Brandon man invented first electric motor, printing press, railway

Thomas Davenport of Brandon and his patented electric motor

A virtually unknown Williamstown native and Brandon blacksmith is finally getting some credit for patenting the first electric motor and developing other electric inventions.

In 1837, Thomas Davenport of Brandon secured the world’s first patent for an electric motor, U.S. Patent No.132, according to a March 29 resolution adopted by the Vermont Legislature.

The New York Herald proclaimed his invention “The Dawn of a New Civilization,” while the New York Evening-Star called it “the application of an entire new and immeasurable agent of mechanical power.” 

Davenport continued to build motors of increased power and efficiency and apply them to new uses, including his invention of the world’s first electrically powered printing press.

Davenport invented a pioneering electric vehicle and foresaw a future in which electrically powered transportation would be common. 

The following entry is from Brittanica.com: Born July 9, 1802, in Williamstown, VT, and died July 6, 1851, in Salisbury, VT, Davenport was a blacksmith in Brandon when he began experimenting with electromagnets after observing one in use at an ironworks in Crown Point, N.Y., in 1831. 

By 1834 he had constructed his first electric motor. Operated by battery power, the motor consisted of a wheel, two spokes of which were electromagnets, situated between two stationary electromagnets. When current was applied to the stationary magnets and through a commutator switch to the wheel magnets, the wheel rotated. 

The next year, Davenport used an electric motor to propel a small car around a circular track, the first recorded instance of an electric railway.

“He believed electric power would transform both industry and daily human existence and dedicated his life to furthering those ends,” the resolution adopted by the Legislature said.

2 replies »

  1. He promptly moved out of state stifled by over regulating , act 250, taxation and a host of other road blocks provided by his government. Like so many of his fellow Vermonters he maintained his Ex-Vermont connection solely through a vague historic recollection that he once set foot there.

  2. Why am I not surprised ? We Vermonters are very inventive people. “Necessity being the mother of invention,” (I’ll bet you thought that Frank Zappa was the Mother of Invention!) people like Samuel Morey, John Deere, Thomas Davenport, and many others saw a necessity (and a way to make a few bucks!) and put their inventive minds to use to solve the problem and move ahead.

Leave a Reply