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Ingersoll, Simon

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Simon Ingersoll, an inventive genius from Connecticut, placed his name, in 1871, upon a product and company.  Ironically, his only successful invention, the Ingersoll Rock Drill, brought him no financial reward, but lasting fame at a critical juncture in mining history.

Simon was a dreamer, a creator and an ingenious mechanic.  His first important invention was a wedge and plug cutting machine.  Prior to his device, shipbuilders and caulkers had cut their wooden plugs and wedges by hand.  Ingersoll's machine did the job mechanically.  Alas, wooden ships were soon displaced by iron steamships.

He invented an early steam-powered car, a friction clutch, a gate latch and a spring scale.  All these patents were assigned to others.

A contractor friend suggested Ingersoll design a rock drill.  The man had a contract for excavating rock in New York City. If he had a mechanical drill, he reasoned, he could do the job faster and make some money.  Simon responded.

On March 7, 1871 Ingersoll received his basic rock drill patent.  There had been earlier drills, designed for mining and tunneling and mounted on carriages.  Ingersoll mounted his drill on a tripod equipped with leg weights to hold it steady.

In all, 27 patents were issued to him, 13 pertaining to rock drills or their accessories.  One covered the rifle bar for rotating the drilling element; another covered a coupling for hose used in rock drilling.

However, Ingersoll's temperament was that of the inventor.  He usually lacked money and had to sell his patents to support his family.  Others with mechanical skills and greater resources took advantage of him; he himself, for whatever reason, had no interest in maintaining a financial interest in the company that bore his name.

He sold his drill patents and returned to Connecticut to operate a machine shop.  Yet he conceived a valuable idea that contributed to mining and industrial progress in America.  His name lives on in the Ingersoll-Rand Company of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

Lived  1818 - 1894

Inducted 1992

Inductee #96