Biographical and Genealogical information

George Gorton II, circa 1916
George II's family & children
March 4, 1897Katherine Bishop (1897 - 19??) born in Luzerne, Pennsylvania
Nov. 28, 1900George II marries Sophy Thorstenson
March 14, 1902George III (1902 - June 12, 1988) born
Dec 2, 1904Elizabeth Fry (1904 - Oct. 1988) born.
Feb 7, 1909Fraternal twins Charles (1909 - March, 1970) and James (1909 - 1962) born.
Oct 27, 1930Sophy dies in Racine
Feb 1, 1935George II marries Katherine Bishop. I (author of this web site) remember hearing her referred to as "Aunt Katherine".
General biographical timeline (prior to George Gorton Machine Co.)
1845George I emigrates to Kenosha, WI (then called 'Southport')
1846George I moves to Racine, WI and becomes partner in the firm of Thorpe and Gorton, druggists. According to one account, one thing unusual about this business was that they exported butter to England.
Oct 16, 1862Ann Buffham dies in Racine. Survived by George I and daughters Minnie, Eliza, and Anne
May 9, 1864George I marries Ann's sister Elizabeth
Feb 5, 1865George Gorton II born in Racine, Wisconsin
1867George I packs up the family (except for George II) and returns to England, to puchase a house. They purchase a house at Douglas, Isle of Man. George II stays with his grandmother Buffham in Milbourn, IL. until they return to move everything to Douglas.
1868George I and family returns to Racine. George I opens Buffham's paint shop with his brother-in-law, William S. Buffham
1870 or 1871The Thorstenson's emigrate to the United States, taking up residence in Racine.
June, 1871William Buffham, grandfather of George II dies. George II records that as a child, he was fascinated and deeply influenced by William, who made microscopes and instruments.
1874-1875George II builds his first machine - a wood lathe. It was wind powered, made completely out of wood, and used tallow to lubricate the bearings. It was wiped out by a heavy windstorm just after being completed.
May 5, 1882Great Racine fire - more than 40 factories, warehouses and retail establishments burned
1884-1888George II teaches mechanical drafting at YMCA for some period of time
June 14, 1888George Gorton I dies in Racine, due to "over work and a nervous breakdown caused by worry over a business transaction which put him considerably in debt through no fault of his own." George II takes over the (then) family basket-making business. Business is listed as employing more than 200 people
1888 - 1893George II works for basket company as a salesman; eventually forced out by "a certain individual who wanted to acquire the now profitable basket factory." George II, along with Fred Graham.
History of Gorton Machine Co.
1893Gorton & Graham Machine Co. formed, with initial capital of $-1000.00 (yes, started with a debt) in the Gorton backyard greenhouse, dimensions 12' x 15'. Brother Charlie joins George & Fred, but both Fred and Charlie leave to get jobs which pay.
1893George Gorton Machine Co incorporated. Some of the first products were wood and brass patterns. Also designed and built were "splint basket making machinery, a basket handle and bail fencing machine, an handle notching and pointing machine, a splint cutting machine, a scarfing machine, and plain and universal gang saws."
mid-1890sGeorge II designs and builds an early refrigeration prototype, improved coal stoves (one of which was rediscovered still in use in the mid 1940's), a gasoline container (gasoline was commonly used as an industrial solvent at the time) which had a (safety) fusible link to hold the cover up, and a glue pot
same timeframeCousin Bill McAllister challenges George II to build a disc grinder; Bill thinks George II can build a better one than being built by Charles Besley. Besley is apparently selling quite a few of them. George II takes up the challenge
1897As a favor to Fred Graham, George designs a brick enclosure for the 330,000 gallon town water 'standpipe'. Fred submits the design, and wins the building contract. This postcard (circa 1920s) is of a Racine water tower, presumably the same (only?) one owned by the town. George's memoirs indicate this tower is located just east of nortwestern rr, and north of 10th st. One of the volunteers at the Racine Heritage Museum recalled this water tower from her childhood.
1898Battleship Maine blows up; Spanish-American war. A friend inquires with George about making molds for souvenirs/commemoratives of the Maine sinking. George orders a pantograph from Taylor, Taylor and Hobson of Leicester, England, and subsequently acquires US Patent rights to their design. Sells first improved pantograph, the 1-A, to Western Electric of Chicago. Price: about $325.00
1890'sGeorge starts designing cutting-off machines (for bar steel) with internal teeth. Supposedly, 15-20 patents issued for components of this machine, with some going back to 1892
