OLEAN - The best inventions can sometimes be sparked from the most unlikely places. Such is how the modern day gas pump shut off was invented.
One cold morning just before Christmas 1939, Richard C. Corson walked past a loading dock at the Socony Vacuum Oil Co. in Olean, and noticed a man filling a barrel with gasoline, said Charles Corson, Richard’s son. He stopped and spoke with his coworker, who was filling one barrel at a time, and asked him “why don’t you rig something up so you can fill more than one at the same time.”
“As it was just about lunch time,” Mr. Corson said. “My dad went into the bathroom to wash up and heard the toilet flush and the idea of a butterfly float hit him.”
The concept of the float was to allow a person to fill more than one barrel at the same time, the Olean resident said. Additionally, the contraption would be hands free. Richard Corson drew up a sketch and gave it to his assistant Paul Wenke. Together, Mr. Wenke and the elder Mr. Corson constructed a prototype. The prototype was then filed as a suggestion with the company and unbeknownst to Mr. R. Corson, company officials filed for a patent in his name.
Richard Corson was born on Dec. 8, 1895, in Bridgeton, N.J., according to his son. Raised from infancy by his grandparents after his mothers death, he spent much of his boyhood performing chores on his grandfather’s commercial fishing boat. His Corson’s father was a glass blower who had relocated to Olean. About 1914, Mr. Corson moved from New Jersey to Olean where he met and subsequently married Mary Margaret Lundy in 1916.
Shortly after their marriage, the young couple moved to Akron, Ohio, where Mr. Corson accepted a job with Firestone Rubber Co. According to his son, Mr. Corson suggested a process for redressing drill bits for which he received an incentive award.
“My father didn’t have any type of formal schooling,” the younger Mr. Corson said. “He was a tinkerer. He would just design different things.”
The younger Mr. Corson said prior to World War I ending, his mom and dad moved back to Olean and his dad was hired by Socony Vacuum Oil Co. as a welder. In its heyday, Socony Vacuum Co. occupied several acres of land in both the city and town of Olean.
“The plant covered the current Homer extension and Franklin streets,” Mr. Corson said. “Oregon Hollow and Johnson Road were used as a tank farm where the oil was stored. And the main office was located on Buffalo Street where much of the plant was located.”
Prior to the elder Mr. Corson’s retirement in 1952, he presented another suggestion to Socony Vacuum Oil Co. - a gasket cutter. According to Mr. Corson, the device increased gasket cutting operations considerably. Once again, the elder Mr. Corson received an incentive award.
According to Mr. Corson, two years after his father retired, Socony Vacuum Oil Co. closed its doors in Olean and relocated its operation to both Paulsburrow, N.J. and Ferndale, Wash.
“It’s really kind of neat to know,” Mr. Corson said. “That because of my dad’s idea of a (gas pump) shut off valve, it is used today at every gas pump around the world.”
(Contact Julia Sampson at email@example.com)