March 25, 1834
Beaver County, Pennsylvania
|Died||February 2, 1897
Benjamin Forstner (25 March 1834 - 27 February 1897), was an American gunsmith, inventor and dry goods merchant.
Forstner was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. His successful invention of the Forstner bit, patented on September 22, 1874, was to make him a rich man. Without the lead screw (which Forstner called the "gimlet-point") and cutting lips of more conventional wood boring bits it would prove especially useful to gunsmiths like himself and other high-end woodworkers. The bit was unsurpassed in drilling an exceedingly smooth-sided hole with a flat bottom. It was better than the Russell Jennings twist bits for boring at an angle and not following the grain of the wood. Forstner eventually worked out licensing arrangements for the manufacture and sale of his bit by a number of companies, most notably two Connecticut firms: the Colt Firearms Company of Hartford and the Bridgeport Gun Implement Company, successors (in 1886) to the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. Even today, the Forstner bit continues to be manufactured, although it has changed to a split-ring design.
Forstner also invented an electric motor.
In the early 1850s Benjamin Forstner moved to Missouri where he came under the influence of communal utopian William Keil of Bethel, MO. He followed Keil to the Pacific Northwest in 1863, where they founded the colony of Aurora, Marion Co. Oregon. In 1865 Forstner settled in Salem, Oregon and the following year he married Miss Louisa Snyder. Their only child was an adopted daughter, a niece of Mrs. Forstner. Forstner became established as a gunsmith. He traveled East on business often, including to the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and the 1893 Columbian Exposition where his bits won highest premiums. Through lucrative royalty payments he became a wealthy Salem citizen and property owner.
Forstner retired in 1891, having by his business acumen accumulated sufficient money and property. His residence and workshop were situated on the west side of Commercial Street and later occupied by the Salem woolen mill store and E. F. Neff. He erected a large and handsome residence on his block of land near the northern end of Commercial Street. He also possessed considerable farm property across the river in Polk county, and also owned 160 acres (0.65 km2) of timber near Gates, on the upper Santiam river.
Louisa Forstner died 12 Sept 1917 aged 75 at 265 North Commercial Street, Salem and was interred in the Odd Fellows cemetery.