Rufus Porter
(May 1, 1792 - August 13, 1884)

Artist, musician, teacher, promotor, inventor and founder of Scientific American magazine
A 20th Century man born in the 18th and lived in the 19th Century


Rufus Porter, born May 1, 1792 in West Boxford, Massachusetts, and died August 13, 1884 is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, West Haven, Connecticut.

Porter started school when he was 4 years old in West Boxford, Massachusetts. He later attended Fryeburg Academy at the age of 12 for six months. At 21 he had taught painting and music. By 1816 Porter had married Eunice Twombly and was living in New Haven, Connecticut where he was conducting a dancing school and started portrait painting.

During the years 1818-1819 Porter made a trading voyage to the Northwest Coast and Hawaii, in 1819 and 1820 we find Porter traveling by coach and on foot painting portraits throughout New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. During the years 1825-1826 Porter published four editions of A Select Collection of Valuable and Curious Arts, and Interesting Experiments in Concord, New Hampshire. Throughout the 1830's he painted murals in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts

Porter patented a distance measuring appliance, a horsepower mechanism, a churn, a life preserver, a cheese press, and a revolving rifle. The rights to the revolving rifle were sold to Samuel Colt for 100 dollars. He experimented with a wind powered gristmill, a washing machine, a corn sheller, a fire alarm, a cord making machine and a camera.

In 1841 he bought interest in the New York Mechanic 1841-1842, published and edited the New York Mechanic in New York (later changed to the American Mechanic in 1842 and published in Boston). In this journal he published his plans for the rotary plow, hot air ventilation system, and advertised his general patent agency run in connection with the paper.

True to form, he soon lost interest and ceased publishing the American Mechanic. Later, in 1845, he started the weekly, The Scientific American. Ten months later, Porter sold the new weekly to Orson Desaix Munn (June 11, 1824 - February 28, 1907) and Alfred Ely Beach (September 1, 1826 - January 1, 1896). Late in the summer of 1847 Porter (in New York at 128 Fulton Street) with C.H. Brainard (at Washington, near the Patent Office, D.C. edited and published the Scientific Mechanic, the "Inventors' Avocate, Patent Office Reporter, and Expositor of Arts and Trades"

He was described as 'A Yankee Da Vinci' with a 'grasshopperish interest' in a very interesting Time Magazine (September 7, 1970 p. 45) article.

You can read Porter's first issue of Scientific American (as well as a few more) at 19th Century Scientific American Home Page.

To be continued...

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Old_tools/rufuspor updated April 3rd, 2007
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