Alden, Minnesota

LIKE THE STEAM ENgine itself, the throttling governor was
invented and first used in England. Watts first governor made in
that country, was of crude type without valve and valve chamber
being built integral with the revolving ball assembly, as American
governors were made. It was of the plain, gravity-type head,
usually mounted on the engine frame and was connected to a
butterfly valve which might be placed anywhere on the steam line
leading to the engine, by a rod with suitable linkage to fit the
engine to which it was attached.

It might be said, that a Watt engine was governed by remote
control, as often the governor was located several feet distant
from the butterfly valve. American governor ‘builders discarded
the old butterfly valve and substituted a valve of the dual-disc
type and placed this valve in a chamber directly connected with the
governor head itself.

In this country about the first attempt to make a throttling
governor was made by Judson in 1848 at Rochester, New York.

This governor used the gravity-type of ball head, the balls were
of large size and of sufficient weight to pull the governor valve
wide open (whenever the engine throttle was closed) by the force of
gravity alone, no springs were employed in its design to raise the
valve from its seat.

In 1859 Robert Gardner designed a gravity-type governor quite
similar to the old ‘Judson’ and his governor, known to the
trade as the ‘Gardner Standard Governor’ was built and sold
by The Gardner Governor Co., of Quincy, Illinois, for many

The two governors named above, were the leaders for years, on
the American market, or until the ‘spring type’ governor
was developed.

The first ‘spring’ governor was invented by Thomas
Pickering in Connecticut in the year 1861. Mr. Pickering was a
stationary engineer, running the power plant at a factory in which
steady speed was very desirable. He was not satisfied with the slow
and sluggish action of the ‘gravity’ governor on his
engine, so he decided’ do something about it.

He conceived the idea of using springs to ‘spark’ the
movement of a governor valve, his first governor used three wooden
springs (of hickory) about sixteen inches long passed through
rectangular slots cut through the center of three wooden croquet
balls, the lower ends of these springs were securely fastened to
the revolving, gear driven spindle of the governor, while the upper
ends were attached rigidly, to a loose sleeve surrounding the
spindle which was free to move vertically on same in obedience to
the inward and outward movement of the governor balls, the valve
stem passed up through the spindle and made contact with the loose,
sliding sleeve near top of the governor, by this means, as the
balls moved outward from center, the valve stem was lowered and the
valve pushed toward its seat.

The valve was held open by an adjustable ‘wind-up’
spring attachment, coupled to the valve stem just above the
stuffing box, the tension of this spring was adjusted by means of a
thumb-screw and worm gear. By its use, the engine’s speed was

On each Saturday night, when the plant shut down for the week
end, Mr. Pickering removed the old governor and put his invention
in its place, called in a few friends to see the test made. These
boys were somewhat fearful of the results and carefully chose safe
spots from which they could see well but not be liable to injury
from flying pieces of this ‘wooden wonder’ when it went
into action.

The engine started up well, ran smoothly and after a few
‘speeder’ adjustments, he had the proper engine speed,
nobody was injured and the governor was pronounced a grand success
by all observers. When the load was put on, Monday morning, it was
perfect, the power was good and the speed was steady.

‘The Pickering Governor was born’. This governor was
patented in the U. S. A., Canada, England and France in the year
1862 and became a very popular governor the world over.

Its design was unique in that it produced a mechanical movement
without a single joint in its construction, it was direct in
action, very quick and sensitive to slight changes in the
engine’s load.

The next governor to enter the field was the ‘Waters’,
invented and patented by Mr. C. Waters of Boston, Mass., in the
year 1872. This, like the ‘Pickering’ was a high speed,
spring type governor which became very popular and had a large,
world wide sale for many years. This governor differed from all the
others in respect to its valve. The ‘Waters’ valve was
placed in a valve-cage made with four (instead of two) valve seats,
as used in other governors. This four ported valve gave a large
port opening with a very short travel. It gave the engine a
‘sharp boost’ when a sudden, heavy load was thrown upon

After the spring-type governor was produced and perfected no one
wanted a gravity type governor. So, the older builders had to come
through with springs to stay in business.

‘Judson’ rebuilt their old ‘Standard governor’
by putting on a new spring supporting device to hold the valve wide
open at all times when the engine was at rest, reduced the weight
of governor balls, by changing their form from spherical to disc
shape and by placing two light coil springs (one on each side of
the balls) across from ball to ball, to complete their spring type
governor. They built and sold this governor for many years but in
later years however, this company found the demand for a ‘wide
range’ governor to be quite important so they bought out the
‘Eclipse’ three ball governor, made at Vicksburg, Michigan
and sold it for years as the ‘New Judson Governor’.

The Gardner governor Company brought out a new spring type
governor of their own design and it was very satisfactory. It
differed from all other governors in one respect, its valve was
closed by an upward movement of the valve stem. In all other
governors this took place on the ‘down beat.’

The ‘Monarch’ governor made for a few years at
Indianapolis, Indiana, was a good one but the production and sale
of this governor was halted by injunction proceedings on the
grounds of alleged infringement of patent rights owned by the
Pickering Governor Company. This claim was later sustained and its
production was permanently prohibited by court order.

All throttling governors applied the use of centrifugal force as
their prime moving agent.

This is the tendency of a weighted object to fly outward from
its point of support or axis when revolved at high speed. This
force was counteracted by another force whose main objective was to
return the flying weights or balls to their original position that
assumed by them when the governor was at rest. This force is called
centrifugal action.

This action was accomplished either by the force of gravity or
by spring resistance.

In the gravity type of governor the centrifugal action was also
powered by a natural force, that of gravitation, while in the
spring type, this inward movement of the governor balls was
‘sparked’ by spring action.

It was the constant struggle for supremacy between these two
opposing forces that maintained regular and steady engine motion
regardless of fluctuation in the load, by regulating the flow of
steam to the engine to fit the load it had to handle.

There were a few other governors built in this country such as
the ‘King’ and the ‘Watson’, to name two of the
most widely known of this group.

However, the ones popularly known as the
‘Standard-governors’ or the ‘Big Four’, were built
by these concerns The Judson Governor Co., Rochester, N. Y., 1848;
The Gardner Governor Co., Quincy, Ill., 1859; The Pickering
Governor Co., Portland, Conn., 1861; The Waters Governor Co.,
Boston, Mass., 1872,

Although a steam engine would run without a governor, (the first
farm engines built in this country did it without one) when
threshing with these engines the speed of the machine was
controlled by a ‘hand on the throttle’ or by ‘the man
who was feeding the thresher’, or both.

This method of speed control was difficult and not too
satisfactory, hence my hat is off to these boys, who gave the world
the throttling governor. They deserve much credit for this great
invention, without it, the steam engine would never have attained
the popularity it once held in the world-wide field of power

Even though these good men have gone to their reward, we are
still deeply indebted to them for their excellent contribution to
the success of the steam engine.

Now that ‘the chips are down’ for the reciprocating type
of steam engine, let us remember that it was the world’s first
great mechanical power, the one that started progress, promoted
prosperity and played a major role in the growth and development of
our great country.

Finally, in solemn recognition of these facts, let us all give
to this ‘mighty machine’ an everlasting vote of confidence
and approval.

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