“I have had a lot of fun seeing
things that I have made in all sorts of uses, all over the United
States. I am glad that my father encouraged my ambition to make
things, for working at them has brought me the extra dividend of an
interesting life.” ~ A. P. Warner
Warner sold his first dynamo (direct current generator) to the
Gaston Scale Company in Beloit in 1886. He designed it to power 25
bulbs - it eventually powered 75. Warner's second unit, built
for the Beloit Iron Works, powered 150 incandescent bulbs and three
or four arc lights. The unit, completed in 1888, was required to
power 75 bulbs. A third machine, built for the Beloit Straw Board
Company, was completed in 1889. This unit, designed to power 200
lights, was still working in 1910.
with Wilbur Wiley, Warner built Beloit's first electric plant. The
Wiley-Warner Electric Company used water power to spin its generator. The system first used 220 volts,
and then, as demand for electricity increased, moved to a three-wire, 440 volt system. Demand
for electricity continued to grow and water power proved
insufficient. The company moved to a gas-powered engine to power its
generator. The company was sold in 1898 at a loss.
then went to work for Northern Electric Company of Madison,
Wisconsin, in 1897. He first worked as an installer of electric
motors and machinery; he later became a salesman. He relocated to
the firm's Milwaukee office. While there, Warner invented a new
elevator motor. Northern Electric built and sold the motor. The
motor, according to Warner was "a great hit." Warner's
successful sales efforts coupled with that of his improved elevator
motor resulted in Warner's promotion to sales manager for the entire
Northern Electric Company. The Stanley Electric Company bought
Northern Electric and, a short time later, they were purchased by the
General Electric Company (GE). Warner was transferred GE's
headquarters in Schenectady, New York, where he worked until he left
to begin his own company.
Warner and his brother, Charles, formed the Warner Instrument
Company with the financial backing of James Barclay, a manager for
the Deere-Mansur Company (later John Deere), and other family
members. The company's first stockholders meeting was held on January
3, 1904. Warner Instrument Company's first product was a speed
measuring device called a cut-meter. The unit measured the
speed of material spinning in a lathe. The company's first ad
appeared in the April 1904 issue of American Machinist
magazine. The cut-meter proved so popular that sales soon outpaced
was convinced of the value of marketing. Warner worked with Albert
Lasker of the Lord and Thomas advertising agency. Lasker is
considered a pioneer in the advertising industry. Warner credits his
company's success to Lasker, "Without a doubt, the success of
the Warner Instrument Company was largely due to its advertising
under Mr. Lasker's direction."
development of the auto-meter (auto speedometer) quickly followed
their cut-meter. Speedometers were not yet standard equipment on
cars and were needed even more than today. The Warner unit was the
first that was driven by gears attached to the front axle.
Willys-Overland was the first auto manufacturer to make Warner's
auto-meter standard equipment, Cadillac was a close second.
marketing went beyond print media. He built a giant, 800-pound,
working model of his auto-meter. The model, mounted behind the
driver was gold-plated, and had windows so people could see the
car's speed. Demonstrating the model, Warner was arrested when he
purposely exceeded New York City's 10 mile-per-hour speed limit to
call attention to his auto-meter. Warner also drove the car with the
oversize auto-meter down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.
When passing the White House, President Teddy Roosevelt came out to
examine the auto-meter first hand. Warner also used his Curtiss
aeroplane as an exhibit at auto shows throughout the country. The
aircraft never failed to draw a crowd.
Stewart Clark Company of Chicago began copying the Warner design
resulting in a lawsuit that dragged on for years. The issue would be
resolved in 1912 when Stewart Clark purchased Warner Instrument
Company forming the Stewart-Warner Instrument Corporation.
became a real estate developer after selling his company. He bought
nearly 50 buildable lots outside of Miami Beach paying $22,000 for
all. Warner sold off lots when buyers approached him and met his
price. He held onto two, "I soon sold most of my lots, kept a
couple thinking that Mrs. Warner and I might like to build a little
cottage there for winters. Before we got around to it, we had a
million dollar hotel on one side, and a million dollar hotel on the
other, and a little cottage between did not seem quite appropriate.
So I sold the lots, which had cost $1200, for $75,000..."
Warner also purchased a silver, gold, and copper mine in New Mexico.
His Eighty-Five Mining Company would return a substantial profit as
a result of demands for copper during World War I.
every venture was a success. The Warner Lenz, an improved auto
headlight lens, sold a million pair in its first year. The World War
would end its potential as glass became a rare commodity during the
hostilities. The Warner Trailer Company designed a compact,
two-wheeled trailer that, today, would be called a pop-up camper
trailer. While thousands of would-be buyers flocked to wherever it
was displayed, not one was sold. Other trailer designs, built for
the military would be successful. Eventually, the company was sold
to Fruehauf Trailer Company.
In 1927, after
patenting a method of braking by electricity, A. P. Warner started
the Warner Electric Brake and Clutch Company. Warner's last company
became his most successful. The company's president until 1934 when
he moved to the board of directors, he continued as a consulting
engineer with the firm. In 1950, at the age of 80, he was awarded
his last patent for a new electric clutch. That clutch and many
other Warner designs are still being manufactured and sold by his
about A. P. Warner's personal life and his