Finding Aid for the Moses G. Farmer Papers LSC.0771
Finding aid prepared by Manuscripts Division staff; machine-readable finding aid created by Caroline Cubé.
UCLA Library Special Collections
Online finding aid last updated 2002.
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UCLA Library Special Collections
Title: Moses G. Farmer papers
Farmer, Moses G. (Moses Gerrish)
Identifier/Call Number: LSC.0771
2.5 Linear Feet
(5 boxes and 1 oversize box)
Date (inclusive): 1830-1893
Moses Gerrish Farmer (1820-1893) was born in Boxcawen, New Hampshire. While he was a school principal in Dover, New Hampshire,
he invented a machine to print paper window shades. He invented what became the first electric fire alarm system in the U.S.,
discovered means for duplex and quadruplex telegraph, invented an incandescent electric lamp and in 1866, he patented a self-exciting
dynamo. The collection contains correspondence to and from Moses G. Farmer, account books, diaries, clippings, photographs,
and other memorabilia. The collection also contains legal and business papers regarding Farmer's patents and inventions, especially
the electric railroad and fire alarm system.
Physical Location: Stored off-site. All requests to access special collections material must be made in advance using the request button located
on this page.
Language of Material: Materials are in English.
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Provenance/Source of Acquisition
Charles Scribner's Sons, purchase, 1962.
[Identification of item], Moses G. Farmer Papers (Collection 771). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research
Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
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UCLA Catalog Record ID
Moses Gerrish Farmer was born February 9, 1820 in Boxcawen, New Hampshire; entered preparatory school at Andover in 1832;
attended Dartmouth, but withdrew because of ill health; he worked briefly in a civil engineer's office and was affiliated
with various private schools in New England; married Hannah Tobey Shapleigh in 1844; while he was a school principal in Dover,
New Hampshire, he invented a machine to print paper window shades; began work with the electric telegraph, eventually taking
charge of the telegraph line between Boston and Newburyport,Massachusetts in 1848 he invented what became the first electric
fire alarm system in the U.S.; discovered means for duplex and quadruplex telegraph; in 1858-59 invented an incandescent electric
lamp; in 1866 he patented a self-exciting dynamo; appointed as electrician of U.S. Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island;
consulting electrician, U.S. Electric Light Company of New York; died in 1893.
Moses Gerrish Farmer, inventor and pioneer electrician was born on February 9, 1820 in Boxcawen, New Hampshire to Colonel
John and Sally (Gerrish) Farmer. He died at the World's Fair in Chicago on May 25, 1893.
In 1832 Moses Farmer entered the preparatory school at Andover, Massachusetts. He also attended Dartmouth College, but had
to give up his studies due to ill health. After a brief period of employment in a civil engineer's office, Farmer was affiliated
with various private schools in New England including Eliot Academy, Eliot Maine. While in Eliot, Farmer married Hannah Tobey
Shapleigh on December 25, 1844. They had one daughter, Sarah Jane Farmer.
Moses Farmer's career as an inventor began while he was principal of a school in Dover, New Hampshire. At that time he devised
a machine to print paper window shades. In 1845 he became enthusiastic about electricity. His first project was to construct
a miniature electric train which was first exhibited on July 26, 1847. By December of that year he had accepted a position
as wire examiner of the new electric telegraph line between Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts. During this time he learned
telegraphy and July 1848 was appointed operator in the office at Salem, Massachussetts. Farmer later took charge of the telegraph
between Boston and Newburyport, Massachusetts and undertook opening telegraph offices along this line.
In the meantime, Moses Farmer continued his electrical experimentation at home. In 1848 he invented an electric-striking aparatus
for a fire-alarm service which he developed with Dr. William F. Channing. This system was installed in the City of Boston
in 1851. Farmer became the superintendent of the system. This was the first electric fire-alarm system in the United States.
Farmer resigned the superintendency in 1853 and worked on his various electrical ideas. In 1855, he discovered the means for
duplex and quadruplex telegraph. Succeeding in depositing aluminum electrolytically in 1856, he went into the electrotyping
business with several other men. The business failed in the panic of 1857.
