Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
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BRYANT, Gridley, engineer, born in Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1789; died there, 13 June, 1867. He was left fatherless at an early age, was apprenticed to a builder in Boston when fifteen years old, and when twenty-one began business on his own account. In 1823 he invented the portable derrick. He obtained the contract for building the United States bank in Boston, and other public buildings, and was master builder and contractor to supply stone for Bunker Hill monument. In order to bring the stone from his quarry at Quincy, he conceived the plan of building a railroad, suggested by the Liverpool and Manchester railroad, then in contemplation in England, but not yet built. Thomas H. Perkins and other members of the Bunker Hill monument association consented to the project, though doubtful of its success; the legislature hesitated to charter the corporation, and finally granted a charter that was encumbered with vexatious restrictions. Mr. Perkins alone of the original subscribers was willing to risk capital in the venture, and took the whole stock when the others neglected to pay their assessments. The railroad, four miles long, including branches, was begun on 1 April, 1826, and on 7 October of the same year the first train of cars passed over the entire line. Bryant devised a swing platform, balanced by weights, to receive the loaded ears as they came from the quarry. The platform was connected with an inclined plane, on which the cars were lowered, by means of an endless chain, to the railroad, eighty-four feet below. He also constructed a turntable at the foot of the quarry. He invented all the cars, tracks, and machinery. His cars had four-wheeled trucks, which were used singly, or were joined in pairs, by means of a platform and kingbolts, to form eight-wheeled cars. The turntable, switches, and turnouts invented by Bryant were not patented, but were abandoned to the public, and were afterward in general use on railroads. In 1834 Ross Winans patented an eight-wheeled car with appliances and improvements adapted for general railroad use; but, instead of taking out a patent for his improvements and combinations, he claimed the invention of the principle of eight-wheeled carriages. Other railroads besides the Baltimore and Ohio, which controlled the Winans patent, used eight-wheeled cars similar to those of Winans, on the strength of Brynut's prior invention, which was not patented ; and after five years of litigation the courts decided against the validity of the Winans patent. Mr. Bryant's testimony was frequently required in the Ross Winans suit. He had become reduced in circumstances, and was encouraged to incur much trouble and outlay by repeated promises of ample compensation from the interested railroad corporations; and their failure to keep these promises, after winning the suit, greatly depressed his spirits and hastened his death from paralysis.
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