W2573 TO ISAAC BALDWIN MCQUESTEN from William Dunn
Oct 29 1883
To: Isaac Baldwin McQuesten Hamilton, Ont.
From: New York
I.B. McQuesten Esq.
Although as a rule adverse to writing or troubling persons with much correspondence, existing circumstances make it imperative (I think) on me to give certain explanations.1 I do this in justice to you as well as myself, and in as brief a manner as possible, will say what is to be said, and take up each grievance (of which I am accountable or at least accused) and deal with it as it not only appears to me but is in "fact." On our last meeting last Saturday you stated "I could have got $5000 for the coupler if I had gone the right way about it." In this I entirely agree with you. I believe that that amount could have been realized quite easily if it had not been for certain reasons to which I will briefly refer and content myself with knowing that nothing but truths are submitted.
When I sold an interest in the Patent, there was some deceit practiced not by you or by me but by your personal friend and my Agent Mr.A.2--He came to me and offered me $2000 for a certain share in the Patent, $1000 in cash and $1000 to be paid to me at intervals, stating that this was done so as to ensure my attention towards improving the Couplers, and paying my expenses, and in settling with me he magnanimously (as his conversation implied) only charged a commission on the $1000 actually paid, and in answer to my query why he was given an interest, was informed that you knowing his ability as an negotiator, was anxious to secure his services. How well he was qualified you can judge for yourself. Being in Chicago has given an opportunity to test the matter, the results we know.
The deceit consisted in keeping hid from you the fact that he was receiving from me a large share of the money paid by you, and at the same time accepting from you a large share in the transaction, knowing that you were unaware of the fact he had been well recompensed by me. When he went to you in my absence and (without my consent) drew from you the balance coming to him as commissioned he had a golden opportunity of telling you why he claimed this money and I presumed he had done so, and did not know to the contrary for several months. When by casual conversation between yourself and me you learned the true state of affairs, I was accused of acting in collusion to deceive you. I can easily see what motives the other might have for keeping the matter secret, but cannot discover where it was to benefit me. When a misunderstanding arose respecting the residue $1000, I asked Mr. A. for his interpretation of the agreement where he assured me that it was to be expended in my personal expenses when perfecting the device and other incidentals in connection therewith. He manfully ignored all such assurances when I put the question to him in the presence of yourself and [T.?]. This is the party who was to decide differences. When business became rather dull with him I was constantly beset and importuned to urge that he and I spoke of the advisability of starting out on a tour to dispose of the Coupler. Telling me at the same time he would demand $200 a month for expenses for himself. I knew where this money would have to come from and I could foresee what the outcome would be and consequently instead of encouraging such scheme opposed it, thereby incurring his displeasure. A matter of but little moment to me; excepting so far as it was considered of sufficient importance to impress one with the fact afterwards. I do not care one iota for any of the foregoing (to me at the time) annoyances, and merely mention them, especially the latter to show that I am not so "visionary" but that I can see things in as true a light as others. That Mr. A. was totally incapable of handling the Coupler I was convinced because I knew he was ignorant of the principles of construction and the requirements and not qualified to judge of the merits between it and any other. Verbosity may silence but never convince thinking mind--Knowing that the Coupler ought to be finished if returns were expected, I volunteered to undertake the task of realizing out of it, naming an amount that would barely pay expenses and relinquishing a share in the Patent as my portion of the outlay, estimating the value at a very low figure, so much so that Mr. A. accused me of showing that I had lost confidence in the invention. I may have done so in him, but not in the others. I placed the value of the Patent low because I knew it was merely speculation. I knew that the results depended altogether on circumstances. I held out no promises of large returns I merely said "I was confident I could recoup the outlay." There was nothing "visionary" in that proposition, and I would have carried it out. You may remember, when I submitted the scheme, I distinctly and emphatically stated that I must be allowed to conduct the affairs as I saw best, and free from interference. And privately I gave you reasons, they being, I should endeavour to use parties who would not want to be known in the matter. I was assured that I would not be asked any questions but left to conduct the matter as I thought best. With this understanding I started out and employed a man as "whipper-in." His "calibre" etc., I measured without being told, but he answered my purpose and would have been of use about certain points. In fact he did more in giving the Coupler prominence than was done by any one else in Canada, unless it was myself. Through his exertions and my own the opinions of such men as Cumberland, Bayley and other noted Engineers were obtained, and McDonald, Tupper and others interested, and the prospects were fair for getting something out of it. I do not say a large sum, but something.