After the business failure, Moses Farmer experimented with electricity as a source of light and in 1858-59 he invented an
incandescent electric lamp. Becoming the superintendent of a tobacco-extracting manufactory in Somerville, Massachusetts,
allowed Farmer to do further experiments. In 1866 he patented, a self-exciting dynamo. His attention was then concentrated
more and more upon electric power generation and distribution.
In 1872 Farmer was appointed to the office of electrician at the United States Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island. For
a period of nine years he greatly advanced torpedo warfare until his health made his resignation imperative. As far as his
health permitted, he then acted as consulting electrician for the United States Electric Light Company of New York. After
several years he retired with his family to their summer home at Eliot, Maine, where he established a public library.
Moses Gerrish Farmer led the way by thirty years in many applications of electric current. His electrical patents rivalled
Thomas A. Edison's. He received less fame and less profit because of his constant impulse to plunge into the unknown rather
than to develop and perfect a marketable invention. Farmer's patents were purchased by the United States Electric Light Company
and were later sold to Westinghouse.
Scope and Content
Collection contains correspondence to and from Moses G. Farmer, account books, diaries, clippings, photographs, and other
memorabilia. Correspondents include inventors Joseph Henry and William Francis Channing. Also contains legal and business
papers regarding Farmer's patents and inventions, especially the electric railroad and fire alarm system. Includes correspondence
and papers of members of the Farmer, Shapleigh, and Little families.
Expanded Scope and Content
The Moses Gerrish Farmer collection was purchased in July 1962. The collection contains correspondence to and from Moses Gerrish
Farmer and papers regarding his patents and inventions, especially the electric railroad and fire-alarm system. There is some
biographical material in the collection including an autobiography of Farmer. Various other writings by Farmer are also present.
The remainder of the collection is composed of correspondence and papers of members of the Farmer, Shapleigh and Little families,
including legal papers, diaries and photographs.
Organization and Arrangement
Arranged in the following series:
- Correspondence of Moses G. Farmer (Box 1).
- Correspondence of other family members (Box 2).
- Legal papers of Richard Shapleigh, Sally Gerrish Farmer's diaries, photographs (Box 2).
- Autobiography, biography, and biographical materials on Moses G. Farmer (Box 2).
- Various writings of Moses G. Farmer, insurance policies, and legal papers (Box 3).
- Notes re: inventions, electric railway, fire alarm system (Box 3).
- List of patents, patent applications and agreements, published patents (Box 4).
- Letters of Moses G. Farmer and miscellaneous material (Box 5).
- Journal of Hannah Farmer, 1844-53 (Box 6).
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Inventors -- United States -- Archives.
Farmer, Moses G. (Moses Gerrish), 1820-1893--Archives.
box 1, folder 1
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer as a young man during and mainly during his college years from his family, relatives,
and friends--in particular Jacob H. Little.
box 1, folder 2
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer from concerning replies from the U.S. Patent Office and personal letters.
box 1, folder 3
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer from concerning business between him and William F. Channing, and replies from the U.S.
box 1, folder 4
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer from mainly from William F. Channing concerning inventions and patents.
box 1, folder 5
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer from concerning business with Frank L. Pope (his patent attorney) and the U.S. Electric
box 1, folder 6
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer from concerning his inventions with Frank L. Pope, Parker W. Page, Attorney at Law, and
Charles C. Coffin.
box 1, folder 7
Letters received by Moses G. Farmer from concerning business with Page, Pope, and others.
box 1, folder 8
Letters sent by Moses G. Farmer from to Joseph M. Batchelder concerning his patents on inventions.
box 1, folder 9
Letters sent by Moses G. Farmer from to Charles Stowell concerning an invention referred to as machines D and B.
box 1, folder 10
Letters sent by Moses G. Farmer from to Charles Stowell, Pope, etc. dealing mainly with the electric light invention.
box 2, folder 1
Correspondence received and sent by Hannah (Shapleigh) Farmer, wife of Moses Farmer from and undated. Included are her poems
under the name of Mabelle. Many of the letters concern miscredit given to Farmer's invention of the Fire Alarm Telegraph.
box 2, folder 2
Correspondence received and sent by Sarah J. Farmer, daughter of Moses G. Farmer from concerning replies received on invitations
she sent out commemorating her father's electric train invention at the Electrical Convention in Also a phrenology on her,
and her last will and testament of 1893 and 1902.
