Guide to the Everett H. Bickley Collection
NMAH.AC.0683

Administrative Information

Repository Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 1999

P.O. Box 37012
 Suite 1100, MRC 601
 Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
 Phone: 202-633-3270
 archivescenter@si.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. Copyright status of items varies.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Audrey Bickely Beyer, Everett Bickley's daughter, donated the collection to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, in March of 1999.

Processing Information note

Processed by Tom Eisinger, July 8, 1999; revised by Erin Molloy (volunteer) and Alison Oswald, 2012.

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Summary Information

Repository
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Creator - (creator).
Bickley, Everett H., 1888- 1972
Title
Everett H. Bickley Collection
ID
NMAH.AC.0683
Date [bulk]
bulk 1919-1965
Date [inclusive]
1919-1980
Extent
5 Cubic feet; 17 boxes
Language
English
Abstract
The Everett H. Bickley Collection, 1919-1980, documents the inventions of Everett Huckel Bickley, most known for his electric sorting machine used to automate the process of sorting beans by use of a photoelectric cell. The collection consists of patents, drawings, photographs, correspondence, and artifacts designed by Bickley. The collection spans a considerable portion of the twentieth century and is of value to those researchers interested in product development, the patent application process, product marketing and promotion, World War II innovation, and the daily operation of a small, privately-owned industry.

Preferred Citation note

The Everett H. Bickley Collection, 1919-1980, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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Biographical/Historical note

Everett Huckel Bickley (b. 1888) was an active inventor and enterpreneur. His inventing career began while a student at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he invented a number of items, including a variable speed governor with which he won the Senior Design Competition in 1910, the year he graduated.

In 1911, Bickley developed and marketed his first commercial invention, the "motograph," which was an electric sign which spelled out moving messages with light bulbs. The first motograph was erected over the Columbian Theatre in Detroit, but others were eventually seen in cities throughout the world. Unfortunately, he sold his interests too soon and made little money from this idea.

Only a few years later, while he was watching lines of women sorting navy pea beans in his job as chief engineer for the H. J Heinz Company, Bickley came up with the idea to develop an electric sorting machine to automate the process. By the early 1930s he had developed, patented, and begun to market a machine that could, by use of a photoelectric cell, sort the good beans from the bad. The first company to lease a bean sorter from him was the H. J. Heinz Company. Bickley continued to improve the sorter for the next thirty years, eventually adapting it to sort rice, peanuts, and ball bearings.

The sorter was the only invention from which Bickley ever made any considerable money, but it never dulled his enthusiasm for developing new ideas. At times he had up to nine active patent applications in the works. Examples include a nutcracker, snow shovel, slide mount, faucet, and photographic exposure meter.

Bickley was also active during World War II as a $1.00 A Year Man and member of the National Inventors Council, which reviewed war related invention ideas. In addition, he contributed over fifty ideas of his own to the National Inventors Council. During the war, his company was able to produce little of its own products due to wartime material restrictions and having most of its workers drafted. Consequently, Bickley spent several fruitless years after the war trying to get his patent rights extended to cover time lost during the war.

Early on, Bickley realized the need to form a company to help develop and promote his many inventions, and formed the Bickley Manufacturing Company shortly after his graduation for just this purpose. When he married in 1913, his new wife, Mary, became an active partner in the company. Later, their daughter Audrey joined the company, producing the photoelectric cells for the sorter, going on sales trips, and working as one of her father's most reliable troubleshooters when the sorters broke down.

Bickley died in 1972 at the age of 84. Always a believer that hard work was necessary for success, he left behind a legacy of inventions, including one that helped to revolutionize the agricultural processing industry.

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Scope and Contents note

The collection spans a considerable portion of the twentieth century and is of value to those researchers interested in product development, the patent application process, product marketing and promotion, World War II innovation, and the daily operation of a small, privately-owned industry.

The collection consists of general correspondence, patents and patent correspondence, drawings, manuals, trade literature, and photographs. In addition, there are several artifacts designed by Bickley in the collection. These include a photographic exposure meter (Fotimer), a prototype slide mount (Color Tight Slide Mount), dance charts, and even a clipboard (Deskette).

Series 1: Everett H. Bickley Personal Papers, 1920-1999

This series consists of personal information about Everett H. Bickley. It includes his will, a company biography written by Bickley and edited by his daughter, and the story of the motograph, also written by Bickley.

