Corliss Steam Engine Co.

Manufacturers of Steam Engines with Corliss’ Patented Improvements.

The company was originally known as Fairbanks, Clark & Co. in the 1830s. In 1843 it was renamed Fairbanks, Bancroft & Co. when Edward Bancroft joined the company. In 1846 it was renamed Bancroft, Nightingale & Co. when Corliss joined the company, and in 1847 it was renamed Corliss, Nightingale and Co. In 1848 the company moved to the location shown in the images above at the Charles Street Railroad Crossing. In 1857 the company was renamed for the last time to Corliss Steam Engine Company. By 1864 Corliss bought out his partners and was the sole owner of the company. George H. Corliss’ house can be seen in the middle letter-head behind the factory to the right. In 1900 the Corliss Steam Engine Company was purchased by the International Power Company. The fourth image above shows the factory in 1904. In 1905 it was purchased by the American and British Manufacturing Company. In 1925 the company merged into Franklin Machine Company. By then Franklin Machine Company already owned the William A. Harris Steam Engine Company.

Corliss licensed his 1849 valve patent (renewed in 1859) to several companies. In 1869 Corliss applied for another renewal, which was turned down by Congress. The renewal application contained the following list of patent licensees:

Engine Builder Engines Royalties
Miller & Allen, Chester, PA 103 $25,173
Foundry and Machine Co., Taunton, MA 57 $22,703
William A. Harris, Providence, RI 57 $14,462
Goss & Lombard $5,848
J.M. Poole & Co. $3,929
Wood & Mann Steam Engine Co., Utica, NY $2,052
Atlantic Works Company, East Boston, MA $942
C. & J. Cooper & Co., Mount Vernon, OH $700
S.C. Forsaith & Co., Manchester, NH $552
Woodruff & Beach, Hartford, CT $250
Corliss factory site 1995
Corliss factory site 1995

I visited the site in March of 2001. The site of the factory is now the parking lot for the Providence Post office. I did see a building that looks like it could be the original boiler shop. I will investigate further. The overhead image shows the factory site in 1995.

  • Corliss’ most famous engine was the Centennial Engine that powered the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA.
  • Corliss Spider 5 Cylinder Radial Water Pumping Engine, Hope Pumping Station, Providence, RI. ca. 1873.

While there are many engines with Corliss-style valves, we believe the museum has the only Corliss engine running under steam today that was built by the Corliss Steam Engine Company.