Biography of Fred M. Locke

(VIII) Fred M., son of William Morton Locke, was born at West Mendon, in the village of Honeoye Falls, April 24, 1861. He attended the common schools. He learned the art of telegraphing and followed it from 1880 to 1887. In 1887 he was station agent and telegraph operator for the New York Central railroad. He was a skillful mechanic. with a tendency to invention, even in his youth. He was something of an artist and spent much time in painting. To eke out his income he used to make flies for the fishermen and was himself an expert angler. He was so much more fortunate than the others in winning prizes in the fishing contests in which he took part in Canandaigua, that he was finally ruled out altogether. His invention for improving the pin in electric insulators was laughed at when he first showed it and he lost the profit from it, another man, who appropriated the idea and patented it, reaping the reward that belonged to him. Naturally he came to study electricity while a telegraph operator, and he spent much of his spare hours in experiments. He constructed a dynamo of his own invention, and it was used for furnishing electric lights in a mill in the vicinity. In the telegraph office he had often noticed the defects of the insulators during storms and he undertook to find a method of overcoming them. He sought a new form and material that would not allow the leakage caused by wetness of the insulators and poles and he discovered a mixture of clay and other substances producing a porcelain that had the desired qualities. His first experiments were made in his kitchen, then he constructed a kiln and began to manufacture his insulators in 1898. At first he had but few hands but the demand for the insulators grew rapidly, and at the present time his factory employs two hundred men. The porcelain insulator has withstood the most trying tests. It is not porous like the ordinary porcelain and absorbs no water; is stronger and less fragile than glass and is not affected by temperature. The moisture which collects on it, forms in globules and does not dissipate the electric current as it would on glass, on which rain makes a continuous wet surface. In the construction of the insulator, Mr. Locke uses a machine for threading the clay forms before they are baked. No manufacturer had previously been able to do this part of the work cheaply and rapidly. Locke’s machine turns out from five to ten thousand properly threaded insulators in a day. The shape of the insulator is also a design of the inventor. The ingredients of the clay mixture are known only to the inventor. The mixture is screened and pumped into a press which squeezes out the excess liquid, and is thence conveyed to a pug mill in which the air is drawn out, and the mixture molded to a uniform and homogeneous consistency. The material is then molded into form in a machine called a giger. After being partly dried the molds are glazed and baked a day or more and then tested for electric conductivity. There is practically no leakage tinder ordinary weather conditions. One significant test of the value of the insulator was made in the equipment of the Bay Counties Power Company’s long distance power transmission line, carrying a high tension current two hundred and fourteen miles, the longest in the world, and the loss from leakage is but five per cent. The voltage is 60,000 and the insulators for this purpose withstood a test of twice that tension. One hundred thousand insulators were used in that one contract. The business was incorporated in 1902 tinder the name of Locke Insulator Manufacturing Company and has continued to grow. In 1904 Mr. Locke retired from active business, though he gives to the company the benefit of his skill and experience as consulting engineer. In politics he is a Democrat. He is a communicant of Trinity Church.

He married, March 6, 1884, Mercy Peer, born February 26, 1866, slaughter of Andrew and Ellen (Splaine) Peer. Children: Morton F., born January 12, 1885; Louis P., January 4, 1887; Fred J., November 29, 1889; Peer A., June 28, 1893; James L., January 18, 1898.

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