Biography of John K. Harris
Springfield, Clark County, OH Biographies





JOHN K. HARRIS, Springfield; is one of the few men who have combined inventive genius with successful business management; he is a native of Switzerland Co., Ind., born in 1822. At the age of 17, he left the parental roof and began the battle of life without means or influential friends. The latter, however, he soon secured, and through the aid of J. F. D. Lanier, a banker of Madison, Ind., he obtained two years' tuition at the college then conducted at Madison. During the two years following, by teaching and assisting in the bank, he secured a fair education, and in the meantime, by economy and industry, had repaid his benefactor and accumulated a little surplus capital. About this time he became interested in patents, which led to his experimenting and the development of inventive genius. A mowing machine with adjustable cutter bar, and probably the first harvesting machine to which the adjustable principle had been applied, was among his first inventions, but his principal success was in connection with a hay press, known as the "Beater Hay Press," which, though originally the invention of a neighbor, subsequently became the property of Mr. Harris, after which he so improved it as to make it more practical and portable, and finally, after years of labor and perseverance, achieved great success in the sale first of the presses and afterward of the patent, by which he realized a clean $100,000. A description of this press may not be uninteresting to the readers. We can give no better than to copy the main clause of the claim upon which the letters patent were issued, viz., "Filling the press box with the substance to be pressed into bales, by means of a beater or driver raised by machinery and made to descend upon the substance in the box, successively by gravity, whether effected in the manner described or in any other mode analagous thereto." This press still maintains its standi g for excellence, and is in very general use. After the close of the war, Mr. Harris removed to Springfield, having purchased the handsome residence property No. 265 North Limestone street, which has since been his home. During the past year, he has invented a button hole attachment for sewing machines, which he is now perfecting and which will undoubtedly come into very general use, as it is very simple in construction and can be furnished at a moderate cost, and may be adjusted to any of the standard machines. Mr. Harris is now close to 60, but is still active, and though he has been all his life engaged in the invention, handling and sale of patents, he has never had a law suit in connection therewith. He at one time released a square and legal title, which he purchased of an agent handling Howe's Sewing Machines, upon Mr. Howe's representation that, while the agent had a legal right to dispose of the "right," it was by reason of a technical error, the intention being to grant power to sell machines only. Thus he allowed a fortune to pass from his grasp for a nominal sum, out of regard for the rights of a brother inventor. Mr. Harris has always been a reliable temperance man, and for many years a member of the Presbyterian Church, his present membership being with the first church of this city. He has been twice married, his first wife, nee Jane Patten, was also a native of Switzerland Co., Ind., and bore him five children, the you gest of whom, a son, died of accidental injury a short time previous to the decease of the mother, which occurred in 1870. Three daughters and a son survive, viz., Mrs. Charles M. Safford, of Cleveland; Mrs B. P. Thiebaud, of Mt. Auburn; and Miss Anna M. and John Edward, who are members of the present household. Mr. Harris' present wife, was Miss Hanna L. Phillips, is a native of Indiana. Their marriage was celebrated at Moore's Hill, Ind., in 1872.

From:
History of Clark County, Ohio
W. H. Beers & Co.
Chicago 1881


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