Friday, March 14, 2008

T.B. Kinraide And The Keely Motor

The home of T.B. Kinraide, Spring Park avenue.

John W. Keely - Inventor/Hoaxer par excellence.

Mr T.B. Kinraide of Jamaica Plain plays a relatively small part in this story, but the story itself was so notorious in its day that I figure he deserves his place in the Jamaica Plain Hall of Remembrance. The notoriety of the story belonged to a Mr John Worrell Keely of Philadelphia. Mr Keely was one of the grand frauds of late 19th century America, managing to keep investors on the hook for over 25 years with promises of new forms of energy, harnessed by his Keely motor. Although scientists and skeptics scoffed at his claims for years, his skill as a showman and the gullibility of the public was sufficient to keep the money coming until his death in 1898. Ironically, as Keely finished out his life of constant fraud, the Curies in France were busy discovering a source of power that would prove to be far more fantastic than anything Keely or any of his contemporaries could have imagined.

For the story of the Mr Keely and his amazing motor, go here and here. Our branch of the story beings with the death of Keely, and the shipping of his mysterious apparatus to Jamaica Plain.

Boston Daily Globe January 2, 1899

To Take Up Keely's Work. Laboratory of the Great Inventor Sent To This City.

The laboratory of the late John W. Keely of Philadelphia, the celebrated inventor, has been stripped of its mechanical devices and the most important of these have been sent to this city. They were forwarded to T. Burton Kinraide's laboratory in Jamaica Plain. Mr Kinraide is a man of wonderful genius and is practical in his ideas of application. He is all the time trying to discover or invent something new, but he does not try the impossible.

He was the friend of Keely, and when the great inventor was near the close of his life he summoned Mr Kinraide to his bedside and begged him to continue the investigations upon which he had devoted his thought, Mr Kinraide agreed to do what he could.

There is a mill full of fantastic machinery such as only the genius of an inventor could devise that had to be left in Philadelphia. Such of the machinery that did arrive in Boston came in an ordinary freight car a few days ago. It is in charge of Charles S. Hill, attorney for the Keely estate.

Mr Kinraide has accepted the machinery and will do is best to perfect the partial discoveries made by Keely. Just exactly what Keely expected to evolve cannot be stated, but he hoped to invent a motor that would run without the use of steam or electricity. He employed a force that is similar to electricity which he claims exists between all molecules of matter. He first discovered that he could disintegrate water by a simple vibration caused by notes of music or a common tuning fork. He found that a mighty force similar to electricity played between the atoms or molecules of all matter, moving them as the planets are moved; that when their motion was disturbed the atoms were broken up, and the power thus released became a new force of almost infinite capacity, according as it was developed, expanded or manipulated.

Keely's first machine, or engine, was called the hydro-pneumatic pulsating vacuo engine. It was constructed after many disappointments, and almost insurmountable difficulties. Explosion after explosion occurred, blowing the engine to fragments, so great was the half-harnessed power. On several occasions Keely was injured - nearly losing his life in the explosions.

And this mysterious power, called the ethereal force playing between molecules of water, was liberated by purely mechanical means.

During his experiments of 15 months he blew up a part of his workshop when the engines went to pieces, and the total expense was $60,000 before he got a machine strong enough to control the force contained in half a pint of water.

Finally, the queer-looking motor - a huge ball of iron like a spherical safe - was running at incredible speed, but it could not be geared by ordinary methods to machinery so that it would pump water, saw wood, or even kill the critics who ridiculed its claims.

With reference to the machinery that has been sent to inventor Kinraide, attorney Hill says:

"The machines are in Boston and none are left in the laboratory in Philadelphia. We have brought on all the engines of interest except the aerial navigator. That is a mammoth machine, weighing seven or eight tons. It never worked, although Mr Keely gave years of study to it. If he could not work it out, we did not think anybody else could.

"There are two vaporic guns, one large and one small. The large one was the one tested at Sandy Hook some years ago before Lieut Zalinski of the U.S. ordinance corps. Considerable excitement was occasioned by one remarkable feature of the test. Nineteen shots were fired, and the (?) showed more power than any that preceded it, which was apparently in defiance of all laws which had been supposed to govern the art of gunnery.

"Probably the two machines will be set up and investigated some time this week. I doubt, however, if anyone will be admitted to see them. One of the conditions on which Mr Kinraide took up the work was that he was to be left entirely free from the necessity of showing the machines to curiosity seekers. If he should succeed in getting a practical machine, there would be a test before the stockholders, and then, in all probability a public one in some hall. Mr Keely worked 23 years and never got a practical machine. By that I mean an engine that he patented and put to commercial use.

