These selected patents are American unless otherwise specified. They are a subset of all the patents in the US patent office related to machines for making rope. Specifically, these patents relate to hand-operated, "appliance" sized rope machines meant to be a tool for the rancher, farmer, or homesteader, versus being suitable for commercial operations.
The patent page images are available via the USPTO website. Be aware that using their search engine for patents issued before 1976 is rather frustrating. Use the specific patent number in the search field to access the online patent. You will need a Level 4 GIF viewer to see the patent page images on the USPTO website. The patent website lists viewers (some free with signup) adequate to use. Otherwise, you can order copies in several formats that you then pay for.
These selected patents are listed in chronological order.
It's interesting to note that the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804 carried a rope machine on the trip to make rope from animal hides, namely bison and elk. The machine was reputed to be a three-strand machine with sun and planet gearing. The machine could have been similar to the Sellers & Bantle machine listed below. There is no specific detail in the journals on the source of the rope machine.
The first rope machine patent (759X; not in the internet database!) was issued to Sellers & Bantle on May 5, 1807. This machine had three strand hooks on shafts driven from a central gear (sun and planet gearing). The hand-cranked gearing was housed in a wooden box mounted on a wooden stake.
H. Evans of New Bedford, MA, received patent 7,664 on September 24, 1850. This was a four-strand gearhead designed for use on the traveler's end on a long rope walk. The head assembly could be locked to the frame to allow cranking of the strand shafts, or the strand shafts could be locked, and the head released to rotate and slide down the frame when closing the rope. It is not very portable.
F. J. Miller of Buford, GA, received patent 31,615 on March 5, 1861. This was a portable, three-strand rope machine design, where the traveler assembly had a geared crank to assist during closing. The traveler assembly was designed to slide along two dovetail slots cut in the carrier board. A rope went over the traveler end of the carrier board to a ballast weight that tensions the whole assembly. Miller identified that the carrier board could be hinged to fold up for storage. The length of the frame would be a limiting factor in the length of rope produced.
Orson Bucklin of Marietta, MN, received patent 686,440 on November 12, 1901. This is a popular antique, many in usable condition. This is made originally by Thomas Manufacturing in Ohio and by other foundries, such as Sioux City, IA, Topeka, KS, and many unnamed clones. Three strand hooks driven by a central gear, open metal structure, unit mounts onto an inch-thick fence or wagon board.
Leonard S. Turner of Coin, IA, received patent 800,774 on October 3, 1905. Four strand hook design. The gear on each strand hook shaft (4 shown on patent drawing) is driven by a ring gear formed into the enclosed rear housing of the machine.
Elling O. Berg of Madison, MN, received patent 905,636 on December 1, 1908. Three iron strand hooks are mounted in a row in a wooden frame. The machine mounts onto a fence or wagon board. There were three versions of the "Ideal" machine sold. The first version had a wider hook spacing and no metal rub strip for the thrust collar of the strand hook to rub on. The second version narrowed the spacing between hooks, and the third kept the narrower spacing and added the iron rub strip. Sometimes the headstock will be turned around on the first two versions because the strand hooks wallowed out the wood around the backside of the headstock shaft hole.
Machette and Smith of Rockdale, WA, received patent 115,721 in Canada on December 22, 1908. This machine is often called the "Four strand Bucklin" because of the structural similarity. The lack of novelty (design uniqueness) precluded getting a US patent.
H. Personnett of Atwood, IL, received patent 939,308 on November 9, 1909, for pedestal-mounted, chain-driven three-strand machines. The strand hook-to-drive gear ratio was one to one.
Thomas M. McIntosh of Fairfield, IA, received patent 954,686 on April 12, 1910. This is for a small, geared, three-strand hooks in a row. The front face of the machine is perhaps 3" by 5". The handle attaches to center hook and drives other gears with a timing chain. There are two versions of this machine—the first has a sheet metal frame, while the second, after the patent is issued, has a cast iron frame, done in a basket weave pattern. The rope tool that came with this machine had a three-strand cast iron head attached to a perhaps 9" wooden marlin spike.
Raymond A. Davis of Fargo, ND, received patent 967,174 on August 16, 1910. This is a three-strand chain-driven machine. The strand shaft gear has 14 teeth. The drive gear has 33 gear teeth. The machine frame appears to be a piece of angle iron. This machine has a chain tensioner built into the mount of the drive gear.
A. D. Long of Fairfield, IA, received patent 998,360 on July 18, 1911. The New Era three-strand rope machine has a cast iron housing and ring gear drive. It has a replaceable center thrust bearing (.625" ID by 1.25 OD, by 0.35" thick, flangeless). It is originally made in Fairfield, IA. This machine was made in at least four other locations, given these city names appear on the front frame—Minneapolis, MN, Cedar Rapids, IA, Spooner WS, and Salt Lake City, UT. It was also made by Meador foundry in Australia. Very nice machine, a bit noisy, as it uses the same gear teeth as a corn sheller.
