Spencer, Christopher Miner

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b. 10 June 1833 Manchester, Connecticut, USA
d. 14 January 1922 Hartford, Connecticut, USA
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American mechanical engineer and inventor.
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Christopher M.Spencer served an apprenticeship from 1847 to 1849 in the machine shop at the silk mills of Cheney Brothers in his native town and remained there for a few years as a journeyman machinist. In 1853 he went to Rochester, New York, to obtain experience with machinery other than that used in the textile industry. He then spent some years with the Colt Armory at Hartford, Connecticut, before returning to Cheney Brothers, where he obtained his first patent, which was for a silk-winding machine.
Spencer had long been interested in firearms and in 1860 he obtained a patent for a repeating rifle. The Spencer Repeating Rifle Company was organized for its manufacture, and before the end of the American Civil War about 200,000 rifles had been produced. He patented a number of other improvements in firearms and in 1868 was associated with Charles E.Billings (1835–1920) in the Roper Arms Company, set up at Amherst, Massachusetts, to manufacture Spencer's magazine gun. This was not a success, however, and in 1869 they moved to Hartford, Connecticut, and formed the Billings \& Spencer Company. There they developed the technology of the drop hammer and Spencer continued his inventive work, which included an automatic turret lathe for producing metal screws. The patent that he obtained for this in 1873 inexplicably failed to protect the essential feature of the machine which provided the automatic action, with the result that Spencer received no patent right on the most valuable feature of the machine.
In 1874 Spencer withdrew from active connection with Billings \& Spencer, although he remained a director, and in 1876 he formed with others the Hartford Machine Screw Company. However, he withdrew in 1882 to form the Spencer Arms Company at Windsor, Connecticut, for the manufacture of another of his inventions, a repeating shotgun. But this company failed and Spencer returned to the field of automatic lathes, and in 1893 he organized the Spencer Automatic Machine Screw Company at Windsor, where he remained until his retirement.
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Further Reading
J.W.Roe, 1916, English and American Tool Builders, New Haven; reprinted 1926, New York, and 1987, Bradley, Ill. (briefly describes his career and his automatic lathes).
L.T.C.Rolt, 1965, Tools for the Job, London; repub. 1986 (gives a brief description of Spencer's automatic lathes).
RTS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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