Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958

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Inventor, scientist, and humanitarian, best known for his invention of the automobile self-starter and his co-founding of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; founder of DELCO; official of General Motors; b. near Loudonville, Ohio; resident of Dayton, Ohio.

From the description of Charles Kettering collection, ca. 1930-ca. 1958. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 70958264

Charles F. Kettering was born August 28, 1876 in Loudonville, Ohio to Jacob and Martha Kettering. During his early life, his academic career was hindered by bad eyesight, and he was forced to drop out of college twice. He finally received an electrical engineering degree at Ohio State University in 1904, and married Olive Williams a year later. They had one son, Eugene, born on April 20, 1908. Charles worked at NCR (the National Cash Register) as a research engineer where he met E. A. Deeds, who later also would become a prominent Dayton industrialist. He, Deeds and their "Barn Gang" were instrumental in the development of the first electric starter for an automobile which would revolutionize the industry. Charles F. Kettering, known as "Boss Ket" by most, went on to found DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company) with Col. E. A. Deeds. When DELCO was bought out by GM it became the General Motors Research Corporation, and Kettering was made vice president in 1920, going on to work there for 27 years. An active head of research and development at G.M., Kettering also built a laboratory in the basement of his Ridgeleigh Terrace home in Dayton, as well as sponsoring the development of laboratories at Antioch College.

Kettering held over 300 patents, second only to Thomas Edison. His inventions include Freon, electric starters, ignition systems, headlights for automobiles, portable lighting systems, and the 'Kettering Bug,' a self-propelled aerial torpedo developed during WWI. Kettering was also involved in the development of DUCO paint, ethyl gasoline, diesel engines, and alternative energy sources like solar power.

His hobbies included traveling, and he traveled widely, including a cross-country drive with his wife and others, and later to exotic destinations like the Galapagos Islands on his yacht the Olive K., named for his wife. He was also a member of numerous clubs like the Cocolobo Bay Florida Beach Club, the Surf Club, and along with Col. E. A. Deeds founded the Engineers Club of Dayton.

As a result of his success, Mr. Kettering used his wealth to support a variety of philanthropic interests. His interest in medical technology and the sudden death of his wife Olive Kettering in 1946 from pancreatic cancer, prompted him to match Alfred Sloan's contributions in founding the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. This philanthropic nature served as the foundation for the later development of the Kettering Health Network and the Kettering College of Medical Arts, founded by his son and daughter-in-law.

For his achievements in engineering and philanthropy, Mr. Kettering received many awards and honors both during his life and posthumously. He received honorary degrees from numerous universities and in 1998 the General Motors Institute was renamed Kettering University, in honor of his services to the company. There are also many elementary and high schools that bear his name, as well as the City of Kettering, a suburb of Dayton. Charles F. Kettering died on November 25, 1958.

Eugene Kettering, born in 1908 in Dayton, Ohio, was Charles' and Olive's only son. He graduated from the Moraine Park School and attended Cornell University. He married Virginia Weiffenbach on April 5, 1930; they went on to have three children, Charles F. II, Jane, and Susan. Soon after being married he went to work at the Winton Engine Company and later the Cleveland Diesel Engine Division of General Motors. In 1936, he moved to Detroit to work on the 567 Series of Diesel Engines and was pivotal in the development of G.M.'s diesel-electric locomotive. In 1938 he was promoted to Chief Engineer for the Electro-Motive Division, and became Division Director in 1956. From 1958 until his resignation in 1960, he served as Research Assistant to the General Manager, and as a consultant. He retired from General Motors soon after his father's death, so that he could manage the Kettering estate and philanthropic legacy.

Eugene and his wife Virginia shared Boss Ket's philanthropic passion for medical technology and care, establishing the Hinsdale Health Museum in Hinsdale, IL. in 1958, and opening the Charles F. Kettering Memorial Hospital on March 3, 1964. Eugene also received multiple honorary degrees and awards. He passed away at the age of 61 in 1969.

Virginia Weiffenbach was born in Bellevue, KY., on July 15, 1907, to Norman and Clara Weiffenbach. The Weiffenbachs soon moved to Dayton where Virginia attended the Moraine Park School. There she met Eugene Kettering, whom she married in 1930. She also attended Carnegie Tech and Lutherville Seminary. During her life she shared her husband's interest in the development of the United States Air Force Museum, as well as philanthropic interests, especially in the areas of medicine and the arts. She was the director of numerous philanthropic organizations including the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Air Force Museum Foundation, in addition to many others. Upon her husband Eugene's death, Virginia continued to be a generous patron of the arts and other civic and humanitarian causes.

For her efforts, Virginia received many awards including numerous honorary degrees. In early 1973, she married H. Warren Kampf. Mr. Kampf passed on August 15, 1979. Virginia Kettering passed away on February 17, 2003.

