Windham Life and Times – January 31, 2020

The Best Advice I Never Took!

Woodland Ridge was built as an investment by my Dad in 1982, on the Route 111 in Windham. It was one of the first commercial office buildings in town. Some of the early tenants included Prime Computer, SummaGraphics and Dave Wetherell’s Softrend.

Dave Wetherell and Softrend

I can still remember the “T” Ball games of the late 1990’s where various parents would brag about all the money they were making with their investment in a company in Andover known as CMGi.  The driving force of CMGi was David Wetherell. He was one smart son of a gun! A true visionary. He rented an office in Windham from my dad at Woodland Ridge, soon after it was built in 1982. He lived in Derry NH and that was his SAAB pictured in the parking lot. At that point he was running a company called Softrend.

Reuters, in their article titled, Big Personalities of the dotcom boom– where are they now?, writes the following about Wetherall and CMGi: Then: David Wetherell was CEO of the public holding and venture capital company CMGi, which helped grow to more than 1 billion in annual revenue with his energetic buying of then-notable internet companies, including Lycos and Alta Vista. He developed a tool called Engage to sell data that aided early versions of targeted advertising on the web. But shares of CMGi topped at $199 in 1999 and fell to about $6 in 2000. CMGi later became ModusLink Global Solutions via a merger.

On a Blog for VentureFizz, Keith Cline discusses Dave Wetherell and CGMi: You may remember that CGMi had the naming rights to the home of the New England Patriots which was known for a time as CMGi Field. Cline says that “at its peak, the company had over 70 investments, 20 subsidiaries, 5 thousand employees, and 1.5 billion in annual revenues. Its market cap was 41 Billion and ranked somewhere around No. 7-9 in the world in terms of aggregate traffic to all of its properties”

“Wetherell became Chairman, CEO and orchestrated a leveraged buyout of the company in 1986. CMGi’s core business was focused on selling mailing lists of university faculty and information buyers to educational and professional publishers. After taking over, Wetherell built up the company’s revenues and market share, and took the company public in 1994. Shortly after its IPO, Wetherall founded BookLink Technologies, a web browser company, which was sold to American Online for an all-stock transaction that yielded $72 million for CMGi from and initial $900 Thousand investment.”

“The proceeds from the sale of BookLink allowed CMGi to focus on a two pronged strategy . It would incubate its own startup internet companies and also have an investment arm, CMG@ventures to fund early stage internet companies. As the business grew, CMGi became a NASDAQ 100 company and market leaders like Microsoft, Intel, and Sumitomo held minority positions in it. CMGi’s portfolio included companies like, Alta Vista, Engage, Lycos, GeoCities, Raging Bull, NaviSite, Furniture.com, MotherNature.com, MyWay.com, Snapfish and others…” “AltaVista was developed by researchers at Digital Equipment and was the Google of its time…According to Wetherell, Novell and CGMi were planning a merger and Eric Schmidt would have been CEO of the combined entity but the merger was put on hold when the market crashed during the Spring of 2000. He also mentioned at one point CMGi discussed acquiring Google, but the board was against it.” (They also looked at investing early on in ebay but the board thought the valuation was too high.

Are you wondering where Dave Wetherell is today? After retiring from CMGi he “started as a sole angel investor, (in Biotech) and it blossomed into an investment firm with $200 million under management, called Biomark Capital.

    So what was the “best advice” that I never took. Dave Wetherell told me to invest in software companies. This was when the likes of Wang and Digital ruled the  technology scene. Microsoft Windows would be introduced in 1985. Well there is good news folks, I still have my Pets.com sock puppet; that must be worth something. Speaking of SAAB’s, I also drove a SAAB during the eighties. My SAAB had an odd quirk; it would suddenly come to a stop on the interstate.

Personalities of the Dotcom Boon…Reueters

VentureFizz: Dave Wetherell and CGMi

Windham Life and Times – January 17, 2020

The Merrill House Auction

From the Logbook of William Austin Brooks

     August 3, 1900 from the William Austin Brooks Diary: “In the afternoon we went to the auction at the old Merrill house. We arrived at 2 o’clock and found the sale in progress. Teams were hitched to the fence and trees along both sides of the road and about the house. The house itself is an ancient New England farm house, weather beaten and gray with over one hundred years. Outside in the sunlight stood the furniture, a mahogany high boy, a low boy, a bureau, and two mahogany tables; one a work table with drop leaves. They stood for inspection, a row of veterans, showing scars of many years of faithful usage and now to be sold and scattered. The auctioneer was selling various humble articles, pails, tinware etc. including house things the use of which is now obsolete; a tin kitchen hatchel, wool and flax carders, a hand press, bellows, etc.

