The History of New York State
Biographies, Part 56

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



A volume could be written around the ideas and achievements of Crosby Field. He is an independent and daring thinker, at least in the field of engineering. His scientific approach to all other problems has, of course, kept him clear of vagaries such as those in sociological and economic thought which the term radicalism ha come to connote. Yet, many of his opinions and practices in dealing with human and business problems are not without originality. That he does not reverence precedent or what has cone to be considered as established technic is indicated by the interesting fact that many of the forty-odd devices on which patents have already been granted to him were declared at first to be unworkable, contrary to know natural laws, etc., by the patent office or other recognized experts. A striking example illustrating this originality occurred early in Mr. Field's career while in the employ of the General Electric Company. He had been instructed to find a way to render more effective the type of lightning arrester then in use. The young engineer suggested to the famous Steinmetz that while some improvement might be made in the old device, what was needed was something radically different, and he explained his notion of how the desired end might be attained. Upon hearing this, Steinmetz, after paying a diplomatic compliment to the young man's acumen, advised him to the effect that if he could apply himself to the solution of the problem assigned to him, he could accomplish the desired result; and that if he would follow what in common parlance, would be called the beaten trail, he might, some day, become a great engineer. These are not Steinmetz's exact words, but they accurately convey his thought. Well, as young Field told his friends, it made him so angry that he went to a drugstore, bought the necessary chemicals with his own money, constructed the arrester in his own time--and presented it to Steinmetz. True scientist that he was, Steinmetz admitted that the young man was right; and Field's oxide film lightning arrester is in general use today.

The courage of his convictions has always been one of Mr. Field's outstanding characteristics. But these convictions rest upon no speculative fantasy; he has confidence in his own judgment because, before it is formed, he considers every technical phase of a given problem; he is thoroughly acquainted with every branch of science involved in the solution of that problem; and in his careful and thorough analysis of it he permits no detail to escape consideration. What a man does it merely the concrete expression of his thoughts; so, a much space will be given in this article to a statement of some of Mr. Field's striking ideas as to his engineering achievements; for a technical description of the latter would mean little to a large percentage of the readers of this history. Like all men of his type, Mr. Field can be persuaded to say but little about himself; so, for the data on which this sketch is based it has been necessary to resort to the libraries and to his friends and associates.

Crosby Field is a representative of one of

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New England's oldest families--on that has emblazoned many illustrious names on the pages of American history. Fortunately, a very comprehensive genealogy of the Field family has been published. From it we learn that the branch of the family of which Mr. Field is a representative, first became identified with this State when his ancestor, Tyler Field, who was born in Brattlesboro, Vermont, removed to Middleport, New York. That was in 1831. The next year he became a resident of Jamestown, where, long afterward, Crosby Field was born. Tyler Field's father was Captain Samuel Field, who enlisted in Amherst, Massachusetts (his native town), as a private in Captain Noadiah Leonard's company, Colonel Ruggles Woodbridge's regiment, which marched on the alarm of April 19, 1775. Later, he re-enlisted under the same officers, in the 25th Regiment and was made captain of a company. In 1777, he also served as corporal in Captain Moses Harvey's company, Colonel David Wells' regiment. He became a resident of Brattlesboro, Vermont, and died there. He was a direct descendant of Zechariah Field, who was born in East Ardsley, Yorkshire, England, in 1596, and was a resident of Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1629. He became a resident of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1636, the year the town was settled by Rev. Thomas Hooker and his followers. Zechariah Field was one of the forty-two men sent from that town to take part in the Pequot War. Later, he was one of the original settlers of the town of Hatfield, Massachusetts.

Crosby field was born in Jamestown, this State, March 12, 1889. His father was a clergyman and his mother was a member of the southern branch of the Crosby family, which settled originally in Massachusetts in the Colonial period. Her education was as good as a reconstructed South could provide; but she was a woman of high ideals and her formal schooling did not measure up to her high standard. She determined that the best to be had was none too good for her son. Being an only child, Crosby was given about all the book knowledge a youngster could absorb, and the result was, as he tells it now, he suffered from too much education. Not that Mr. field does not believe in education; but his observation and experience have taught him that much of what passes for education instead of teaching youth the technics of thinking merely crams their minds with so-called facts; and then these youths come from school and college imbued with the idea the they possess a fund of knowledge absolute and final in character that will prove adequate to all the exigencies of life.

