Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century
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DURFEE, Zoheth Shearman, manufacturer, born in Fall River, Massachusetts, 22 April 1831 : died in Providence, R. I., 8 June 1880. He was graduated at the New Bedford high school, and finished at the Friends' academy in that City. On the completion of his studies he learned the blacksmith's trade, after which he was associated with his father and uncle in the same business. In 1858 he was requested by a number of New Bedford capitalists to report on a new process for the making of steel direct from pigiron, invented by Joseph Dixon. This led to a careful study of the entire subject of the manufacture of steel, and especially of the Bessemer process, then recently invented in England. He discovered that a patent substantially the same as Henry Bessemer's, but claiming priority over it, had been granted in the United States to William Kelly. After satisfying himself of the validity of this patent, he obtained control of it, and visited England for the purpose of buying Bessemer's rights in the United States, but failed. Meanwhile he accumulated much information relative to the practical details of the mannfacture of steel, and became convinced that the invention of Robert Mushet was an essential feature in both processes.
On his return to the United States he organized a company of prominent iron makers for protecting and introducing into practical use the Kelly patent. In 1863 he again visited England, secured the control of the Mushet patent for the United States and the Kelly process company in Wyandotte, Michigan erected subsequently experimental steelworks, where the ingots from which the first steel rails ever made in the United States were produced.
During the following year Mr. Durfee, after a course of experiments, indicated the desirability of melting the charge in the cupola instead of in the reverberatory furnace. That feature prevails exclusively today and demonstrates the correctness of Mr. Durfee's views. In 1866 the conflicting interests of the rival patentees were united in the Pneumatic steel association, of which he became secretary and treasurer, holding that office till his death. Later he was called to superintend the steelworks in Troy, New York, but relinquished that appointment in 1868 and returned to New York, henceforth devoting his exclusive attention to the steel association, whose business he managed until a short time before his death, He patented various improvements in machinery for the manufacture of iron and steel, and made the first Improvement and probably did more than any other single person toward introducing cheapened steel into the United States.
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