Daily Archives: January 12, 2012

Steam Power

I’ve been doing some research on Salem manufacturers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for an upcoming fundraising event at the Salem Athenaeum with a steampunk theme (lots more on this later) and am a bit overwhelmed:  there were so many.  America was certainly a country of makers a century ago; now it seems like we’re mostly sellers. Anyway, since I’m taking the steam in steampunk literally I have found myself focusing on all sort of machinery makers in general and the Locke Regulator Company of Salem in particular.  This company, founded by two New Hampshire brothers, Nathaniel and Alpheus Locke, who came down to Salem to make their fortune, grew from a back-of-the-barn operation in the 1870s and 80s to big business after its incorporation in 1902.  The large Locke factory, pictured on the first piece of “industrial ephemera” below (from 1910), was located on the banks of the North River in Salem, now the site of a junkyard and a car wash.  According to the claims of the last advertisement below, by 1913 the Company was the largest Manufacturers of Steam Vehicle Parts & Fittings in America.

The Company experimented with automobile manufacture in the first decade of the twentieth century (that’s another dynamic industry at this time; it seems like every town or city of a certain size had several small automobile makers within its midst), building a little “runabout” called the Puritan, but I think they must have soon realized that their future was in parts.

a 1902 Puritan steamer from the Early American Automobiles website; Locke shears from the same year.

The Locke Regulator Company appears to have been a family business, both before and after its incorporation and period of dynamic growth.  Alpheus retired from the business  in the 1890s, but Nathaniel continued on, with his brother-in-law, son, and son-in-law all working for the company at one time or anotherTheir factory was in North Salem, as were their residences, primarily on or in the vicinity of Dearborn Street, very close to the threatened homestead of another prominent family that I wrote about in my previous post.  The Ropes family and the various Lockes were neighbors, and perhaps friends.  At the turn of the last century, Nathaniel and his wife Sophronia were living on one side of Dearborn Street, in a “new” house built for them in 1874, while their son Albert was living almost just across the street, in an even newer (and bigger) house built for his family in 1896.

Dearborn Street just before World War One; the Albert N. Locke House yesterday.

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