Henry R. Towne

Henry Robinson Towne was an American mechanical engineer and businessman.

Early life

Henry R. Towne was the son of John Henry and Maria (Tevis) T. Towne. He attended the University of Pennsylvania from 1861 to 1862, where he was a member of St. Anthony Hall, [cite book
title=Catalogue of the Members of the Fraternity of Delta Psi
author=Fraternity of Delta Psi
] but did not complete a degree. The university would later award him an honorary master's degree.

Early career

Following his year of college, Towne found work as a draftsman at the Port Richmond Iron Works, which was owned by I. P. Morris, Towne & Co.. In 1863, Towne was put in charge of repair work for the union gunboat Massachusetts. During 1864-1866, Towne was placed in charge of erecting engines in monitors for the US Navy. After the war, Towne went to Paris and studied physics at the Sorbonne. When he returned, he found employment with the firm of William Sellers & Co., in Philadelphia.

Yale Lock Manufacturing

In the summer of 1868, Henry R. Towne was introduced to Linus Yale, Jr. by a mutual friend. Towne was, by this time, looking for a new business opportunity and had become impressed about the possibilities of Yale's new "cylinder" lock. In October of 1868, the two men formed the Yale Lock Manufacturing Co., to be located in Stamford, Connecticut. Towne provided new capital and management of the firm, and Yale the invention. Henry R. Towne, "Locks and builders hardware, a hand book for architects" (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1904), 68-69. (for abstract, see [http://www.cslib.org/stamford/b_t.htm Stamford Historical Society] )] Yale died later in 1868, and Towne reorganized the company as Yale & Towne Manufacturing Co. Towne stepped down as chairman in 1915.

Later years

Towne was one of the first engineers to see management as a new social role for engineers and that the development of management techniques was important for the development of the engineering profession. He laid out his ideas about the management role for the engineer in his "The Engineer as Economist." He was elected President of the ASME in 1888, and his presidential address continued to address how to improve shop and worker efficiency (see "Gain-Sharing").

Towne and Link-Belt president James Mapes Dodge were responsible for maneuvering Frederick Winslow Taylor to the Presidency of the ASME in 1906 (Noble, ABD, 269-270).


Henry R. Towne died on October 15, 1924. His wife Cora E. White, whom he had married in 1868, died in 1917. In his will, Towne bequeathed over two million dollars to the establishment of the Museums of the Peaceful Arts in Manhattan.


*Who's Who on the Web, s.v. "Towne, Henry R." (n.p.: Marquis Who's Who, 2005).
*Noble, David F. "America by Design: Science, Technology, and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism". New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.
*Towne, Henry R. "Engineer as Economist," "Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers" 7 (1886), 425ff.
*Towne, Henry R. "Gain-Sharing," "Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers" 10 (1889), 600ff.

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