Sprinklers Display
Sprinkler Displays
Russell Grinnell Sr.
Russell Grinnell Sr.
Russell Grinnell Jr.
Russell Grinnell Jr.
Frederick GrinnellFrederick Grinnell

Pioneer in Fire Safety
Born: 1836 at New Bedford, Massachusetts - Died: 1905 at New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In 1883 Frederick Grinnell patented “his famous sensitive valve automatic sprinkler…recognised by underwriters everywhere as practically perfect.”

Creator of the first practical automatic fire sprinkler, which made an enormous contribution to fire safety. Inventor, engineer, industrialist. Designer of railroad locomotives. Draftsman and later General Manager of the Jersey City Locomotive Works, 1855 and 1865. Assistant Engineer of Construction on the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad, 1858. Treasurer and Superintendent of Corliss Steam Engine Works, 1860. Designed and built over 100 locomotives. Purchaser of a controlling interest in the Providence Steam and Gas Pipe Company, 1869. Manufacturer of fire extinguishing apparatus that was installed in manufacturing establishments, particularly textile mills. Patent holder of the automatic sprinkler in 1881, continued to improve this device, earning some 40 additional patents. Organizer of the General Fire Extinguisher Co., an amalgamation of several smaller companies, 1892.

Service and Career Contributions
Served as director of banks in New Bedford and Providence and of several textile manufacturers. Member, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and of a number of yacht clubs. Frederick Grinnell received his elementary education at the Friends School in New Bedford, Massachusetts and at the age of 16 entered Rensselaer. He completed the four-year course in three years, graduating as a civil and mechanical engineer in 1855 at the head of a class of 60.

In the fall of that year, when he was 19, he entered the Jersey City Locomotive Works as a draftsman. Throughout the Civil War he served as treasurer and superintendent of the Corliss Steam Engine Works at Providence, Rhode Island, working especially on the installation of steam engines designed for war vessels. After the war he returned to the Jersey City Locomotive Works as general manager. This manufactory was under lease by the Atlantic & Great Western Railroad, and during his association with it Grinnell was superintendent of motive power and machinery, 1865-1869.

In 1869 he purchased a controlling interest in the Providence Steam & Gas Pipe Company, which had been in existence for some 20 years and was engaged largely in the manufacture of fire-extinguishing apparatus and its installation in manufacturing establishments, particularly textile mills.
At that time fire extinguishing apparatus consisted mainly of perforated pipe installed along the ceilings of factory rooms and connected to a manually operated water-supply system. Many attempts had been made to devise automatic sprinklers to be used in the water-pipe lines in factories. In 1874 Henry S. Parmelee patented such a device, which the Providence Steam & Gas Pipe Company manufactured under a licensing agreement.

Grinnell worked to improve the Parmelee invention and in
1881 he patented the automatic sprinkler that bears his name. Basically it is a valve sprinkler with deflectors, set in operation by the melting of solder. Besides attending to the business of introducing the sprinkler throughout the world, Grinnell devoted much time to its improvement. During the period 1882-1888 he perfected four types of metal disc sprinklers and in 1890 invented the glass disc sprinkler, essentially the same as that in use today. He secured some 40 distinct patents for improvements on his sprinklers and besides invented a dry pipe valve and automatic fire-alarm system.

In 1883 an Englishman, Mr. (later Sir)
William Mather, purchased patent rights to the Grinnell sprinkler for all areas outside North America. His company, Mather & Platt, became the father of the U.K. sprinkler industry.

In 1893, Frederick Grinnell brought about the combination of a number of the more important competing sprinkler manufacturers and organized the General Fire Extinguisher Company, with offices and plants in Providence; Warren, Ohio; and Charlotte, North Carolina. Under his active leadership, this company became the foremost organization in its field of manufacture. Grinnell retained the management of the whole business until his retirement shortly before his death in 1905.

2001 - the induction of Frederick Grinnell - Rensselaer - Class of 1855 - into The Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame.

Commenced in 1998, the - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - Alumni Hall of Fame was designed to permanently preserve, celebrate, and widely communicate the long and exceptional heritage of Rensselaer. Throughout history, Rensselaer alumni have designed and shaped destiny, both nationally and internationally, with their innovations and inventions.

The Brooklyn Bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Boulder Dam, the Ferris wheel, microprocessors, space exploration, and television's cathode ray tube are just some of the contributions alumni have made.

Through the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame these most outstanding and far-reaching accomplishments are celebrated.

The 2001 selection was a difficult task. Initially 125 nominations were received. Each candidate was thoroughly researched before the names were sent to the Selection Committeet which met for more than six hours to select 14 finalists. These finalists were sent to a 153-member Balloting Committee for ranking. These rankings were then tabulated and verified by the Selection Committee.

Inductees into the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame were formally announced on Saturday, June 9, 2001, during Reunion weekend. The induction ceremony has been scheduled for Friday, September 21, 2001 on the Rensselaer campus.

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Meet Larry Grinnell, the Grinnell Family archivist.