     On the whole it was a pathetic sight; one that brought many thoughts to mind of the stories the old house and its contents might tell of an earlier and more primitive life in a new country. Austin climbed on top of the chest of drawers on which the auctioneer placed several articles. ‘How much do I get for this collateral, all except the boy?’ I took four pictures of the scene at different standpoints.

Inside the house people were sitting, talking in low tones and one could not help thinking it was a funeral. On the dining table was displayed the crockery and china ware and men were bringing up from the cellar a lot of preserved fruit, boiled cider, etc. How little Mrs. Merrill thought of this disposition of her labor when she put them up. In another room were the feather beds and bedding. We took the children into the garret, which was unfinished except a room at one end. The lots so far brought small sums, 5, 10 and 15 cents but the china brought more, a blue platter 1.75, etc. Mary bought an iron pan for 15 cents and I two old blue plates, both cracked, for .15 which the auctioneer knocked down to ‘that good looking man.’ I blushed. The highboy brought $16.00, the bureau $14.00, the work table which I bid 3.00 brought 6.00.

Many articles, including the sewing machine (5.00) were bought by Mr. Jewett who has bought a farm, He is a stal-wart, good natured looking giant of 35 years, 6 ft 6 inches tall. The auctioneer joked him a good deal about getting himself a wife now that he has a farm. It was a lively scene, the people and the teams in the bright sunlight, under the blue sky.”

 

 

Windham Life and Times – January 10, 2020

The Steamer Mineola

Canobie Lake with Windham NH in Distance

The Steam powered Mineola leaving the dock at Canobie Lake Park. The Windham shoreline is in the background. Windham once owned all of Policy Pond (Canobie Lake) and much of Salem, but out of spite, over a bitter religious feud between the Scotch Presbyterians and the English Congregationalists, it was given away in 1752.

Windham Life and Times – January 3, 2020

“Footprints of Genius”

William Meserve and his workshop on Route 28 in Windham NH,

William Meserve Windham NH

“A leading dentist in Lawrence became much interested in his work, and in 1902 contracted with him to build a two seated surrey. This contact led to the formation of a company, and a gasoline demonstrator, in the form of a truck was built. The company seemed to be ‘off to a flying start’ when ill fortune overtook it. One of the four men who formed it proved himself unequal to his responsibility, and financial disaster terminated this infant industry.”

“Nothing daunted my father and he continued to experiment, and finally brought forth the first gasoline propelled four-cylinder, two cycle motor with lift valves, so designed as to give the same results as an eight cylinder car of today. This car had a compressed-air self starter (which we believe to have been the first ever in service) and many additional features which other automobiles did not have until years later. Two of these were a wheel base of 140 inches and a three speed selective transmission. The chassis and engine of this car were invented and built by my father, the wheels and body being supplied by nearby companies. It was finished in 1904 and ran 125 miles without a stop on its initial trial. This was everywhere considered a remarkable feat. It was built for a lawyer in Derry, where my father moved to provide better educational opportunities for his growing family. The car proved to be most dependable, and gave long years of satisfactory service.”

“What might of developed from his work and experimentation we shall never know, for Fate again took things into her own hands. That same year he was attacked with rheumatic fever, and was for months was too ill to do work of any kind…”

From the history of Derry, NH. From Turnpike to Interstate we learn the following: “William Meserve and the First Automobile. Both Windham and Salem lay claim to William Forest Meserve, but Derry can put in its bid as well. Although he had no formal education after he was seventeen years old, during his lifetime he could have qualified for any of the following: mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, millwright, architect, draftsman, carpenter, and musician among others. William Meserve made the first automobile in Derry in 1900. (?!) He and his family lived in Derry for several autumns and winters during the early years of this century. Their permanent home was in Windham.

“In 1904 Will Meserve built another automobile in Derry. This was the first car he made completely—everything except the wheels and coach work. It had a four cylinder engine, that developed thirty-two horsepower (calibrated by the conservative standards of those days). It was a two cycle engine with lift valves, hence it had the power of an eight cylinder motor. It had a three speed transmission and a compressed self starter. The car was built in the rear of the Bartlett block in the part that had a large door facing Franklin Street. Built for Attorney Benjamin T. Bartlett, it was heavy, weighing 3,300 lbs. In June, 1904, Meserve, along with Attorney Bartlett, Bartlett’s nephew, Benjamin Piper, and another young man, Ernest Low, gave the car a thorough workout. First they drove it to Manchester and back. Travelling times over the rutty dirt roads of that day were forty minutes going and thirty-seven minutes returning. Then they immediately ventured forth on an 125 miles trip that encompassed Nottingham, Durham, Portsmouth, Kittery, Maine, then back to Portsmouth, Greenland, Hampton Beach, Exeter, Epping, and finally back home to Derry. The new machine performed perfectly throughout the trip and did not require a single adjustment on route.”

