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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html


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Richard H. Cole.

RICHARD H. COLE was born in Stafford county, Virginia, March 22d, 1816. His father, Daniel Cole, was an honest blacksmith, who early taught his son the trade that he followed, and gave him a good common business education.

At the age of sixteen, Richard H. Cole thought himself proficient enough in his business to take charge of a blacksmith-shop and coach-factory, in London county, Virginia. So expert was he in horse-shoeing that he won the friendship of a man by the name of Henry Sacket, by the skill that he evinced in this particular branch of his trade, who proposed to him to go and see the West, and settle in that growing country — that he would pay, at all events, the expenses of a journey of observation. He followed the suggestion of his friend, and came to Missouri in the autumn of 1835. He went to Marion City, where he married Miss Amanda Eversle, daughter of Jacob B. Eversle, and, in 1837, moved to St. Charles, where he became engineer in a steam flour-mill, which employment he pursued for some years, and then resumed his trade. He remained working at his trade for four years, and in 1844, came to St. Louis.

When Mr. Cole came to St. Louis, he was but an humble blacksmith, and engaged himself to Messrs. Gaty & McCune at eight dollars per week, and at that time he could obtain no higher wages, which were scarcely sufficient for supporting his family. After pursuing journey-work for some little time, he determined, if possible, to commence business himself, and rented a place in the vacant lot adjoining the Park Mills, from Mr. Francis Watkins, where he built a rough shop, from some boards which were kindly furnished him by Mr. Watkins. He remained eighteen months in this spot, when, having saved a little money, he built a large shop on Main street, and rapidly extended his business.

While engaged in business on Main street, he became acquainted with the firm of Chouteau, Harrison & Vallé. In their friendly intercourse, this firm told him that they had made a contract with the Illinois Central Railroad Company, to furnish them a large quantity of nuts and bolts, for the purpose of bridging. From the want of a careful examination, they had contracted to furnish them with nuts at a price so low, that, on calculating the expense after the contract was closed, they found it would be most unprofitable. Mr. Cole saw the dilemma in which they were placed, and it struck him that he could furnish nuts at much less cost than usually attended their manufacture, by inventing a machine that would cut them at once from the iron, without subjecting them to the tedious process to which they were heretofore subjected. He put his brain on the rack of invention, and, after much thinking and some experiments, he succeeded in producing a machine that would answer the desired purpose.

Feeling confident in the efficacy of his machine, he proposed to Messrs.

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Chouteau, Harrison & Vallé, to take the contract off their hands. His proposition they gladly assented to, and, on Mr. Chouteau becoming acquainted with the new invention, he purchased a half interest for twenty-five hundred dollars. However, in a little while, he expressing a desire of selling out for the same price, Mr. Cole repurchased his interest.

Mr. Cole had heard that there was a celebrated nut machine invented by some one in Pittsburgh, and he started for that city with the intention of purchasing the machine if it proved superior to his own, so that he could employ it in the manufacture of nuts. On seeing the machine, he found that his own was incomparably superior; and it soon became widely known, and he became the great nut-maker in St. Louis. He made several inventions, which covered all the different varieties of nuts, and, having patented machinery to subserve his purpose, there was no one who could compete with him in their manufacture.

So sensible did Mr. Chouteau become of the immense capital contained in the inventions, that he gave him $37,500 for the half which he had before resold for $2,500, and a firm was established which went under the title of R. H. Cole & Company, and then was built the St. Louis Nut and Washer Factory. The fame of the new inventions spread far and wide, and one-third of the business done west of the Mountains was purchased by Mr. J. J. O'Fallon for $25,000, and one-third of the business done east of the Mountains for the further sum of $40,000, and the firm became known as J. J. O'Fallon & Company.

So useful are the inventions of Mr. Cole that their fame has passed the Atlantic, and there are branch houses established in various portions of Europe, that are employed in the particular manufactures to which they are suited. Mr. Watkins, from whom he rented the ground on which he reared his little shop, owns a small interest in the inventions, and is an agent in Europe. In Birmingham, the well-known Victoria Works, which are one of the branches of the concern in St. Louis, are carried on by him, the firm being called Watkins & Keen.

When Mr. Cole came to St. Louis in 1844 he was in humble circumstances indeed, and he had to labor hard, under the ten-hour system, for six days, before he became entitled to his weekly salary of eight dollars. For many years he pursued his laborious task with a contented mind, yet hoping and bent upon producing some improvements in mechanics to which would be attached emolument and honor. What once were golden dreams have assumed a practical shape, and the humble mechanic, from the loom of his active brain, has produced an invention which has startled the world and brought fame and fortune to himself. Mr. Cole is richly deserving of all that he has gained, and all that may await him; for, even before the golden change came upon his fortunes, he was entitled to all that could be conveyed by the poet, when he wrote: "An honest man is the noblest work of God."

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Edwards, Richard; Hopewell, M.; Ashley, William; Barry, James G.; Belt and Priest; Casey, John; Hall, W.; Labaum, Louis A.; Leduc, Mary Philip; Lisa, Manuel; O'Fallon, Benjamin; Piernas; Port Folio; Risley, W.; Stoddard, Amos; Williams, Henry W.; Yore, John E. Edwards's Great West and Her Commercial Metropolis, Embracing a General View of the West, and a Complete History of St. Louis, from the Landing of Ligueste, in 1764, to the Present Time; with Portraits and Biographies of Some of the Old Settlers, and Many of the Most Prominent Buisiness Men . St. Louis: Office of Edwards's Monthly, A Journal of Progress, 1860. [format: book], [genre: biography; history; letter; narrative]. Permission: St. Louis Mercantile Library
Persistent link to this document: http://lincoln.lib.niu.edu/file.php?file=edwards.html
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