box 2, folder 3
Correspondence received and sent by John and Sally (Gerrish) Farmer, mother and father of Moses G. Farmer, from concerning
in particular letters to Mrs. Farmer from her son Moses who was at Andover attending school.
box 2, folder 4
Correspondence received and sent by various members of the Shapleigh and Little families between 1816 and 1861.
box 2, folder 5
Legal papers of Richard Shapleigh between containing a series of land deeds under his name.
box 2, folder 6
Sally Gerrish Farmer's diaries--complete years 1813, 1815, 1831, and 1844 at the ages of 23, 25, 41, and 54 respectively;
and partial diaries for the years 1848, 1852, and 1856 including a set of recipes and medicants.
box 2, folder 7
Photographs--two of Moses G. Farmer, one of their home in Eliot, Maine, two of their home in Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode
Island, a picture of Hannah S. Farmer and an unknown woman.
box 2, folder 8
Autobiography of Moses G. Farmer. The first written in and covers the first sixteen years of his life (to 1836). The second
began in and ended in The third one is a brief summary of his inventions up to 1849.
1885 1826 1848.
box 2, folder 9
Biography of Moses G. Farmer's life from his birth to 1848 with many extracts taken from Farmer's autobiography.
box 2, folder 10
Partial biographical material on Moses G. Farmer's life including an extract from a book; an account of his inventions up
to ; a phrenology of his character; a biography of his life up to 1877; a medical report of his health in later years; and
miscellaneous--certificate of admittance into school, his marriage certificate, his obituary notice, and two newspapers items
on his accomplishments.
box 2, folder 11
Biography of Moses G. Farmer in a bound book with notes and dates of discoveries made by him but not written by him; also
a list of names and dates.
box 3, folder 1
Various writings of Moses G. Farmer including school compositions of his youth and part of a paper on predictions into the
future of transportation.
box 3, folder 2
Insurance policies on fire protection and the life of Moses G. Farmer between
1856 and 1859.
box 3, folder 3
Legal papers of Moses G. Farmer concerning claims of debt or damage during
1857 and 1861.
box 3, folder 4
Miscellaneous notes, drawings, and calculations of Moses G. Farmer regarding his inventions.
box 3, folder 5
Miscellaneous accounts of Farmer's construction materials used in his invention from including a bound ledger for the years
box 3, folder 6
The electric railway invention of Moses G. Farmer including newspaper clippings, a pamphlet, notes, drawings, and a picture
of the invention.
box 3, folder 7
Fire Alarm System invention by Moses G. Farmer with articles concerning who was the real inventor by Charles C. Coffin and
others; also published patents and notes.
box 3, folder 8
Fire Alarm System continued with pamphlets and a Record of Proceedings of the U.S. Patent Office regarding the extention of
the patent; included are articles on William F. Channing.
box 4, folder 1
Lists of patents issued to Moses G. Farmer from
1852 to 1888.
box 4, folder 2
Original patents of three of Farmer's inventions-- Magneto-Electric Machines Repeaters for Submarine Cables and Electric Cable
box 4, folder 3
Applications for patents by Moses G. Farmer consisting of both written and typed copies and the originals from
box 4, folder 4
Agreements regarding patents of Moses G. Farmer with associates like J.M. Batchelder, J.F. Boynton, Charles C. Coffin, etc.
in original and copied forms from
box 4, folder 5
Agreements regarding patents by Moses Farmer continued from
1880 to 1889.
box 4, folder 6
Published patents of Moses G. Farmer's inventions from
box 4, folder 7
Published patents of Moses G. Farmer's inventions from
box 5, folder 1
Published patents of Thomas A. Edison's inventions from
box 5, folder 2
Published patents of other inventors in alphabetical order such as Amos E. Dolbear, A.W. Hall, C.J. Kintner, Ernst W. Siemens,
H.C. Spalding, J.C. Swan, and others.
box 5, folder 3
Copies of letters, applications and original patents of inventors other than Mosses G. Farmer from
box 5, folder 4
Miscellaneous material regarding the field of electricity in general including newspapers, pamphlets, and clippings with emphasis
on the electric light, the telephone, and the electromagnetic telegraph invented by Joseph Henry.
Journal of Hannah Farmer
December 25, 1844-May 9, 1845.