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It's Complicated: 1906

It's Complicated: 1906

"Start of super heating union. [Inventor Charles S.L. Baker and another man, possibly his brother Peter, standing behind heating (radiator) system.]" Photo by Bode, Fifth and Felix Streets, St. Joseph, Missouri. Copyright by Charles S.L. Baker, Feb. 12, 1906. View full size.


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Nifty, but scary

The man on the right is working the switch to the motor, which is on the left, which drives a cylinder inside a cylinder for a friction heater--that's the long cylinder on its side in the middle. You could power it with an electric motor (this case) or any other source (gasoline motor, etc..) of mechanical energy. You could call it an electric heater that didn't need nichrome (or other resistive materials) or lossy induction to work. One writeup I saw from "The Michigan Manufacturer" suggests Baker came up with the idea after neglecting to grease pins and axles on a wagon.

Nifty, but a bit of Rube Goldberg here if it's powered by a gasoline engine. I would also guess, as anyone who's ever worked on brakes would guess, that wear and noise were likely issues that users/owners had to deal with.

Scary; the way it's wired. The man on the right is lucky he's not about to be electrocuted, as he's holding a switch for 110V AC with no grounded shield.

The Original Friction Heater

Charles Baker invented the Friction Heater, which is shown in this photo. It consisted of a motor (left) that turned a shaft inside a water jacket that rotated a revolving wooden core that rubbed against the inner metal cylinder of the water jacket creating friction heat. The fluid in the water jacket heated up, flowing through the radiator (right) thus warming the space it was set up in. He got the idea originally when he was too lazy to grease the hubs of his father's wagon and the resulting heat failure of the wheels.

An article about this invention appeared in the Michigan Manufacturer & Financial Record, Volume 7, No. 7, August 12, 1911.

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