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Francis H. Richards


One of the early settlers of Hartford was William Whiting, a merchant, whose name is mentioned in the histories of this country as early as 1632. He was chosen treasurer of the colony of Connecticut in 1641, which office he retained until his death. His son, Joseph Whiting, was elected to the same office, holding it thirty-nine years until his death, when Joseph’s son, John Whiting, succeeded to the treasuryship and continued in the office for thirty-two years. Thro’ this line, in the sixth generation from William, came Maria S. Whiting, who married Henry Richards and became the mother of the subject of this sketch. Francis H. Richards’ paternal ancestor in America was Thomas Richards, who came to Connecticut in 1637, and settled in Hartford, in which vicinity his immediate descendants were prominent in planting of new settlements, one of them being of the party which settled at Waterbury. Those in the direct line of the present subject lived in Hartford for nearly a century after its first settlement. 

F. H. Richards was born at New Hartford, Litchfield county, October 20, 1850, and in his early years lived a part of the time at the home of his grandfather, Marquis Richards, on the ancestral estate which was founded by his great-grandfather, Aaron Richards, during the war of the revolution, and is in part still held in the family. His school life began at New Haven, whither his father, Henry Richards, removed with his family in 1856, where he attended the then celebrated "Eaton" graded school. The years from 1857 to 1865 were spent on his father’s farm, near Bakersville, in New Hartford, working summers at farming, and during the winter months attending first the village school and later the academy, which ordinary advantages were supplemented by private instructors. In 1865, the family removed to New Britain, where for a few months he attended the high school. The following year, being offered the alternative of attending a technical college or of learning the machinist’s trade, he chose the shop and began his mechanical and inventive career in the factories of the Stanley Rule and Level Company, under the supervision of his father, an ingenious mechanic and inventor, in charge of the machinery department of this extensive establishment. Here, by persistent work and systematic study extending over a period of eight years, he acquired both a practical and theoretical knowledge of the machine-building trades, including, besides the trade of machinist, the arts of wood-working, forging, and the allied branches. During this time, he made frequent tours for the critical observation of machinery and manufactures, began the study of patent law, and made numerous inventions of labor-saving machines, several of which are still in successful operation.

Mr. Richards’ business connections have been in Hartford since 1882; principally with the Pratt & Whitney Company from 1883 to 1886, at which latter date he established his office in that city. In October, 1887, he was married to Mrs. Clara V. Dole (nee Blasdale) of Springfield, Mass., who is of English birth, her father having been a prominent expert and designer in the lace manufacture until his emigration to this country about 1852. Since his marriage, he has resided in Hartford. In 1889, in company with his wife he visited Paris as a member of a touring party of American engineers, including scientific gentlemen representing all the leading industries of America. Mr. Richards is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a national organization with headquarters at New York; of the Civil Engineers’ Club of Cleveland, Ohio; and of the New York Engineers’ Club. In the Masonic fraternity he is identified with Washington Commandery, No. 1, Knights Templar; also with the several Scottish Rite bodies, up to the 32d degree. His religious associations are with the Church of the Redeemer (Universalist), of Hartford; his political affiliations with the republican party.

Mr. Richards is the author of many important inventions, among which is the "Richards Envelope Machine," patented in the United States and foreign countries - the American patents being now owned and controlled by the White, Corbin & Co., of Rockville. This machine prints, folds, gums, counts, and bands, automatically, 8o,ooo letter envelopes per day, greatly exceeding any other envelope machine in its capacity and in its economy in the consumption of paper. He is also the inventor and patentee of the fundamental features of the "Norton Door Check," a device for automatically closing light or heavy doors by an air-cushion arrangement, which is now in quite general use. He has taken out, first and last, 225 United States patents, a larger number, probably, than any other person in western Connecticut. Mr. Richards has practically elevated the matter of inventing machinery to an art. Whatever is sought to be done through the medium of mechanical appliances, he simply finds a way and invents a machine to do it.

SourceIllustrated Popular Biography of Connecticut - 1891 Compiled and Published by J. A. Spalding Hartford Conn.  Press of the Case, Lockwood and Brainard Company 1891

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