JANUARY 2018 FEATURED ARTICLE
JANUARY 2018 FEATURED ARTICLE:
MOTOMETER MAKING MEN –
GEORGE H. TOWNSEND II
This January 2018 MotometerCentral™ is initiating its new feature article series that focuses on the various individuals involved in the making, i.e., inventing, and/or marketing of early Twentieth Century automobile radiator-mounted engine temperature indicators more commonly referred to as motometers.
A brief motometer-related biography on George H. Townsend II kicks off the 2018 featured article series.
George Henry Townsend II was the founder, owner and president of the Motometer Company. The Motometer Company was founded in 1912 to manufacture, market, sell and distribute Harrison H. Boyce’s “Temperature Indicating System and Apparatus for Internal Combustion Engines” later to become known and marketed as “BOYCE MOTO-METERs.”
George was himself an automobile racing enthusiast in his earlier teen years –in 1908 organizing the Yale Automobile Club and competing in hill climb events. He built and drove his own car.
After graduating from Yale University with a Business degree in 1909 he worked for the DuroCar Company of Los Angeles, California in sales and married Caroline Dederer. After returning from California to the East Coast he worked for the Pennsylvania Sugar Refinery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania designing electric trucks “for transporting sugar.” [Source History of the Class of 1908, Yale University, page 296]
Shortly after his first son William Kneeland “Bill” Townsend was born and he returned to the New York City area in 1912 he became acquainted with a young engineer, inventor and entrepreneur, Harrison Hurlbert Boyce and the two discussed Harrison’s automobile motor heat indicator idea, device and its product sales potential.
In October 1912, after working out a contractual deal to be the licensee of Harrison’s fundamental temperature indicating “apparatus”/device George founded the Motometer Company to manufacture, market, sell and distribute the devices in exchange for $5,000 — with $300 to be paid at the time of contract signing and Harrison to be paid $50 per month and 50 cents per device sold as royalty.
It was George Townsend who gave the temperature-indicating product its name, “the BOYCE MOTO-METER.” Nonetheless getting early internal combustion engine automobile owners to comprehend the purpose and value of the BOYCE MOTO-METER was not at all easy as it was a totally new concept and not automatically included on kerosene/gasoline fuel-powered vehicles.
However given George and Harrison’s many automotive industry contacts and personal associations George, the Motometer Company and Harrison were able to convince several top level racecar drivers and factory-sponsored teams to utilize their devices with great success. Drivers such as Mercer Automobile Car Company’s Caleb Bragg, (George’s Yale University class- and room-mate and Yale Automobile Club co-founder) and especially Peugeot’s Jules Goux the 1913 Indianapolis International Sweepstakes 500-Mile Race event winner.
Seeing racecars win at a number of 1912 through 1914 major racing events more than convinced top-tier racecar drivers and factory teams of the viability, usefulness and indispensible value of the BOYCE MOTO-METER. Passenger vehicle manufacturers such as Mercer, Haynes, Stutz, Packard and Crane-Simplex beginning in 1915 came to realize the technical and commercial sales benefit of offering BOYCE MOTO-METERs on their vehicles as “standard installed equipment” and both BOYCE MOTO-METER and car brand sales increased.
Not having the capital to afford his own dedicated manufacturing factory/facility and labor force all aspect of the BOYCE MOTO-METER were outsourced to other nearby companies until mid-1916 when product sales and investor financial assistance from Yale University classmate Paul L. Veeder enable George and his motometer Company to acquire the infamous 15 Wilbur Avenue, Long Island City, New York building for factory manufacturing and administrative purposes.
Sales of the BOYCE MOTO-METER took off exponentially until 1926 when auto engine design technology evolved from the “old” thermosyphon type motor to closed, pressurized cooling water circulation system design that had the effect of hastening the transition of the engine temperature gauge from the atop the radiator tank filler tube into the dashboard instrumentation panel.
Mis-informed conventional wisdom holds that radiator-mounted engine temperature gauges were obsolete by the 1930s and that the then spelled Moto Meter Gauge & Equipment Company was totally left out of the in-dashboard temperature gauge market but this is totally false and untrue. As early as 1916 the then spelled Moto-Meter Company already had at its disposal an in-dashboard version of the BOYCE MOTO-METER based upon a temperature reactive coiled spring activated engine temperature gauge previously used for aeroplanes and motorboats later marketed as the “Distance Type.”
The functioning principles of the BOYCE MOTO-METER Distance Type devices are still used to this day for internal combustion engine vehicles. BOYCE MOTO-METER inventor and Motometer Co. Vice president and General Sales manager vehemently resisted marketing and selling the Distance Type devices as long as he could, but by 1926 the George Townsend’s vision and influence won out — also Harrison was no longer directly employed by the company — and the company began selling three versions of the 1916 patented device one that could mount to the steering and to in-dashboard versions one that illuminated the temperature indicating back panel and a non-illuminating one.
1926 was the year when the already radiator temperature gauge market dominating Moto Meter Co. achieved selling eight million units total in June of that year and added two million more one month later in July. No other motometer manufacturing, sales company or brand ever came near the numbers racked up by the Moto Meter Co or the BOYCE MOTO-METER product. That year, the Moto Meter Co. bought the National Gauge and Equipment Company of Toledo, Ohio.
In 1926 George fully indulged his racing passion and won the first of his back-to-back American Power Boat Association (APBA) championships piloting the re-built “Miss Motometer” and renamed “Greenwich Folly” to wins. The APBA season ending pilot Championship gold medal award, “the American Outboard High Point” trophy subsequently became known as the George Townsend medal. (George would later serve two terms as President of the APBA.)
After the acquisition the parent company changed its name to Moto Meter Gauge & Equipment Co. National had already purchased the Safe-T-Stat Company of Brooklyn, NY who was building in-dashboard hybrid (electric, remote sensor and thermometer instrument) temperature indicating gauges along with ignition components, primarily spark plugs.
In 1932 the last thermometer instrument-based and radiator-mounted (so called “Line of Vision” series) BOYCE MOTO-METERs designed by Charles Jardine. The Line of Vision series consisted of three highly Art Deco styled motometers that recognized the leaning of automobile manufacturers trending towards decorative automotive mascots, or hood ornaments as known in the U. S.
In 1934 George sold all of his interest in his company to the Electric AutoLite Corp of Toledo, Ohio and with the Moto Meter Company absorbed and dissolved no further BOYCE MOTO-METER brand products were ever produced.
George started another company Hurley – Townsend, Inc. to manufacture, sell and distribute spark plugs. This was a short-lived venture
George passed away on Monday, February 18, 1957 at age 72 of a heart attack in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At the time of his death his first and second wives and seven children survived him from his first marriage, including George H. Townsend, Jr. Today, George, Jr. is the only remaining member of that family after a long and distinguished military career.