According to his family, Crosby Field gave clear evidence of a bent toward engineering at he early age of six. At any rate, he was not much older than that when he became aware o the sort of vocation he would follow; so, whenever permitted he chose courses of study and instructors that would best enable him to realize his ambition. When the time came to go to college he was not influenced by the reputations of institutions as such, but went where he would come under the instruction of professors who could aid him in acquiring the training he wanted. He last five years of his pre-college education were spent at the famous old Trinity Chapel Episcopal parochial School in New York City. Then he matriculated in New York University, where he would come into contact with such leaders as Lamb and Rosanoff; from there he went to Cornell university to study under men of such reputation as Karapetoff and Church; and to Union University to contact with Berg and Steinmetz. In 1909, Mr. Field graduated from New York University with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Exact Science; then followed three years' work at Cornell University, where he received the degree of Mechanical Engineer with Certificate in Electrical Engineering in 1912. During the next two years he pursued advanced courses in engineering in Union University, which gave him the degree of Master of Science in Electrical Engineering in 1914.

Mr. Field believes that really there is only one engineering science; that what are recognized as special divisions, such as mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, etc., are relics of an old, over-developed belief in specialization and that they should be abolished. In this connection it is interesting to note that Dr. Harvey N. Davis, recently elected as president of Stevens Institute of Technology, has expressed himself as holding a similar view. The reason for Mr. Field's belief is that every one of the engineering problems that he has attempted to solve has involved most, if not all, of the specialized engineering functions. A problem has to be solved from the bottom up and the line of division follows the exigencies of the problem without any specialized divisions of engineering science. What is necessary to master in order to practice engineering is the engineering method and how to apply it to new problems as they

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arise. The only logical basis that Mr. Field can see for specialized divisions of engineering is the following: civil and mechanical, whose method is limited by the predominating factor of cost, with time as secondary actor; military engineering, in which cost receives little consideration, time being all important; hence its methods are entirely different from the former. Mechanical engineering differs from civil engineering in that the latter designs on a large lass basis with practically no motion--highways, bridges, aqueducts, dams, etc.--and the units are the mile and the ton. The former deals with comparatively small masses but large movements and therein the units are the inch and the pound. Electrical engineering is simply a branch of mechanical engineering in which certain curious phenomena take place under certain conditions of mechanical movement. Likewise, chemical engineering is purely mechanical engineering in which certain other properties--so-called chemical or reactive properties--ate of the most importance. The fundamentals of engineering remain the same; but the rapid changes in industrial life require new specialties that change from year to year. It is like the old family doctor and the modern surgeon. Mr. Field believes that a general practitioner of engineering is like the former, treating symptoms as they arise; but when an occasion fro radical treatment arrives, it maybe necessary to call upon the highly specialized knowledge and skill of the surgeon to perform an operation. In his practice of engineering Mr. Field selects the surgical cases, as will appear when some of his inventions are described.

During the two years in which Mr. field was doing post-graduate work at Union University he was also employed in the consulting engineering department of the General Electric Company at Schenectady. This was his first practical professional experience. Then he felt that the time had come to venture into practice on his own account as consulting engineer. So, in 1914, he opened an office in New York City; and a humble beginning it was. Clients were few and far between and "financial recourses" a euphemism for an almost negative situation as to tokens of wealth. But he possessed a capital of thorough scientific training and unbounded courage, ambition, energy and determination. Among the clients he secured was a dye company which had splendid potential possibilities, but did not seem to be getting anywhere. They were pioneering ina new field, and Mr. Field saw that all that was needed was what he called ordinary good management. Probably that was his modest way of looking at what less astute minds might consider perplexing problems. Anyway, under the guidance of himself and associates, the balance was put on the right side of the ledger, and the business was purchased by a larger company in the same field and Mr. Field was made chief engineer of the company.

