Thomas Kendall was Blacksmith and Machinist by training. He became a prominent business owner in New Lebanon in the early 19th century when he invented the modern graduated thermometer and started the first thermometer manufacturing company in America.
Thomas was the son of Rev. Thomas4 and Ruth Waters Kendall and was born at Foxborough, Massachusetts August 3, 1786.
He learned the trade of blacksmith and machinist. He was the proprietor of the Oxford Central Manufacturing Company at Oxford which failed after a short existence. He then went to his father's farm at Millbury for recuperation and while there conceived the idea of making a cheap thermometer. Mr. Kendall invented a machine in graduated scale of each instrument exactly to match the caliber. At the time of his death foreign manufacturers were almost out of business. He did not patent this machine but kept it a secret for many years, in fact until his death.
He moved from Millbury to New Lebanon in June 1820, taking his father the Rev. Thomas, whose wife Ruth had died in 1818, Thomas, Jr.'s second wife whom he married in 1819, seven children, six by his first marriage and one by his second marriage.
Mr. G. F. Daniels in his history of Oxford states that Thomas, Jr. died 10 December 1831. The history of Millbury states that he died in Albany, N.Y. the same date and is buried in New Lebanon. To date (1967) his burial place has not been found by the writer.
At the junction of Routes 20 and 22 at New Lebanon is the following marker:
First Thermometer made in the United States
Produced on this Site
State Education Department 1932
The KENDALL SHOP was built in 1833. It was continued by John Kendall, (b. 1810) and the family until 1892, the year that John died, when it was permanently closed.
In addition, during his lifetime Thomas Kendall pursued projects to improve and manufacture other useful instruments.
In the American Journal of Science and Arts, Vol. XIX -- January 1831, conducted by Benjamin Silliman, M.D. LLD. was the following article concerning "Notice of Improvements in the Surveyor's Compass, constructed by Thomas Kendall, of New Lebanon, N.Y.:
ART. XII. -- Notice of improvements in the Surveyor's Compass, constructed by THOMAS KENDALL, of New Lebanon, N.Y.
THE object of the artist in the construction of this instrument has been to simplify and unite in one instrument, of moderate price, all that is necessary or convenient in common practice. The improvement, in the form of the needle, has been before the public more than twenty years, and is approved by all who have become acquainted with it. By giving it the form represented in the figure, the advantages of having the points of the needle in a line with the point of the pivot on which it rests, and of having the center of gravity very low, are secured; the needle settles with more uniformity, and the vibrations of the lower part of the needle continue, are plainly seen some time after the points are apparently at rest, giving the assurance that the needle is free and has settled correctly. Contrary to the theories and practice of many, Mr. Kendall has uniformly made his needles with their weight as far removed from the center as circumstances would admit, on the principle that attraction is according to the quantity of matter and acts on the needle as a lever, and experience has confirmed the correctness of this opinion. Needles on this plan have been frequently called for by those who were dissatisfied with their old needles, the weight of which was greater near the centre. For ascertaining correctly the variations in degrees and minutes, two limbs are united, one within the other; the outer limb is stationary, being secured fast to the bar of the compass, with a graduation upon it of twenty degrees each side of the meridian line; the inner limb, on the outside of which is a nonius graduation to five minutes, which comes in contact with the graduation for the needle, the glass covers both limbs, protecting from the atmosphere and giving the nonius graduation the advantage of being silvered and retaining its whiteness. In this construction the advantage is gained of being assured that the centre of the limbs, centre of motion of the inner limb and needle, and the centre of the graduations are one and the same**
A level is attached to the compass, and a graduation fort taking altitudes, by which the practitioner, when his compass is level and fitted to his course, is enabled to take the level or angle of ascent or descent of any object in his course, from his station, without any additional machinery or adjustment; to effect this, two apertures are made for the eye in one of the sights, one at the top, for looking down hill, and one at the bottom, for looking up hill; these apertures are the centre of arches of which the other sight is a tangent, and there is a graduation on each side next to the eye to correspond with the degrees of the arches; by looking through the small aperture, the point of the graduated sight, in a line with the object, gives the true angle required.
The annexed figure, in connection with the above description, will sufficiently explain the instrument. The artist is now making arrangements to be ready to execute orders at very short notice, for compasses containing all or parts of the improvements, as may be wanted. Also to graduate the sights of old compasses for taking altitudes.
The figure represents the compass as if dissected by a line through a centre. a outer stationary limb; b inner moveable limb; c needle; d sights; e bar of the compass; f glass
** With a very little additional expense and variation, this instrument may be transformed into a Theodolite having two pairs of sights, one pair attached to the outer limbs, which is to be moveable and the inner limb stationary.