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Thaddeus Hyatt Portraits
Thaddeus Hyatt Thaddeus Hyatt Thaddeus Hyatt Thaddeus Hyatt Thaddeus Hyatt Thaddeus Hyatt
ancestry.com: James Hazlerigg-Kinlay Library of Congress Kansas Memory · KHS Library of Congress Kansas Memory · KHS findagrave: khyatt

Thaddeus Hyatt [1816-1901] is the inventor of the Thaddeus Hyatt's signature
Thaddeus Hyatt's calling card
Thaddeus Hyatt's calling card
Mass. Digital Commonwealth
bull's-eye vault light of 1845, designed to correct three problems with Rockwell's 1834 single-lens design: Hyatt's plate is safe to walk on even if all the glass is broken out, the glass is protected from scratching by raised bumps on the ironwork, and the glass is set in a band of lead or other soft metal to protect it from shock and isolate it from expansion and contraction of the metal frame. He may have been inspired during a London visit by Christy's 1841 coal plate design which uses several intermediate-size round glass lenses. Hyatt's invention was not an immediate success: "It was about seven years after the patent was granted before he succeeded in conquering the prejudices of the public, and rendering his invention profitable" (Hyatt's Patent Extension Case, 1859) which was a decided factor in granting him the extension. Eventually his Hyatt Lights caught on and made him a rich man.

Rockwell's 1834 single-lens vault cover Christy's 1841 multi-lens cover Hyatt Light (Brown Brothers #4) Thaddeus Hyatt's Patent Basement Extension
Rockwell's 1834 vault cover Christy's 1841 multi-lens cover Brown Brothers #4
21" Hyatt Light ca.1860
Thaddeus Hyatt's 1867
Patent Basement Extension

Thaddeus was interested in many things; he was a pioneer of reinforced concrete construction (his patent No. 206,112 of 1878 was the first in the US); his interest in aviation led him in 1857-58 to offer "a reward of $1,000 to any inventor able to produce an actual flying machine" and in 1882 he published a treatise on flight called The Dragon-Fly, or Reactive Passive Locomotion. His older brother Theodore [1814-1879] was also an inventor and held patents on illuminated roofing (among other things), but mainly he was the business-minded of the two. Together they formed Hyatt Brothers.

But... "Thaddeus was a never-ending source of trouble to his brother, chiefly because of his ineptitude in business matters. He seemed unable to regulate his expenditures according to his income, his taxes were frequently delinquent, and he was known to promise loans or gifts of money which he did not have. Much of the burden of managing his financial affairs fell to Theodore, and it was no easy task even to keep Thaddeus solvent. For example, he had made promises, said Theodore in September, that would obligate him to pay out something like $11,000 during the next two or three months, which would amount to more than twice his income for the same period." —Kansas Historical Society

"The fact is, ... unless my poor demented, insane brother changes his course and husbands his resources Heaven itself cannot save him from destruction, for while he is wasting thousands of dollars on the infernal John Brown, Washington Jail humbug his property heavily mortgaged is eating him up with expense of interest, taxes & assessments amounting yearly to over five thousand dollars, and not paying his taxes & assessments when due his property is constantly sold & when redeemed costs 15 pct. and expenses equal to 20 pct—enough to ruin any man, ..." —Letter to W. F. M. Arny from Theodore (Kansas Historical Quarterly)
Hyatt's Patent Tile and Glass Lights
Hyatt's Patent Tile and Glass Lights
Thaddeus Hyatt & Co, London, ca.1891, 24p
Rakow Research Library,
Corning Museum of Glass
~10MB: pdf (172DPI)

Jail Portrait of Thaddeus Hyatt, to Hon. Samuel E. Sewall Note from Thaddeus Hyatt, Washington Jail, June 2, 1860, to Miss Myrtle Minor
"Thaddeus Hyatt
Presented to his friend
Hon. S. E. Sewall
Washington Jail April 21 1860"
Scan: Massachusetts
Historical Society

Photo. 9.1.1114
"Not for Myself
Remember me, not as an individual,
But as the Incarnation of a Principle;
For Man is Ephemeral - But Principles
are Eternal!" [signed] Thaddeus Hyatt
Washington Jail, June 2d, 1860
to his friend, Miss Myrtle Minor."

Scan: Bonhams

Outside of glass-collecting circles, Thaddeus is best known as being a staunch and vocal abolitionist, becoming actively involved after the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which let the territory's voters decide the slavery issue. He used the money from his vault lights to further the cause. He was a friend and supporter of John Brown, who used his New York residence as headquarters when visiting the city [NYT obit]. Following the Harpers Ferry raid and Brown's execution, Thaddeus was jailed for refusing to testify before a Senate investigative committee, arguing in a 23-page written response that the Senate did not have the power to compel his presence. The Senate voted to jail him, but he made light of his imprisonment, decorating his cell and entertaining visitors in style. Eventually his case resulted in a Supreme Court decision affirming Congress' right to summon witnesses; however three months later the investigative committee was dissolved and Hyatt was freed. He immediately telegraphed New York "Have been kicked out. Will be home to-morrow." See Thaddeus Hyatt in Washington Jail at the Kansas Historical Society.

Thaddeus continued his involvement in Kansas affairs, forming the Kansas Relief Committee following the devastating drought culminating in 1860, and striving to help farmers impoverished by the drought. Read more about Thaddeus at Wikipedia.


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