Model: Hat Blocking Machine

Rudolf Eickemeyer Sr. (American, b. Germany, 1831–1895)
ca. 1870–80
MediumBronze, wood, steel, paint
Dimensions13 1/2 × 4 × 8 1/2 inches
CreditGift of Rudolf Eickemeyer Jr., 1928
Accession Number28.214

This is one of ten hat-making models by Rudolf Eickemeyer, Sr., in the Museum’s collection. Besides hat machinery, the prolific inventor worked on technology ranging from industrial sewing machines and elevator motors to electro magnets and even electric trolleys. He is credited with over 100 patents.

Born in Bavaria, Eickemeyer came to New York in 1850. The 23-year-old had studied engineering and found employment on the Erie Railroad and then at the Buffalo Steam Engine Works. In 1854, he and his lifelong friend, George Osterheld, opened a machine repair shop in Yonkers, which was a major center for the hat industry. He and Osterheld soon switched from fixing hat machines to making them.

Eickemeyer later delved enthusiastically into the emerging field of electrical engineering. He hired a young German immigrant, Charles Proteus Steinmetz, who conducted ground-breaking research electro-physics. This attracted the attention of General Electric, which bought out Eickemeyer in 1892, making Steinmetz their consulting engineer. In 1895, Steinmetz wrote an obituary for Eickemeyer in The Electrical World, calling his mentor “the most intelligent of all the men I ever met.”