Sylvester H. Roper
Sylvester H. Roper
Boston Daily Globe obituary
Sylvester Howard Roper
November 24, 1823
|Died||June 1, 1896 (aged 72)|
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Cause of death||Heart failure, motorcycle crash|
|Residence||Roxbury, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|Known for||Roper steam velocipede, repeating shotgun, shotgun choke|
|Spouse(s)||Almira D. Hill|
|Awards||Motorcycle Hall of Fame (2002)|
Sylvester Howard Roper (November 24, 1823 – June 1, 1896) was an American inventor and a pioneering builder of early automobiles and motorcycles from Boston, Massachusetts. In 1863 he built a steam carriage, one of the earliest automobiles. The Roper steam velocipede of 1867–1869 may have been the first motorcycle, for which he was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002. He is also the inventor of the shotgun choke and a revolver repeating shotgun.
Sylvester H. Roper's father, Merrick, was a cabinetmaker, born 1792 in Sterling, Massachusetts. Merrick came to Francestown, New Hampshire in 1807 and married Sylvester's mother Susan Fairbanks in 1817. Sylvester had an older brother who was a housepainter, two younger sisters, and a younger brother who became a machinist at the Singer Sewing Machine Manufactory in Boston, then later a jeweler. Sylvester Roper was born on November 24, 1823. From an early age he displayed mechanical talent. At age 12 he made a stationary steam engine, even though he had never seen one before in person; this invention was kept on display in the laboratory of the Francestown Academy. At age 14, he built a locomotive engine, and only afterward saw such an engine for the first time in Nashua. Roper left Francestown at a young age and worked as a machinist, first in Nashua, then in Manchester, New York, and Worcester. He married Almira D. Hill on April 20, 1845 in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1854 he moved to Boston, Massachusetts living in the Roxbury neighborhood at 299 Eustis Street.
About the same time he came to Boston, Roper invented his Handstitch Sewing Machine. In 1861 he invented a hot air engine and filed several patents for a hot air engines. He eventually succeeded in building engines ranging from 1 to 4 HP. In 1869 over 200 roper's air engines were in operation. Roper worked for the Springfield Armory during the Civil War. Roper's work eventually came to the attention of other inventors and engineers of the area, including Elias Howe, Alvan Clark, Christopher Miner Spencer. Roper was observed driving his steam carriage around Boston in 1863. One such 1863 carriage went to the Henry Ford Museum.
Roper invented the first shotgun choke, short tubes that could be threaded onto, or removed from, the outside of the shotgun barrel to vary the shot spread to suit different targets and ranges. Roper and Christopher Miner Spencer were granted a joint patent for a repeating shotgun mechanism on April 4, 1882. Later, on April 21, 1885, Roper alone obtained a patent for an improved shotgun loading mechanism. Roper and his son, Charles, designed a factory producing screw making equipment, which Charles Roper continued to manage after his father's death.
Death while riding
On June 1, 1896, Roper rode one of his later velocipede models, a Pope Manufacturing Company Columbia bicycle with a steam engine added, to the Charles River bicycle track, near Harvard Bridge, Cambridge, Massachusetts where he made several laps, pacing bicyclists there, including professional rider Tom Butler who could not keep up with the steam powered machine. Roper was clocked at 2 minutes 1.4 seconds for the flying mile, for a top speed 40 mph (64 km/h) He was seen to be unstable and then fall on the track, suffering a head wound, and was found dead. After autopsy, the cause of death was found to be heart failure, although it is unknown if the crash was the cause of the stress on his heart, or if his heart failed prior to the crash.
List of patents
|U.S. Patent 2,848||Padlock||November 9, 1842|
|U.S. Patent 34,723||Improvement in Hot-Air Engines||March 18, 1862|
|U.S. Patent 53,881||Improvement In Revolving Fire-Arms||April 10, 1866|
|U.S. Patent 79,861||Improvements In Detachable Muzzle For Shot-Guns||July 14, 1868|
|U.S. Patent 94,135||Improvement In Knitting-Machine||August 24, 1869|
|U.S. Patent 117,931||Improvement In Knitting-Machines||August 8, 1871|
|U.S. Patent 255,894||Magazine Fire-Arm||April 4, 1882||Christopher M. Spencer|
|U.S. Patent 262,321||Metal-Screw Machine||August 8, 1882||Charles F. Roper|
|U.S. Patent 300,736||Metal-Screw Machine||June 17, 1884||Charles F. Roper|
|U.S. Patent 409,429||Magazine-Gun||August 20, 1889|
|U.S. Patent 413,734||Magazine Fire-Arm||October 29, 1889|
|U.S. Patent 514,094||Fire-Escape||February 6, 1894|
|U.S. Patent 516,117||Fire Escape||March 6, 1894|
- Cochrane, W. R. (1895), History of Francestown, N.H. : from its earliest settlement April, 1758, to January 1, 1891 : with a brief genealogical record of all the Francestown families, Francestown, N.H., pp. 317, 903–904
- "Died; Roper— At Cambridge. 1st inst., Sylvester H. Roper, 72 yrs, 6 monts, 8 dys.", Boston Daily Advertiser, Boston, Massachusetts (132), p. 8, 3 June 1896
- "S. H. Roper, of Roxbury[...]", Lowell Daily Citizen and News, Lowell, Massachusetts (2050), 6 January 1863,
S. H. Roper, of Roxbury, has invented a steam wagon for common roads, which stops, turns corners, backs, 'keeps to the right as the law directs,' and does many other intelligent things under the hands of a skilful driver.