"The directors of the Keely motor company understand that state of things fully. It is a matter of experiment with Mr Kinraide. He takes Mr Keely's principle as a new thing, and tries to work it out. He knows more about what Mr Keely thought and did in his laboratory than does any one else in the world. Socially, the two men were the closest friends, and if anybody can perfect the machine upon which Mr Keely labored it is Mr Kinraide.

January 4, 1899

Will Continue Keely's Work. T.B Kinraide of Jamaica Plain Has Most of the Late Inventor's Apparatus at His Home.

Most of the famous Keely machinery or apparatus with which the inventor of the Keely motor hoped to some day startle the world is now in Boston, at the home of Mr T.B. Kinraide, in Jamaica Plain. The machinery has not yet been unpacked, but it will be directly, and then Mr Kinraide will try to accomplish what Mr Keely was trying to accomplish when death snatched him from his workshop.

Hundreds of curious people have called at Mr Kinraids's home since it became known that he would continue the investigations and experiments that occupied the best part of Mr Keely's life.

Everyone wants to know what Mr Kinraide knows. Did Mr Keely leave with him the secret of his motor? Was there a secret to leave? When would the work be accomplished?

To all these questions Mr Kinraide has refused to answer.

"I have not," he said, "nor will I authorize any one to make any statement, in private or for publication that will in any way affect the value of the Keely motor company until I have completed my investigations of said motor."

To a reporter Mr Kinraide said he had known Mr Keely about 10 years. Being interested all his life in acoustics and electricity, Mr Kinraide went one day to Philadelphia to see and become acquainted with Mr Keely. He was attracted to the man, and a friendship sprung up, grew, and warmed to real affection.

Several weeks ago, when Mr Keely was stricken with sickness, Mr Kinraide went to Philadelphia, and while there he promised Mr Keely that in case of a serious termination of his sickness he would take up Mr Keely's work and endeavor to carry it to a successful conclusion.

"I am not in the pay of the directors of the company," said Mr Kinraide. "I am not a director, nor am I in any way connected with the company financially. I am interested in that kind of investigation, and I shall do all in my power to demonstrate within a year the merits of Mr Keely's conception. We should know very soon whether great things may be expected of it or not."

Asked if he had an opinion regarding the merits of the motor, Mr Kinraide said he would have to be excused from speculative discussion. He would apply himself diligently, and if the result warranted a meeting of the stockholders would be called and a public exhibition made.

He would not say whether Mr Keely disclosed the secret of the motor before dying, or whether such a secret were contained in papers left by Mr Keely. He did, however, admit that were there a secret he would be likely to know more about it than anyone else.

Mr Kinraide has been in sympathy with Mr Keely's work for several years, and being an experimenter himself to a considerable extent, he is probably better equipped than anyone else to take up and continue the work of Keely.

Mr Kinraide looks something like Kipling, only darker. He wears glasses and carries on his experiments in a completely equipped workshop on the first floor of his beautiful home on Spring Park av.

January 20, 1899

Not Wonderful. Philadelphia Conclusion Regarding Keely. Committee "Investigated" His Dismantled Shop. Found Evidence of Use of Compressed Air. C.S. Hill, Counsel for Mrs Keely, Not Alarmed. Does Not Think the Report Proves Anything.

Philadelphia, Jan 19 --- The press today publishes an article covering, with illustrations, more than a page, giving the details of an investigation made by that paper of the dismantled workshop of the late John W. Keely, which investigation, the Press contends, clearly proves the mysterious Keely motor to have been a delusion and deception, and that its alleged mysterious forces were the result of trickery.

[a long article continues]


This article, and others like it, gave the details of Keely's fraudulent machines. Hidden magnets, compressed air tubes, powerful springs and other mechanical devices provided the energy for Keely's harnessing of the "ether." Belts and pulleys from above and below his room transferred power to his apparatus, while observers watched with amazement. The description of the fraud go beyond any need of this site to elaborate. Our interest is in Jamaica Plain, and to Jamaica Plain we return.


May 7, 1899

Kinraide Gives It Up. Abandons All Connection With Keely Motor. He Dislikes the Noteriety that It Has Brought Him. All Machinery and Papers Will be Sent Back to Philadelphia.

The Keely motors and all the machinery and manuscripts left by the famous inventor that had been turned over to Mr T. Barton Kinraide of Jamaica Plain, will be sent back to Philadelphia.

