particularly as he increased the licence fee, sometimes as much as sixfold. The case of Evans v. Samuel Robinson, which Evans won, became famous and was one of these. Patent Right Oppression Exposed, or Knavery Detected, a 200-page book with poems and prose included, was published soon after this case and was probably written by Oliver Evans. The steam engine patent was also extended for a further seven years, but in this case the licence fee was to remain at a fixed level. Evans anticipated Edison in his proposal for an "Experimental Company" or "Mechanical Bureau" with a capital of thirty shares of $100 each. It came to nothing, however, as there were no takers. His first wife, Sarah, died in 1816 and he remarried, to Hetty Ward, the daughter of a New York innkeeper. He was buried in the Bowery, on Lower Manhattan; the church was sold in 1854 and again in 1890, and when no relative claimed his body he was reburied in an unmarked grave in Trinity Cemetery, 57th Street, Broadway.
Further Reading
E.S.Ferguson, 1980, Oliver Evans: Inventive Genius of the American Industrial Revolution, Hagley Museum.
G.Bathe and D.Bathe, 1935, Oliver Evans: Chronicle of Early American Engineering, Philadelphia, Pa.

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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  • Evans, Oliver — born Sept. 13, 1755, near Newport, Del. died April 15, 1819, New York, N.Y., U.S. U.S. inventor. Evans began early to apply himself to industrial problems. He invented an improved carding device for use in the newly mechanized production of… …   Universalium

  • Evans, Oliver — (13 sep. 1755, cerca de Newport, Del.–15 abr. 1819, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU.). Inventor estadounidense. Comenzó muy joven a dedicarse a resolver problemas industriales. Inventó un dispositivo de cardado para uso en la producción recientemente… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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  • Oliver — Oliver, Joan Oliver, Joe Oliver, Miguel de los Santos * * * (as used in expressions) Cromwell, Oliver Davis, Benjamin O(liver), Jr. Ellsworth, Oliver Evans, Oliver Goldsmith …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Oliver Evans — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Evans. Oliver Evans Oliver Evans, né à Newport (Delaware) le 13 septembre …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Evans — /ev euhnz/, n. 1. Sir Arthur John, 1851 1941, English archaeologist. 2. Dame Edith, 1888 1976, English actress. 3. Herbert McLean /meuh klayn /, 1882 1971, U.S. embryologist and anatomist. 4. Mary Ann. See Eliot, George. 5. Maurice, born 1901,… …   Universalium

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