How far was the non-interference carried out? I had not been a month working up the matter before I had to undergo a series of examinations and cross-examinations and expected to answer such questions, "What have you done," "I want to see proof of what you have done," &c. I then saw that I could not in honor, implicate those whom I expected assistance from, and hence abandoned the procedure first laid out. When I got Tupper and McDonald interested in the matter I thought and think yet, that something could have been got out of it if it had been differently worked.
The negotiations with them was virtually taken out of my hands, and then my obligations ceased. My plan was to get these men interested and through them to get others, and placing the Patent at a small figure, have each purchase a share, the inducements being, the probability of getting the Coupler on the Government [mode?]. This plan was suggested to me by a prominent man but it did not meet your views. You preferring to have placed on [?]. I saw, and in fact was told, that there would be a difficulty in that, on account of your political proclivities in opposition to the government. In fact Tupper asked me one day when walking down King Street, whether you were a Reformer or Conservative, and the reply appeared to set him to thinking. To be brief, had I been let alone I believe the outcome would have been much more satisfactory than it has been. It could not have been less. To be responsible for results and at the same time be expected to act under guidance and authority is anomalistic--In Buffalo I succeeded in getting the promise of having the Couplers fitted on some cars, but I observed a desire for putting off the work on the part of the foreman and at last found out that the son of one of the Directors had an interest in a Coupler that was being perfected, and to me, this accounted for the delays and I did not urge the business further. The other experiment cost the son, so he told me, about $8000 and then it proved a failure. Several propositions of one kind and another were offered to me, but were such I did not deem worth considering, because I knew that anything but a large sum would only be met by the accusation I might have done better, had I possessed ordinary shrewdness &c. It was never intimated to me that a sum like $5000 would be considered satisfactory. When the Railroad Commission met in Canada and I went to Toronto and explained the "Modus operandi" and did it briefly it was not satisfactory because I did not dwell on the subject. Now I do not believe there was a man in that room that understood the practicability and impracticability of Couplers as well as myself, and from the very fact that no objection was raised, was to me, an evidence that no objectionable features were presentable. Persons who judge a piece of mechanism intelligently, do not search for the good qualities, these he takes for granted but examines for the defects. Anyway volubility is a trait I have never cultivated. When told to get cars ready to send to Toronto, I advised not to go to the expense, for the Commissioners stated distinctly they would not look at cars. I went on however as instructed, and got the Couplers on although feeling assured it was a useless expense. I then went again to Toronto as further instructed, fortified with an introductory letter, but the result was as I foresaw, and all I accomplished was having a change in the Report. Candour compels me to say that that was not due to letter, for the person to whom it was addressed appeared to shirk the question at issue. For this expenditure I also have to bear the "onus," however that does not trouble me.
With the foregoing recapitulation of facts, I now come to that which has prompted what has been written. If you will state in "Black and White" the lowest figure that will be accepted for the Patent as a whole. By this I do not mean that but I should want to claim any excess over that, but I want to know the lowest price. If more be got it would be accounted for in entirety. I of course claiming my share. Now I do not say that I can sell it here, but I can try. If it cannot be sold here it cannot be sold anywhere, but if I do undertake to have it handled, I will accept of no interference, act on any advice, unless it is in accordance with my own views. I do not do much or say much without thinking the matter over pretty thoroughly, although you may think differently, and what you may think is perplexity is only taking time to think before replying. Should the price settled on be such as I think could be got, I shall at once send for the Models, and would want those Testimonials which I got from different parties. But understand it depends altogether on the amount named, this I will consider the lowest dollar that will be accepted. I don't want any latitude or instructions as to what I am to ask or what inducements I would be at liberty to hold out for assistances; these matters I would have to judge for myself reserving the right to employ whom I thought advisable and reporting such progress and only at such times as I may see fit, and you may be assured I will not write much on the subject until there is something very tangible to disclose. I know the position of the affair and I know that unless I endeavour to dispose of it, it will remain in the same state unless something more than ordinary turns up. Reiterating I do not hold out a certain or even a probable assurance of selling the Coupler Patent, only a possibility. I drop the subject.
