Thomas Edison demonstrated his newly invented phonograph machine to Oberlin Smith when Smith visited Edison in his Menlo Park laboratory in 1878. As a lover of music, Smith purchased an Edison phonograph, but soon found the audio quality of it to be “too scratchy” and the questioned the expense and precision of its mechanical parts. After nearly ten years of tinkering, Smith published the idea of storing a recording on a magnetic wire in the English journal Electrical World , and became the father of all magnetic recording devices. … MORE >>

Oberlin Smith is most famous as one of the leaders of the mechanical engineering field in the late 1800’s. Showing an early interest in mechanics, he opened his own machine shop at the age of 23, with his cousin J. Burkett Webb. A year later Smith founded a new company called The Ferracute Machine Co. which specialized in the manufacturing of large metal working presses, that were first used to stamp out cans for for the food processing industries, and were later used for stamping out, among other things, parts for bicycles, fenders… MORE >>

In 1896, Oberlin Smith wrote in the Scientific Machinist about a visionary factory that would have “walls that were smooth clean with a permanently light color, and windows clean and numerous assisted in their function by sky lights” and “would provide uniform warmth and good ventilation” for the comfort and health of its workers. After a devastating fire, that totally destroyed his original plant on East Commerce St. in Bridgeton, New Jersey, Smith set out to build the plant of his dreams in 1904. Ferracute finally closed its doors in 1968, having been in business for 105 years. After closing, the site was occupied only briefly by a few small business tenants. In recent years, however… MORE >>

When Oberlin Smith asked Ferracute engineer and press designer Henry Janvier, to make a business trip to Wuchang and Chengtu China, Henry needed little time to think about the offer. Janvier was to oversee the setup of two new factories of coining presses and other equipment Ferracute had shipped a year earlier.  He eagerly packed his bags and his camera, and within a few days, set off for a ten-month around the world trip of a life time. Over one hundred years later, the story Henry Janvier’s trip remains remarkable through his carefully preserved letters and photographs. Janvier’s trip to China was the topic of a recent exhibit at the Burton Showroom in Bridgeton New Jersey … MORE >>