True to family traditions of patriotism, Mr. Field has always felt that a man owes it to his country to have some form of military training and to be ready for duty in time of national need. Accordingly he was one of the first men commissioned under the new Reserve Corps Act of 1916, and he entered the service as a first lieutenant in the Ordnance Reserve Corps, and assisted in organizing the inspection division of the ordinance department. He went to England as a member of a committee to investigate the new explosives and the latest methods the British had developed for loading shells. Upon his return to this country he was made chief of the chemicals, loading and explosives section of the inspection division, ordnance department, United States Army, with the rank of major, and had about three thousand men under him. After the war he was retired with the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the Ordnance Reserve Corps, United States Army.

In 1919, Mr. Field was made vice-president and a director of the Chemical Machinery Corporation and the Chemical Machinery Construction Company, and until 1923 he was also engineering manager of the National Aniline and Chemical Company. Much ice is used in these industries, and it was while he was with the last-named company that his attention was arrested by the fact that about half of the 40,000,0000 tons of ice consumed annually in this country is used in crushed or flake form. So he began to study the problem of producing ice ina flaked form; for his knowledge of refrigeration told him that if the necessary mechanical obstacle could be overcome, flaked ice could be produced at a much lower cost then the slow method of freezing cakes and afterward crushing or shaving them. The details of his process are described in a paper presented at the annual meeting of then American Society of Refrigerating engineers, New York City, December 5-8, 1928. The product has been trade-marked under the name "Flakice." It consists of thin sheets of ice produced on the outside of a drum or cylinder, which contains a brine refrigerant, and which rotates in water. The cylinder wall is somewhat

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flexible, and at the desired stages in the freezing process this wall flexed by means of mechanically controlled rolls in such a way that the thin sheets of ice that have been formed on the surface of the cylinder are broken into small flakes averaging an eighth of an inch thick; but the thickness can be controlled as is shown by the act that sheets three feet long by one feet wide and eight inches thick have been produced. Mr. Field is president of the Flakice Corporation.

His oxide film lightning arrester has already been referred to. He has also designed improvements in carborundum lightning arresters and other high potential protective devices, low frequency induction systems of electric heating and coherer type discharge alarms. His inventions also include improved packaging and conveying machines, machinery and appliances for solidifying liquids, improvements in utilizing mercury vapor for heating, cooling and general temperature control of substances undergoing chemical reactions, and methods and machinery for subliming, drying, pulverizing reducing and nitrating various products. He now has about thirty patents pending.

Perhaps the most striking of Mr. Field's inventions are his machines for manufacturing what is popularly known as "steel wool." Probably no clearer or more comprehensive, yet terse, description of this product can be given than the following, which is quoted from a paper written by Mr. Field for presentation to the 1927 annual meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and which was published in the December, 1927, issue of "Mechanical Engineering."

Steel wool consists of long silky fibers shaved from steel. A mass of such fibers, particularly when felted or padded, bears a most striking resemblance to wool, whence its name. . . . .

Steel wool consists, therefore, of long, relatively strong and resilient steel shavings of polygonal cross-section, usually triangular, but always possessing three or more sharp edges. This characteristic renders it as excellent abrasive, a strong competitor of sandpaper and similar abrasives in the woodworking industry. The fact that its cutting characteristics vary with the size of the fiber, which is readily controlled in manufacture, has enabled it to carve out for itself special markets where it supremacy is unchallenged, such as the household, and especially the kitchen, particularly for rapid cleaning of aluminum and other cooking utensils. The coarser grades are used to a large degree by painters for the preparation of their surfaces.

While this product was originated in Germany its manufacture is now centered in the United States, where about three thousand tons are produced annually, ninety per cent of this by three manufacturers, and more than half by the Brillo Manufacturing Company, of which Mr. Field is vice-president.

