Farmer, Moses G. (Moses Gerrish), 1820-1893

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Moses Gerrish Farmer was born Feb. 9, 1820 in Boxcawen, NH; entered preparatory school at Andover in 1832; attended Dartmouth, but withdrew because of ill health; he worked briefly in a civil engineer's office and was affiliated with various private schools in New England; married Hannah Tobey Shapleigh in 1844; while he was a school principal in Dover, NH, he invented a machine to print paper window shades; began work with the electric telegraph, eventually taking charge of the telegraph line between Boston and Newburyport, MA; in 1848 he invented what became the first electric fire alarm system in the US; discovered means for duplex and quadruplex telegraph; in 1858-59 invented an incandescent electric lamp; in 1866 he patented a self-exciting dynamo; appointed as electrician of US Torpedo Station at Newport, RI; consulting electrician, U.S. Electric Light Co. of New York; died in 1893.

From the description of Papers, 1830-1893. (University of California, Los Angeles). WorldCat record id: 39028431

Biography

Moses Gerrish Farmer was born February 9, 1820 in Boxcawen, New Hampshire; entered preparatory school at Andover in 1832; attended Dartmouth, but withdrew because of ill health; he worked briefly in a civil engineer's office and was affiliated with various private schools in New England; married Hannah Tobey Shapleigh in 1844; while he was a school principal in Dover, New Hampshire, he invented a machine to print paper window shades; began work with the electric telegraph, eventually taking charge of the telegraph line between Boston and Newburyport,Massachusetts in 1848 he invented what became the first electric fire alarm system in the U.S.; discovered means for duplex and quadruplex telegraph; in 1858-59 invented an incandescent electric lamp; in 1866 he patented a self-exciting dynamo; appointed as electrician of U.S. Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island; consulting electrician, U.S. Electric Light Company of New York; died in 1893.

Biographical Narrative

Moses Gerrish Farmer, inventor and pioneer electrician was born on February 9, 1820 in Boxcawen, New Hampshire to Colonel John and Sally (Gerrish) Farmer. He died at the World's Fair in Chicago on May 25, 1893.

In 1832 Moses Farmer entered the preparatory school at Andover, Massachusetts. He also attended Dartmouth College, but had to give up his studies due to ill health. After a brief period of employment in a civil engineer's office, Farmer was affiliated with various private schools in New England including Eliot Academy, Eliot Maine. While in Eliot, Farmer married Hannah Tobey Shapleigh on December 25, 1844. They had one daughter, Sarah Jane Farmer.

Moses Farmer's career as an inventor began while he was principal of a school in Dover, New Hampshire. At that time he devised a machine to print paper window shades. In 1845 he became enthusiastic about electricity. His first project was to construct a miniature electric train which was first exhibited on July 26, 1847. By December of that year he had accepted a position as wire examiner of the new electric telegraph line between Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. During this time he learned telegraphy and July 1848 was appointed operator in the office at Salem, Massachussetts. Farmer later took charge of the telegraph between Boston and Newburyport, Massachusetts and undertook opening telegraph offices along this line.

In the meantime, Moses Farmer continued his electrical experimentation at home. In 1848 he invented an electric-striking aparatus for a fire-alarm service which he developed with Dr. William F. Channing. This system was installed in the City of Boston in 1851. Farmer became the superintendent of the system. This was the first electric fire-alarm system in the United States.

Farmer resigned the superintendency in 1853 and worked on his various electrical ideas. In 1855, he discovered the means for duplex and quadruplex telegraph. Succeeding in depositing aluminum electrolytically in 1856, he went into the electrotyping business with several other men. The business failed in the panic of 1857.

After the business failure, Moses Farmer experimented with electricity as a source of light and in 1858-59 he invented an incandescent electric lamp. Becoming the superintendent of a tobacco-extracting manufactory in Somerville, Massachusetts, allowed Farmer to do further experiments. In 1866 he patented, a self-exciting dynamo. His attention was then concentrated more and more upon electric power generation and distribution.

In 1872 Farmer was appointed to the office of electrician at the United States Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. For a period of nine years he greatly advanced torpedo warfare until his health made his resignation imperative. As far as his health permitted, he then acted as consulting electrician for the United States Electric Light Company of New York. After several years he retired with his family to their summer home at Eliot, Maine, where he established a public library.

Moses Gerrish Farmer led the way by thirty years in many applications of electric current. His electrical patents rivalled Thomas A. Edison's. He received less fame and less profit because of his constant impulse to plunge into the unknown rather than to develop and perfect a marketable invention. Farmer's patents were purchased by the United States Electric Light Company and were later sold to Westinghouse.

From the guide to the Moses G. Farmer Papers, 1830-1893, (University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Farmer, Moses G. (Moses Gerrish), 1820-1893. Papers, 1830-1893. University of California, Los Angeles
creatorOf Moses G. Farmer Papers, 1830-1893 University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
referencedIn Batchelder family papers, 1806-1902 Houghton Library
referencedIn John F. Kennard & Company. Papers, 1859-1866. Gadsden Public Library
creatorOf Channing, William F., 1820-1901. Papers, 1851-1898. Massachusetts Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Batchelder family. family
associatedWith Channing, William F., 1820-1901. person
associatedWith John F. Kennard & Company. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Subject
Inventors--Archival resources
Inventors--United States--Archival resources
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1820-02-09

Death 1893-05-25

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