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Subject: Saga in Steel and Concrete - 382-391
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 09:22:35 -0700


The following selection is taken from "Saga in Steel and Concrete:
Norwegian Engineers in America" by Kenneth Bjork published by the
Norwegian-American Historical Association (NAHA) in 1947. The volume is
still available from NAHA at where you will
also find the first 33 volumes of Studies and Records online. This
chapter is published with the kind permission of NAHA. The book this
selection is drawn from is under copyright and permission has been
granted for educational purposes and it is not to be used in any way for
commercial purposes.

In 1931 the California Institute of Technology ordered from the Corning
Glass Works a glass disk of low expansion and sufficient size to make a
telescope mirror 201 inches in diameter. It was, if possible, to weigh
much less than it would if the customary principle of a thickness of
one-sixth the diameter were followed. The disk has been placed in the
giant telescope on Mount Palomar. The problems involved in filling the
order were largely engineering difficulties occasioned by the great size
and weight of the disk; the existing glass technology was sufficient to
meet the challenge, once the necessary engineering details were
perfected. The glass was melted in a tank, transferred to a mold in large
hand-operated ladles; and annealed in a periodic, electrically-heated
kiln. The problems arising from this project and the story of how they
were met have been admirably described by Dr. G. V. McCauley, who was in
charge of the undertaking. {19} Vaksdal and his assistants played a big
part in building the disk; the plant engineer was co-designer also of the
mechanical and electrical apparatus employed. All engineering features of
the job were smoothly accomplished.
On one occasion Vaksdal had to deal with an "act of God." Early in July,
1935, cloudbursts and a dam break on one of the Finger Lakes caused the
Chemung River, which flows past the Corning works, to rise 18 feet above
normal, submerging motors and curtailing glass production. The fight to
maintain power services and to protect the giant telescope disk, the
"Great Eye," is vividly described by Vaksdal in Power. {20}
George S. Hoell, a graduate of Trondhjem who served as a machine designer
with the E. G. Budd Manufacturing Company in Philadelphia, has had a
varied technical experience and has made several noteworthy
contributions: a bending machine for reverse curvatures and a special
electric welding machine, both of which are patented by the Budd company;
and a special beater for hammermills, which was patented by the
Pennsylvania Crusher Company. {21} Frederik Ottesen, who was educated in
Bergen and Munich and who is now consulting engineer with E. I. DuPont de
Nemours and Company at Wilmington, is the inventor of a gas-engine valve
gear known as the butterfly gear and of a clear-vision sight-feed oiler,
both of which are patented.
Henry Karl Karlsen attended the Porsgrund and Horten schools and in 1919
designed for the Hanneborg Company of Christiania a well-known
tile-trenching machine. For the French government he devised a digging
machine that could be attached to unused war tanks. In 1929 he came to
America; he was employed by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company and later
by the International Business Machines Corporation. One of his many
inventions is a so-called diff-system for differential gearing {22}
Among other recent arrivals, several mechanical engineers have already
done outstanding work. A Horten man, Georg J. Langmyhr, mechanical
development engineer with the Imperial Oil Company of Sarnia, Ontario,
has been active in the development of oil-well drilling machinery at
Corsicana, Texas, and oil refining apparatus in Ontario. At least 5 of
his inventions in the latter field have been patented in Canada and the
United States. Ole I. Stangeland is designing engineer for the Foote
Brothers Gear and Machine Corporation in Chicago; he has been in charge
of standard power transmission designs, special designs for bridges,
steel mills, dams, and all types of gearing and power transmission
machinery used in modern industry. With Arne Faroy he patented, in 1929,
a piston and cylinder cooler for internal combustion engines, and in 1934
he patented a free-wheel and backstop device now being marketed.
In recent years a number of graduates of Norway's Institute of Technology
have assumed prominent positions as mechanical engineers. Among them is
Alf Kolflat of Sargent and Lundy in Chicago. Completing his course at the
institute in 1919, Kolflat spent two and a half years in the special
laboratory study of heat and steam, enjoyed a stipend for travel in
Germany (another grant from the institute), and made tests of houses for
the Norwegian government. Finally in 1923 he left for America on a grant
from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, spent a short time at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then took employment in
industry. In 1925 he joined Sargent and Lundy, a Chicago firm
specializing in the design of steam power plants, and eventually became a
partner in the company. Active in the social and technical life of the
Norwegians, Kolflat has co-operated on a number of industrial and
central-station power plants throughout the Middle West and has invented
an apparatus that determines heat losses through building walls. He has
also served as president of both the Norske Klub and the
Norwegian-American Technical Society of Chicago.