Series 2: Bickley Manufacturing Company, 1933-1980

In this series is information directly related to the day-to-day operations of the company, including a checks-received ledger, office instructions, shop instructions, and employment information.

Series 3: Sorter Information, 1928-1965

This series consists of information about the various sorters that Bickley developed. Included are drawings related to the development of the sorters, engineering part drawings, equipment histories for plants where leased sorters were located (arranged alphabetically by location, though H-M is missing), patents, and patent correspondence related to specific sorter improvements. The patent correspondence in this series is sorted by starting date of the correspondence for each individual patent. If the starting dates were the same, they were then arranged alphabetically within the starting date. This was done to make it easier to trace the development of the sorter. The actual patents are also arranged alphabetically.

Series 4: Other Inventions, 1919-1958

This series documents Bickley's non-sorter related inventions. Included are the development drawings, patents, patent correspondence, and marketing material. In addition, the artifacts that are part of the collection can be found in this series.

Series 5: World War Two Related Activities, 1939-1950

The material in this series pertains to Bickley's work in World War II. It includes correspondence, information on the various ideas he submitted to the National Inventor's Council, and his attempts to get patent protection extended for the years during the war when he could not exploit his inventions. Information on sorter-related activities during the war is in Series III.

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Arrangement note

The collection is divided into five series.

Series 1, Everett Bickley Personal Papers, 1920-1999

Subseries 1, General Information,1920-1999

Subseries 2, Publication Material, 1933-1998

Series 2: The Bickley Manufacturing Company, 1933-1980

Subseries 1, General Information, 1949-1980

Subseries 2, Company Operations, 1933-1972

Series 3, Sorter Information, 1928-1965

Subseries 1, Sorter Specific Information, 1933-1965

Subseries 2, General Information, 1928-1965

Series 4, Other Inventions, 1919-1958

Subseries 1, General Information, 1919-1951

Subseries 2, Inventions, 1920-1958

Series 5, World War two Related Activities, 1939-1950

Subseries 1, General Information, 1939-1950

Subseries 2, Ideas Submitted, 1941-1943

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Materials at the National Museum of American History

The machine that Bickley used to demonstrate his bean-sorting process is held by Division of Work and Industry.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Bickley Manufacturing Company.
  • H. J. Heinz Company.

Genre(s)

  • Correspondence--1930-1950
  • Dance charts.
  • Drawings--20th century
  • Patents
  • Photographs--20th century

Subject(s)

  • Advertising, Outdoor
  • Agriculture--Quality control
  • Bean sorters.
  • Dance notation
  • Fotimer (exposure meter).
  • Industry
  • Insect pests--Control
  • Inventions
  • Inventors--20th century--United States
  • Military--Art and science.--1930-1950.
  • Patent practice
  • Photography--Apparatus and supplies
  • Photography--Exposure.
  • Research, Industrial
  • Slide mounts.
  • Sorting devices
  • World War, 1939-1945

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Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements note

Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives.

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1: Everett Bickley Personal Papers, 1920-1999

 Subseries 1: General Information, 1920-1999

Box Folder

Miscellaneous documents, 1920-1979

1 1

Photo album, undated

18 1

Portraits of Everett Bickley (photocopies), undated

18 2

 Subseries 2: Publication Material, 1933-1998

Box Folder

"The Bickley Bean Sorters", 1998

1 5

Drafts, undated

1 3

"The Motograph Electric Sign", undated

1 4

Notes and extra copies, undated

1 5

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 Series 2: The Bickley Manufacturing Company, 1933-1980

 Subseries 1: General Information, 1949-1980

Box Folder

Miscellaneous company information, undated

1 6

Post-Everett Bickley, 1976-1980

1 7

 Subseries 2: Company Operations, 1933-1972

Box Folder

Checks received, 1955-1972

1 8

Employment information, 1948-1963

1 9

Information and reference data, 1933-1964

1 10

Instructions, office, 1944-1966

1 11

Instructions, salesmen, undated

1 12

Instructions, shop, 1961-1964, c. 1940

1 13

Instructions, shop and office, 1947-1959

2 1

Instructions, shop and outside, 1946-1965

2 2

Laboratory addition, 1946

2 3

Product material, undated

2 4

Publications, 1968

2 5

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 Series 3: Sorter Information, 1928-1965