From the guide to the MS-363 The Kettering Family Papers, 1876-2006, 1930-1972, (Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Boyd, Thomas Alvin, 1888-. Collection, 1919,1976. Clarke Historical Library
referencedIn MS-420 Engineers' Club of Dayton Records, 1914-2010 Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn News and Information Services (University of Michigan) Faculty and Staff Files, 1944-2005, 1960-1995 Bentley Historical Library , University of Michigan
referencedIn Pratt, John Lee, 1879-1975. John Lee Pratt papers, 1919-1975. Kettering University
creatorOf Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967. Letters of tribute to Carl Sandburg [manuscript], 1951-1952. University of Virginia. Library
creatorOf MS-363 The Kettering Family Papers, 1876-2006, 1930-1972 Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn Fred C. Kelly Papers, 1867-1966 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
creatorOf Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958. "Legislation." Ohio History Connection, Ohio Historical Society
referencedIn Boyd, Thomas Alvin, 1888-. Papers, 1921-1982. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn The Personal Collection of Maj. George E.A. Hallett, Bulk, 1914-1958, 1911-1982 San Diego Air and Space Museum Library and Archives
referencedIn Horner, Frederick Cecil, 1887-1974. Papers, 1917-1960 (bulk 1922-1940). Library of Congress
referencedIn Scharchburg, Richard P. Richard Scharchburg's published articles 1964-2000. Kettering University
creatorOf Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958. [As "Ket" sees it : a series of radio talks by Charles Franklin Kettering delivered on General Motors Symphony of the Air, September 12, 1943 weekly through July 21, 1946]. Dayton Metro Library
referencedIn Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954. Papers, 1880-1954. Hagley Museum & Library
creatorOf Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933. Papers, [ca. 1880]-1933. Ohio State University Libraries
referencedIn Mott, Charles Stewart, 1875-1973. Papers, 1896-1973. University of Michigan-Flint, Frances Willson Thompson Library
referencedIn Ralph E. Flanders Papers, 1903-1958 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
referencedIn [General Motors Corporation : historical materials]. Folder 87-4.19.5a Kettering University
referencedIn Bailey, E. G. (Ervin George), 1880-1974. Papers, 1908-1991. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Brown, Donaldson, 1885-1965. Papers, 1921-1966. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Wilson, C. E. [General Motors Corporation : historical materials]. Folder 87-4.19-3. Kettering University
referencedIn Gannett, Caroline Werner, 1894-1979. Caroline Werner Gannett papers, 1888-1978. Cornell University Library
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Levitt Luzern Custer Papers, 1886-1998 Wright State University, Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn Caroline Werner Gannett papers, 1888-1978. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. Papers, 1876-1931. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Barton, Bruce, 1886-1967. Papers, 1881-1967. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Economic History of Indiana in the Twentieth Century, 1976-1980 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
referencedIn Wilson, C. E. [General Motors Corporation : historical materials]. Folder 87-4.19-1b. Kettering University
referencedIn [General Motors Corporation : historical materials]. Folder 87-4.19-1a. Kettering University
creatorOf Kettering, Charles Franklin, 1876-1958. Charles Kettering collection, ca. 1930-ca. 1958. Cleo Redd Fisher Museum
referencedIn Charles F. Kettering scrapbook. Dayton Metro Library
referencedIn Frederick Cecil Horner Papers, 1917-1960, (bulk 1922-1940) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 1830 - 1994. General Subject Files
creatorOf Hall, William S. (William Shaffer), 1861-. Seventieth anniversary of engineering at Lafayette College, March 20, 1936. Lafayette College
referencedIn Horner, Frederick Cecil, 1887-1974. Papers of Frederick Cecil Horner, 1917-1960 (bulk 1922-1940). Library of Congress
referencedIn Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. Diesel engine papers, 1908-1929. Hagley Museum & Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bailey, E. G. (Ervin George), 1880-1974. person
associatedWith Barton, Bruce, 1886-1967. person
associatedWith Boyd, Thomas Alvin, 1888- person
associatedWith Brown, Donaldson, 1885-1965. person
associatedWith Caroline Werner, Gannett 1894-1979. person
associatedWith Charles F. Kettering Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Custer, Levitt Luzern, 1888- person
associatedWith Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Deeds, E. A. (Edward Andrew), 1874-1960 person
associatedWith Delco Products Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith Delco-Remy Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith Du Pont, Pierre S. (Pierre Samuel), 1870-1954. person
associatedWith Engineers' Club of Dayton corporateBody
associatedWith Flanders, Ralph E. (Ralph Edward), 1880-1970 person
associatedWith Frigidaire Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Gannett, Caroline Werner, 1894-1979. person
associatedWith General Motors Corporation. corporateBody
associatedWith General Motors Corporation. Delco Products Division. corporateBody
associatedWith General Motors Corporation. Delco-Remy Division. corporateBody
correspondedWith Horner, Frederick Cecil, 1887-1974. person
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith Kelly, Fred C. (Fred Charters), 1882-1959 person
associatedWith Kettenring family. family
associatedWith Kettering, Eugene W. (Eugene Williams), 1908-1969 person
associatedWith Kettering family family
associatedWith Kettering family. family
associatedWith Kettering, Virginia person
associatedWith Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. corporateBody
associatedWith Mott, Charles Stewart, 1875-1973. person
associatedWith National Museum of the United States Air Force corporateBody
correspondedWith Pratt, John Lee, 1879-1975. person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Sandburg, Carl, 1878-1967. person
associatedWith Scharchburg, Richard P. person
associatedWith Sloan, Alfred P. (Alfred Pritchard), 1875-1966 person
associatedWith Sperry, Elmer Ambrose, 1860-1930. person
associatedWith Thompson, William Oxley, 1855-1933. person
associatedWith University of Michigan. News and Information Services. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York (State)--New York
United States
United States
Loudonville (Ohio)
Dayton (Ohio)
Kettering (Ohio)
Hinsdale (Ill.)
Ohio
United States
Ohio--Loudonville
Dayton (Ohio)
Detroit (Mich.)
Subject
Industry
Philanthropists--Ohio--Dayton
Automobiles--Starting devices
Rural schools
Cancer--Hospitals
Civic leaders--Ohio--Dayton
Technology
Radio addresses, debates, etc
Science
Legislation
Aviation--History
Automobile industry and trade
Inventions
Business enterprises--Ohio--Dayton
Automobiles--Electric equipment
Occupation
Engineers
Inventors--Ohio
Scientists--United States
Philanthropists--United States
Scientists
Teachers--Ohio--Loudonville
Function

Person

Birth 1876-08-29

Death 1958-11-25

Americans

English

Information

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