Illustrative of the many other mechanical engineers doing significant
work in America are Harold M. Mikkelsen, who is in charge of the car
dumper department of the Roberts and Schaeffer Company of Chicago; Reidar
A. Tollefsen, assistant chief engineer of the United States Gauge Company
at Sellersville, Pennsylvania; and Knut E. Grundvig, who occupies a
position similar to Tollefsen's at the Bucyrus-Monigham Company of
Chicago and has participated in the development of the modern dragline
excavator. The Olsen Testing Machine Company has always employed many
Norwegian engineers; one of these, Jens Sivertsen, is a research and
development specialist who has invented among other things a method and
an apparatus to determine unbalance in rotating bodies, and an automatic
balancing machine. Frederick W. Guilford, mechanical engineer in the
Flint, Michigan, office of the Trane Company, has installed air
conditioning in no less than 150 theater buildings. Mikkelsen, Grundvig,
Sivertsen, and Guildford are all graduates of Norway's Institute of
Technology; Tollefsen is a graduate of Horten.
The Norwegian engineer's part in the development of the Diesel engine in
America has been relatively small, yet it is worthy of record. Henrik
Greger, a Trondhjem graduate, was a marine engineer for the United States
Shipping Board during the First World War and since then has served as
chief engineer of the General Machinery Corporation at Hamilton, Ohio; in
both capacities he has been closely associated with Diesel developments.
Olaf L. A. Riegels, a Horten man, spent a good part of his technical life
in Christiania, Norway, before coming to America in 1924; after 1934 he
was engaged in research and .experimental work at the Yoder Company in
Cleveland, where he specialized in the hydraulic wave balance of pressure
fluctuations in injection systems of direct-injection Diesel engines.
Riegels' contributions include a lubricator which was sold to a Hamburg
firm; a direct reversing arrangement for internal-combustion engines,
patented in the United States; and fuel injection means for motors, which
have been patented in various countries. The last invention is believed
to be of far-reaching character in that it will provide for a constant
pressure combustion cycle with direct injection --- a feature termed
impossible by Dr. Diesel. {23} Bernhard Haave Andersen, a graduate of
Norway's Institute of Technology, has also been a development engineer
and calculator of Diesel engines; in 1936 he became research engineer in
the Diesel division of the Baldwin Southwark Corporation of Philadelphia.
Andersen's specialty is torsional vibration problems and he has served as
a member of the technical committee of the Diesel Engine Manufacturers'
Association, which was appointed to simplify and standardize the methods
of calculating parallel operation, torsional vibrations, and the like,
for the successful operation performance of Diesel-generator
installations. {24}
The work of Mauritz Indahl in the field of printing has already been
discussed. Considerably earlier than Indahl, Hans Christian Hansen
migrated to America, shortly after completing his studies at Horten in
1867, and took employment with the Dickenson Type Foundry in Boston. Four
years later he established the H. C. Hansen Type Foundry. A branch of the
firm was opened in New York under the direction of his son, Alfred, and
offices were maintained in several cities. Hansen designed and built all
the special machines and tools for the production of his well-known type
and other printing materials, taking out patents on many inventions. {25}

Several other Norwegian engineers figured in the development of American
printing. Hans Jordhøi, a graduate of the Porsgrund school, was long
employed by the Wood Printing Press Company at Plainfield, New Jersey,
and his work with printing presses resulted in a long list of patents on
machines of this type. Severin Halvorsen, another Porsgrund graduate,
invented the inserting machine that is used by large daily newspapers in
putting out special Saturday and Sunday editions. This actually consists
of six successive mechanisms, and its function is to feed the special
edition with such supplements as the pictorial, comics, style, and sports
sections. {26}
Gustav Olsen, chief engineer with the Western Printing Company of
Chicago, was widely sought by publishers and printers alike because of
his skill with printing machinery. At the time of his death, in 1934, he
had just completed an advisory job in Alabama. {27}
In 1928 there appeared in the Norwegian press an unusual story. According
to it, the once popular Overland automobile was created by one Johan
Overland, who also built the first factory to adopt the principle of mass
production. Overland, the son of a smith in Christiansund, was, we are
told, of the Peer Gynt type. He migrated to America on an impulse, spent
ten years at various jobs, and then returned to his home in Norway, where
he became a reputable craftsman specializing in iron stairway railings.
The young dreamer was dissatisfied with his lot in Europe, however, and
left again for the New World, going this time first to Canada. When
Overland arrived in America the automobile was only just coming into
practical being and his imagination was captured by its possibilities. He
designed the Overland car and started a factory at Toledo which set as
its goal the production of cars at popular prices. His company, later
known as Willys-Overland, by 1928 had plants in Toledo, Pontiac, Toronto,
and Stockport, England; the daily production at Toledo alone was 3,000.
