Veeder Manufacturing Co. - Research/History

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filmonger

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
I thought it would be interesting to provide a thread on Curtis Veeder & The Veeder Manufacturing Co. Addition information is always appreciated.

Curtis Veeder

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Curtis Veeder, an inventor, was born on January 31, 1862 in Pennsylvania, but later moved to Hartford, Connecticut where he opened the Veeder Manufacturing Company in 1895. His company, which produced counters – cyclometers, odometers, etc – merged with the Root Company of Bristol, CT in 1928. Veeder-Root is still in business and has its national headquarters in Simsbury, CT. Veeder lived with his wife, Louise, and their two daughters, Josephine and Dorothy at the home which is now the Connecticut Historical Society. Much of this research is based on information from the Society.

This information was compiled BY DAVID K. LEFF

Mechanical Genius
Born in 1862, Mr. Veeder had Dutch ancestors who immigrated to New Amsterdam in the 1600s. Early in his life, his family moved to Plattsburg, New York, where he completed high school before returning to Pennsylvania for an engineering degree at Lehigh University, graduating in 1886. Son of a mining engineer, he is said to have demonstrated mechanical ability from an early age. At 6, he had devised a waterwheel in a brook near home. At 10, he built some small furnaces in hard sandbanks in which he burned soft coal. When he was 12, he built a foot-powered jigsaw, and by the time he was 18, he’d creat- ed an old-fashioned high-wheeled bicycle from magazine pictures, spending most of his time after school riding and repairing it. The saddle of exible leather stretched over a steel spring frame was so good that he had it patented in 1881. During college vacations, he made bicycle ball bearings, a two-speed gear for tricycles, many electrical parts, and photographic shutters. In 1883, he sold his American bicycle seat patent to Pope Manufacturing Company of Hartford for $1,000. This was Veeders first patent for a bicycle seat made of flexible leather stretched over a steel spring frame. After initially refusing to sell his idea to the Pope Manufacturing Co. of Hartford for $200, he continued to make changes and adjustments and two years later sold them the patent, with improvements, for the $1000. He also sold the English patent rights to a company in Birmingham, England.

After graduating from Lehigh University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1886, Veeder worked for the Pope Company for a short time, then spent several years away from Connecticut designing and patenting an array of inventions. These included an electrical hoist for the mining industry and an automatic regulating apparatus for naval searchlights Veeder also designed the first electric locomotive to be put into regular use on standard tracks in the United States. Veeder’s signature invention was the “cyclometer,” a counting device which allowed bicycle riders to measure the distance travelled. Rather than sell it to the Pope Mfg. Co. to produce, he decided to manufacture it himself, and started the Veeder Manufacturing Company on August 15, 1895. The company grew rapidly as Veeder perfected an automatic casting machine which could make parts for cyclometers as well as odometers, and various other machines, including voting machines, telephones, and cash registers. Further growth resulted from the perfection of the design for a tachometer (a speed indicator or counter used in automobiles). In 1928, Veeder Manufacturing merged with the Root Company of Bristol to form Veeder-Root, a company still in business today making gauges and measuring equipment for the fuel and petroleum industries.

Just north of Connecticut Route 185 and a few miles from Hartford lies a stretch of the Metacomet portion of the New England National Scenic
Trail remarkable for its con uence of wild nature and human-made curiosities. With occasional distant views west beneath mature oak, hemlock, tulip, and other large trees, the path passes angular traprock outcrops, a boggy lake, wild owers, and groves of ferns in an atmosphere alive with birdsong. Old roads and trails beckon—there’s a stone pedestal, fragments of broken pavement, and large metal pins that look like truncated knitting needles embedded in ledge. Curtis Veeder cultivated or created them all.

Mr. Veeder may be the most famous Connecticut personality most people have never heard about. He invented counting devices, among many other marvels, and his mechanical genius is apparent each time you fuel your vehicle. Pennsylvania born and reared in New York, he is quintessentially characteristic of his adopted state of Connecticut, whose motto proclaims, “He who transplanted still sustains.” He combined that signature Connecticut mix of creativity and drive, building a precision manufacturing business. In his life and legacy, he also illustrates the very heart of Connecticut identity, the marriage of nature and culture. He served for many years on the Connecticut Forest & Park Association’s Board of Directors, and he willed his roughly 800-acre farm and private nature reserve bestride Talcott Mountain in Bloom eld as Penwood State Park. His home on Elizabeth Street in Hartford later became the headquarters of the Connecticut Historical Society, which holds the state’s cultural and social artifacts.

Sometimes when walking along the ridge through Penwood or entering the hushed recesses of the Connecticut Historical Society, I feel as if I’m stepping into the lingering penumbra of Mr. Veeder’s restless and somewhat eccentric genius. His singular ingenuity remains in evidence 70 years after his death despite myriad changes at both places and in the world at large. I find it hard to visit either place without feeling Mr. Veeder’s presence.

