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Topic: Keely Information
Section: The Doom of Steam part 1
Table of Contents to this Topic

Philadelphia, PA., June 7, 1881


Dear Sir: ‹ Being able to hear only the first of like Series of Lectures on the Keely Motor enterprise recently delivered by you in Chickering Hall, New York, I would suggest that you publish the series in pamphlet form for distribution amongst the stockholders of the Keely Motor Co.
I make this suggestion the more readily, because I believe the present evidences of progress made by Mr. Keely justify any one who is thoroughly acquainted with the condition of affairs, in so presenting the facts that present or prospective stockholders need not be under the necessity of acting altogether in the dark; and if in the presentation thus suggested you remove the veil of mystery which is popularly supposed to surround the enterprise, you will, in my opinion, do much to leseen the effects of real or supposed mistakes by the managers thereof - mistakes which are natural to all enterprises, and more particularly such as invite the operations of a speculative management, which is eminently the case with the Keely Motor Co.
The suggested publication is also the more desirable because of the success attending the alleged efforts of interested parties in suppressing the notice of your lectures in the regular news columns of the " daily press.²

Yours Truly,



The foregoing letter, emanating from an active member of the Board, is evidently written in view of the general situation, which perhaps calls for a compliance with the request contained therein, although not essential to the end for which the lectures were given. As was shown early in the first lecture, it was not especially desired to carry criticisms upon the Company's management beyond the stockholders, and those who were likely to become such. Hence reports by the press were not sought after, although, if published, it was desired that they be correct.

The suppressing of such reports, by interested parties was a proceeding not unlooked for, as strenuous efforts had been made to prevent the lectures from being given. Failing in this, they were expected to do what else they could in the same direction.

Strangely enough, these effects were not successful in a well-understood venal quarter, from which has gone forth gross misrepresentations of the lectures. Their publication in form therefore, may be ealled for as a duty to papers outsides of New York, and to their scientific readers. It is thought better to give a synopsis of the three lectures at present, and await developments for their publication in full.

In addition to the reasons given above, it may be proper to state, that, for the main object in view, it is not deemed expedient to wait until public demonstrations by the inventor have extorted recognition from scientists and others, when there will be no need of any written defense on the score of success, and when it will be difficult to command proper attention to the principal facts which follow on the first pages herein.

It is not enough that the excitement over a signal triumph by Mr. Keely will cause the rumors against his integrity to be disregarded. They must be disbelieved - through an exposure of the facts, before opinions have settled into convictions, and these have become prejudices, difficult to combat.

Like others, an inventor is not free from the envy of rivals; and the cynics who have publicly committed themselves to his disparagement, will not hesitate to keep alive any sort of prejudice against the man, by taunting his adherents with the fact that certain derogatory statements against his character remain undenied, and hence must be true.

This being historical verity, is therefore prudent forecast. That it forcibly applies to the present case, needs no better proof than is afforded by the occasion which calls for these pages.


For several years the public mind has been considerably perturbed, and very much abused, by persistent efforts through the press to propagate a belief that the Keely Motor is a delusion, its author a swindler, and their adherents dupes of his ingenious artifice.

The extensive notoriety which thus has been thrust upon this invention in advance of its advent ‹ albeit against the inventor's wish - gives the world, upon which it has been obtruded, a right to some immunity from the errors of judgment to which it is exposed by the silence of Mr. Keely and his friends when assailed by his enemies; whether these be public accusers to rob him of reputation, or private impostors who fleece him of the fruits of his genius and toil. During more than five years of unprovoked abuse, he has never prompted an action in his own defense, by publication or otherwise; but with a patience which betrays the most exalted dignity, his course is a crucial test of that immortal proverb enunciated by Washington: "To persevere in one¹s duty and be silent, is the best answer to calumny. " While no motive can be assigned for these public assaults, it is noticeable that they have chiefly sprung from sources professedly scientific, and so done much to influence popular opinion. Consequently between the believers who know something about it, and the doubters who do not, there exists in regard to the Motor an unpleasant and injurious suspense, which, so far as may be, it is my purpose here to relieve, by showing through the most efficient medium of intelligence wherein the public has been misled and the inventor misrepresented. The prevailing impression that "Mr. Keely has been a long time about his Motor," is due to the publicity which it received at early and inopportune stages of its development, while it was incipient as an invention, and long before it should have been brought into public notice at all. This was the outcome of ambition coupled with inexperience on the part of those who unfortunately have had charge of the company's business affiairs.

