Publisher Information: 1860.
Autograph Letter Signed from the Designer of the "Monitor"
ERICSSON, John (1803-89). A.L.s. dated March 26, 60, to an unknown recipient. 2-1/2 pp., on lined paper embossed with a small steam locomotive and the letters "P. & P. in the upper left corner. 247 x 195 mm. Creased where folded, small tear mended, but fine overall.
A very fine, detailed letter from the prolifically inventive Swedish-born engineer John Ericsson, whose many accomplishments include the invention of a screw propeller for steamships, a rotary steam engine, the first English steam-driven fire engine, and his enormously popular "caloric" engine. This last, a hot-air engine designed to use heat more directly and efficiently than its steam-powered counterpart, was the first mass-produced heat-powered engine; in various incarnations, it satisfied the growing need for small and medium-sized sources of industrial power throughout the nineteenth century.
Ericsson's most famous achievement, however, was his design for the Union Navy's ironclad warship Monitor; the Monitor's decisive victory over the Confederate ironclad Merrimac in March 1862 marked a turning point not only in the course of the Civil War, but in the history of warship design and construction. In later life Ericsson interested himself in alternative sources of power, particularly solar and tidal energy.
The present letter, written almost exactly two years before the Monitor's defeat of the Merrimac, discusses several of Ericsson's inventions-a hydraulic pump, a "swing machine," an air hoister and a telegraphic machine-as well as the difficulties Ericsson had encountered in obtaining the necessary support and encouragement to proceed with the patenting of these inventions. The last paragraph of the letter contains a reference to a "new" caloric engine, which was "nearly ready"; Ericsson continued to improve the caloric engine to the end of his life.
Ericsson's imperious and combative temperament is apparent throughout the letter, particularly in the postscript, in which he states that "I should prefer the 'cove' you allude to showing his hand before I have my patent claim. Under my general principle I will be able to hit him all the harder-so with others who may feel inclined to tread on my & our toes just now." DAB. Strandh, History of the Machine, pp. 136-39; 164.Book Id: 16818