Inventors: Charles E. Ellis
Charles Ellis began his career in 1926, at the age of 19, at Norton-Blair-Douglas in New York. He was recommended for an internship by Bassett Jones, a renowned electrical engineer, who was one of the prominent residents of Cragmere and who also holds at least one patent. He applied for his first patent in 1929 at the age of 22 when he was working for Norton Blair Douglas and it was awarded in 1934 after Norton Blair Douglas had been bought out by Westinghouse. This patent was for a safety device for vehicle doors, particularly those of elevators, that involved the use of beam of light which, when interrupted by a person’s foot for example, would not let the elevator door close. Like the electric eye on your elevator door. He was chagrined that the builders of the Chrysler Building did not use it on their elevators, but was glad that Rockefeller Center did.
When Norton-Blair-Douglas was bought out by Westinghouse Electric Elevator Co, Mr. Ellis and the partners moved to Chicago where they worked for Westinghouse. During this period he was awarded a number of patents for elevator related controls and systems. In 1933, he left Westinghouse and got a $10,000 severance which he used, in part, for a trip around the world, in the depth of the depression, on a Japanese steamer. When in London, he heard that the U.S. was likely to go off the gold standard so he converted his Travelers Checks into gold coins and weathered the devaluation that occurred in U.S. money when it went off gold. His nephew John Edwards, who now owns the house is still looking for 2 gold coins that Charlie told an interviewer in 1981 that he still had in the house.
After returning he worked in a company making packaging machinery and claims he was the first to seal plastics with a radio frequency rather than heat. He did not patent this invention. Through World War II he worked for Sedgewick Machine Works, where one of his inventions was large elevators for aircraft carriers, resulting in multimillion dollar sales for that item.
After a period of self employment, between 1948 and 1951, when he continued to invent, specializing in adjustable speed motors, he joined Sperry Rand Corporation where he worked from 1959 as the director of quality control. From 1959 on, he continued to invent and refine adjustable speed and supersynchronous motors.
In his later years, he became very interested in Mahwah history and the environment. He warned of the dangers of earthquakes along the Ramapo Fault, west of the Ramapo River, as subject that was also addressed by Howard Avery. When Mahwah put sewers into Cragmere, he did a drawing and analysis of the water system on Armour Road that formerly served Ezra Miller’s mansion, and became incorporated into the Mahwah water system. He was invited to become a member of the first Environmental Commission, but declined to serve because, he said, the Township refused to provide a personal indemnity and insurance.
Photos courtesy of John Edwards.