Drive into the park on the very narrow entry road and you nd your vehicle straddling mushroom cap drains in the center of the pavement, Mr. Veeder’s innovation to keep water off the road with- out having to widen it by use of conventional side drainage. They remain not only a curiosity, but also a hazard to unwary cyclists and hikers gazing at the landscape.

The brick and poured concrete barn built early in the 20th century has the structural integrity of a factory or bomb shelter, and even the loft has a concrete oor. On the rst level, part of the oor is made from the butt ends of fram- ing lumber for a purpose that has been lost, but perhaps to make standing easier on the feet. A me- ticulous hobbyist surveyor, Mr. Veeder left large steel pins set in cement at various reference points like the markings of some modern day druid. Throughout the park, there are old piping, stonework, some subterranean enclosures, and other quirky structures.

Completed in 1928, the two- story Hartford house looks relatively modest for an industrialist’s mansion. Its facade is made of limestone blocks in a happy mix of colonial revival and French chateau styles. It has a hip roof with several prominent chimneys and an entrance with a formal portecochère. Despite much recon guration and additions to create a museum, an archive, and a library, the building still bears Mr. Veed- er’s idiosyncratic imprint. Beyond the limestone skin, the building is made of steel reinforced concrete and so over-engineered that it could be the last Hartford building standing after an apocalypse. Mr. Veeder’s son-in-law, Charles Tilton Sr., described the “all cement and spotlessly clean” attic as “like the interior of a battleship.”
Among the house’s oddities is a
wall of cabinets featuring narrow
zinc-lined drawers in what is now
the society executive director’s offi
ce. Their purpose remains a mystery. Mr. Veeder hungered for the latest technology; the house features a central vacuum, an incinerator, an elevator, and a car wash in the garage tucked beneath the house. Servants used an electronic paging system. A telephone was placed in the front coat closet.
Despite his prominence, Mr. Veeder was an exceedingly private man, and little is known about his personal life. The Connecticut Historical Society holds only one photo even though they occupy his home and recently researched his background.

From top, Veeder's former library, now an of ce at the Connecticut Historical Society; the entry hall; and the former dining room, now the CHS gift shop.
he held more than 150 patents. His signature invention was the

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Formerly called Bingham Street, Elizabeth Street was named after Elizabeth Pond by her husband, the Honorable Charles M. Pond, in the early 20th century. The street was planned in 1905 to extend from Beacon to Whitney Streets, and ultimately (by 1916) to Asylum Avenue from the eastern side.

Veeder's Wife

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Louise Stutz was born in Lucerne Switzerland in 1874 and grew up in Switzerland and Germany. After studies at the University of Lausanne and in Leipzig, Germany, she emigrated to the United States in 1896 at the age of twenty-two. For the next twelve years, she taught French and German at Hartford Public High School. She became a naturalized United States citizen in 1905. On September 19, 1908, Louise Stutz, a young teacher and recent immigrant, married Curtis Veeder, an engineer, inventor, and Hartford manufacturer. He was twelve years her senior and had founded the Veeder Manufacturing Company in 1895. The couple had two daughters, Josephine, born in 1910, and Dorothy, born in 1912. Upon her marriage, Louise Veeder left her teaching position and became active in Hartford social circles. She was especially interested in European cultural and political issues. In 1917, she and her daughters joined a Hartford group who financially supported French children whose fathers had been killed in the war. In later years, she was the president of the Hartford chapter of the French cultural club, Alliance Francaise.

In 1928, Louise and Curtis Veeder moved their family into the large stone house they had built at One Elizabeth Street in Hartford. This home was the scene of many meetings, receptions and social events, including both daughters’ weddings. Curtis Veeder died in 1943, and in 1950, Louise Veeder sold the property at One Elizabeth Street to the Connecticut Historical Society. She moved to 34 Wyndwood Road, in West Hartford, where she lived until her death.

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filmonger

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
Cyclometers

Note - the fantastic information in this 1897 brochure. Pay particular attention to the gearing chart.

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1899 Ad

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1910 ad

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1913 Ad

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1917 Ad

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rocketman

Finally riding a big boys bike
Veeter-Root

He and Root certainly had a way with gearing and calculating. Here is one of many of my V-R assemblies for my gas pump restorations. These counters really gave the public an honest gallon of gas for what they paid. The day of the gravity feed pumps were gone and the weights and measurements regulating dept. was about to become very busy. This image is a mid 40's model but was found mostly in all of my pump collection. When I do my pumps I will most often work and repair the veeder-roots as well. I know this isn't bike material but it has a connection....

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filmonger

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
In Memoriam
Dam - always loved those! Very cool. Veeter had so many applications it is crazy. That fire chief is sooooo nice. I find it interesting that there is not more info on the factory. I will keep digging. The quality was top notch on Veeter products including cyclometers.
 

cyclingday

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Fascinating historical information!
Thanks so much for taking the time to put all of that together.
I just received this nos 28" model, so I thought it would be fitting to show how your brand new Veeder-Root Cyclometer came packaged.
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Here is an example of the Veeder cyclometer, with the trip distance register feature, on a 1918 Harley Davidson, Motorcyke.
 
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