Albert Butz of Minneapolis, the father of thermostatic control for home heating, engaged a firm of attorneys and patented his "damper flapper" in 1885.
In 1886, he incorporated the Butz Thermoelecric Regulator Company...and by 1888, with no record extant showing as much as a single sale, he walked out; left for Chicago, having transferred his patent to the law firm -- who kept after the thermostat business, as the Consolidated Temperature Controlling Company, then as the Electric Thermostat Company. In August 1892, the latter sold a long list of patents to W. R. Sweatt, for one (1.00) dollar. Two months later, the stockholders changed the name again, to the Electric Heat Regulator Company and elected a fellow of who you may have heard, William R. Sweatt, as both Secretary and Treasurer.
...And that company chugged along for years under Mr. Sweatt, growing steadily, and changing its name (again!) in 1912 to The Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company, making mostly controls for coal-burning furnaces before merging in 1927 with Indiana's own Honeywell, which had been making hot-water heating systems; by that point, the two companies had come to a kind of patent deadlock and neither could move without use of the other one's patents.
All that fishy business early on? Despite the remarkable success of both firms by the time of the merger, early on, automatic control -- especially with a furnace you still had to hand-feed coal -- was a difficult thing to sell. Albert Butz had a good idea but he may've felt lucky to get out from under. W. R. Sweatt? Maybe he knew a good idea when he saw it, or perhaps he was trying to protect the $5,300 his father-in-law had talked him into investing in the company; he already owned a small, profitable outfit making wooden items. In either case, he spent over a decade trying to get the thing rolling and didn't collect a salary until 1895 -- issued retroactively the following year!
Moral? I'm not even sure there is one. Maybe "know when not to give up?"
(W.R. Sweatt seems to have had no knack for quitting. Born in 1867, I can find no online evidence he's not still with us!)
...All that, and I still don't know if I want to replace the thermostat here or not.
4 months ago