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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BROWN, ALEXANDER EPHRAIM - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BROWN, ALEXANDER EPHRAIM (14 May 1852-26 Apr. 1911), inventor of the Brown hoist which revolutionized the lake shipping industry, was born in Cleveland, the son of Fayette and Cornelia Curtis Brown. He graduated from CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL and completed a course in civil engineering at Brooklyn Polytechnical Institute in 1872. While employed as chief engineer at the Massillon, Ohio Bridge Co. in 1873-74 Brown devised a method of building bridge columns from scrap iron and steel. Returning to Cleveland he countinued to work as a mechanical engineer but also experimented with ways to facilitate the unloading of bulk cargo on the Great Lakes by partially automating the process. Brown designed a cantilivered crane, rigged with wire cable to convey an automatic clamshell bucket to and from the ship's hold, removing the cargo. His hoist, first set up on the Erie docks, reduced lake transportation costs and greatly shortened the turn-around time of the vessels. He and his father FAYETTE BROWN† organized the Brown Hoisting & Conveying Machinery Co. in 1880 with a capital of $100,000, incorporating it in 1893. Brown secured several hundred patents on his invention which was distributed all over the world. The firm also produced other materials handling equipment for docks, railroads, and coal and steel plants.

Alexander Brown married Carrie M. Barnett 14 Nov. 1877, and they had 2 children, Alexander Cushing and Florence Cornelia. Brown died in Cleveland and was buried at LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.

Fayette Brown Papers, WRHS.

Last Modified: 14 Jul 1997 04:10:33 PM

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