PRODUCT LINE The product line of Soulé Steam Feed Works focused on serving the lumber industry from 1892 until the mid-1950s. The products are listed below:Soulé Rotary Steam Engine: Patented 1896 and 1902Simplex Automatic Lumber Edge Stacker: Patented 1897Simplex Lumber Hand StackerSimplex Lumber Flat Stacker: Patented 1905Soulé Spee-d-twin Steam Engine: Patented 1923 (manufactured until the early 1980s)Steam Operated Timber Unloader“St. Bernard” Saw Mill DogLumber Stacking Truck: Patented 1899Success Cotton Seed Huller: Patented 1899Soulé Single Cylinder Mechanical Log Turner This product line was manufactured at the subject location. The company’s most successful products fulfilled the needs of the large sawmill market that boomed from 1885 until the 1930s. The building boom that started in the large U.S. cities at the end of the 19th century and continued until the Great Depression created a great demand for lumber. This demand made Soulé’s product line viable and kept the company profitable for many years. Because steam was the only portable and dependable source of power during this period, the patented Soulé Rotary Steam Engine was used in several types of lumbering operations from 1892 until 1922. The rotary engine was used to drive a sawmill carriage or “feed” and was a dependable means for the sawmill operator to move the log into the spinning saw blade to cut the lumber. These rotary engines were also used to power winches that could drag and lift the logs onto railroad cars, wagons or into the sawmill. Ads that appeared regularly in The Tradesman through the 1890s announced, “The Soulé Steam Feed is the best on Earth, because it is the most durable and most easily controlled.” The ad further proclaimed the engine as “The quickest, simplest and cheapest, can be attached to any mill. Will save cost in one month run.” That was an extraordinary claim for a product during this period. A total of 2,300 rotary engines were built and sold across the U.S. and internationally. A few of these engines are still in operation in Australia and India. Over a period of years the Soulé rotary steam engines became known as “steam hogs” because they consumed a great amount of steam during operation. By 1905, Soulé had made another improvement in the rotary, but more efficient feeds were available. Soulé started developing a more efficient engine to operate sawmill feeds and log winches. By 1922 the Soulé Spee-d-twin, which was a two-cylinder reciprocating steam engine, was designed and patented. This engine became the favorite feed engine among the sawmill operators due to its efficiency, power and dependability. This engine featured a unique valve that allowed the engine to have a considerable amount of control both forward and reverse. Its configuration and size allowed an easy retrofit for any Soulé rotary engine or to the friction carriage feeds that were supplied with sawmills and were often difficult to maintain. The company built and sold 4,301 of these engines between 1923 and 1984. This number does not include all the engines that were returned to the factory, rebuilt and then resold to other customers. Records indicate that some of these engines were factory rebuilt three times. Company records show the ship date, purchaser and original end-user for each and every engine built. The durable engines were sold in all 50 states and internationally. The steam “shot-gun” sawmill carriage at the larger sawmills eventually replaced the reciprocating steam feed engine. The advent of gasoline and diesel engines and electric power to operate sawmills rendered steam an energy source of the past. The other important product patented and built by the Soulé Steam Feed Works was the automatic lumber stacking system. Lumber industry historians agree that without the automation introduced at the turn-of-the-century for the large sawmills, the steady supply of cheap, standardized lumber that fueled the building boom in America’s large cities would have not have been available. The first Soulé Simplex Edge Stacker was placed in operation in the mill of Camp & Hinton Co., at Lumberton, Mississippi in July 1895. From the beginning, the Soulé method was a demonstration of the practicality of this method of stacking lumber on kiln cars and carrying it in that shape through the kilns. The method he used was to stack the lumber on edge rather and stacking it flat or horizontally. Kiln-dried wood, as compared with air-dried wood, was important in both the lumber industry and the building industry. The process created dimensionally stable lumber that provided better standardization and greater quality in building practices. Soulé received a patent on the lumber-stacking machine on June 29, 1897. More than 100 of these stackers were installed in the largest sawmills in the United States. In 1919, it is estimated that 65 percent of the lumber production of this country was manufactured in a relatively few large mills, which represented less than 5 per cent of the total number of sawmills in the country according to Professor Ralph Clement Bryant in his 1922 book, “Lumber: Its Manufacture and Distribution.” Bryant also stated that 32 percent of the large mills were located in the southern states; 8 percent in the North Carolina pine region; 4 percent in West Virginia; 25 percent in the Pacific states; 12 percent in the Lake States; 4 percent in the Rocky Mountain region (Idaho and Montana); and 2 percent in New England. Thus, 44% of the large mills were located in the southeast region of the U.S. and readily serviced by Soulé. During 1919, there were 792 large mills cut more than 10 million board feet of lumber. The original design plans for the Soulé stackers are on file in the company vault. The list of installation plans reads as the “who’s who” of large sawmills. Some of the most notable mills included the Great Southern Lumber Company in Bogalusa, Louisiana, Grays Harbor Commercial Co. in Cosmopolis, Washington and Potlatch Lumber Company in Elk River, Idaho. Both the Great Southern Lumber Company and Grays Harbor Commercial Co. issued postcards illustrating the lumber stacking systems designed and built by Soulé. Charles Waterhouse Goodyear II, heir to the Goodyear timber company fortune, wrote the book “The Bogalusa Story”. This book relates how the Goodyear family of Buffalo, New York purchased vast amounts of timberland in the South and developed the Great Southern Lumber Company. They also built the mill town of Bogalusa, Louisiana. In the beginning they hired a seasoned lumberman, Will Sullivan, who set out to build a sawmill plant designed to output a million board feet of lumber every twenty-four hours. According to Goodyear’s account, Will Sullivan could visualize ingenious improvements in manufacturing practices that could be applied to the mechanization of lumber operations. Sullivan kept a mental blueprint of the mill in his mind supported by a notebook filled with data and sketches. The engineers who had designed mills from coast to coast offered little encouragement in building such a mill. Fortunately the Goodyear brothers believed in the plan and the mill was built. Goodyear calls this mill design the start of the machine age in the lumber industry. Mr. Sullivan told the engineers to utilize sorters and automatic stackers throughout the mill to keep handling to a minimum. The mill used the Soulé Simplex Automatic Stacker in every practical application. In April 1938 the last of the Great Southern Lumber Company's virgin timber was harvested and manufactured into lumber in the Bogalusa sawmill. After 30 years of operation the company was dissolved and the assets sold. It took nearly three years to liquidate the company. The mill was cut up and the scrap metal was sold. The destruction of this mill was a great loss considering the groundbreaking technology the mill embraced. The city of Bogalusa still exists, testament to the profitability of the lumber mill. Other products that were manufactured and marketed by Soulé include the “St. Bernard” Saw Mill Dog, a device used on the mill’s carriage bolster. It fulfilled the sawmill owner’s need for a cheap, simple and reliable dog, which would effectively hold small logs. This allowed the mill to utilize more small logs, thereby increasing lumber productivity from the forest. At the beginning of the 20th century, log utilization was roughly 50%. Through improvements such as the Soulé Simplex Stacker and the mill dog, productivity increased until now approximately 75% of the log is utilized.
