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Working It Out

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Everett Huckel Bickley (1888-1972)
Born: Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania

  • Bickley invented a number of items while attending the Carnegie Institute of Technology, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He won the Senior Design Competition in 1910, the year he graduated, for a variable speed governor (an automatic device used to regulate and control such variables as speed or pressure in the functioning of an engine or other machine).
  • He formed the Bickley Manufacturing Company shortly after his graduation to help develop and promote his many inventions.
  • In 1911, Bickley developed and marketed his first commercial invention, the "motograph," an electric sign which spelled out moving messages with light bulbs. The first motograph was erected over the Columbian Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, but others were eventually seen in cities throughout the world.
  • While watching employees sorting navy pea beans in his job as chief engineer for the H.J. Heinz Company, Bickley came up with an idea that revolutionized the agricultural processing industry: an electric bean-sorting machine that could automate the process, by use of photoelectric cell, and sort good bean from bad. Bickley continued to improve the sorter, eventually adapting it to sort rice, peanuts, and ball bearings.


  • Bickley was a member of the National Inventors Council, which reviewed war-related invention ideas during World War II. He even contributed over 50 ideas of his own to the Council.


Compiled from the following sources:
-Eisinger, Tom. Everett H. Bickley Collection, 1999, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.