From the Wright brothers' airplane, to Charles Kettering's electrical automobile self-starter, to James J. Ritty's cash register, Dayton's past is rich with brilliant inventors and innovative ideas. Although the inventors themselves are long gone, their contributions to our country and the world remain as important as ever. Their legacies continue to inspire existing companies and individuals to maintain Montgomery County's innovative spirit.
Our Rich History
Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where they became interested in flight after reading about Otto Lilienthal's fatal glider accident in 1896. In 1900, Orville and Wilbur began glider experiments on the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The location was chosen because of its strong winds that could help lift an airplane and because of the privacy the area provided. Their next challenge was to install a gasoline engine that weighted no more than 200 pounds. Unable to find an existing manufacturer, they developed their own with the help of Daytonian Charles E. Taylor.
Their first attempt at patenting their new flying machine was rejected. However, this didn't stop the brothers, and on December 17, 1903, with Orville at the controls, their plane rose from the ground and traveled about 120 feet in 12 seconds. They flew three more times that day. On January 22, 1904, the Wright brothers hired a patent attorney who was able to convince the Patent Office that the flying machine had flown and was operative. The brothers received patent #821,393 for their invention on May 22, 1906 and the era of aviation was born.
Start Your Engines
Charles Franklin Kettering was born on August 29, 1876 in Loudonville, Ohio. He began studying engineering in college but later dropped out due to chronic eye problems. He eventually returned to school to become an electrical engineer. By 1909, Kettering and Edward Deeds had founded the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company where Kettering began looking for a way to get rid of the metal crank used to start cars. The cranks were dangerous, often snapping backwards with enough force to break an arm.
Kettering came up with an electrical starter that worked well on a Cadillac engine, but it was too large for existing car models. The president of the Cadillac Company challenged Kettering and his team to redesign and install the starter in one week. The team finished just in time to witness their starter appear on the new 1912 Cadillac. Other car manufacturers, including Henry Ford, later adopt Kettering's invention and the car industry was revolutionized forever.
James Ritty owned a restaurant in Dayton called the Empire. He was constantly frustrated by the fact that he was losing money due to stealing by his employees. While onboard a ship bound for Europe in 1878, Ritty discovered the cyclometer, a machine that automatically counted each turn made by the ship's propeller. Upon his return to Dayton, he used the principle of the cyclometer to develop the first cash register. The first model looked more like a clock than a register – the customer would pay his pill, the cashier punched in the total amount, and the machine would keep a running tally of total sales for the day.
James Ritty eventually sold his patent, which found its way into the hands of John H. Patterson, who would use it to start the National Cash Register (NCR). While working for NCR, Charles Franklin Kettering developed an electric motor for the cash register which allowed the register to open automatically instead of being cranked open. Under Patterson's guidance, the cash register became one of the most important inventions in the world.
Our Promising Future
GEMCITY Engineering and Manufacturing
GEMCITY, headquartered in Dayton, Ohio, is a global leader in specialized equipment and product manufacturing. GEMCITY serves many industries, including: Defense/Aerospace, Disk Drive, Fuel Cell, Industrial, Medical, Semiconductors/Microelectronics. From the company's beginning in 1930 as a metal stamping company, to its global success today, GEMCITY continues the innovative spirit in Montgomery County. Currently, the company manufactures several robots, one of which is displayed on the right. The robots are used in tactical support and security rolls.
INORGANIC SPECIALISTS, located at the Mound Advanced Technology Center, has researched, developed and perfected a conductive carbon nanofiber paper that can enhance the performance of energy storage devices such as fuel cells and lithium ion batteries. In one of its most promising applications, this technology will reduce the amount of high-priced platinum compounds needed to release a fuel cell's stored energy.
MOUND TECHNICAL SOLUTIONS, also based at Mound, has developed a suite of fuel cell test instruments with funding assistance from the state of Ohio's Third Frontier research, development and technology commercialization program. In this effort, the company has collaborated with Inorganic Specialists, as well as Case Western Reserve University, the University of Dayton Research Institute, Edison Materials and Technology Center, Miamisburg Mound Community Improvement Corporation, Sinclair Community College and Battelle to introduce a product line – now patented – to the market.
Mound-based PERKINELMER OPTOELECTRONICS, in partnership with leading defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has developed the Common Electronic Safe, Arm and Fire device for the Javelin weapon system. Using components made at Mound for detonation, initiation and control, the weapon is capable of seeking out and destroying an enemy target more than one mile away.
MOUND LASER & PHOTONICS CENTER has worked with various defense agencies, including the Air Force Research Laboratory, to develop applications for the company's specialized capabilities in laser joining, marking and micro fabrication, thus breaking new ground in the area of advanced manufacturing. The Dayton Chamber of Commerce recognized MLPC as the winner of the 2008 Soin Award for Innovation.
The future looks promising for Dayton, a community well equipped for the business of innovation. With its rich heritage and history of invention, vast technology resources, supportive business climate, skilled and talented workforce and a strong commitment to educating young people in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), this community is an innovation leader that will continue to make its mark on the frontiers of industry, science and technology.