With regard to the "Lock" I have not much to say. I know it is ingenious and could be utilized. Whether it can be sold or not can only be ascertained by trying. There are men here who claim that money can be got for investment in almost anything if the proper course is pursued, and I am beginning to believe it, when I see and hear of the number of shares sold for an Air Ship, and all there is to show is a miniature representation, composed of linen and wire which is suspended in one of their Halls. However that has nothing to do with the question--which is, what will be considered a satisfactory price for the Patent for the Lock or at least what is the lowest figure. As it is, it is worth nothing. Whether that is the fault of the invention or not, I am not going to say.
The Boiler Feeder Patent is a subject that I approached with more hesitation than the others because to one as conversant with the matter as I am [written above the line: "the subject presents several views"] Boiler Feeders intended for the same purpose, and acting on the same principle but of different construction, have proved remunerative. This has not been pushed because I did not want to go to the expense at present, nor had I the time. Of the latter reason, you may think differently, but it is reasonable to suppose I am the best judge knowing how my time has been occupied. Another reason why I have not brought the Feeder more prominently forward is simply this. Being endowed with sufficient common sense as to enable me to see things as they are, and draw deductions thereupon, I knew that these Feeders would have to be sold "Subject to a thorough trial." I also knew that there are waters where they would not give the satisfaction required. I know this from my scientific knowledge of the subject gained not by imagination, but by study and observations. The waters where the Feeder would not be likely to succeed are the exception, not the rule, and the causes why I would anticipate non-success, I could easily explain if necessary. As stated before, there are places where it would not be advisable to put the Feeder in use, not that it would do harm but it would likely do no good, and persons do not care to pay for improvements if no beneficial results are observable. If I knew beforehand the components of the water or the general appearance of the incrustations, I could determine the matter at once, but in ignorance of that I perchance should put a Feeder on a Boiler supplied with such water and the results should not be favorable, I should have to bear the blame of the failure, be subjected to a series of cross-examinations, doubts cast on my explanations, and general deprecation. This I wished to avoid, being fully satiated. Humility is no doubt an admirable quality but I lay no claim to the trait. Although I have eaten enough humble pie in connection with transactions as might lead to the supposition I had a taste for it. For the reasons enumerated I deferred putting the Feeder into use. There is nothing imaginary about the Device being merely constructed on well-known principles and designed for a purpose which if it accomplishes, supplies an acknowledged want. If it works as well, and stands comparative tests as well as the other constructions that have originated with myself, I will be satisfied, and let its merits rise or fall by its performance.
But to come to the point. This Feeder for Patent Patterns &c. as well as a Feeder which I had made as a sample together with the Tool for boring them, cost in each, independent of my own time, about $125, not a large sum but still a sum. Now the question I would like you to kindly answer. What will you consider a fair remuneration for all claims for the Feeder and the lowest price. What I ought to be realized out of this or any of them, has nothing to do with the arriving at a conclusion. It might be said that I from my knowledge of these Devices, familiarity with the others against which they have to compete, and association with those who are directly interested and engaged in same line of business, ought to be able to form a more correct judgment as to the real and speculative value of these articles than those who have given an attention to the matter, and I presume I could, but no opinion or suggestion will come from me if it can feasibly be avoided. This decision is not prompted by any anger unpleasant feeling, stubbornness or any such disposition towards yourself. I yield to no man in respect for you, as an honourable man. But I am tired of discussions and explanations especially when these explanations are usually met with some assertion not at all times complimentary and bearing with it an unpleasant after-feeling. This ends the subject on the Boiler Feeder, and will draw your attention to the last and most important one, The Band Saw Sett.