Anxious to raise the stock in public estimation for speculative purposes, they undertook, among other maladroit measures, to obtain the endorsement of two or three professional "experts," who took the opposite course from what they were expected, and in a labored effort to lay bare the "deceptions" of Mr. Keely, exposed their own ignorance of the principles they professed to teach, besides committing the egregious blunder of attempting to criticise what they knew nothing about. They represented institutions with high-sounding names, which caused their adverse criticisms to influence the press, and so satisfy the public that Mr. Keely was an impostor, and his Motor a " deception. " They attributed his wonderful power to compressed air.

This was an attribution of ingenuity greater than was possessed by the whole scientific world; for air never had been compressed to one-half the extent necessary to the display of energy witnessed by these " experts. "

Their ignorance was illustrated by their intimation that a hydraulic screw pump, which Mr. Keely had used for testing the density and strength of metals, might be employed for working up a compression of air to ten thousand pounds ‹ an idea most absurd in the simplest novice, to say nothing of professers in physics and dynamical engineering.

Although Mr. Keely permitted the investigations, he was very much opposed to them, knowing the inability of these self-styled ³experts" to pass intelligent judgment upon his operations, which are even beyond the books; besides, the ultimate results, although clear to him, could not be made so to others without demonstrations requiring perfected apparatus.

In preparing for, and giving exhibitions at various times, considerable money was spent, and probably more than a year of time lost; and the advanced stage which the Motor has now reached is due to the firm stand taken by the inventor, after becoming disgusted with the financial management, which was more like the ambition of boys than the judgment of men.

This decision has proved to be of the utmost importance in advancing the work, although it has kept matters so comparatively quiet that the public excitement of a few years ago had, for a time, well nigh subsided into a conviction that, after all, the critics were correct, and the Motor was a myth.

Cupidity and incompetency would at different times, have made shipwreck of the Company, but for the fidelity and firmness in emergencies, of the otherwise most flexible and indulgent of men.

By yielding to the schemes and whims of others, the inventor has exposed himself to much unjust censure, and incurred a vast amount of opprobrium, besides suffering many pecuniary losses.

He has many times and in various ways, sacrificed large interests, as the easiest way to free himself from entanglements into-which he had been drawn by graceless financiers, when the infamy of the transactions would have fully justified him in refusing compliance with their conditions.

Mr. Keely's hesitation to assert his rights, and especially to maintain them by litigation at the cost of precious time; or even to endure the annoyance of disputes, has on several occasions made him the victim of nefarious transactions entered into with little or no money consideration. Claims upon him which would not have stood an hour in any court were recognized and paid from a morbidly high sense of personal honor. Unfortunately this " is not business," and therefore meets with precious little sympathy, while it has allowed his harpies to practice their tricks with impunity, although it couples their deceptions with cowardice and divests them of even the merit of shrewdness, since they are undertaken only in view of this generous loop-hole of escape.

The contempt of honesty shown by some persons in their dealings with him, however surprising, is scarcely more so than some acts of the Board of Directors in sanctioning settlements which were sequels to these transactions, and which were simply compromises on terms to fleece the inventor. That some of them were directly interested in these outrages, and others indirectly derived large benefits from them, accounts for this otherwise curious action.

As a director, there is no attempt here to excuse Mr. Keely from fault in tolerating these abuses. But as he is the chief loser by them, he cannot be suspected of complicity in them; and those who blame him for allowing himself or the Company to be defrauded, should bear in mind that his peculiar province is not finance, but invention, of which he has the whole burden to carry, and with which he is too busy to be constantly on his guard against the tricks and mistakes of others in business matters, when there are twelve in the Board whose especial duty it is to take care of that department.

It is not difficult for a mind possessing the most ordinary sagacity, to perceive that complications, inseparable from such proccedings, with their numerous disagreements and inevitable dissatisfaction, may have caused, serious delays and consequent depreciations in value of the stock, for which others in the Company, more than the inventor, should be held accountable; for, every swindling transaction which defrauds and discourages him, or otherwise delays and endangers his success, is a robbery upon stockholders; and it is doubly dishonorable when officers and directors take advantage of their position, and thus abuse the trust reposed in them as guardians of the inventor's rights and the Company's interests.