The only point which Mr. Field's machine has in common with others designed for the same purpose is that it uses wire and a similar cutting tool. The Brillo-Field machine makes two thousand cuts at two thousand points on the same wire at the same time. Idleness due to stops have been reduced to less than ten per cent of the time run. Both single-unit and multi-unit plants are controlled, insofar as starting, stopping, speed and wire-tension control are concerned, from a central switchboard, and once started, the control is entirely automatic until the operation is interrupted by a flaw in the material or the using up of the wire on the feed drum. Twelve workers operating one machine of this type are turning out the same quantity of product that formerly it required one hundred and ninety to produce, and the product is of a higher and more uniform standard of excellence. This one machine does the work of one hundred and fifty of the machines it supplanted. Three to six pounds of wool per hour was a fair average product from the old type of machine; the cutting capacity of the Brillo-Field machine is seven thousand pounds per hour.

In 1921 Mr. Field became vice-president and secretary of the Brillo Manufacturing Company, and since 1924 has been vice-resident and a director of Gray Products, Incorporated. Such is his capacity for thought and work that all the while that he has participated actively in the management and direction of these industries, he has carried on his regular practice as a consulting engineer. Withal he has found time to prepare original and learned papers for presentation before organizations of scientific men and has written many articles for technical journals. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Chemical Society, American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Society of Refrigerating Engineers, American Electro-chemical Society. He is also a member of the Army Ordnance Association and the Chamber of Commerce, and Crescent Athletic Club of Brooklyn. He holds a Phi Beta Kappa key and is a member of Phi Kappa Alpha Society, the Masonic Fraternity, and the Engineers', Andiron and Chemists' clubs of New York City.

On November 23, 1916, Crosby Field, married Ethel May Henriksen, daughter of Harry Hen-

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riksen, of Monrovia, California. Three children have been born from this union: 1. Margaret Roberta, 2. Dorothy Henrietta, and 3. Mary Ethel Patricia.

Something of the color and quality of Crosby Field's personality and character can be inferred from what ha already been set forth in this sketch. He believes that if a man is going to devote a certain proportion of his time to labor--and the necessities of substance compel most of us to do this--it is the part of wisdom to choose as a field of labor one in which the individual can find fullest scope for the exercise of his powers and ina way that will yield him the largest return or his time and labor. And, after all, taking it by and large, such return is not an unfair measure of the individual's worth to society, if the individual be engaged in worthwhile enterprise. Some idea of Mr. Field's attitude toward his own work and his reaction to life may e gained from the following quotations rearranged from his article, "Mechanical Invention as a Form of Expression," which appeared in "Mechanical Engineering," June, 1928:

There is an art of mechanical invention, and this art differs from both engineering and mechanics and is truly one of the several forms of expression of the creative imagination; the other forms have been re-organized as art. The sources of inspiration are similar; there is an established technique of development very like the technique of development of the other forms and, in fact, identical with some of the other forms in its early stages. The principal difference is in the size and the concept of movement of its parts, and the results thereof. All art is visualization of an idea; this visualization partakes of a threefold nature. First, the art must denote something specific, a given shape. Next, it must by connotation being forth visions not specifically denoted. And, finally, the visualization must be the producer of another vision--the effect of he work upon the race. Works of art other than mechanical inventions require human interpreter throughout; a mechanical invention once perfected will cause the laws of nature to realize all three aspects of the visualization without further presence of the interpreter.

When it comes to the daily work of an inventor, he may be compared with an explorer. The same qualities are required--the piercing into the unknown, the inspiration to followers, the resourcefulness at each step, the conquering of nature in her violent moods, all making them brothers-in -arms. Two qualities they must have in common: courage and energy--courage to follow the trail to its end, and then, beyond, courage to meet all comers, materials, forces, age, fatigue, persons; and energy to eliminate them as obstacles from the pathway. Energy is indeed essential; and owes its high position in the inventor's make-up to his handicap of time; were time not an essential in the development of an invention, then courage alone might suffice.

