Samuel P. Conkling
Twenty-five years ago steam pipes and steam boilers were universally used, both on land and water, without coverings to prevent heat radiation. But about that time the attention of engineers and of steam users gnerally was directed to the large percentage of loss by the radiation of heat from steam boilers, and by the condensation of steam in even the best systems of steam piping then known.
The first attempt at pipe and boiler covering were necessarily somewhat crude, the method employed being to plaster the outer surface with a paste of semi-liquid asbestos or magnesia, and in 1875 there was founded in Detroit, by Brown & McTaigue, the business which has now grown to such large proportions under the management of Samuel P. Conkling. Two years after the establishment of the business it was purchased by F. W. Marwin, who was in turn succeeded by Mr. Conkling in 1886. About this time greatly improved methods were introduced, sectional coverings of varying sizes to fit any steam pipe being manufactured, as well as blocks of convenient sizes for lagging boilers, engine cylinders, separators, pumps, etc. In 1889 Mr. Conkling took the Michigan agency for the magnesia sectional covering manufactured by the Keasby & Mattison Co., of Ambler, Penn., which he has since retained, and at the same time added a full line of asbestos, mineral wool, wool felt, hair felt and plastic coverings. A very large proportion of this business has been with the steam crafts of the lakes, and his men under his personal supervision, have covered over 300 marine boilers since he began operations. Many of these include the largest vessels afloat, such as the Hudson, Harlem and Mohawk, of the New York Central & Hudson River line; the car ferries of St. Ignace and St. Marie, used by the Detroit, Mackinaw & Marquette railroad at the Straits of Mackinac; the car ferries Michigan Central, Transfer and Transport on the Detroit river, the Selwyn Eddy, E. C. Pope, Senator and many others, including five of the Rockefeller fleet recently built by the Detroit Dry Dock Company and F. W. Wheeler, of Bay City. Mr. Conkling has lately added to his stock a line of asbestine cold water paints of various shades. These paints are mixed with cold water only, and a short time after application become dry and absolutely impervious to water. A considerable portion of the interior work of the car ferries Shenango No. 1 and Shenango No. 2 of Port Dover, has been treated with the asbestine paint, and has given excellent satisfaction. The covering of steam boilers and pipes and the lagging of cylinders and separators is today a necessity if economical results are to be obtained in the operation of steam machinery; so that practically all new steamers are thus equipped. The saving in fuel bills soon repays the cost of the original investment in these coverings.
Samuel P. Conkling is the son of J. S. Conkling (formerly a well-known Woodward avenue jeweler), and was born in Detroit in 1857, where his home has since been. He was educated at Patterson's private school, an institution which, in its day, numbered among its pupils many of the men who have since become prominent in the business and professional world. At the age of nineteen Mr. Conkling engaged in the furniture manufacturing business, being interested in the firm of Gray & Baffy. At the end of ten years he purchased the interest of F. W. Marvin in the business of covering steam boilers and steam pipes, to which he has devoted himself to such good purpose that his connection is now one of the most extensive in the West. His acquaintance with vessel owners and sailing masters is coextensive with the Great Lakes themselves, as there is scarcely a fleet of vessels upon which some of his work cannot be found.
Mr. Conkling is a member of the Detroit Club, the Wayne Club and the Detroit Boat Club, and in their day was also a member of the Pelouza Cadets. He is unmarried and still makes his home with his father.
Return to Home Port
This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.