The sons of Johan Øverland later became technical directors of the
factories, while the business management passed into the hands of the
president, J. N. Willys. {28}
This legend is repeated here because it illustrates the difficulty of
tracing origins and also the caution with which one must use the
newspaper as a source. Frank H. Canaday, who has done considerable
research in the early history of the Willys-Overland Company, states that
his investigations, "insofar as they touched on Willys-Overland's
predecessor, the old Overland Company in Indianapolis, indicated that the
Overland name came from the old pioneer Fargo line of stages called the
Overland Express."
I have never heard of anyone of this name being connected with the
Willys-Overland Company organized by Mr. John North Willys after his
purchase of the original Overland Company of Indianapolis in 1908, nor in
the present Willys-Overland Motors, Incorporated, as reorganized in 1936.
I can say with reasonable certainty that there has been no one of the
Overland name associated with the organization since it became a factor
of importance in the industry after 1908. {29}
Delmar G. Roos, vice-president in charge of engineering at
Willys-Overland, supports Canaday's remarks about the naming of the
automobile, using the phrase "Overland Mail"; he speaks, too, of the
Overland Limited, a train operated by the Union Pacific between Chicago
and San Francisco and running on schedule as a crack flyer before the
Overland car went into production. His conclusion, like Canaday's, is
that "if there was a Johan Overland connected with the Company, it was a
coincidence. {30}
Norman G. Schidle, executive editor of the S. A. E. Journal published by
the Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., of New York City, confirms the
views of Canaday and Roos. From records in the possession of the society
he finds that the original Overland car was made in 1903 by the Parry
Buggy Company of Indianapolis and that its name "was taken from the
Overland Stage Coaches." Nothing is known of an engineer named Overland.
{31} Data contained in the automotive history collection of the Detroit
Library "seem to indicate that it [the Overland] was built by the
Standard Wheel Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, about 1902. D. M. Parry
was the head of the Company and the chief engineer was Claude E. Fox. In
1913 the vice-president of the Willys-Overland Company, G. W. Bennett,
could not say why the directors of the Company had chosen the name
Overland but surmised it was because of the car's ability to go ‘over
land.’ {32} Neither these nor other records make any mention of Johan
Overland, and one is therefore forced to conclude that he was fabricated
of whole cloth by some journalistic prankster.
The men who built the first automobiles were engineers only by courtesy;
they were craftsmen or mechanics of a highly gifted sort. The same is
true of Ole Evinrude, who went to Wisconsin with his parents at an early
age, grew up on a farm, and made his technical start in a farm machinery
shop at Madison. Through experience and study he became an excellent
machinist. At Milwaukee, during the early years of this century, Evinrude
became interested in internal combustion engines and entered into a
partnership with a man named Clemick, to produce engines and parts to
order. He later went into a second partnership which aimed at
manufacturing a standardized motor that could be installed in any
carriage. Ole left this firm, the Motor Car Power Equipment Company, when
his partner balked at marketing an entire automobile built by Evinrude.
One year later Evinrude put together a second car which he called the
Eclipse; with the help of two men who consented to finance the production
of complete automobiles, he began a third business venture, which proved
unsuccessful. Evinrude later turned his abundant energies and skill to
perfecting, in 1910, the first practical outboard motor bearing his name,
and won both fame and fortune in this new field. {33}
An Evinrude Motor in Action
One of the best-known Norwegian engineers in Detroit before his death in
1929 was Trygve Jolstad, assistant general manager of the Briggs
Manufacturing Company. Jolstad, a graduate of Horten, arrived in Detroit
in 1915 and soon became factory manager of the Michigan Stamping Company;
he held this position until the company was absorbed by the Briggs
concern four years later. As assistant general manager of all the Briggs
plants, Jolstad had an important part in the development of automobile
bodies. Like the automobile itself, his industry underwent rapid growth
from 1915 to 1930. {34}
Another colorful Detroit engineer, N. H. F. Olsen, a Porsgrund graduate,
was associated with Henry Ford from 1915 to 1940. Starting in the
production department, he was transferred in 1918 to the engine division,
where he worked at designing gasoline tanks. Continuing as a layout man,
checker, and designer, he was sent from division to division-Ford
chassis, body, experiment, tractor, truck, aircraft, Lincoln chassis, and
so forth. About 1930 Olsen organized the experimental department and had
charge of following the experimental work through, from designs to the
ordering of parts and the construction of experimental cars. In 1936 he
organized the soundtest division and worked with engineers at the
University of Michigan on noise problems. Olsen patented a number of
processes, several of which are still being used by Ford. They include an
alemite system for greasing springs, a drive shaft construction with
center bearing, and a stabilizer which improves the riding qualities of a
car. The last was a feature discussed in the advertising of 1940 and 1941
Ford and Mercury models. Olsen also cut down car noise considerably,
helped plan the Ford proving grounds in 1938, and invented the drop
center wheel and rim used on Ford cars from 1926 to 1932 and adopted by
the Tire and Rim Association of America. {35} During the war years Olsen
operated the Hexagon Tool and Engineering Corporation in Dearborn; for
the excellence of his work in producing artillery items, he was twice
presented army-navy production awards.