 Subseries 1: Sorter Specific Information, 1933-1965

Box Folder

Ball bearing, general, 1958-1964

2 6

Ball bearing, notes and drawings, 1953-1964

2 7-8

Ball bearing, part ordering, 1952-1963

2 9

Ball bearing, patent-British, 1954-1961

3 1

Ball bearing, patent-other foreign, 1953-1958

3 2

Ball bearing, patent-United States, 1953-1957

3 3

Ball bearing, sales and marketing, 1953-1964

4 1

Ball bearing, miscellaneous topics A-O, 1953-1964

4 2

Ball bearing, miscellaneous topics P-R, 1953-1964

4 3

Ball bearing, miscellaneous topics S-U, 1952-1964

4 4

Ball bearing, miscellaneous topics, 1953-1964

4 5

Ball bearing, testing, 1953-1964

4 6

Bean sorter, bills of material, 1933-1959

4 7

Bean sorter, bills of material, 1940-1947

4 8

Bean sorter, drawings, 1943-1947

4 9

Bean sorter, ideas, 1940-1945

4 10

Bean sorter, instructions, 1945-1959

5 1

Bean sorter, operator's handbook, 1933-1936

5 2

Bean sorter, operator instructions, 1934-1945

5 3

Bean sorter, testing, 1965

5 4

Peanut sorter, bill of material, 1947

5 5

Peanut sorter, drawings, 1961-1962

5 6

Peanut sorter, sales and testing, 1964-1965

5 7

Rice sorter, bill of material, 1944-1945

5 8

Rice sorter, drawings, 1944-1946

5 9

Rice sorter, instructions, 1947

5 10

 Subseries 2: General Information, 1928-1965

Box Folder

Miscellaneous sorter material, 1941-1965

5 11

Equipment record, Bad Axe, 1947-1961

5 12

Equipment record, Bismark-Glendive, 1942-1957

5 13

Equipment record, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, 1933-1961

5 14

Equipment record, Reese-Watsonville, 1951-1961

5 15

Instructions, 1954-1966

6 1

Layout drawings, 1933-1965

6 2

Maintenance, 1952-1965

6 3

Marketing material, 1944-1949

6 4

Parts blueprints, #0-1099, 1933-1965

6 5-15

Parts blueprints, #1100-2141, 1946-1962

7 1-11

Parts blueprints, #2142-2299, 1961-1965

8 1-2

Parts drawings, #0-1299, 1933-1965

8 3-13

Parts drawings, #1300-2299, 1949-1965

9 1-11

Part orders, 1951-1975

8 14

Patent, general, 1937-1955

10 1

Patent correspondence, cell, 1939-1942

10 2

Patent correspondence, cell, 1940-1945

10 3

Patent correspondence, cell, 1941-1943

10 4

Patent correspondence, cell-Canadian, 1941-1942

10 5

Patent correspondence, foreign, 1946

10 6

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1946-1951

10 7

Patent correspondence, sorter-Canadian, 1946

10 8

Patent correspondence, puffer, 1947-1958

10 9

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1948-1949

10 10

Patent correspondence, puffer-Canadian, 1949

10 11

Patent correspondence, scanner, 1949-1954

10 12

Patent correspondence, sorter-Canadian, 1950

10 13

Patent correspondence, puffer-British, 1951

10 14

Patent correspondence, scanner, 1951-1954

10 15

Patent correspondence, scanner-British, 1951-1953

11 1

Patent correspondence, sorter-British, 1951

11 2

Patent correspondence, puffer, 1952-1954

11 3

Patent correspondence, scanner-Canadian, 1952

11 4

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1952-1956

11 5

Patent correspondence, scanner, 1953-1954

11 6

Patent correspondence, scanner-Australian, 1953

11 7

Patent correspondence, scanner-Australian, 1954

11 8

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1954-1957

11 9

Patent correspondence, scanner-Canadian, 1955

11 10

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1955

11 11

Patent correspondence, puffer, 1956

11 12

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1956

11 13

Patent correspondence, control valve, 1957-1958

11 14

Patent correspondence, scanner, 1957-1958

11 15

Patent correspondence, sorter, 1957

11 16

Patent research, 1943-1949

11 17

Patents, 1933-1950

11 18

Patents, 1950-1954

11 19

Patents, 1954-1962

11 20

Photographs, undated

12 1

Prices, 1955-1964

12 2

Puffer drawings, 1933-1949

12 3

Quality control/testing, 1928-1961

12 4

Sola compensator, 1954-1960

12 5

Trade literature, 1956-1967

12 6
Box

Troubleshooting, Audrey's red troubleshooting binder, undated

17
Box Folder

Wiring drawings, 1940-1965

12 7

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 Series 4: Other Inventions, 1919-1958

