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George Henry Corliss

Born: 2-Jun-1817
Birthplace: Easton, NY
Died: 21-Feb-1888
Location of death: Providence, RI
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, RI

Gender: Male
Religion: Congregationalist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Inventor
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Corliss valve and steam engines

George Henry Corliss worked as a shoemaker and invented a boot-stitching machine in 1841 -- several years before Elias Howe invented the sewing machine. He later worked at a manufacturing concern, where he patented several improvements to their steam engines, most notably his Corliss valve, a device that controls steam flow in engines and greatly reduces the waste of steam. In 1856 he purchased the factory and renamed it the Corliss Engine Company, which soon became a world-wide leader in the manufacture of steam engines.

He gained his greatest fame at Philadelphia's Centennial Exhibition in 1876, where a 1600-horsepower, 700-ton steam engine of Corliss's design provided all the power for the fair's entire six-month run -- including power for the 8,000 smaller machines displayed there. Prior to its construction, experts had predicted that the machine could not possibly work; during the fair's run Atlantic Monthly described the machine as "the true evidence of man's creative powers. Here is Prometheus Unbound". In daily manufacturing use, the Corliss steam engine was an extremely efficient design, and the last of his company's machines remained in industrial service for nearly a century after the inventor's death.

His brother William was also an inventor of some renown, who patented a spherical safe that was especially difficult for burglars to crack, and was used in many banks. His niece, Mary Emma Corliss, married New York state Senator Edgar T. Brackett, and became the mother of screenwriter Charles Brackett.

Father: Hiram Corliss (physician, b. 21-Oct-1793, d. 7-Sep-1877)
Mother: Susan Sheldon Corliss (b. 28-May-1794, m. 8-Apr-1814, d. 5-Apr-1843)
Mother: Alma Howland Sampson Corliss (stepmother, b. 1804, m. 11-Mar-1848, d. 5-Jun-1858)
Mother: Sophia Maria Gill Cowan Corliss (stepmother, b. 12-Aug-1810, m. 24-May-1861, d. 1879)
Sister: Mary Corliss (b. 29-Jul-1815)
Sister: Elizabeth Corliss (b. 23-Jul-1819, d. 25-May-1820)
Brother: Albert Hiram Corliss (Christian minister, b. 11-May-1823)
Brother: Charles Corliss (b. 26-Feb-1826)
Sister: Elizabeth Corliss McKinney (b. 11-Apr-1829, d. 21-Apr-1888)
Sister: Sarah Corliss (b. 25-Sep-1831, d. 10-Dec-1846)
Brother: William Corliss (Corliss company executive, b. 5-Nov-1834)
Sister: Susan Frances Corliss (b. 12-Aug-1839, d. 9-Sep-1840)
Wife: Phebe Elizabeth Frost Corliss (b. 7-Jan-1814, m. Jan-1839, d. 5-Mar-1859)
Daughter: Maria Louisa Corliss (b. 13-Dec-1839, d. 13-Jun-1929)
Son: George Frost Corliss (b. Oct-1841, d. 7-Sep-1927)
Wife: Emily Ann Shaw Corliss (b. Sep-1836, m. 13-Dec-1866, d. 15-Jun-1910)

    High School: Castleton Academy, Castleton, VT (1838)

    Rumford Prize 1869
    Rhode Island State House of Representatives (1868-70)
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    English Ancestry


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