ROSS WINANS' LETTERBOOK, 1850-51
(0.15 cubic feet; one folder)
by: Robert S. Harding, 1985
Ross Winans (1796-1877) was an inventor, mechanic, and builder of locomotives and railroad machinery, including wheels, axels, bearings trucks and carriages. In 1828 he developed a friction wheel with outside bearings which established a "distinctive pattern for railroad wheels for the next one hundred years or so. In the late 1820s also he became associated with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, eventually entering their service as an engineer. One of his first and more important tasks was to help Peter Cooper build the Tom Thumb locomotive. By 1831 he was appointed assistant engineer of machinery on the B&O. He invented and patented an improvement in the construction of axels, or bearings on July 20th. Also in this productive year he built the "Columbus", his first double-truck car, which he immediately patented, even though he was not the first individual to build one.
In 1835 Winans went into partnership with George Gillingham and in 1836 they succeeded to the 1834 lease of Phineas Davis & Israel Gardner of the B&O's company shops at Mt. Clare and continued the manufacture of locomotives and railroad machinery. "As far back perhaps as the year 1836, the firm of Gillingham and Winans, and, after the dissolution of that firm, I myself, down to 1841 or 1842, manufactured a Rail Road Wheel..." (letter #322)
Winans' next important development in locomotive design was an 8-wheel connected freight locomotive in the early 1840s. In 1843 Gillingham and Winans built their own shop to maximize their profits.
Winans retired from the locomotive business in 1860. When Winans died he left an estate worth over twenty million dollars.
Scope & Content
This letterbook by Ross Winans contains copies of 417 business letters, arranged chronologically, relating to the manufacture and sale of railroad equipment including locomotive engins, tenders and car wheels. These letters were replicated in a process similar to carbon copies in an almost perfectly uniform handwriting.