SOULÉ ASSISTS OTHER INNOVATORS AND INVENTORS
Key Brothers Endurance Flight - 1935In the 1930s, Soulé Steam Feed Works owners and workers participated in the development and fabrication of innovations that helped make the Key Brothers Endurance Flight a success in 1935. W.H. Ward lent his Curtiss Robin airplane to the brothers Fred and Al Key to use in their endurance flight. Ward's little plane dubbed “Ole Miss” began to take on an odd appearance as the Key Brothers, A.D. Hunter (Soulé chief mechanic and machinist) and welder David Stephenson (a Soulé employee and the only person certified in aluminum welding in east Mississippi) made changes for the flight. Stephenson fabricated the catwalk to allow Fred Key to make mid-air service and repairs to the engine. Hunter invented and fabricated an ingenious in-flight refueling system to install on the “Ole Miss” and a refueling plane. This catwalk and in-flight fueling equipment was fabricated at Soulé Steam Feed Works. James Keeton, husband of G.W. Soule’s daughter, owned and piloted the refueling plane. Ben Woodruff, a local radio buff, put in a two-way radio and small electric generator powered by a small propeller. This setup was the first time that ground to air communications was made using VHF, a frequency that is still used by the FAA. A large gasoline tank was installed that also required the removal of the pilot’s seat. Al Key sat on a cushion on top of the tank during the whole flight. By the time the transformation was complete the plane was carrying 1,681 pounds, about 700 pounds over usual capacity. It took two failures before the plane set the record -- taking off at 12:32 p.m. June 4, 1935 and landing at 6:06 p.m. on July 1, 1935. The Key brothers had broken all records for sustained flight using a daring midair refueling technique. The aviation pioneers kept their little plane, powered by a 175- horsepower Wright Whirlwind engine, in the air for 653 hours and 34 minutes. Without ever leaving home, the Key brothers had flown a distance equal to twice around the world, a record-setting 52,320 miles. The record still stands unbroken in the books. The airplane "Ole Miss" is currently held in the Smithsonian Institution collection, though it is not currently on display. Rush Medullary Pin - 1936 In 1927 a fracture surgeon enjoyed a position not too unlike that of the hospital up-keep man. According to Dr. Leslie V. Rush, they rarely enjoyed the privilege of performing in the sterile operating room. Plaster of paris, ropes and pulleys and a multitude of splints and contractions constituted his tools. Patients were reconciled to a long convalescence period and wearing combersome and uncomfortable apparatus. The probability of residual deformity and loss of function was the great. In 1936, the renaissance of fracture surgery began. Dr. Leslie V. Rush faced the problem of repairing a multiple facture in an extremely difficult case. In the process of repairing this bone, he introduced a new technic of repairing major fractures with a steel pin. Katie Belle Rembert became the first American case of intra-medullary pinning. The results were so astounding that he spent a large portion of the following 13 years in research and study of the technique at Rush Hospital. Dr. Leslie V. Rush (and Dr. H.L. Rush) worked on developing a pin suitable for implantation in the human body. This pin would no longer use the "rigid nail" concept, but be a flexible pin that could be guided within the bone. There were many obstacles to overcome during the development of the Rush Pin. Metallurgy became the paramount problem. The large rigid “nail” was eliminated. This type of pin was not flexible or resilient and could not be guided. Some metal types, otherwise suitable, could not be used because they were too soft for driving or offer stability needed. Some metals which could reach optimum temper were magnetic, electrolytic and subject to corrosion. Several employees at Soulé Steam Feed Works had great experience with metallurgy and were consulted on the perfect stainless steel that was hard enough to hammer, yet flexible enough be guided. Through a series of experiments and trials, the pin was created. By 1949, the Rush Pin was perfected and in use. The Berivon Company was founded to manufacture and sell the Rush Fracture Pin. As research continued, the Rush doctors sought to make improvements to the standard facture surgical table. Blueprints, machinist specifications and casting patterns were created for the table in collaboration with Soulé. All of the parts for the Rush Fracture Surgical Table were made in the foundry and machine shop. These parts were then assembled at Berivon, the company that manufactured and marketed the Rush Pin to the world.