A Brief Biography: George Henry Corliss 1817-1888

By Staff

from a pamphlet on the Harris-Corliss Steam Engine, Randall
Brothers, Inc., published by The American Society of Mechanical

George H. Corliss was an inventor and manufacturer of the finest
and most efficient steam engines of the late 19th century. He was
born in Easton, N.Y., June 2, 1817, and began his working life as a
clerk in the factory store of William Mowry & Co., a cotton

In 1838 he opened his own store, which led him to consider, as a
result of complaints by his customers, the possibility of using
machinery in the manufacture of ready made boots and shoes. This
gradually led him into the invention and construction of various
types of machinery, and eventually he found his way into the
steam-engine business.

In 1844 he moved to Providence, and joined the machine and
engine business of Fairbanks, Bancroft & Co. By 1846 he was a
partner in the firm and had invented the steam engine that bears
his name. This steam engine, including an improved valve gear, was
patented in 1849. The patent was re-issued in 1851 and again in
1859. This special valve gear revolutionized steam engine

In 1856 George H. Corliss incorporated the Corliss Steam Engine
Company in Providence. In time the company became the world’s
largest maker of stationary engines. During the Civil War, the
Corliss Company manufactured a number of precision parts for the
iron-clad Monitor.

Corliss held 68 patents and pioneered ideas in standardization
and mass production. He died in 1888.

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