User:SMcCandlish/Incubator/William Hoskins (inventor)

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William Hoskins, with daughter Florence and wife Ada, ca. 1885-1890

William Hoskins (born 1862, Covington, Kentucky; died 1934, La Grange, Illinois)[1][2][3] was an American inventor, chemist, electrical engineer and entrepreneur in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most active in Chicago, Illinois. He became the co-inventor in 1897 of modern billiard chalk with professional carom billiards player William A. Spinks[4][5] He is, however, best known for the invention of the electric heating coil, the basis for numerous ubiquitous household and industrial appliances, including space heaters and toasters, and the invention of the first electric toaster.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

  • Parents John and Mary Ann Hoskins[3]
  • completed 2 of 3 years of high school[1]
  • Conflicting source: Graduated class of 1879, Chicago High School[3]
  • no formal education in chemistry[1] but received "private instruction" in the field[3]
  • at age thirteen, joined the Illinois State Microscopical Society; at seventeen, the Society elected him secretary[2]

Work History:

  • 1880 (age seventeen) prepared chemical analysis samples[1] for Chicago-based consulting and analytical chemist Prof. Guy A. Mariner in the latter's commercial laboratory,[2] starting February 1880[3]
  • As of 1880, Mariner was one of the few completely commercial chemists in Chicago. (only 3)[1]
  • became Mariner's partner - firm renamed Mariner and Hoskins[1][2] (1885)[3]
  • After becoming a partner, Hoskins married Mariner's daughter,[1] Ada Mae[2]/May[3], December 18, 1883[3]
  • 1890 became sole proprietor[2][3]
  • Chilren: Minna, Edward, William, Florence[3]


  • became a partner in William A. Spinks & Co.[2][3] (1897)[2]
  • (1911 or earlier):
  • Hoskins was a charter member of the Chicago section of American Chemical Society (ACS)[1][6]). He served as chairman in 1897,[6] and also served as the national ACS's vice-president (1911 or earlier)[3]
  • 1917 became president of Hoskins Process Development Co.[2]

Hoskins became a recognized scientific expert witness in lawsuits[1], took out 37 US patents[1], and in his lab, Albert L. Marsh developed nichrome (Hoskins played a direct part).[1] Hoskins' own innovations include a superior billiard chalk, materials used to construct race tracks (including the Washington Park Race Tracks in Chicago), safety paper for bank checks, a method for destroying weeds, and a gasoline blowtorch.[2]

Not surprisingly for a businessman, he was a Republican.[3]

Lived in La Grange.[3]

Enjoyed playing music.[3] CHiC1: Mariner a 1854 graduate of the Lawrence Scientific School at Harvard

CHiC1: held in highest esteem by the Chicago chemical community

Billiard chalk[edit]

Box top of a box of 1 dozen cubes of William A. Spinks Company billiard chalk, ca. 1900-1910. Note the endorsement by Jacob Schaefer Sr.

In the late 1800s, actual chalk (generally calcium carbonate, also known as calcite or carbonate of lime) was often used in cue sports on the leather tips of cue sticks to better grip the cue ball, but players experimented with other powdery, abrasive substances, since chalk itself was too abrasive, and over time damaged the game equipment.[7][8] In 1892,[8] The aforementioned straight rail billiards pro, William Spinks, was particularly impressed by a piece of natural chalk-like substance obtained in France, and presented it to Hoskins for analysis. Hoskins, having incidentally encountered such material before was able to quickly determine that it was volcanic ash (pumice) originally probably from Mount Etna, Sicily. Together, the two of them experimented with different formulations to achieve the cue ball "action" that Spinks sought.[4]

They settled on a mixture of Illinois-sourced[4] silica with small amounts of the abasive substance corundum or aloxite[5] (aluminum oxide, AL2O3),[9][10] founding the William A. Spinks Company in Chicago[4] after securing a patent on 9 March 1897[5]. Spinks later left the company, but it retained his name and was subsequently run by Hoskins, and later by Hoskins's cousin[4] Edmund F. Hoskin,[11] after Hoskins moved on to other projects.

The William A. Spinks Company product (which is still emulated by modern manufacturers today with slightly different, proprietary silicate compounds) effectively revolutionized billiards,[7][8] by providing a cue tip friction enhancer that allowed the tip to grip the cue ball briefly[5] and impart a previously unattainable amount of "english" (spin),[8] which consequently allowed more precise and more extreme cue ball control, made miscuing less likely, made curve and massé shots plausible, and ultimately spawned the new cue sport of artistic billiards. Even the basic draw and follow shots of pocket billiards (pool) depend heavily on the effects and properties of modern billiard "chalk".


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "C.H.i.C. Timeline 1843-1880", A Guide to the Chemical History of Chicago, Chemical History in Chicago Project, date unspecified; accessed 24 February 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "CHiC Details: Hoskins, William", A Guide to the Chemical History of Chicago, Chemical History in Chicago Project, date unspecified; accessed 24 February 2007
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Leonard, John William (1911). ""William Hoskins" entry". The Book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Chicago. Vol. 2. self-published. pp. p. 343.  Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (|author= suggested) (help) The entry can also be found on p. 296 of the orig. 1905 ed. Subsequent editions (1917, 1926) were titled Who's Who in Chicago.
  4. ^ a b c d e "The World's Most Tragic Man Is the One Who Never Starts", Clark, Neil M.; originally published in The American magazine, May 1927; republished in hotwire: The Newsletter of the Toaster Museum Foundation, vol. 3, no. 3, online edition accessed February 24 2007. The piece is largely an interview of Hoskins.
  5. ^ a b c d U.S. Patent 0,578,514, 9 March 1897
  6. ^ a b [1]
  7. ^ a b Tobey, Eddie (November 9, 2006). "Billiards Chalk",; retrieved February 24, 2007. Blocked URL: [unreliable source?]
  8. ^ a b c d "Billiards — The Transformation Years: 1845-1897", Russell, Michael;, 23 December 2005; retrieved 24 February 2007. The article was used as the source for CSI, season 6, episode "Time of Your Death", in which pool chalk plays a small but crucial role; the show perpetuated the "axolite" for "aloxite" error in this article.
  9. ^ "Aloxite", database, retrieved 24 February 2007.
  10. ^ "Substance Summary: Aluminum Oxide", PubChem Database, National Library of Medicine, US National Institutes of Health, retrieved 24 February 2007.
  11. ^ U.S. Patent 1,524,132, 27 January 1925


Category:American carom billiards players ?? Category:American inventors Category:American chemists Category:Cue sports non-player personalities Category:Date of birth missing Category:Date of death missing