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Manufacturers Index - Corliss Steam Engine Works

Corliss Steam Engine Works
Providence, RI, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Metal Working Machinery & Steam and Gas Engines

Last Modified: Dec 25 2017 9:04PM by joelr4
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George H. Corliss & Edwin J. Nightingale, proprietors
The Corliss Steam Engine Works

George H. Corliss

      Corliss & Nightingale was founded in 1849 by George H. Corliss and S. A. Nightingale, for the purpose of manufacturing steam engines and metalworking machinery. Corliss patented his famous cut-off design steam valves in 1849, which was much copied after the patent expired. By 1878, the company employed 1,000 employees. The company was reorganized in 1894 after Corliss’s death, and was taken over by International Power Co. in 1899.

      To the Corliss Steam Engine Co. of this city belongs the distinction of being the most celebrated steam engine works in America, and probably in the world, and no single fact better illustrates the high reputation the perfected products of these works bear, among the uses of power throughout the civilized world, than that many American and European builders of engines advertise their own productions to the public as "Improved Corliss Engines." The Corliss Steam Engine Co., which for many years has contributed greatly to the industrial advancement of Providence, was incorporated in June, 1856. Mr. George H. Corliss was the inventor of the celebrated "Corliss Engine" and to develop his invention, the great works of this company were built. They cover nine acres of ground, upon which are erected numerous buildings of the most substantial character, and each is especially adapted to the work for which it was designed. No other plant in America is so systematically and orderly arranged, and the beautiful lawns surrounding the buildings, ornamented with shade trees impress the visitor at once with the idea of that perfection of mechanical ingenuity, for which the engines manufactured here have made this company as well as the city, famous throughout the world. The works have been fully equipped, at great cost, with heavy special tools, invented by Mr. Corliss, for the manufacture of this perfected engine, which is a guarantee of superiority in workmanship and interchangeability of parts, never before attempted in the line of steam machinery, and it is due to the public to say that nowhere else is manufactured, the final and perfected engines invented and improved by Mr. Corliss, and embodying all his latest ideas. Mr. Corliss was the designer and builder of the famous "Centennial Engine" exhibited at Philadelphia in 1876, which furnished the motive power for the machinery of the Centennial Exposition. In 1870 the Rumford Medal was awarded him by the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Boston, and the president in presenting it said "that no invention had so enhanced the efficiency of the steam engine since Watt's time as this for which the Rumford medal is now presented to you." In 1867 the highest prize at the Paris Exhibition was received for the Corliss Engine, although it was contested for by more than a hundred of the most noted engine builders in the world, and at the Vienna Exposition in 1873, the grand diploma of honor was awarded him, although not a competitor. In 1879, Mr. Corliss was awarded by public proclamation, the Montyon prize of the Institute of France for 1878, which in the old world, is the highest honor known for mechanical achievements. In February, 1886, the King of Belgium made Mr. Corliss an "Officer of the Order of Leopold." Wherever the Corliss engine has been exhibited it has been pronounced by all competent judges as without a peer in the history of mechanical engineering. The company also manufactures the Corliss Patent Vertical Tubular Water Leg Boiler, which is especially designed for compound and triple expansion engines, requiring superheated steam and at a very high pressure.

      The Corliss Steam Engine Company was originally known as Fairbanks, Clark & Co. in the 1830s. In 1843 it was renamed Fairbanks, Bancroft & Co. when Edward Bancroft joined the company. In 1846 it was renamed Bancroft, Nightingale & Co. when George Henry Corliss joined the company, and in 1847 it was renamed Corliss, Nightingale and Co. In 1848 the company moved to the Charles Street Railroad Crossing in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1857 the company was renamed for the last time to Corliss Steam Engine Company. By 1864 George Henry Corliss bought out his partners and was the sole owner of the company. In 1900 the Corliss Steam Engine Company was purchased by the International Power Company. In 1905 it was purchased by the American and British Manufacturing Company. In 1925 the company merged into Franklin Machine Company. By then Franklin Machine Company already owned the William A. Harris Steam Engine Company.

Information Sources

  • American Steam Engine Builders: 1800-1900 by Kenneth L. Cope, 2006 page 67
  • The industrial advantages of Providence, R. I. page 168 by Jason P. McKinney 1889
  • George Corliss’ Obituary, Engineering Magazine Volume 45, 23 Mar 1888, pg. 295