Letters from P.E.I. - To the Editor, Watson duChemin, Inventor, March 2, 1932

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Transcribed by Nancy M. duChemin, Nancy M. duChemin

March 2, 1932
Charlottetown Guardian Prince Edward Isle


Sir, A few days ago your Summerside correspondent made reference to an old newspaper clipping, commenting on the late Watson duChemin (grandfather of Mrs. H. A. Compton, recently deceased) as inventor of the "ball bearing" principle, now in such universal use.

I have before me a circular nearly a hundred years old, issued by the shipping supply house of John T. Thomas, 6 Mulgrave Place, Plymouth, England, illustrating "Duchemin's Patent Antifriction Roller Boxes, in Brass & Galvanized iron, with Gun Metal Rollers".

Also this year's catalogue of the well known Automotive supply house of John Millen & Son. Ld., Montreal, illustrating the latest ball bearing auto-equipment of today. These two are so identical in appearance and principle, as to show that the original DuChemin invention was so perfected as to admit of pactically no change or material improvement.

Watson DuChemin (founder of the DuChemin Bros. factory, this city) used his own brass foundry, turning out sheaves and bushing equal in workmanship to the best in our day supplying the trade from his Island factory.

The ball bearing invention is now in use the world over, in all ships of war and commerce, and now added to the motor equipment of factories, autos and airplanes. Such a universally used and invaluable invention would, in the present day, be accounted amongst the marvels of genius, and made a millionaire of the inventor.

Mr. DuChemin also invented, and sold, DuChemin's Patent Bait Mill still in use, without improvement in the fisheries of many countries.

He also was the original inventor of the "Compartment Egg Case", now adopted to countless uses for the carriage of glass and fragile goods. This invention, originally of taped compartments, was imitated by one, Stevens, in substituting cardboard for tape. It appeared an infringement upon the original patent, but Stevens being a young mechanic of limited means, and the substitution being much cheaper and a public benefit, Watson DuChemin, who aspired after art and the public good rather than monetary gain refused to interfere.

Skilled in mechanics, he built, from foundation to keyboard, a pipe organ, which gave service to the Indian River Chapel for years, until replaced by a more modern organ. This organ is now possessed by a grandson, Prof. Tanton, who purchased it as a family heirloom. He also built some melodeons, predecessors of our cabinet organs, and two hand organs (hurdy-gurdy). The workmanship on these was as fine in every particular as any in this age and the brass reeds and points as finely tuned as in our day.

Some paintings in oil of his are still in family possession. When H.R.H. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, visited the Province (1869) the decorations, most elaborate in the record of public demonstrations here, were designed and erected by him.

Watson DuChemin was a great grandson of Count Julien DuChemin of Vere, in France, A Hugenot refugee whose estate was confiscated under the Edicts following the "Reign of Terror". George W. DuChemin of New York, carver & gilder, (a grandson) prior to his death which occurred last year, presented his cousins in Charlottetown with artistically executed alabaster plaques, facsimiles of the Julien DuChemin coat of arms.

Some of our older inhabitants will remember Watson DuChemin and his wife Miss Clarke, of Edinburgh, their three sons and ten daughters, nearly all of whom were prominent in Methodist circles, and conspicuous in music, particularly in the choir.

Some of his sons were also inventors. His eldest, William, was patentee of a long stitch sewing machine, used in quilting and horse rugs, for which he received $60,000 stock in the company, and a royalty on each machine sold. He also invented a shuttle, the patent of which he sold for $3000. Besides a number of minor patents, he was working on a new type sewing machine when death intervened at the age of 92.

His second son, Edmund, invented a special reversible catch for the ventilating windows of railway cars, which are now used by all railway systems of America.

In our age we boast of the marvels of invention. But where would our motor car and flying ships be, without the aid of the DuChemin ball bearing of nearly a hundred years ago? That which was considered as merely a passing genius a century ago, would in this age of hero worship crown such an inventor as amongst the pioneers of brilliant mechanical thought, and carpet their pathway with flowers of praise. The DuChemin-Tanton families of this city, and the late Mrs Compton, of Summerside, are grandchildren, besides whom there are others, with great-grandchildren, in Halifax, Monoton, the United States and Vancouver.

I am, Sir., etc.,


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