Writers on religion, philosophy, and economics and other worthy fellow-artists have been struggling for centuries with the problems of acclimating men to his environment with the utmost happiness. We need them. They have all done great and noble work, but I can make huge claims for the benefits of the mechanical invention as a form of expression, as made for us in our social and economic life. The workers have come up from huts and serfdom. Human slavery has been abolished almost everywhere, and these things have been done principally because of the inventor, followed by the allies, the engineers and chemists. The reason that the slave is no longer to be found in all counties is not an abstract law against slavery, but the fact that the iron slaves of countless inventors now stand ready to do your bidding. A free man in the old days was indeed wealthy if he had more then two or three slaves. Today every one of us utilizes thirty. In those countries where the effects of mechanical invention have not been felt the slave ship still travels, and the cessation of slavery cannot be accomplished by guns. It can be accomplished only by the substitution of the iron slave.


To be successful as a manufacturer, a politician and an agriculturist requires ability of a high order, and as such we present William H. Manning, of Saratoga springs, who has become a prominent factor in all three lines of endeavor and therefore is well worthy of emulation for the sake of posterity.

His father, John A. Manning, was the son of William H. Manning, the former having founded in the Manning & Peckham Paper Company in 1840 at Troy, New York, and was thus engaged in the manufacture of rope Manila paper for many years. The firm later became the John A. Manning Paper Company. John A. Manning continued to carry on the industry until his death in 1900. He married Mary B. Warren, of Troy, New York, and to them were born: 1. George Warren, deceased. 2. John A., Jr. 3. C. Stuart. Deceased. 4. Mary B., who married Colonel W. W. Gibson, United States Army; and 5. William H., of whom further.

William H. Manning, son of the late John A. and Mary B. (Warren) Manning, was born in Troy, on April 8, 1867, and received his preliminary education at St. Paul's School and Troy High School. Later he attended the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, leaving that institution in order to enter his father's business, in which he continued until the older man's death in 1900. At this time he became actively engaged in agricultural pursuits, owning and operating a farm of five hundred acres at Saratoga Lake, where he now resides. From the time Mr. Manning entered into this particular line of endeavor he has always been vitally interested and active in all of the agricultural organizations of Saratoga County--the Grange, Dairymen's League, Farm Bureau.

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Sheep Breeders' and Poultry Association, and was president of the Saratoga Agricultural Society for a number of years. He is a member of the executive committee of the State Agricultural Society, and a director of the State Breeders Association. Particularly has Mr. Manning devoted his attention to promoting the poultry industry of New York State, having served for many years as vice-president of the State Federation of Poultry Associations. He re-organized the poultry department of the State Fair in 1913, and served as superintendent of this department for eleven years.

Early in his career, Mr. Manning interested himself in the affairs of the Democratic Party, and soon became active in political life, serving both as chairman of his County Committee and as member of the State Committee. He represented the town of Malta on the Board of supervisor in 1911, and in 1912 was his party's choice for member of the Assembly, being defeated by less than four hundred votes in a strong republican district. He was selected by Governor John A. Dix for president of the Saratoga Battle Monument commission in 1912, on the occasion of the dedication of the battle monument at Schuylerville, commemorating the surrender of Burgoyne. By appointment of Governor Martin H. Glynn he served for five years as a member of the board of the State Experimental Station at Geneva. In 1916 he went to St. Louis as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, at which the late Woodrow Wilson was re-nominated for the Presidency of the United States. He was tendered an appointment by Secretary McAdoo as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, but declined this honor, preferring to continue his agricultural connections. On January 11, 1926, he was appointed by Governor Alfred E. Smith as member of the State Fair Commission, serving thus until the commission was abolished in 1927.

It is hardly necessary to say that when his county called for aid at the time of the World War, Mr. Manning gave abundantly of his time and money to further any project for this worthy cause. Specifically, he conducted the War Savings Stamp campaign in Saratoga County, and also served as chairman of the million-acre wheat campaign.

Mr. Manning is affiliated with Saratoga Spring Lodge, No. 163, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and Delta Phi Fraternity of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is vice- president of the Saratoga Golf Club; member of Metropolitan and the Riding and Hunt clubs of Washington, District of Columbia; member of St. Bernard's Fish and Game Club of Quebec, Canada, and of the Gunston Cove Club of Fairfax County, Virginia.

In June, 1904, William H. Manning married Fannie B. Morton, and they are the parents of two sons: 1. William H., Jr., born in 1905, 2. John A. (2), born in February, 1914.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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