1903: Dr. Chauncey B. Forward

Here is the incredible story of a guy who could not settle down to one thing and simply focus.

From a 1903 issue of Successful American:


Dr. Chauncey B. Forward.
Of the Eclipse Machine Company and the Eclipse Car Fender Company.

Dr. Chauncey B. Forward was bom in Somerset County, Pa., July 2nd, 1861, and his ancestors on both sides proudly trace the family tree back to the early part of the sixteenth century; those on his father’s side having been of the early pioneers of Connecticut, while on his mother’s side from Virginia. His mother was an Ogle, and the Ogles of Pennsylvania and Virginia were all prominent in the professions of Law, War, and Statesmanship in the early history of that section. His great-grandfather. Samuel Forward, came from Connecticut in 1806. and settled in the “Western Reserve” at Aurora. Ohio, and, though the Doctor has been a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, for only twenty-two years, the Western Reserve being the place of his adoption, he feels as much pride in it as though he were a born Buckeye. His great-grandfather, himself a lawyer, had six sons, all of whom followed the same profession with promises of bright careers, but three of them died while yet young men: of the other three, Samuel Forward, Jr., afterwards became the honored Mayor of Buffalo, New York. Walter Forward practiced successfully in Pittsburg, Pa., as did also Chauncey Forward, after whom the Doctor was named. Walter Forward was Secretary of the Treasury during the 40’s, and afterwards Minister Plenipotentiary to Denmark. Honorable Chauncey Forward was one of Pennsylvania’s Representatives in Congress for many years. Honorable Jeremiah Black, who was Secretary of State under President Buchanan, and one of the country’s greatest jurists, studied law in Chauncey Forward’s office, and afterwards married his eldest daughter, Mary Forward.

The Doctor’s father. Ross Forward, practiced law in Pennsylvania for a number of years, but went to Cincinnati at the close of the Civil War, and still resides there, hale and hearty at the age of eighty-two, having retired from active life only four years ago The Doctor had three older brothers who were earning their own living while he, still a lad between thirteen and fourteen, was attending the public school at Cincinnati. At this early age his desire to do something got the better of his judgment, and he, of his own volition, left school before finishing the course in the grammar grades, and started to learn the carpenter trade. After spending three years at his trade, he decided that it was not his forte, and so started to study shorthand, and obtained a position in the General Freight Office of the Atlantic & Great Western R. R. Company at Cincinnati. The Erie Railway, having secured control of this Company, the office was removed to Cleveland, in April, 1880, and he went with them, having received a promotion in the Claim Department.

In Cleveland Mr. Forward made the acquaintance of an unusually bright and attractive young lady school teacher, Miss Annie T. Griffith, whom he married in September, 1884. A year after their marriage, the Doctor, having become interested in the mining district of Boulder County, Colorado, gave up his position with the Railroad Company, and went to Colorado with his wife. Unfortunately she was taken sick. and, being sixty miles from civilization and medical attention, he was compelled to return with his wife, who was an invalid for the year following. This experience cost Mr. Forward his position, and left him about three thousand dollars in debt. Nothing daunted, however, he being of an inventive turn of mind, patented an automatic grain scale, which he afterwards sold at a good figure. He then went to work for the Brown Hoisting & Conveying Machine Company, of Cleveland, where he acquired some valuable business knowledge along new lines.

Between 1888 and 1889 Mr. Forward was stricken with a severe attack of sciatic rheumatism, and for two years and a half was compelled to walk with crutches. Unable to work, and almost discouraged, he went to San Antonio. Texas, for a change of climate, and after four months returned to Cleveland, but little improved. Thus, in the summer of 1889 he found himself still a cripple, and six thousand dollars in debt. The situation was enough to stagger the stoutest heart, but here is where pluck, courage and the possession of a noble wife came in. Mrs. Forward secured a position as teacher in the public schools of Cleveland as a substitute, while he entered the Cleveland Medical College, from which he graduated three years after. Meantime his only son, William, died at the age of six years. However, with the aid of the loyal wife’s efforts, the Doctor graduated with honor, and practiced successfully in Cleveland for several years thereafter. He has been connected with a great deal of Cleveland’s charitable work and even while deeply in debt and burdened with troubles that would have disheartened most men, was always ready to extend a substantial helping hand, encouragement and sympathy to the poor.

