Jerome Wheelock

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Memorial to Jerome Wheelock by sculptor Herbert Adams, in Grafton, Massachusetts

Jerome Wheelock (June 20, 1834 - 1902) was an American inventor best known for the Wheelock steam cylinder packing.

Wheelock was born in Grafton, Massachusetts to Daniel and Susan Wheelock. While still young, he left home without telling his parents and his whereabouts was unknown until he was old enough to live on his own. With the help of Abraham M. Bigelow, he became an apprentice at Taunton Locomotive works, and left with the highest honors and recommendations.[1] In 1858 he moved to Worcester and began working at Washburn Iron Works where he invented the Wheelock steam cylinder packing. He soon joined with Charles A. Wheeler to begin manufacturing this invention, and ultimately sold the company in 1888.[2]

Wheelock invented several mechanisms to improve the steam engine, the most famous of which was his valve system. In 1875 the American Institution awarded him the Great Gold medal of Progress, the only one given for a steam engine. And the following year he was given the medal and diploma of the Centennial Exhibition. At the International Exposition of 1878 he was awarded the grand prize, the only one given for a steam engine.

Wheelock married Lydia Ann Robinson in 1858 and had 2 sons, Harvey and Herbert. He died in Worcester in 1902. His will left $100,000 dollars to build a town hall, and $100,000 to erect a bronze statue of himself, which still stands in Grafton today. He also gave $100,000 to Harvard and Clark University to be held as the Jerome Wheelock fund.[3]