Charles E. Billings

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Charles Ethan Billings
Charles Ethan Billings.jpg
Born(1834-12-05)December 5, 1834
DiedJune 5, 1920(1920-06-05) (aged 85)
Resting placeCedar Hill Cemetery

Charles Ethan Billings (December 5, 1834 – June 5, 1920) was an American mechanical engineer, inventor, superintendent, and businessman. He was elected president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1895.


He was born in Weathersfield, Vermont, the son of Ethan F. and Clarissa M. (née Marsh) Billings.[1] He served his apprenticeship at Robbins & Lawrence (in Windsor, Vermont),[2] a factory and armory that was an important early node in the social network of the 19th century machine tool industry.[3]

In 1856, at the age of 21, he came to the Colt armory (in Hartford, Connecticut) as a die sinker and tool maker and became their expert on the drop forging process.[2] In 1862, he went to E. Remington & Sons, where he built up their forging plant, increasing its efficiency many times, saving $50,000, it is said, by one improvement in frame forging alone.[2] At the end of the American Civil War, he returned to Hartford as the superintendent of the Weed Sewing Machine Company, which had taken over the old Sharps Rifle Works, built by Robbins & Lawrence.[2]

In 1868, while at the Roper Repeating Arms Company in Amherst, Massachusetts, he worked with Christopher M. Spencer.[2] Roper failed, and the following year, 1869, the two founded a partnership (in Hartford, Connecticut) called Billings & Spencer,[2] which would manufacture sewing machines, drop-forged hand tools, and machine tools. Billings perfected a drop hammer for metal forging in the 1870s and designed the copper commutator—central to the operation of electrical generators and motors.

In 1895, Billings was president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.[2]


  1. ^ Billings, Dwight Morris at
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Roe 1916, pp. 174–177.
  3. ^ Roe 1916, p. 187.


  • Roe, Joseph Wickham (1916), English and American Tool Builders, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, LCCN 16011753. Reprinted by McGraw-Hill, New York and London, 1926 (LCCN 27-24075); and by Lindsay Publications, Inc., Bradley, Illinois, (ISBN 978-0-917914-73-7).

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