Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
David Lennox was born in Detroit, Michigan on April 15, 1855. The son
of an expert railroad mechanic, it was clear early on that Lennox had inherited
his father's mechanical ability; he quickly became interested in tools and machinery
and discovering how things worked.
Shortly before the Civil War, the Lennox family moved to Aurora, Illinois
where they established a machine shop. As the Civil War began to heat up, Lennox's
father decided it would be right for him to enlist in the war effort, and he
did so for a period of three years. He left home once, returned, then left again.
Tragically, that was the last time the family saw him. Lennox's mother moved
the family to Chicago where she ran a grocery store. There Lennox worked in
several machine shops, continuing to hone his mechanical and design skills.
In 1881, Lennox set off for Marshalltown, Iowa, looking for work. He set up
a machine shop, and was happy to take on the project of creating a staple-making
machine for a local businessman. He designed a machine which increased production
while lowering costs. It was an instant success. The reputation of the Lennox
Machine Shop started to grow beyond Marshalltown city limits. Lennox began planning
his own projects, including improving the designs of tools such as trowels and
One day, a couple, Ernest Bryant and Ezra Smith from nearby Oskaloosa, Iowa,
dropped by Lennox's shop to show him their plans for a new kind of furnace.
The furnaces used to heat homes at that time were made of cast iron, which warped
and cracked after extended use and caused smoke and coal gases to seep into
houses. Their design was more durable, they said, using riveted steel for the
heating surface and iron castings for the grates, fronts, and other parts. They
asked Lennox if he could make the iron castings for their furnaces. He agreed.
Later, however, Bryant and Smith found themselves unable to pay Lennox for
his work - they couldn't find financial backers for the business they had wanted
to establish. So, Lennox took over the patents they had on their designs and
started reworking and improving on them. He began building the first Lennox
furnaces. The designs he came up with caught on very quickly.
By 1904, however, Lennox was tired of the furnace business, so he sold the
company for $54,789 to newspaper publisher D.W. Norris. During the Lennox Furnace
Company's first year of the business under new ownership, 600 new furnaces were
Today, the company is a multinational, public corporation called Lennox
Industries, and is still controlled by descendants the Norris family. A
"David Lennox" persona has been featured in Lennox advertising since
the 1970s. Lennox Industries is no longer limited to furnaces only. Today the
company makes air conditioning, heating, and fireplace systems for residential
and commercial use, and develops and sells commercial refrigeration equipment
and heat transfer surfaces. Company brands include Lennox, Armstrong Air, and