491 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia - About 1889. Warren Webster is second from left.

This post is an excerpt from the book, The Life and Times of Warren Webster, by Warren Webster, Jr.

Early in the 1900’s I made arrangements with the New Bedford Engineering Company to represent us,” said Warren Webster. This concern was owned by Thomas B. Kane, of Boston, and a man named White. White ran the New Bedford Engineering Company and Kane was manager of the Mooretown Company.

“There was an acquaintance of theirs by the name of Richards, who conceived the idea that they could handle the air independently from the water of condensation and who had taken out some patents covering this. They called this the “Air Pipe Vacuum System.” Richards got the patents in his own name and assigned them to Kane.

“After Kane had these patents, he and a man named Linke, the Treasurer of the Company, came down to see me at Camden, and Kane said: ‘We have these patents and we have founded a company up in Boston—a $300,000 stock company. We want to take you in.’

“I replied, ‘That sounds attractive. Tell me your proposition.’

“He said: ‘We will give you $60,000 worth of common stock.’

” ‘Is that so?’ I replied. ‘Well, what else?’

” ‘We want you to assign the Williames Patent to us—to our Company.’

” ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘that’s a different thing!’

“Linke now said in a high-tone way: ‘Mr. Webster, I think you had better accept that.’

“I said: ‘Mr. Linke, it really is immaterial to me what you think. I have a business here which I have built from the ground up, and I am going to decide which propositions I will consider.’

“Kane got very angry, and blurted out: ‘Well, I will tell you this. If you don’t accept what we offer we will close up your Midland office inside of six months.’

“I asked: ‘Selling the Air Pipe Vacuum System?’

“He replied, ‘Yes, in competition.’

“I said, ‘Let me tell you something, Mr. Kane. You can’t drive me into doing anything. I will accept your challenge that you will close up our Midland office within six months if I don’t accept your proposition. We don’t have to go any further in the matter. I refuse your offer. Go ahead and close the Midland office as you threaten, if you can. I will, of course, have to do business on any basis you wish.’

“He said, ‘You’ll find I can do it.’

“I replied, ‘I’m sorry to leave it this way, but I couldn’t think of accepting your proposition.’

“Now here is what he did: He went to Midland and established the Midland Kane Steam System Company, taking in certain territories in the West. Then he issued stock and had it distributed to various contractors in Midland in the name of their employees—not in their own names. Naturally, the contractors were boosting the Kane System with the architects.

“At that time Mr. J. H. Davis, a practical steamfitter and an excellent man, was our manager in Midland. He came to see me aboard my yacht at Atlantic City and told me what Kane had done. He had the names of everybody to whom Kane had given stock. I returned with him to Midland.

“There were three jobs up for bids and the Kane System had been specified on all three. We went to the architects and solicited the privilege of bidding on complete installations. We found we couldn’t bid without bonds. I arranged for the bonds, and going to the architects on the three jobs told them what we were prepared to do.

“We took all those three orders away from the Kane System and sublet the work to contractors. They were hopping mad when we undertook to put those installations in complete.

“Finally, the opposing crowd sent a Mr. Tompkins (a man I had known for years) to see me. He said: ‘We are going to have a meeting and you will have to come to it.’

” ‘I am at the Auditorium Annex,’ I replied. ‘There is nothing I wish to see you about, but if you wish to see me, I will be glad to have you come over. Anyway, what is the nature of this business about which you wish to see me?’

“He said: ‘We want to see you, because we understand you have taken the three contracts.’

“I said: ‘That’s right—we have them.’

” ‘Do you know,’ he asked, ‘that you are violating the Master Steamfitters’ Code by taking orders direct?’

“I said: ‘That sounds serious. I wonder if your Company did anything not quite correct? Has Mr. Jones (giving a name from the list we had) received the Kane System Company’s stock yet? Has it been delivered?’

“He replied: ‘I’m in no position to discuss that at all!’

“I said: ‘You are only one of six big fitters in Midland, I won’t talk to six men at six different times. If you want to talk to me, bring all six over and I will talk to them.’

“A little later, he and four others came over to the hotel. I just sat back and said, ‘Gentlemen, go ahead. What do you want to see me about?’

“They replied that we had taken the contracts for the three buildings direct, had violated the Master Steamfitters’ Code and they were going to have us blacklisted.

” ‘Well,’ I said, ‘that does sound serious—but we have taken the contracts and we are going to execute them. However, there are two sides to every story. If you are going to discriminate in favor of the Kane System and have the architects boycott us, I will place the matter before the executive committee any time you wish.’

“So one of the contractors went to New York with me and we put the matter up to the executive committee of the Master Steamfitters. They replied to the contractors: ‘The trouble you are having with the Webster Company is entirely local and we will take no action whatever. We refer it back to your territorial guidance. You can do what you please out there, but we will not blacklist them. We are doing satisfactory business with them.’

“They had to go back and never got any satisfaction. That was a wonderful fight. Davis deserved a lot of credit. He made the balls and I threw them.”


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