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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Appleby, John Francis 1840 - 1917


inventor, b. Westmoreland, N.Y. In 1845 he moved to Wisconsin with his parents and settled on a farm near Palmyra. In 1858, while working on his step-father's farm in Iowa County, Appleby invented the basic knotting device that was to become the foundation for all farm binding machinery. Although Appleby was thinking in terms of a grain binder, his device was regarded as a curiosity at this time and the idea languished for several years. During the Civil War he served with the 23rd Wisconsin Infantry (1862-1865), and while in the army invented a cartridge magazine and a needle gun. When the gun was rejected by the government, Appleby sold the patent cheaply and the weapon was later used extensively in the Prussian army. Returning to Wisconsin at the close of the war, he settled near Mazomanie where he tested his first grain binder unsuccessfully in 1867. In the early 1870's he moved to Beloit where he continued his experiments in the farm machinery shop of Charles H. Parker and Gustavus Stone. In 1874 he developed a successful wire binder, but was refused financial support because of farmer resentment against the use of wire binding. In that same year he returned to Mazomanie and formed the Appleby Reaper Works to construct self- rake reapers. After several months he went again to Beloit where, with the backing of Parker and Stone, he perfected a successful twine binder on which patents were issued in 1878 and 1879. Shortly after the first patents were issued, William Deering, of Gammon and Deering, purchased a license to build the binders, and large-scale production was begun. Within a few years the twine binder had completely replaced the unpopular wire binders and Appleby's design soon became the basis for machines produced by the McCormick, Champion, and Osborn companies. In 1881 Appleby sold his patent interests to the Champion Machine Works of Springfield, Ohio, and left the state. He continued to work on various inventions and eventually patented a horse-drawn cotton picker. He died in Chicago, where he spent the latter part of his life. Dict. Amer. Biog.; Beloit Daily News, Oct. 26, 1920; Jefferson Banner, Nov. 28, 1917; Wis. Mag. Hist., 10; WPA field notes.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the John Francis Appleby Family Papers for details.

View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.

View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]

2 records found

Appleby, John Francis 1840 - 1917
Village of Dover (Historic Marker Erected 1953)

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