Otto Jeschke of Maywood, IL, received patent 1,026,511 on May 14, 1912, for a foot-operated version of the Bucklin machine.
F. J. Weiser of Norwood, MN, received patent 1,110,472 on September 15, 1914. His machine design was limited to operation in a fixed environment.
John Barnes and Nathan Sherwood of Detroit, MI, received patent 1,154,905 on September 28, 1915, for their rope making tool, a cone-shaped unit with “cup hook” strand keepers. Sherwood's rope machine, depicted on the patent artwork here, doesn't get patented till 1917.
Nathan Sherwood of Detroit, MI, received patent 1,215,584 on February 13, 1917, for a four-strand, with center hook and drive gear rope machine that was sold as a "rope making and wire turning machine". Prepatent machines had strand hooks made of stamped metal. After the patent award, the strand hook and associated gear were cast in one piece. By then, the patent was assigned to the Plymouth Motor Castings Company of Detroit. Sherwood's traveler swivel appears to be a bushing design.
W. H. Spencer of Buffalo, NY, received patent 1,343,853 on June 15, 1920, for a cone-shaped rope tool and ball-bearing traveler swivel. The rope tool was a hand-held solid body tool design.
W. G. Smith of Cleveland, OH, received patent 1,366,429 on January 25, 1921, for a rope tool and traveler swivel. The traveler swivel is another ball-bearing design. The rope tool is a solid surface hollow cone.
J. M. Cattoor of Englewood, CO, received patent 1,430,519 on September 26, 1922, for a hand-held rope machine. Later, he received a patent for another version of the rope machine where the hand-held gear head is mounted onto a cart. Both machines are designed to travel versus the far end.
W.H. Fullington of Cleveland, OH, received patent 1,432,991 on October 24, 1922. This is a four-strand, enclosed housing with a ring drive between the handle and strand shafts. His rope tool is a variant of the Maltese cross, and the traveler hook is a ball-bearing design.
Fred McMillan of Beaver Dam, WI, received patent 1,436,812 on November 28, 1922, for his "rope weaving machine.” It was four strand hooks in a row on a metal frame—a metal version of Berg's Ideal machine.
W. H. Fullington of Cleveland, OH, received patent 1,442,263 on January 16, 1923, for a rope tool consisting of two plates separated to be a shaft. This would be a skeletal version of a cone or top. It is an improvement of the design shown in his rope machine patent. But there is still no anti-torquing rod shown in the design to keep the tool from spinning. The patent artwork depicts an electric motor driving the rope machine.
Asa J. Draper of Ogden, UT, received patent 1, 467,539 on September 11, 1923, for a four-strand rope machine. This machine's frame and gears are made from sheet steel. Most of the surviving machines have a bit of rust interfering with the operation of the machine.
J. Maynard of Cleveland, OH, received patent 1,490,395 on April 15, 1924. This is a four-strand hook machine, ring drive gear, with an enclosed housing. This machine was already in production at the beginning of 1923. The version our ropemaker has seen has an aluminum housing with brass or bronze gears and strand hooks and was reputed to be carried on the Liberty Ships.
Martin Meyer of Sheffield, IA, received patent 1,510,691 on October 7, 1924, for a 4-strand hook, non-geared rope machine. The hook design is an improvement upon Berg's design. The novel aspect of Meyer's machine was that the headstock was attached to a large board that was designed to slide along a customer-supplied bench, such that the customer sat on the base plate when cranking and periodically rose off the baseplate to allow the machine to slide forward. The far end of the rope layup was attached to a nonmoving, rotating hook. Meyer used whatever wood happened to be available at the sawmill for the baseplate and headstock. Early baseplates were 23" long; later ones appeared to be shortened to 18". Today, less than a dozen Meyer Rope Machines are publicly known to exist.
J. M. Fullington of Cleveland, OH, received patent 1,652,111 on December 6, 1927. This machine is a sun and planet gear drive in lieu of a ring drive, as in his first patent. Now, the rope tool design has a removable spring steel retainer around the periphery to keep the tool on the strands.
J. M. Cattoor, now of Modesto, CA, received patent 2,270,237 on January 20, 1942. This patent basically mounted his hand-held machine patented previously onto a rolling cart, hence becoming a traveling rope machine. The cart's rollers appear to be 3-4" in diameter and about a foot long. The rolling frame appears designed for the packed sandy soil in the Modesto region. Essentially, this cart requires a prepared surface to roll on. This patent also depicts a novel strand carrier for holding the yarns in each strand up and apart.