Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Seventy Years

In the fall of 1880, David Whitcomb and Stephen Salisbury addressed a letter to the trustees, in which they expressed a desire to relieve the embarrassment caused by a larger number of students in the shops than the founder expected. They offered to pay the cost of an addition to the shop building, to extend 60 feet north of the original structure, and the cost of putting a second story on the engine-room wing, in accordance with plans that had been prepared by Stephen C. Earle, the whole project to cost about $12,000. This gift was gratefully received and the enlargement was made. In the final plans an addition of about 33 feet was made at each end of the original building.

One of the ideas uppermost in the minds of the shop committee from the beginning was to produce articles that did not compete with products of other Worcester manufacturers. To avoid such competition taxed their ingenuity, but the inventive minds of Charles H. Morgan and Milton P. Higgins developed a valuable line of marketable products. One of their outstanding inventions was a plunger elevator, in designing the valves for which Mr. Higgins displayed his high mechanical skill. The first elevator was operated at the Washburn & Moen plant. In 1870 the first complete installation built at the Washburn Shops was installed in a building on Front Street. For short lifts this type of elevator soon became popular, and many of this design were installed in Worcester. A passenger elevator was developed later, and longer lifts and higher speeds were attained. Rock drills and apparatus for sinking cylinders in the earth were also developed at the shops.

The enlarged facilities, growth of the elevator business, and improvements in general economic conditions conspired to make the balance sheets of the shop more presentable during the early 'eighties. At the end of Principal Thompson's administration, in 1882, the shop income equaled or exceeded the expense and a comfortable balance had been accumulated.


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Last Modified: Fri Jul 30 11:15:25 EDT 1999