Skip to main content

Sylvanus Dyer Locke papers

Call Number: MS 327

Scope and Contents

The Sylvanus Dyer Locke Papers consist of correspondence, letterbooks, patents, and printed material which document the last twenty years of Sylvanus D. Locke's life in Hoosick Falls, New York, and relate primarily to his inventions, particularly his self-binding harvester and his detachable steel link belting. Correspondents include attorneys, patent examiners and solicitors, and other manufacturers of farm equipment and heavy machinery. Some material also concerns Sylvanus D. Locke, Jr. and the Locke Steel Chain Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The papers, which the Yale Library purchased in 1964, are arranged in three series:

  3. III. TOPICAL FILES, 1859-1942

The papers date from 1859 to 1942 but the bulk of the material is business correspondence of Sylvanus Locke from 1876 to 1896.

Series I contains nine volumes of Sylvanus Locke's "private" letterbooks, which include both outgoing business and family letters dating from 1877 to 1893. The letters begin several years after Locke had secured a patent for his automatic reaper and binder. Business correspondence focuses on the protection of this patent from infringement by manufacturers of farm machinery such as the H.M. McCormick Company. Correspondents include patent examiners and solicitors such as J.G. Parkinson. Some correspondence concerns Locke's other inventions. There are also letters to Locke's brothers, wife, and children and letters concerning domestic bills, medical treatments and expenses, and the children's education. Indexes in the letterpress volumes serve as a guide to correspondents in both Series I and II.

Series II contains Locke's incoming correspondence from 1876 to 1877 and from 1887 to 1896. Correspondents and subjects included in Series II are similar to those in Series I. Many incoming letters filed under 'L' relate to the Locke family. For the years 1893 to 1896 the series also includes copies of Locke's outgoing letters. Correspondence after 1896 relates to Sylvanus Locke, Jr. and the Locke Steel Belt Company. This correspondence is, however, fragmentary. Series II also contains numerous bills and receipts of the Locke family. At the end of the series are several folders of similar correspondence which is unarranged and marked "Miscellaneous." The series concludes with two boxes of incoming and outgoing telegrams mounted in volumes.

Series III is composed of printed material, photographs, and memorabilia, the majority of which relates to Sylvanus Locke and his inventions. The largest quantity of material is in the folders "Patents," which contain printed copies of Locke's patents for his inventions as well as patents of others for similar devices. The printed material includes advertising circulars, sales catalogues, and price lists for harvesting machinery. Also in these folders are printed legal documents relating to patent litigation in Locke's behalf and writings by Locke including a description of his automatic car coupler. An address delivered by Locke before the New York State Assembly (folder 176) is one of the few documents in the papers relating to Locke's term in the New York legislature.


  • 1859-1957


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection are in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in 1964. Gift of National Museum of American History, 1998. Gift of Gary Charland, 2018, In Memory of John A. Charland, Jr. Gift of Gregory Wynn, 2020.


Arranged in three series and three additions: I. Letterpress Copybooks, 1877-1893. II. General Correspondence, 1875-1917. III. Topical Files, 1859-1942.


10.17 Linear Feet (27 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, letterbooks, patents, and printed material which relate to Sylvanus Dyer Locke's patented self-binding harvester and other inventions. Correspondents include attorneys, patent solicitors, and other manufacturers of farm equipment and heavy machinery. Some materials also relate to Sylvanus D. Locke, Jr. and the Locke Steel Chain Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut. The additions to the papers contains family correspondence, photographs, and academic reports of the Locke children as well as materials relating to the family business.

Biographical / Historical

Sylvanus Dyer Locke was born in Otsego County, New York on September 11, 1833. In 1870, while working for the Walter A. Wood Mowing and Reaping Machine Company of Hoosick Falls, New York, Locke succeeded in building an automatic reaper and binder. Locke served one term in the New York state legislature (1883-1885). He was also the inventor of a train car coupling device and a machine for manufacturing detachable steel link belting. Locke died in 1896.

Guide to the Sylvanus Dyer Locke Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Diane E. Kaplan, William E. Brown, Jr., and Rachel L. Mihalko
April 1987
Description rules
Finding Aid Created In Accordance With Manuscripts And Archives Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours