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British Industrial History

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William Franklin Durfee

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William Franklin Durfee (1853-1899)


1899 Obituary [1]

WILLIAM FRANKLIN DURFEE died in the State Hospital, Middletown, New York, on November 12, 1899, after a short but very severe illness.

Born at New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1833, he graduated at Harvard University in 1853, after which he became an engineer and architect in his native town, and for five years served as municipal surveyor. In 1861 he was elected a member of the State Legislature, and did valuable work as secretary of the Military Committee. In 1862 he went to Lake Superior to report on the suitability of the iron ores of that region for steel-making. He erected experimental works at Wyandotte, Michigan, where steel ingots were produced. At these works he equipped the first chemical laboratory built as an adjunct to steelworks in the United States. Since that time he had the management of various works, and successfully introduced the regenerative furnace at several places.

The first Bessemer steel rails made in the United States were rolled at the North Chicago Rolling Mill on May 24, 1865, from ingots made at the Wyandotte works under Mr. Durfee's management. He was the author of numerous works on scientific subjects, and was the owner of a valuable library which he bequeathed to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, of which society he was vice-president in 1896-98.

He was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1875.


He contributed useful articles on machine tool history to the American Machinist. Example, on the history of the lathe slide rest, here.

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