1899George II starts advertising disc grinders in machinery trade papers
April, 1900Paris Industrial Exposition held; Gorton Machine earns a bronze for excellence in design of disc grinding equipment
1900First product catalog (all grinding machines) of 40 pages published
1900-1901 ishGeorge II and an employee named Carpenter (patent co-holder??) build a prototype engine in preparation for getting into automobile business. George gets cold feet after reading about all of the companies entering the business
1903George II informed that he has 6 months to live, due to an extremely bad kidney infection. A major change in diet helps; George recovers
1903Sale of disc grinding business to the Diamond Machine Company. Apparently, Diamond lets the disc grinders languish.
1906George designs a disc making machine for making either paper or cloth discs coated with sand or emery grit.
190?George designs a placer mining machine; memoirs imply patents, investigation shows nothing.
1906-1908George works on designing and building a machine to fold, wrap, and address printed material automatically for an unnamed company. The machines fail to sell, and goes out of business.
1906-1907Rotary Broaching Machine. Through contact with Kelly Axe Company of Charleston, West Virginia, George designs a rotary broaching machine
1909-ish1-D, 1-G, 1-J and finally 1-S pantographs designed and built
1909Gorton Gate and Fence Company of Waukegan, Ill. started.
As part of this, worked with George Tausch of the Cyclone Fence Company; designed a machine to 'weave' cyclone fences. Took out a patent on the machine. A number of years later, was offerred $1000.00 for that patent.
before WWIComments about solving all problems except financial; in debt to the tune of $75,000!
19?? pre-WWISold cutoff machine to American Locomotive Works
Early WWISold more cutoff machines to Allis-Chalmers of Milwaukee. This leads to a multiple machine sale to Dominion Iron and Steel Co of Montreal
19??Three different sizes of cutting off machines developed: 3", 6", and 13". Production of internal tooth cutting off machines ends in 1924.
1916A Racine area book is published with about two pages of biographical information about prominent locals. George II is in it, and given the level of detail about the Gorton Machine cutting-off machinery, it was written by him, or with a lot of input from him. A company description (in volume 1 of the same book) indicates that at that time, the company employed about 50 men; was made into a corporation in 1895; officers of the company are George, president and treasurer; and S. Gorton (Sophy), vice-president.
1917-1918George & Sophy, active in the First Baptist Church of Racine, decide to donate a building to their church out of the profits from building war machinery (presumably fuse routers, possibly cutoff machines). The initial donation is $50,000, but (based upon information in George III's book 'A "Big-Ass Boy" In the Oil Fields') this was overrun by another $86,000; George and Sophy 'cheerfully' covered this. The building was capable of seating 500, had a gymnasium, two bowling alleys, a ladies parlor, and a gentlemen's lounging room. The church named it 'Gorton Hall'; it was torn down in 2004.
1917-1927George & family spend much of their time living in Oklahoma, with some time in Racine. Company mostly being run by ???. According to George III's book, at one point a representative from Shell Oil offered George II $1Million to buy his oil rights and property. George II turned this down, believing that the rights were worth more. Based upon George II's memoirs, the whole adventure in Oklahoma was a financial disaster. The Gorton Trust was the business trust to prospect for oil and gas.
Feb. 6, 1943The Army-Navy 'E' flag, for excellence in war production work is presented to the company and employees. By the end of the war, 5 stars had been added, signifying that the production rate stayed high. George II was very proud of this award.
194350th Anniversary of the Company.
1947Gormac Products, Inc. spun off
1955 (??)This photo of George II taken. Quite possibly one of the photos taken about a month before he died in 1955.
196?Company sold to Kearney & Trecker. Subsequently becomes Cross & Trecker. At some point, I believe Cross & Trecker went bankrupt, with the Patents being assigned to Citicorp. Eventually, Cross & Trecker is then purchased by Giddings & Lewis, which in turn is acquired by Theissen & Co.
197?Lars Machine founded by Charles A. Larsen, formerly a VP of Gorton. Lars manufactures cutter-grinders and pantographs
1975George Gorton III publishes his Oklahoma memoirs. Tidbits about George II include that he liked Piper Heidsick plug tobacco
2004Richard Gorton starts this web site. Relation is: George II --> Charles --> Richard Sr. --> Richard Jr.


Some photos of George II's children.


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