Of the entire amount stock issued, representing three important inventions, (the Motor induded), Mr. Keely has not retained one-fiftieth, nor has he anything of considerable value to show as an equivalent for the rest, (except some rights to use his own inventions recently purchased of the Company, or, what means the same thing, taken by him in lieu of promised cash payments,) while not less than half a dozen others have made an average of more than fifty thousand dollars each from the enterprise.

Although Mr. Keely has been the principal sufferer, the stockholders have lost severely, while the Company has also been directly embarrassed by the manipulation of these managers, to which the Board submitted with remarkable obedience, considering that only a portion of them received the benefits.


High salaries and other profligate ways of distributing the money and diverting it from the proper channel, have depleted the treasury, detained the work, and so disappointed the stockholders. From the organization of the Company, its active "financiers" have generally appeared to estimate the invention's value by its availability as a means to personal ends, regardless of its ultimate success as a public benefit, or as an achievement in "the advancement of science." Their ideas are so far below the inventor's that his aim overshoots their actions, and before their motives are discovered he is undermined, and recovers himself, only at enormous cost. It is anything but encouraging to see the fruit of his energy swept away before it ripens; and by those who have betrayed his confidence or abused his generosity.

When the Company's interests are trifled with by its trustees, when its officers conduct its affairs as if its only worth was that of a temporary speculation, how can it be expected that those who have no other criterion for their judgment will have any confidence in it as a meritorious enterprise ?


When the Company was organized, instead of selling the stock, or, still better holding it as the reserve, for either himself or the treasury, it was divided among certain parties (virtually given away by Mr. Keely) according to a plan as ill-advised and unjust, as it was avaricious on the part of those who received it; and ruinous to the credit of the Company, as it was expensive to the inventor; for both Company and inventor afterwards needed money which the stock, if held in reserve, would have readily brought at good prices. As it turned out, a number of the recipients of these favors, elated over their unwonted wealth, determined to reap the first fruits, and so make sure of a speedy fortune.

Accordingly they sold out in a market which at the time was too limited to carry large amounts without becoming depressed. Hence, while they realized what might have been a competency if properly used, others were embarrassed and the Company disgraced; for, not only did it suffer from the moral effect of a fall in the price of stock, but some of the improvident, and consequently ungrateful objects of the inventor's bounty, became the vulgar authors of his defamation.

Money, which for carrying forward the work, should have been raised by sales of stock from time to time as needed, was obtained by selling territorial rights in advance of the patents.

Lately, as before, depreciations are due to quantities of the stock which have been thrown into the market from large lots obtained in ways already indicated, either for nothing or for trifling considerations ‹ and chiefiy from the inventor. The incidents of these transactions are too numerous and complex to be given in detail at present. The general facts must suffice and will be found in the statements which shortly follow.

Obviously a policy has been pursued at times to keep both the inventor and the company in a necessitous condition, for purposes of speculation. The so-called consolidation was evidently hurried through under the pressure of like motives. This act added to the property of the Company two other inventions, known as the Vapor Gun and the Automatic Waterlift. The former is shown to have several times the projectile force of gunpowder, while for the latter it is claimed that water can be raised to any height without the application of extraneous power.

These two inventions were believed to be so valuable that if possessed by the Company it would be justified in largely increasing its capital stock. As it was in a very depressed condition financially, Mr. Keely came to the rescue and acceded to the following scheme: Rights to the two inventions were conveyed to the Company, and the capital stock increased from 20,000 to 100,000 shares. Of the 80,000 new shares 40,000 went to pay for the inventions, 20,000 to the treasury of the Company, and 20,000 were divided among the stockholders, share for share of what they already held.

Of the 40,000 shares which should have gone to Mr. Keely, not 5000 ever reached his hands. Nearly if not quite 34,000 went to satisfy fraudulent claims held by three men separately against the inventor; and lots of less amount to other persons to whom he had made advance sales at great sacrifice, in order to get money for carrying forward the work. Several of the directors therefore were deeply interested in urging through the "consolidation," with its great injustice to the inventor.

