According to one account of Davenports life, He unwound and dismantled the [Joseph Henry] magnet as his wife, Emily, took notes on its method of construction. He then started his own experiments and built two more magnets of his own design. Insulated wire was required, but only bare wire was available. Emily cut up her wedding dress into strips of silk to provide the
necessary insulation that allowed for the maximum number of windings.
A friend and neighbor, Orange Smalley, also took part in early experiments that led to the running of the first electric motor during the summer of 1834.
Davenport also patented a device for "improvements in propelling machinery by magnetism and electromagnetism" in 1837this patent described the first electric railway based on the model train constructed in Brandon. Davenports model train ran on a circular track 4 feet in diameter; its power was supplied by a stationary battery.
During the early 1840s, Davenport opened a workshop in New York City. He also published the worlds first technical journal devoted to all things electromagnetic. Davenport travelled between New York and Vermont until his death. He died in Salisbury, VT, on July 6, 1851.
Despite being revered as a technological genius by the fraternity of mechanical engineers, Davenport has gone largely unnoticed in histories about pioneering American inventors.
More about Thomas Davenport:
You can view a replica of the electromagnet used by Thomas Davenport at the Penfield Museum and homestead in Crown Point (the original is preserved in the Smithsonian Institution). The museums annual Apple Folkfest will be held this Sunday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Museum admission is free all day.
To get to the Penfield Museum, cross the Champlain Bridge and take Route 9N south to Crown Point; follow road signs in downtown Crown Point or you can call the museum at 518-597-3804 for specific directions.
The original two-story Davenport-Smalley workshop and an historical monument can be seen in Brandon/Forestdale, VT, about 800 feet south of the intersection of Routes 73 and 53.
Inventiveness ran in Davenports family. A 21st century descendant, Earl Davenport, invented the over-unity magnetic motor, generator, and at the age of 12, an advanced alternator.