 

 

Windham Life and Times – December 20, 2019

“Footprints of Genius”

William F. Meserve – Windham Inventor

“In 1901 the Pemberton Mills, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, engaged him to build a truck. This was steam driven, which seemed at that time to be the most dependable driving power. It was the first practical commercial truck in that section, and we have been told that it was without doubt one of the very first — if not the first — practical heavy commercial trucks to be built anywhere. A picture of it was published in The Horseless Age.”

The Meserve Two Ton Truck for the Pemberton Mills.

The Horseless Age | November 4, 1901

“The Pemberton Company of Lawrence, Mass., have just placed in service a steam truck designed and constructed by W.F. Meserve at his shop at Canobie Lake, N.H.  The truck is intended for use between the company’s works in Lawrence and the neighboring suburbs of Andover and Methuen, and was designed for loads up to 2 tons. Another similar truck has been ordered.”

“In the construction of the truck frame wood is exclusively employed, and the design aims at flexibility, strength and economy in first cost. Two stringers of white oak of 2 x 6 inches run the whole length of the vehicle, and are heavily bolted at the rear to a substantial wooden yoke the extremities of which carry the bronze rear axle bearings, In the front the stringers are bolted to the heavily trussed vertical frame, which carries the forward axle and steering knuckles. The stringers being placed with their largest dimensions vertical, insures sufficient rigidity, with certain amount of flexibility. Two light metal trusses…further strengthen the fame.”

The total length of the truck is 14 feet 8 inches, the wheel base 10 feet, the platform 10 feet long by 5 feet 6 inches wide and the gauge is 60 inches. Unloaded, its weight is in the neighborhood of 4,000 pounds. Wheels of the Sarven type are used, of 36 inches diameter, and are equipped this 3 inch solid rubber tires. All bearings are of solid bronze and the springs are substantial and of the full elliptic type. The forward axle is of 2 inches diameter. Equipped with heavy steering knuckles, while the rear axle is of 3 inches diameter, divided at the centre and strengthened by a 12-inch sleeve. The driving sprockets, on each half of the rear axle, are bolted to 12-inch hubs, the faces of which are of 4 inches width and serve as drums for brakes.

As is customary in vehicles of this class the boiler is located just back of the operator’s seat, and it, together with the engine, was constructed by Edward S. Clark. It is of 24 inches diameter, with 720 copper tubes 1/2 inch by 14 inches, and is heavily lagged with magnesia covering. The normal boiler pressure is 210 pounds. Gasoline is the fuel employed and is carried in two double riveted galvanized steel tanks, one on either side of the boiler. Their capacity is 30 gallons, and they are arranged that either one may be filled without relieving the air pressure in the other. An ordinary burner is employed, fitted with the usual automatic fuel regulator and pilot light, and the products of combustion pass through a sheet iron hood of the common form and occupy the space under the body. Their capacity is 75 gallons.”

“The engine is supported vertically nearly under the middle of the body. It is of the regular Clark double cylinder model, with cylinders of 3 1/2 inch bore and 4-inch stroke, Stephenson link motion and crosshead pumps for water feed and air supply. Its air pump is provided with an automatic relief and the water pump a by-pass in reach of the operator.”

“An injector is provided as an auxiliary. The engine is connected by means of a Baldwin chain to the Brown-Lipe differential carried upon a countershaftm from the differential Baldwin chains transmit to the two driving sprockets.”

“For controlling the engine a combined throttle and reverse lever is employed, by the rotation of which in either direction steam is admitted. Pushing it downward gives the forward motion, pulling it up produces the reverse, and in its intermediate position the link is on centre. There is a safety shut-off in the main steam pipe. The steam and water gauges are conveniently placed at the left of the operator. Steering is by means of a lever and linkage.”

‘In order to heat the feed water before entering the boiler it passes from the tank through a coil of pipe enclosed in a condensing changer, which receives the exhaust. From this chamber the steam escapes by a pipe terminating just above the boiler tubes in the midst of the hot gases, which tends to render the exhaust invisible. The boiler tanks and other mechanism which project above the platform are very neatly housed, the painting is tasteful, and the general appearance of the vehicle is excellent. Its speed is 7 or 8 miles per hour on level.”

