Maine: An Encyclopedia
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Norcross, Leonard

(1798-1864) was born on June 18, 1798 in Readfield and became a millwright and a mechanic. He later moved to Dixfield where he developed several inventions. According to Stover in Eminent Mainers, they included

a threshing and separating machine, a nail-making machine, patented in 1824, an accelerated spinner for hand-woven wool, patented in 1835, a stump lifter; his most important and enduring invention: a water dress or rubber diving suit, with a tightly fitting helmet and leaden shoes to overcome buoyancy, a rubber hose connected to an air pump, patented [on June 14, 1834, patent No. X8255] . . . .

After his father died when he was three years old, he lived with his mother until he was apprenticed to a farmer who was a hard master and apparently unkind to the boy. At the end of three years Norcross left to live with his aunt in Greene, where he attended school, learned to be a millwright, and, according to Fitz-Gilbert (see below) was “developing the mechanical genius for which he became conspicuous in after life.” [p. 1731]

While working as a young man, he continued independent reading and study, eventually returning to school followed by teaching for several years. After a brief stint in a sawmill in Livermore, he moved to Dixfield where he invented several useful machines and obtained patents on some. One was filed in the name of Hiram A. Pitts of Winthrop. Fitz-Gilbert claims “He was wrongfully defrauded of his rights in this patent.” [p. 1732]

Later in life he focused on building mills rather than on inventions. Politically he was first a Whig, then a Republican.

In addition to all this, he lectured on astronomy, temperance, and as a preacher, the gospel. Committed to his inventive ways, he named his son “Submarinus”! Norcross died in Dixfield on March 10, 1865.

Additional resources

Norcross family in Dixfield, Maine. 19?? [Maine State Library]

Stover, Arthur Douglas. Eminent Mainers: Succinct Biographies of Amazing Mainers, Mostly Dead, and Few People from Away Who Have Done Something Useful Within the State of Maine. Gardiner, Me. Tilbury House. 2006. p. 355

Waters, Henry Fitz-Gilbert. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 29. Boston. New England Historic Genealogical Society. 1875. p. 1731. Excerpt accessed at http://books.google.com/books?id=Bc8UAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA1731&lpg=PA1731&dq=birthdate+%22leonard+norcross%22&source=bl&ots=k7y9lHD6dO&sig=DU6_d4ExI2yfYw8-SGDZkDltEwA&hl=en&ei=mQ3rTI6dFoP7lwe7rIHWCw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCYQ6AEwAg

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This entry was last modified: June 05, 2012 12:56 AM

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