Thomas Davenport (inventor)

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Thomas Davenport
Thomas Davenport.jpg
Davenport c. 1850
Born(1802-07-09)July 9, 1802
DiedJuly 6, 1851(1851-07-06) (aged 48)
Resting placePine Hill Cemetery, Brandon, Vermont
EmployerOrange Smalley
Known forinventing the electric motor
SpouseEmily (Goss) Davenport (m. 1827-1851, his death)
Signature of Thomas Davenport (1802–1851).png

Thomas Davenport (July 9, 1802 – July 6, 1851) was a Vermont blacksmith who constructed the first American DC electric motor in 1834.[1]


Davenport was born in Williamstown, Vermont. He lived in Forest Dale, a village near the town of Brandon.

As early as 1834, he developed a battery-powered electric motor. He used it to operate a small model car on a short section of track, paving the way for the later electrification of streetcars.[2]

Davenport's 1833 visit to the Penfield and Taft iron works at Crown Point, New York, where an electromagnet was operating, based on the design of Joseph Henry, was an impetus for his electromagnetic undertakings. Davenport bought an electromagnet from the Crown Point factory and took it apart to see how it worked. Then he forged a better iron core and redid the wiring, using silk from his wife's wedding gown.[3]

With his wife Emily and colleague Orange Smalley, Davenport received the first American patent on an electric machine in 1837, U. S. Patent No. 132.[4] In 1840, he printed The Electro-Magnetic and Mechanics Intelligencer, making it the first magazine to be printed with electricity.[5]

In 1849, Charles Grafton Page, the Washington scientist and inventor, commenced a project to build an electromagnetically powered locomotive, with substantial funds appropriated by the US Senate. Davenport challenged the expenditure of public funds, arguing for the motors he had already invented. In 1851, Page's full sized electromagnetically operated locomotive was put to a calamity-laden test on the rail line between Washington and Baltimore.[6]


  1. ^ a b Thomas Davenport Archived October 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Electrifying America by David E. Nye, p. 86, from Google Books. Retrieved February 14, 2009.
  3. ^ Schiffer, 2008, pp. 65-66.
  4. ^ "Improvement in propelling machinery by magnetism and electro-magnetism". Retrieved February 27, 2011.
  5. ^ The Electrical Journal. D. B. Adams. September 9, 1882. p. 399. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  6. ^ Post,(1976), pp. 89-90.

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