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Frank Henry Sleeper (1862-1937)

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medium_sleeper.jpgBorn in Coaticook in 1862 and educated at the Coaticook Academy, Frank Henry Sleeper was the nephew of industrialist Lewis Sleeper, and the son of mechanical inventor Wright Sleeper, both also of Coaticook. From a very early age, Frank Henry Sleeper, like his father, was fascinated by the intricate workings of machinery. In time, he came to understand machines so well that he began to design them himself. He eventually became a leading inventor and manufacturer of machines of all kinds, including manually operated agricultural and industrial devices and electric and steam machines.

By the early 1900s, Sleeper had made such a name for himself that he was hired by a firm in Worcester, Massachusetts, for whom he went to work as an engineer. After a few years, he launched into business on his own, becoming President of the Sleeper & Hartley Company, a manufacturer of machines to make springs and wire.

Sleeper is credited with inventing and building about 500 different machines. According to historian Orra L. Stone, the "boldness and originality" of Sleeper's inventions was equalled only by "the remarkable perfection of the mechanical details. In every field entered he has produced new types of improved machinery, marking radical advances upon anything previously done."

medium_norton.jacks_.jpgIn the early 1890s, Sleeper pioneered the development of electrical apparatuses, including various types of generators and motors. His other electrical inventions included transformers and automatic voltage regulators. Sleeper produced numerous devices in the field of machine tools, including lathes, upright drills, punches, shears, and presses. He invented and built rotary steam engines, apple juice extractors, printing presses, paper cutters, a pneumatic pump, a nail-making machine, and many other devices. He also held numerous patents related to the manufacture of wire and springs, the line in which his Worcester company specialized.

Among Sleeper's most successful inventions were his lifting jacks. He is perhaps best known for the jack he invented fairly early in his career for use in railways. The rights to this device were purchased by Coaticook industrialist Arthur Osmore Norton, who gave it the name that it was known by -- the "Norton Jack."

Frank Henry Sleeper was married in Coaticook in 1883 to Lilla Anne Hopkinson. They had three children. His business was in Worcester, but Sleeper divided most of his time between his homes in St. Petersburg, Florida, and on Lake Massawippi, in the Eastern Townships. He died in 1937.

Orra L. Stone, The History of Massachusetts Industries: Their Inception, Growth and Success, 1930.