Mention is made elsewhere of the work of E. K. Wennerlund, who served as
director of production engineering in all plants of the General Motors
Corporation. His association with this firm began in 1911, shortly before
William C. Durant became president and at a time when the company was in
the hands of the bankers; it ended with his retirement in 1932.
Wennerlund's objective, as he expresses it, was "to make production flow
like a river." In this he was successful.
The automobile, like any complicated industrial product, represents the
contributions of many individuals, engineers and others. Typical of the
many Norwegian engineers who have added improvements is Trygve Vigmostad,
body engineer at the Briggs Manufacturing Company. After several years'
experience in Germany and Norway, Vigmostad came to America and held
various engineering jobs before assuming his present position. While
employed by the Murray Corporation of America, he patented the
curved-edge window design. Vigmostad studied at the Christiansand
Technical Evening School, at a trade school in the same city, and at the
Hamburg Technical Institute. {36}
Of a piece with the automobile is the tractor, to which development John
A. Riise made a lasting contribution. Riise, a born inventor, devised a
new-type musket while still in Norway; some of his early ideas in this
field were later adopted by others in the Browning machine gun. After
coming to America in 1902 Riise became a draftsman in an automobile
factory on Long Island. He turned to various tasks, producing, among
other things, a boat. His chief interest, however, was the new gasoline
motor, and his inventions in this field proved profitable to several
firms, including Palmer Singer in New York; the Waltham Manufacturing
Company in Massachusetts; General Electric; the Pope Manufacturing
Company at Hartford, Connecticut; and the International Harvester Company
at Chicago. His most productive period was with the Wellman, Seaver,
Morgan Company, an engineering firm at Cleveland. This company was
greatly interested in a tractor that Riise had invented, and gave him
free use of machines, tools, and men to enable him to put it into
concrete form. As a result he turned out what was considered in its day
one of the country's finest tractors; it created wide interest when it
was demonstrated at the Kansas City Exposition of 1920. Riise and his
firm, convinced that the tractor was ready for mass production, organized
a separate company, the W. S. M. Tractor Corporation, and began
manufacturing at Akron. Riise, a man of tremendous energy, also invented
features that were incorporated into airplane motors, gears,
transmissions, and axles of various kinds. {37}

<19> "The 200-Inch Telescope Disc," in Society of Glass Technology,
Transactions, 19:156 (1935); "Making the Glass Disc for a 200-Inch
Reflecting Telescope," in Scientific Monthly, 39:79-86 (July, 1934);
"Preparing to Look Farther into the Universe of Stars," in Telescope,
1:34-44 (June, 1934); and "Some Engineering Problems Encountered in
Making a 200-Inch Telescope Disk," in American Ceramic Society, Bulletin,
14:300-322 (September, 1935).
<20> Vol. 79, p. 422, 454 (August, 1935). The present writer is indebted
to Vaksdal for considerable information.
<21> Alstad, Trondhjemsteknikernes matrikel, 169; and information
furnished by Hoell.
<22> N. E. S. Bulletin (a publication of the Norwegian Engineers'
Society), no. 2, p. 25 (Brooklyn, December, 1939).
<23> Information supplied by Riegels.
<24> Information from the Chicago archives of the Norwegian-American
Technical Society.
<25> Femti-aars jubilæums-festskrift, Hortens tekniske skole, 99.
<26> Skandinaven, October 25, 1932.
<27> Scandia, November 1, 1934.
<28> Nordisk tidende, August 2, 1928; Nordmands-forbundet, 21:348 (1928).

<29> Letter to the writer, November 15, 1945.
<30> Letter to the writer, November 19, 1945.
<31> Shidle to Roos, November 26, 1945; a copy of the letter was
forwarded to the present writer.
<32> Carl E. Pray, Jr., to the writer, February 7, 1945.
<33> See the present writer's article, "Ole Evinrude and the Outboard
Motor," in Norwegian-American Studies and Records, 12:167-177 (1941).
<34> Norwegian-American Technical Journal, vol. 3, no. 1, p. 11
(February, 1930).
<35> Materials in archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society,
Chicago; information received from Olsen.
<36> Information supplied by Vigmostad.
<37> Wong, Norske utvandrere, 170; Nordisk tidende, October 1, 1920;
materials in archives of Norwegian-American Technical Society, Chicago.

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