When I first got up this Sett, I knew it was a useful Tool and could be made a paying article, and I knew that to manufacture an article successfully, special tools ought to be used, but I did not feel warranted in inducing such expenditure, hoping to work the matter up gradually without much aid hoping that something might be realized out of the Coupler. In the meantime I found that certain parts of the machine would have to be strengthened to stand the hard usage that some of the machines would have to encounter when placed in the hands of ignorant parties. For utility and proper usage the machines were sufficiently strong as 3 years use of some of them will testify. But some of them broke. I deemed it prudent to strengthen them all before sending them out. This involved an expense not anticipated at the outset. Close investigation from time to time lead to the detection of little defects and drawbacks that could be improved, and I improved them. This entailed time and expenses, also considerable worry of mind. However, the merits of the machine was becoming attested. When I wrote you respecting advancing $1000 to which you agreed, I knew then that to make the machine economically and satisfactory it would be necessary to have special machinery made. Seeing that the dimensions of the machine could be changed to great advantage, and not wishing to fit up machinery for the Old Pattern that could not be used when a new one was made, deemed it wise to have New Patterns made at the outset. In this I was guided by strictly manufacturing principles not by imagination. Imagination and actions resulting from thoughtful convictions are somewhat dissimilar. My experience told me that a $1000 would not go a great ways in making special Patterns, Tools, Machinery &c. But I was determined to work the matter through if possible and husbanded the funds accordingly, and worked early and late to buy a successful issue. I was not working for myself in the matter, but with the sole intent of having you recouped, and the amount expended on myself for personal expenses was well earned in this. I do not feel that I was at all a recipient of charity. I was merely doing that which I in duty felt bound to do and with the sole object in view of having you reimbursed, and was filling a position that could only be filled by myself. The Patterns Tools &c. and a number of machines were started but the $1000 was consumed in what there was something to show, not frittered away. In a word the expenditure was more than I expected but not more than the work demanded, and to have commenced these machines as small machines of like nature ought to be commenced, would have required $3000 instead of $1000. I knew this, but was determined to work through on that amount if possible, keeping my expenses down to the minimum in every particular. I refer to this particularly because you spoke of "supporting me," and "paying my debts," when these expenses were directly accrued in the prosecution of the work, which I look [upon?] as business transactions.
I know that you have trusted to me altogether in this matter and confided to me large sums of money. This I can remember and appreciate and trust that my actions in the matter will always be such that I need not be ashamed of. That I have been under many obligations to you I know, and have received many kindnesses from you I shall always acknowledge, but there has also been some to me, unpleasant features, in connection with the matter. These I can live through.
But to return to the subject. My reasons for coming to New York and the condition of affairs have been recounted before. That I may have made a mistake in coming here I admit, that I may have made a mistake in expecting to put the machines on a satisfactory footing with the capital at command, I also admit. These are mistakes that are often made by those who claim greater business ability than myself, and I do not claim to be infallible. Had I represented to you that the machine was a perfect machine and I knew it was not, or even had doubts about, and at the same time induced you to expend your money on it, then I should condemn myself, but this is not the case. You say I am not a good salesman, in this I agree with you because it is distasteful to me to canvass. Now the only correct way to judge of a machine is by comparison. I came to New York a perfect stranger with no surplus of friends, entered into competition with another machine handled by a good (I presume) salesman, backed by a local house, and strengthened by an expenditure and (I am told), of thousands of dollars in advertising, and yet in every instance I was successful or at least the machine was successful, and pronounced the superior article. There must have [been] some intelligence exercised somewhere to accomplish this. The production of such a machine is not the product of imagination, it could be more easily adjudged to be the fruits of a thoughtful and trained intellect. I am not egotistical as a rule, but those frequent remarks relative to myself are caused by some allusions made on Saturday.
The position of the Setts I described in my letters addressed to Hamilton and in subsequent conversations. My explanations why I started to have more new tools made evidently were not satisfactory. That the precautionary measures (of ensuring expenses by that means) was a wise one or not I do not care to discuss, merely saying that travelling expenses is usually considered a very important item of consideration, and these articles would not entail a cent extra expense nor a yard further travelling for it would only where Band Saws are used that there articles would be required. Knowing by experience the time state of affairs, I saw a difficulty and prepared to meet it. Whether it was illusionary or not can be judged by those who have had great experience in selling machinery.
Excuse this long letter and kindly drop me a line on the subjects embraced at your earliest convenience, as I may possibly leave on some business in a day or two, and should like to know your decisions before starting.
Yours truly, Wm. Dunn
1 This letter contains many errors in punctuation and capitalization which we have corrected for ease of reading.
2 Mr. A. is likely Mr. [John?] Alanson whose name appears as the agent in the transfer of a patent from Wm. Dunn to Isaac McQuesten for an invention for the improvement in machines for setting the teeth of saws, the "Acme Saw Set" (W2538).