While still practicing medicine, the Doctor became interested in experimenting with the waste products in the refining of oil, and perfected a process for utilizing the same economically and successfully. From this he naturally turned to experimental work in the refining of oils, particularly those of the asphalt base which has hitherto been regarded as of no value except as fuel. Having perfected his process for refining oils of this character, the next question that confronted him was to procure a supply of such oils, as little of that character existed in the Northern oil fields. Knowing of the abundant oil indications in Southeast Texas, he organized the Forward Reduction Company to handle his processes, and then went to Texas prospecting for such oils four years ago. This was two years prior to the Beaumont oil boom. He prospected all through Eastern Texas, Western Louisiana, Indian Territory and Eastern Kansas, selecting a number of locations and employing men to lease the lands adjacent thereto. The famous Spindle Top was one of the points thus selected, and, but lor a dishonest employe, the Doctor’s Company would have controlled all that territory. When the now famous “Lucas Gusher” was struck, the Doctor had been at work in that section for two years previously, and his Company controlled by lease about 35,000 acres in Jefferson County, with as many more acres across the line in Louisiana. The Doctor, having great faith in the possibilities of that section of the country, secured an increase in the capitalization of his Company to $5,000,000. The stock sold rapidly for a year and, in accordance with the purpose of the increase in capital, the Company purchased thousands of acres of land, spending over $1,000,000 during the following year on the purchase and improvement of the properties. During this year, under his direction, eight or ten complete drilling outfits were kept busy either in prospect work in new territory, or on property within the proven field on Spindle Top. which was owned by the Company. Several mammoth steel storage tanks were erected. He had secured the building of an extension of five miles of track by the Orange & Northwestern R. R. Co. from Orange, south to the refinery property, where he had surveyed and laid out a town site, with graded and shelled streets, had erected a hotel and other buildings for the care of employes. Having previously visited practically all the oil fields of America, the Doctor during the winter of 1901 made a hurried trip to the oil fields of Baku, Russia, on the banks of the Caspian Sea. He acquired here a fund of knowledge regarding their methods of production and refining and felt well repaid for the long journey. But, “the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee,” and last summer, 1902, there came a general slump in Oil Stocks of all character. Unfortunately for the Doctor and his Company, this came just at a period when there were a number of large payments due on lands, machinery, etc. He worked night and day in his efforts to stem the tide and, having personally endorsed the Company’s obligations to the extent of nearly half a million dollars, he was forced into bankruptcy.

The Company has since then reorganized and the new Company is carrying out the original plans of the Doctor, but he has no connections with it, having sacrificed all he had in the world in his efforts to save the original company, and his personal bankruptcy left him penniless.

Once more in poor health from his long strain, he found himself at the bottom of the ladder, but again with undaunted courage he determined to put his shoulder to the wheel after securing the necessary rest and strength. With this end in view, he, last month, entered into a contract with an inventor named Benjamin Lev, who has a number of patents, some of which are already demonstrated successes, and some still to be perfected.

For the purpose of developing and perfecting these and other inventions along mechanical lines, the Doctor organized a $100,000 corporation, The Eclipse Machine Company, of Cleveland, and has equipped a first class machine shop for carrying on the experimental work as well as outside contract work. He employs here not only the inventor, but a number of first class mechanics and draughtsmen for that purpose. As the inventions are perfected it is his purpose to either sell outright the patents, or organize companies to manufacture and market them. Four or five of Mr. Lev’s inventions are already on the market, and the Doctor has just organized a $450,000 corporation under the laws of Delaware for the manufacture and marketing of a street car fender that will really “fend.” The Company is known as the Eclipse Car Fender Company. In a public demonstration the inventor allowed himself to be struck by the car going twelve (12) miles an hour, and he was picked up uninjured by the fender on several trials. The Company is just starting, and is putting trial fenders in a number of cities. Although the Doctor thinks there is a roseate outlook for the Fender Company which is now getting well under way, he says he has three or four other inventions which he expects to bring out this year that will help solve his troubles.

It is a very true saying that “it is hard to keep a good man down,” and Dr. Forward’s career is a verification of the proverb. The Doctor, to use his own expression, has been “up against the real thing” on many occasions during his forty-two years of life, but he has always made misfortune a stepping stone to a larger measure of success. He is a tireless worker, and although a member of the Century Club of Cleveland, the Lawyers’ Club, National Arts Club, and the Ohio Society, all of New York, he finds but little time to spend at any of them. He is also a member of the Chamber of Commerce of Cleveland. The Doctor counts his friends by the hundreds from Maine to California.

Original page images (click to enlarge):





Filed under Engineering, Medicine

3 responses to “1903: Dr. Chauncey B. Forward

  1. Suzanne Forward

    My great grandfather. My brother is Chauncey Blair Forward VI.

  2. Sherry Virts

    This is only half of the story. He continued working and experimenting and died in Urbana,Ohio in 1933.

  3. My grandfather (mother’s father). Interested in any patents he had after 1902.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.