Oliver Evans: A Man Ahead of His Time
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As he grew older, Evans grew increasingly embittered by the people who initially scoffed at (and later stole) his ideas, as well as the short-sighted and ignorant bureaucrats who continually blocked the advancements he felt his inventions offered. In 1814, Evans wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress that included the following statement: “The writer ... believes that as early [as] 1786, he himself had discovered useful improvements, which, if they had been promptly and extensively put into operation, and the savings or gains by the use of them collected into the public treasury, it would have been sufficient to have discharged the public debt, defrayed the expense of government, and freed the people of the U.S. from taxes.”
Evans was so upset that he destroyed the drawings and records of some 80 of his inventions. A fire destroyed the Mars Iron Works early in 1819, and Oliver Evans died a few months later on April 15.
The high-pressure steam engine has been given credit for making possible the Industrial Revolution in this country during the nineteenth century. As its developer, and as America’s first professional inventor, it’s a shame that Oliver Evans has been virtually forgotten by present day historians. FC
Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by e-mail at email@example.com.
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