 Subseries 1: General Information, 1919-1951

Box Folder

Miscellaneous information, 1919-1951

12 8

 Subseries 2: Inventions, 1920-1958

Box Folder

Ball pen, 1947

12 9

Cap nut and colorator, 1922

12 10

Color tight slide mount, 1945-1952

12 11-12

La Cucharacha, 1944

12 13

Dance charts, undated

13 1

Depth sounding apparatus, 1949-1951

13 2

Deskette, 1946-1949

13 3

Deskette, undated

13 4

Dog trainer, undated

13 5

Double swinging doors and double-ended clothes pin, 1924-1950

13 6

Drafting ruler, 1955

13 7

Draw nail washer, undated

13 8

Faucet related, 1923-1925

13 9

FILL-ER-UP valve, 1937-1942

13 10

Fish hook, 1949

13 11

Fluid control valve, 1957-1958

13 12

Foldable sound record, 1951

13 13

Foldable sound record, 1947-1950

13 14

Football down marker, 1946

13 15

Fotimer, 1944-1946

13 16

Fotimer, 1944-1947

13 17
Map-case Drawer Folder

Fotimer advertisements, undated

3 16 1
Box Folder

Guy compensator, 1945-1946

13 18

Kill-Fly, 1943-1951

13 19

Kill-Fly, 1944-1946

13 20

Kill-Fly, photographs, undated

14 1

Lantern slide mounting, undated

14 2

Mariner's compass, 1949-1950

14 3

Meat timer, 1955

14 4

Motograph, 1939

14 5

Nutcracker, 1950-1951

14 6

Oil delivery control system, 1933-1945

14 7

Optical accessory for pianos, 1943

14 8

Pecan cracker, 1947

14 9

Pencil sharpener, 1945

14 10

Phonograph related, 1921-1924

14 11

Power pulley, 1920-1947

14 12

Production and material control system, 1920

14 13

Pulp evaporator, 1944-1951

14 14

Radio receiver tuning control mechanism, 1936

14 15

Snow shovel, 1948-1949

14 16

Sound distribution system, 1954

15 1

Stereo scenic mount, 1943-1944

15 2

Submarine salvage, 1949

15 3

Third dimensional motion pictures, 1944

15 4

Tide clock, 1949-1950

15 5

Tire valve assembly, 1951-1954

15 6

Universal drill clamp, 1946

15 7

Universal drill jig, 1946

15 8

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 Series 5: World War Two Related Activities, 1939-1950

 Subseries 1: General Information, 1939-1950

Box Folder

Miscellaneous correspondence and information, 1939-1943

16 1

Patent extension bill, 1945-1950

16 2

 Subseries 2: Ideas Submitted, 1941-1943

Box Folder

Aerial photography improvements, 1941-1943

16 3

Airplane construction improvements and Alligator: mine field protector, 1941-1943

16 3

Antidote plane and Bola bomb, 1942

16 4

Boom torpedo bomb and cat's eye: signalling device, 1939-1942

16 5

Dimout suggestions and electricity saving suggestions, 1942

16 6

Fighter control panel improvements and Fog-O-Scope, 1942-1943

16 7

Grenade, mine sweep destroyer and Houdini: cable for mines, 1942

16 8

Mines to Japan and night blindness suggestions, 1942

16 9

Night Sweep, method of detecting submarines and Night Wind: incendiary device, 1942

16 10

Octopus: improved submarine mine and Orange Quilt: sea location marker, 1942

16 11

Owl, night vision aid, Poison bullet and Red Eye: signal device, 1941-1942

16 12

Sea Spot Gun, position marker, Skunk Attacks for dogfights, and Squid, smokescreen for submarines, 1942

16 13

Talking Black Beam and Talking Fish, submarine decoy, 1942

16 14

Tanker loss, suggestions for reducing and Turbosupercharger improvements, 1942-1943

16 15

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