- "Miscellaneous Items; Mr Sylvester H Roper of Roxbury, Mass has invented a steam carriage…", New Haven Daily Palladium, New Haven, Connecticut (52), 3 March 1863
- Pearson, Drew (May 16, 1965), "Ford Museum Houses U.S. History", Daytona Beach Sunday News-Journal, p. 8, retrieved 2011-02-06
- McCann, Hugh (2 April 1972), "Museum Traces History of Wheels", The New York Times, pp. IA27
- See also:
- "Died in the Saddle", Boston Daily Globe, p. 1, 2 June 1896
- Falco, Charles M.; Guggenheim Museum Staff (1998), "Issues in the Evolution of the Motorcycle", in Krens, Thomas; Drutt, Matthew, The Art of the Motorcycle, Harry N. Abrams, pp. 24–31, 98–101, ISBN 0-89207-207-5
Michaux-Perreaux year 1868. Roper year 1869.
- Setright, L. J. K. (1979). The Guinness Book of Motorcycling Facts and Feats. Guinness Superlatives. pp. 8–18. ISBN 0-85112-200-0
Michaux-Perreaux year 1867
- Kresnak, Bill (2008), Motorcycling for Dummies, Hoboken, New Jersey: For Dummies, Wiley Publishing, p. 29, ISBN 0-470-24587-5
Roper year 1869.
- Kerr, Glynn (August 2008), "Design; The Conspiracy Theory", Motorcycle Consumer News, Irvine, California: Aviation News Corp, vol. 39 no. 8, pp. 36–37, ISSN 1073-9408
Roper year 1869.
- American Motorcyclist Association (2002), "Sylvester Roper; American inventor and transportation pioneer who built a steam-powered motorcycle in 1869", AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, retrieved 2011-01-27 Roper year 1869
- Simpson, Layne (February–March 2005), "All choked up: all you need to know about interchangeable chokes", Hunting, pp. 30(2)
- US 255894, Christopher Miner Spencer & Sylvester H. Roper, "Magazine Fire-Arm", issued 4 April 1882
- US 316401, Sylvester H. Roper, "Magazine Fire-Arm", issued 21 April 1885
- The history is unclear if this refers to Manchester (town), New York, Manchester (village), New York, or Manchester, New Hampshire and New York state
- "Married; At Providence, 20th inst. Mr. Sylvester H Roper and Miss Almira D. Hill, both of Boston.", Emancipator and Weekly Chronicle, Boston, Massachusetts (1), p. 4, 30 April 1845
- "Roper's Hot Air Engine patents". hotairengines.org.
- Girdler, Allan (February 1998), "First Fired, First Forgotten", Cycle World, Newport Beach, California: Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., vol. 37 no. 2, pp. 62–70, ISSN 0011-4286Michaux-Perreaux year 1868. Roper year 1868
- The same Tom Butler was overtaken 10 feet from the finish by Major Taylor in the 1899 world 1 mile (1.6 km) track cycling championship. See Porter, David L. (1995), African-American sports greats: a biographical dictionary, ABC-CLIO, p. 334, ISBN 0-313-28987-5, retrieved 2011-02-09
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sylvester H. Roper.|
- d'Orléans, Paul (21 April 2011), "Roper Steam Velocipedes", The Vintagent, retrieved 2011-11-15
- Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction; 1894 Roper Steam Motorcycle, Auctions America by RM Auctions, 2011, archived from the original on 2011-11-04, retrieved 2011-11-14
- on YouTube Demonstration of working replica of 1894 Roper velocipede by Pete Gagan of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America.
- "Roper Repeating Shotgun", National Firearms Museum, National Rifle Association, retrieved 2011-11-15