This post is an excerpt from the book, The Life and Times of Warren Webster, by Warren Webster, Jr.
“An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man”—never were these oft-quoted words of Emerson more truly applicable than to my father. His character and personality are interwoven in every policy and method of Warren Webster and Company.
Beginning his career when the use of steam was practically restricted to motive-power, Warren Webster saw its growth as the great building-heating medium, its adoption as an integral factor of processing in countless fields of manufacture, and, finally, its being wedded to electricity in unbelievable refinements of control and application.
Through all this period he played an important and pioneering part and in his later days could contemplate the installation of 10,000 Webster Feedwater Heaters and nearly 75,000 Webster Systems of Steam Heating in many of the world’s finest buildings, and the use of Webster products as standard equipment wherever steam apparatus is used.
His goals were never the establishment of some chemical reaction or the invention of some particular mechanism, but rather a ceaseless day-by-day struggle toward improvement and better applica tion, to master new problems and supply new needs, technical and economical, being created by rapid advances in every field of manufacturing and industry.
The incidents of each interesting hour were stored in his memory. He took pleasure in recounting experiences and there was nothing I liked better than listening to him. His reminiscences had the vividness of pictures thrown on a screen. One could tell by the intensity of his eyes, by the inflections of his voice, by the casual mention of some minute detail, that his imagination had bridged the years and he was actually re-living the incident. His stories were lean and to the point. They seldom contained any preachment or explanation, yet when he recounted some decision or action one instinctively realized the clear thinking and fair principle behind it.
I feel that anyone who reads these pages cannot fail to grasp my father’s ideals and objectives. For this reason, the anecdotes are told in his own words, just as he related them, for like most men of action he disliked writing, especially of himself.
No co-operation, service or courtesy shown Warren Webster was ever forgotten by him. If any of my father’s old comrades fail to find here any mention of incidents shared together, the fault is mine and I realize the reminiscences presented in this book hardly skim the surface of his experiences. In extenuation, however, let me explain this book is not intended to be an exact chronological biography, nor is it a history of the development of Warren Webster & Company. I can only hope that its perusal will give the reader a true picture of the character and personality of Warren Webster; of his courtesy, kindness, unfailing humor, simplicity and fairness, of his keen judgment and vision, of the fibre and iron in the man, and of the principles which entered into the structure of the institution he founded.
Warren Webster had a tremendous capacity for work—for getting things done. He was quick to recognize talent and ability in others and never hesitated to acknowledge it. He surrounded himself with assistants whose competence and loyalty he knew and trusted. His mind had the rare quality of quickly orienting itself to the problems he placed before it and of concentrating on them, no matter how much effort was involved, until the solution was found. This is evidenced not only by his mechanical developments but also by his almost inspirational steering of the finances of Warren Webster & Company through many critical periods and his handling of his “side interests”—whether it happened to be the affairs of a shipping line or the rehabilitation of Florida orange groves and hotels. Any one field of his labors might well be deemed a busy life’s work, yet he never considered himself overburdened or even taxed to capacity and he always seemed to have ample time for everything. Warren Webster’s life was one of service and in contemplating its many phases well may we say with Bacon “inventors and authors of new arts, endowments and commodities towards man’s life were ever consecrated among the gods themselves.”
Since a man’s life is so definitely a part of the times in which he lives, I have devoted several chapters in this book to presenting a background of contemporary events. The historical information gives some idea of the problems that my father faced and how he played a leading role in one of the greatest periods of scientific and mechanical development in the experience of man.
WARREN WEBSTER, JR.