Howe, Frederick Webster

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b. 28 August 1822 Danvers, Massachusetts, USA
d. 25 April 1891 Providence, Rhode Island, USA
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American mechanical engineer, machine-tool designer and inventor.
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Frederick W.Howe attended local schools until the age of 16 and then entered the machine shop of Gay \& Silver at North Chelmsford, Massachusetts, as an apprentice and remained with that firm for nine years. He then joined Robbins, Kendall \& Lawrence of Windsor, Vermont, as Assistant to Richard S. Lawrence in designing machine tools. A year later (1848) he was made Plant Superintendent. During his time with this firm, Howe designed a profiling machine which was used in all gun shops in the United States: a barrel-drilling and rifling machine, and the first commercially successful milling machine. Robbins \& Lawrence took to the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, England, a set of rifles built on the interchangeable system. The interest this created resulted in a visit of some members of the British Royal Small Arms Commission to America and subsequently in an order for 150 machine tools, jigs and fixtures from Robbins \& Lawrence, to be installed at the small-arms factory at Enfield. From 1853 to 1856 Howe was in charge of the design and building of these machines. In 1856 he established his own armoury at Newark, New Jersey, but transferred after two years to Middletown, Connecticut, where he continued the manufacture of small arms until the outbreak of the Civil War. He then became Superintendent of the armoury of the Providence Tool Company at Providence, Rhode Island, and served in that capacity until the end of the war. In 1865 he went to Bridgeport, Connecticut, to assist Elias Howe with the manufacture of his sewing machine. After the death of Elias Howe, Frederick Howe returned to Providence to join the Brown \& Sharpe Manufacturing Company. As Superintendent of that establishment he worked with Joseph R. Brown in the development of many of the firm's products, including machinery for the Wilcox \& Gibbs sewing machine then being made by Brown \& Sharpe. From 1876 Howe was in business on his own account as a consulting mechanical engineer and in his later years he was engaged in the development of shoe machinery and in designing a one-finger typewriter, which, however, was never completed. He was granted several patents, mainly in the fields of machine tools and firearms. As a designer, Howe was said to have been a perfectionist, making frequent improvements; when completed, his designs were always sound.
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Further Reading
J.W.Roe, 1916, English and American Tool Builders, New Haven; repub. 1926, New York, and 1987, Bradley, 111. (provides biographical details).
R.S.Woodbury, 1960, History of the Milling Machine, Cambridge, Mass, (describes Howe's contribution to the development of the milling machine).
RTS

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

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