Mr Kinraide, since the alleged exposure of duplicity in connection with the methods of Mr Keely, has done no work upon the mechanism in his possession and has abandoned all intention of doing anything further with them.

The alleged exposure was considered by Mr Kinraide to be a breach of confidence on the part of men who made it public, and consequently he decided to abandon all projected investigations. Mr Kinraide did not like the notoriety coming from his connection with the Keely Motors and he has decided to step down and out.

As a postscript:

February 12, 1899

Keely Victim's Wail.

They were vigorously raising the dust in Keely's famous laboratory. Pulling up carpets and loosening the boards, they eagerly sought for evidence of the inventor's rascality.

Finally, a shout arose. A small reservoir and two severed pipes were brought to light.

"Compressed air!" roared the finder.

A moment later another pipe appeared.

"Motor gas!" came a cry.

Still another pipe was disclosed.

"Stored up ether!" shrieked the discoverer.

But an aged Philadelphian stood by, and watched, with a lowering brow, as hole succeeded hole in the honeycombed floor.

And at every new opening he hoarsely muttered, "Not large enough, not large enough."

Presently a newspaper writer approached him.

"Pardon me, venerable sir," he politely said, "but may I ask why it is that every time a new opening is made in the floor you murmur, 'Not large enough'?"

"I say it, young man," replied the aged spectator, "because I am deeply anxious to discover the hole into which all my money went!"

And again that husky cry. "Not large enough, not large enough!" arose on the dusty air. (Cleveland Plain Dealer.)

A final postscript: Our Mr Kinraide was back in the news in 1920, this time in the matter of a personal scandal. His young wife sued for divorce, citing regular drunkenness, abuse, and a catalogue of curious behavior. The story says nothing about Jamaica Plain, so it makes little sense to copy it out in this forum, but it certainly reads like grand spectacle. As a taste, Mr Kinraide claimed that he had only married his wife - then sixteen years old - because he felt responsible for having earlier burned her with x-rays during one of his experiments! The unfortunate Mrs Kinraide got the kids and support, and Mr Kinraide disappears from the public eye.

1 comment:

  1. Dear good historically-minded people of Jamaica Plain,
    Your writer, in his characterisation of the inventor John Keely, has not read enough about Keely to be able to distinguish Keely's financial fraud from any scientific fraud. The financial fraud, by which Keely benefitted greatly, the money giving him the freedom to work himself to death spending every cent trying to perfect an engine on one principle or another from the many principles of physics which he kept discovering, long after his stake in the business had become entirely dilute - this fraud stands in sharp contrast to his scientific genius. At the time he started to produce his inventions, it was not even commonly agreed that splitting the atom would release energy. And yet his model off the atom is very like that for which Feinstein won the Nobel prize in the 1970's, some 100 years later. As a poor European I am inclined to marvel at how Keely remains unforgiveable after all this time, while having clearly been shown to be in a financial impasse regarding merely handing over the knowledge he had. The man was willingly offered finance, and on it he carried out a lifetime of scientific research, and had the universities not made the same mistake your writer is making here, they would have paid him for his old machines rather than have seen them sold for scrap iron to pay for the next experiment, and we would be in a much better position to appreciate the almost divine beauty of Keely's conception and his sacrifice. Here was a man who could drive a motor by playing a flute. And yet he was expected also to develop the industry from the principle which he had first discovered. Not asking much, are we ? Just so long as the stockholders don't look too stupid, we could grant that he was an actual inventor. You Jamaica Plain folk should politely point a ground-penetrating radar at the foundations of the Ravenscroft former home in Spring Park Avenue of Mr Kinraide and hope to God that there's a space under there with a trunk of Keely documents, and if there is, sell everything you own to publish them, and then you'll just about be worthy to wipe the dust off any one of Keely's machines, of which Henri Hertz, shown pictures of these, said: "No-one who makes such machines is a fraud". Keely's closest friends were his fiercest supporters, Clara Bloomfield Moore for example. No-one gives his life, as Keely did, to perpetrate a fraud. You have done everyone a disservice by perpetuating this misconception, which serves also to deprive us of the free energy which any recovery of his works might bring. As Kipling, whom you mentioned, wrote, we should "Read what Fludd the seeker says/ about the Dominant which runs/ across the cycle of the Suns". This music of the spheres was the wheelwork of nature to which Keely coupled his machines. We must work to find out what Keely knew, and rejoice in it.
    Roland van der Plas, Aberdeen, Scotland