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. Charles applied for his first patent in 1929 at the age of 22 when he was working for Norton Blair Douglas. That patent 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 of the gold standard. His nephew John Edwards, who now owns Charles house is still looking for 2 gold coins that Charles 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 multi-million 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.
Ellis’s house in Cragmere
Photos courtesy of John Edwards.
For a 2015 gallery talk I profiled the following inventors. Click on the links for a short history of each:
A little bit about methodology. All of these inventors hold U.S. Patents on their inventions. I knew from my past research and work in our archives about some of them, so I was able to use Google Scholar (a website that I love) to locate their patents. Put their name, Mahwah and the word patent into the search and up pops reference to their patents and you can download a copy. Edward Gorcyca was unknown to me but his name came up in a search of Brakeshoe Patents Mahwah. Another longtime resident of Cragmere, Rosser Wilson, also came up with a lot of patents at Brakeshoe. Audrey Artusio and Mary Ellen Pryde were very helpful with Robert Armstrong Smith and John Edwards loaned me valuable material about his uncle, Charles Ellis. We have displayed some of his original patents, American and foreign at the gallery talk.
A little background about the patent system. Patents are authorized by Article I, Section 8, clause 8 of the United States Constitution which grants Congress the power to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” So under the system that Congress has established, an inventor submits an application to the U.S. Patent Office, an application. This application describes the invention, includes drawings when needed, and sets up the claims that the inventor is making. The claims portion is very important because the inventor gets exclusive rights only in the things he has actually claimed. Once the application has been filed, it is examined by the patent office before the actual patent is issued. The examiner has to determine whether the invention is “novel” and “nonobvious.” To determine whether an invention is “novel” a search is made of all previous patents to see that the new invention does not the same claims that were made before by someone else. The examiner also looks at whether the claims are so obvious that they are already in the public domain. Once the patent office determines to issue a patent it is good for 17 years. But it is subject to challenge by other inventors who can claim infringement of their existing patents. Just because someone has a patent on something doesn’t mean the product is ever made or becomes commercially viable. The filed patents are used by other inventors to improve upon the prior art.
All of the inventors that we will discuss today owned patents. The usual practice is that a patentee is an individual that gets the patent in his own name and then assigns it to the employer for whom he was working when the inventive work was done.
Patent for light polarizer
One of Gorcyca’s patents.
Theodore Havermeyer’s Sugar Mold Carriage patent
Henry O. Havemeyer’s License plate design
Henry O. Havemeyer Jr.’s patent design
If you know of additional information about any of these inventors, or know of other inventors from Mahwah, please comment below.
This unattributed article was first published in the “Old Station Timetable” in October 1981.
A recent story in our newsletter about the Theusen House, later the Education Center, that had been a landmark in Cragmere Park for’ many years was of particular interest to Charles E. Ellis Jr. who still lives in the house his parents built back in 1915.
“Just north of our house at the corner of Armour and Mahwah Roads stands the ruin of the Miller Reservoir whose overflow was the water that fed Oweno Pond. The reservoir next to our house was supplied with spring water by the Miller acquaduct which-crosses the northeast corner of our property and flowed without interruption from about 1875-1978.”
“The water from the reservoir fed the dairy cooling brick double-arched structure whose ruin can still be seen’on Malcolm Road across from the Betsy Ross School. The stream continued to flow west through the Theusen place and fed Oweno lake,” explains Mr. Ellis.
The Ellis family, who had rented their home while at the shore, once stayed temporarily in Mrs. Theusen’s Boarding House until their house tenants moved out. “I remember particularly the afternoon sun shining across the clean white table cloths of the dining room and sparkling on the well-silver (plate) on the tables being set up for the evening meal by young waitresses in black skirts, stockings and shoes, , and white starched blouses with collars. On their heads, they wore some sort of white starched fabric head piece common to the day. A jolly scene, prim and clean, and complete with flowers”, Mr. Ellis said.
Oweno Lake was designed for ice making, as well as ornament. It was located just east of Oweno Road near the corner of Mahwah Road where the baseball field is at Betsy Ross School. It was served by an iron conveyor belt and chains, running from the ice house to the lake. However, the conveyor had ceased operation and was a rusting ruin when Mr. Ellis was just a young boy.
The stream feeding the lake ran into a ditch, still seen today, under the conveyor, now removed, and featured watercress in season.
The building at the north end of the lake was not the “Summer House” but was a boathouse without windows, according to Mr. Ellis. It was from there that Hiawatha, a beautiful darkhaired maiden played by the late Mrs. Euroka Bugg, would annually set out in a white canoe at the Cragmere Association’s yearly Forth of July celebration.
Mr. Ellis concludes “The summer house, so called, was an octagonal roofed and floored open structure on a little island in Oweno Lake at the east side of it near the lake intake. It was reached by an arched bridge which can be seen in photographs of the Miller Estate in the Mahwah Public Library.”
This unattributed article was first published in the “Old Station Timetable” in February 1981.
The late Frank Scherer told Gordon Miesse during an interview in 1974 he remembered coming to Mahwah as a young man back in 1900. He referred to this area as “Vacation Country.”
Hiking seemed to be a favorite past time for the younger generation. Mr. H. O. Havemeyer, Sr., also invited the young people to his home on Route 202 three times each summer for an evening of dancing.
He recalled Franklin Turnpike was paved in 1915 -the year he moved here permanently.
Mr. Scherer reminisced about Charles Bacon and Charles Ellis who were among the first officers of the American Legion Post: Frank Rothhaupt who was the first fire chief, and Raymond Dator who served as the first police chief.
He was a senior director of the Mahwah Savings & Loan Association, and spoke about Albert J. Winter who was president and David Hopper who served for more than 50 years as Sec.