The largest of these frauds was in the case of a transaction where one man, acting as an agent or attorney for Mr. Keely, disposed of two-thirds of the Gun and of the Water-lift and did not make the proper returns. The transferee came in for two-thirds of the 40,000 shares set apart to pay for the inventions.

The other two claims, although for less amounts, were equally unjust.

It was the throwing of this stock upon the market, little more than a year ago, that broke the prices down to a nominal rate, and discouraged many holders who had obtained their stock by fair purchase.


Avoiding particulars, the general facts here to be shown are as follows: As Mr. Keely capitalized and stocked the Company in the first place by the sale of interests exclusively his, and putting the money into the treasury, $50,000 as a gift and $50,000 more as a loan, and then distributed three-fourths of the stock to non-payers therefor; so he furnished the 80,000 shares of increase in the second place; for no money was either paid or promised to him in the consolidation.

Money for carrying forward the work and defraying other expenses of the Company, is now raised entirely by selling the Treasury stock, which is wholly A GIFT from Mr. Keely, and the rioters upon this benefit are taunted as dupes for being "milked of their money. "

Of the entire 100,000 shares, less than 15,000 remain in the treasury while of the other 85,000, not one-fourth was fairly paid for by first holders.

By his own imprudence, and the advantage taken of it by others, the costs have been incurred, as well as the work done, by Mr. Keely, who seems to care for nothing but success, regardless of pecuniary benefits. He has often submitted to the most outrageous terms when funds were not forthcoming in the proper way, and with him any sacrifice was better than suspense. Had intelligent devotion to the enterprise equal to that displayed in the mechanical department characterized its financial management, the world might long ago have been reaping the fruits of this unprecedented discovery.


The proverb, that every man, even the ablest, is afflicted with some unfortunate proclivity or besetting weakness, finds no exception in the case of Mr. Keely, although the traits are somewhat anomalous. His trouble is misplacement of confidence, complicated with a sort of indiscriminate generosity, manifested in what might with some propriety be termed excessive honesty. The disease, although constitutional, should be cured by this time, if there is any virtue in bleeding and leeching. A man of great physical strength, a hard worker with his own hands, and remarkable for energy, activity and industry, Mr. Keely is also a close observer, a comprehensive, liberal thinker, and bold experimenter. With him no risk or sacrifice is too great, if it elicits a truth, discovers a principle, or proves a theory. This ruling propensity makes him seem extravagant, and at times, reckless of money or obligations.


Mr. Keely's credit is unquestioned, especially when he deals independent of associates and upon his own responsibility.

A native of Philadelphia, he has transacted business with several of its largest firms, and employed a good many working men. His reputation for punctuality and liberality is acknowledged by them all. (Letters substantiating this statement are in hand, and may be published at another time.)

It is believed by those who know him best, that he would rather give a hundred dollars than to gain one by cheating.


Not wholly, but principally, it is his money, his time, and his genius, that has founded and furnished the Company, while others have tortured it into the various shapes which have brought upon it an unenviable reputation. Besides,


incident to hazardous experiments, and the chances of disgrace in case of disaster. He has suffered from several severe physical injuries and had many narrow escapes. An account of them would make an interesting chapter of accidents, as bodily scars, mutilated walls, splintered doors, and perforated ceilings abundantly testify.

Antagonism is an evidence of force in the thing resisted. If it be a measure also, then has the Keely Motor abundant proof of its vitality. The inventor's conflict with persistent attacks from without, and constant interferences within, should give every high-minded man a bias in his favor. With mind at a tension under the pressure of high resolves, and hampered by hindrances on every side, even to having his work obstructed for the sake of greater gains by those who are most deeply interested in his success, the wonder is, not that "he has been so long at it," but that he has accomplished so much in so short a time. He has made rapid strides with his inventions, considering their vast importance and the prodigious work attending their development.


True, the discovery was made some seven or eight years ago; but this time is very short in proportion to the amount of work accomplished, and the end to be achieved.

Morse was twelve years in reaching results which proved the success of his telegraph; and he was only adapting an old agent to a new use. Mr. Keely discovers a new agent, and invents means for applying it to many uses. Comparisons generally with inventions and inventors would make a still better showing in his favor.
See Also:

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