 

Windham Life and Times – December 20, 2019

“Footprints” of Genius

William Meserve’s Automobile is pictured above. It was built right here in Windham in 1895. He experimented with gasoline, electric and steam power. The Horseless Age is a fascinating early magazine from the pioneering days of automobiles and can be read online. W.F. Meserve’s advertisement from the September 26, 1900 issue

William F. Meserve: Windham Inventor

Throughout his life he maintained an active interest in electricity and its many developments, and was often called upon to make his knowledge serve practical purposes. In 1898, at a time when many big cities had not yet adopted the use of electric lights, the neighboring town of Salem installed them. It was to him that the new company turned when it was ready to start its plant, for he was the only one who could be found with sufficient knowledge to handle the monster safely. He foresaw many of electricity’s present applications many years before they became a reality. Among my earliest recollections is his talking about electrifying the railroads. He often spoke of it at home, although he would have received nothing but ridicule had he been so bold as to try to develop that idea at the time it originated within his mind. It was a great satisfaction to him when, years later, railroad electrification became an established fact.”

“On October 10, 1893 he married my mother, Abbie Chase, who had been his sister’s roommate at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. She had always the most genuine interest in his various undertakings. It is fortunate for her family that she kept a diary during the following years, for otherwise there are many things concerning out father’s accomplishments that we might never have known.”

“About that time he began reading of the wonderful new carriages that could go without horses. Nearly everyone he knew scoffed at such ‘fanciful’ stories. No one in his section of the country had ever seen one. It would be hard to say where the nearest one might be found. But the idea fascinated him, for it was indeed the fulfillment of his boyhood dreams. As a child he had lived near the railroad, and used to enjoy watching the trains come and go. His ever fertile brain, even at that early age, foresaw the possibility of wagons going likewise under their own power, and often did he ponder it. This was typical of him throughout his life. He was forever seeing possibilities for creation or improvement in any field in which circumstances placed him.”

“He snatched at everything he could find in print regarding the latest development, and in 1895 determined that he would make one for himself. He bought a Concord buggy, and cut down the wheels considerably . He conceived the idea of using was then termed ‘hose pipe’ tires, instead of the solid ones commonly used on wagons. He asked a well known bicycle tire manufacturer to make him a set patterned after bicycle tires, specifying the size – I think they were three inch. They agreed to try this experiment if he would give an order for two sets, which he did. These were among the first pneumatic automobile tires ever to be made. It marked a new era for this company, which is still prominent in the tire industry. An automobile engine was not obtainable, so he ordered a two cylinder gasoline boat engine. On July 21, 1896 Mother entered in her diary, ‘Went to the Post Office this morning and found Will’s engine had arrived. He and Charles went for it this noon.’ From then on throughout summer there were frequent references to the ‘carriage’ on which ‘Will’ was working. Almost any hour of the day or night, when he could get away from business (for all this was in his spare time) he might be found working in the little shop which he carefully equipped. (It is still standing on the side of Route 28 in Windham. BRD) Passing neighbors would place their hands over their mouths to hide smiles of ridicule as they watched him tinker with the metals and pipes, water, steam, gasoline and electricity — only he knowing that in them lay the power that today has given America a great and fruitful industry.”

“On September 22, 1896 Mother wrote, ‘Took carriage out and tried to start it this evening.’ Apparently it was not wholly successful, for there are subsequently many recordings of changes to the motor and of trying various combinations until he finally succeeded in making it do his bidding. What a thrill it must have been when at last he was able to drive out under its own power! Great was the excitement when first he drove his new creation down the turnpike. Skeptical neighbors and friends, who had smiled at his efforts, stood watching with mouths wide open and eyes popping out of their heads. For a number of years it was the only ‘horseless carriage’ or ‘motor wagon’ (as Mother variously recorded) anywhere in their section, and it created a great sensation wherever it went – especially in the cities. People would want to climb all over it, and particularly to look under it. On May 1, 1897 Mother wrote, ‘Will worked some on his wagon; rode out to Canobie and back in it.’ Throughout the next few years there were many recordings of trips to neighboring towns and cities. It wandered as far away as Boston, and even farther in other directions. His ‘carriage’ grew to be a familiar site for miles around, and people never ceased to marvel at it or to storm angrily about it. It served him well for four years, during which time he changed its power from gasoline to electricity, and finally to steam in an effort to discover the best means of motivity. ‘The Horseless Age; a leading automobile journal of that day, in its issue of September 26, 1900, carried and advertisement for its sale. We have proof that ten years after it was built it was still travelling New Hampshire’s highways, for its registration may be found in the book of ‘New Hampshire Automobile Law – With Registration to February 1905.”

The Horseless Age Online at: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000543204