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Dead medium: The Clegg-Selvan pneumatic vehicle; wire conveyors, cash carriers, parcel carriers; the Lamson Tube; pneumatic tube industrial history
From: bruces@well.com Bruce Sterling

Source(s): "Company Profile And History" of Zip Tube Systems Inc. http://www.ziptube.com/

(((bruces remarks: the pneumatic tube conveyor is very much alive, and evolving into new technological niches year by year. Its technical history however is surprisingly rich, full, and littered with the dead, as this corporate document shows.)))

"The first documented, genuine pneumatic tube in the United States is officially listed in a patent issued to Samuel Clegg and Jacob Selvan in 1840. This was a vehicle with wheels, on a track, positioned within a tube. Inventing and patenting went on for years in North America but there just didn't seem to be much of an effort to locate markets for this new invention.

"In Civil War times, a phenomenon called 'five-and- dimes' were thriving all over the Eastern Seaboard. These stores were rapidly taking on the appearance of something larger == the department store. Cash required rapid movement from areas on the trading floor to the safer reaches of the store. Some of the stores were building up, not out, and this slowed the change making process even more.

"William Stickney Lamson, and his wife, took charge of a family enterprise called the Rachet Store. This retail business would soon shape up to become one of the first American 'five-and-dimes'. The need in this business to move change lead to several innovations including wrapping change in handkerchiefs and tossing it to the sales clerks in the front of the store.

"Innovations soon gave way to invention. Bill Lamson cut a croquet ball in half, hollowed out both sides and placed change inside. Then, after rubber-banding the halves together, would toss the ball from clerk to clerk. This lead to the 'carriers' on a wire and using multiple- spring gadgets to move the balls at higher speeds.

"The wire conveyors or 'cash carriers' suited the smaller stores fine, but the ever-expanding department stores in America required additional speed and more efficiency. Soon Bill Lamson was to jump on the pneumatic tube train in America.

"At about this same time, Mr. William Grover and brother Mr. Clarence Grover founded a company in Woodburn, Michigan. Included in the official company mission, which appears in the Record of Articles dated 1917, is the following: (the company was to be involved in), 'the manufacture, sales and distribution of Pneumatic Tubes; Cash and Parcel Carriers; Store, Office and Factory Fixtures; Wood and Metal Novelties; Tools and Machinery."

"Some years later the Grover Company was purchased by the Powers Regulator Company of Skokie, Illinois. This move in the marketplace would result in two new companies that dominate the marketplace today.

"The first company was formed after the new Powers Regulator made a major shift in the way its products were to be distributed. In the Grover Company, products were sold and installed by a group of distributors around the country. Powers Regulator decided to market and sell all products from 'in-house' and because of that move, had no need for a distributor network. This left several pneumatic tube distributors with no source of supply.

"In early 1964, Mr. Ross Cook, Mr. Wilfred Rathbun, Mr. Frank Ware and Mr. Ted Nuestad, got together and formed a new corporation, Zip Tube Systems, Inc. The first stock certificate was issued to Ross Cook, Inc. on March 6, 1964. The new company was located at 6621 Eight Avenue, Los Angeles, California. The company moved once within California, and finally to Denver, Colorado in 1981. By the time Zip Tube Systems, Inc. moved, it had expanded its distributor network to have national coverage. Today, we have now expanded into the international market and have in excess of 30 distributors internationally.

"Through the years, Zip has developed and refined an extensive product line to service the need of a diverse customer base. Zip Tube Systems, Inc. is unique. It is owned by a network of engineers and installers throughout the world. This experience has made us a leader in the pneumatic tube industry.

"During the last several years we have made a significant increase in our product line with the introduction of an automatic and a semi-automatic pneumatic tube system. We have also introduced an extreme duty line of equipment designed for the steel mill, foundry and other harsh industrial environments. These products compliment our already large selection of standard product lines. Zip is especially proud to be one of the only companies that will custom manufacture a pneumatic tube system to an individual customer's needs.

"We would like to welcome you to Zip's long history, and we are confident you will find your pneumatic tube system extremely economical, rewarding and easy to maintain."

Send mail to ziptube@bewellnet.com with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright 1997 Zip Tube Systems, Inc. Last modified: April 20, 1998

Bruce Sterling (bruces@well.com)