Sunday, January 22, 2012

Walter Macomber: The Mining Years

Through his wife’s uncles, W. W. Godsmark and Alfred Godsmark, Walter Macomber took an opportunity to move to California in 1899, where he resided in Johannesburg and worked as an engineer for the Croesus Mining Company, pictured above (Photo: Rand Desert Museum).

Alfred and W. W. Godsmark hailed from Bedford, Michigan. They were active investors in gold mines and other businesses in the Rand and Panamint mining districts in the late 1800s and early 1900s. W. W. Godsmark was a director of the Croesus Mining Company and part owner of the Johannesburg Hotel, pictured below (Photo: Rand Desert Museum).

In September 1898, the Godsmark brothers led a group of Michigan investors who purchased the Never Give Up mine from Henry Ratcliff. By January 1900, the Ratcliff Consolidated Gold Mines, Ltd. turned out $15,000 a month in gold and was “the new boss mine of the Panamints.” (Source: Death Valley and the Amargosa: A Land of Illusion by Richard E. Lingenfelter).

After two years with Croesus Mining Company, Walter Macomber moved to the Ratcliff Mine, where he was superintendent of the mechanical department. Next he worked for the Randsburg Water Company. According to the Press Reference Library article on Macomber:

It was while here that his ability in mechanics became manifest. Three pumping plants were operated by gas engines, the wells being some three miles apart, and each formerly necessitated an engineer. By an invention of his own, Mr. Macomber operated the three by telephone. He could sit in his office and instantly tell how any plant was working, and stop it if not working properly.

During those years, Macomber invented an internal combustion rotary engine. He first obtained a patent on this invention, which became known as the Macomber Rotary, in 1909. He continued to refine and reapply for patents, as shown by the diagram above for a patent in 1912.

Macomber moved to Los Angeles in 1909 to pursue business opportunities for the engine. The Los Angeles Herald reported on December 2, 1909, under New Incorporations: “Macomber Rotary Engine Company, capital $1,000,000; directors, W. G. Macomber, George A. Coffey, A. M. Scott, L. A. Montandon, Los Angeles; C. G. Illingworth, Randsburg.” Macomber also served as president and general manager.

The company’s offices were initially at 421-2-3 I. W. Hellman Bldg. in Los Angeles, and the factory or “works” was at 235-7 Aliso St.