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Page 3
his biography of Fred Locke, men-
tions that John Lapp was using his
home oven, as a kiln to fire some of
Lock’s early designs.These early piec-
es were not fired at a high enough
temperature to create a porcelain.
John’s son, John S. Lapp was born
in 1878 and graduated from Hon-
eoye Falls High School in 1896.While
in high school he worked part time
for Fred Locke. His first full time job
was in a sawmill where he seriously
injured his left hand. In the fall of
1897, he was awarded a scholar-
ship to the University of Rochester,
but family finances made it neces-
sary for him to ride a freight train
to Rochester each day, walking ad-
ditional miles to get back and forth
to school. For two years he stuck it
out, but finally decided that college
wasn’t for him and again he went to
work for Locke.
In 1901, he went to Boston and
worked for C.S. Knowles Company,
selling insulators. Fred Locke con-
vinced John S. to return to Victor to
become General Manager of the
Lock Company. In the meantime, the
relationship between Fred Locke and
John Locke, Sr. deteriorated. It is said
that John believed that he would
have the opportunity to become a
partner in the Locke Company, but
the offer was never made, and he left
the company, but he didn’t want his
relationship with Lock to deter his
son’s commitment to the company.
In the meantime, Fred Locke was
forced out of the Locke Company
and soon after established an insu-
lator company in Lima. John S. Lapp
had his own parting with the Locke
Company. He had signed a five-year
contract but became ill. The Locke
Company broke the contract and
fired him. John S. went to court and
was awarded $28,000 in compensa-
tion. He took the money, and looked
for a place to build his own porcelain
insulator company.
In December 1916, John S. Lapp
incorporated the Lapp Insulator Com-
pany in LeRoy.Within days, construc-
tion began at the end of Gilbert
Street on land that John S. always
referred to as “Bob Heaman’s potato
patch.” The factory was completed
in less than a year and the first ship-
ment of insulators was made in Sep-
tember 1917.
The factory occupied 43,000
square feet. It was equipped with
automatic fire sprinklers (fire had de-
stroyed Fred Locke’s early factories).
The original building housed a slip-
house with six filter presses, three
pug mills for preparing the clay, dol-
lies for wet finishing or shaping, a
hot press, a simple dryer, glaze tubs,
testing equipment and a packing de-
In the meantime, John’s brother,
Grover, an engineering graduate of
Cornell, who had been working as
Chief Electrical Engineer for the Kelly
Island Limestone Quarry in Northern
Ohio, joined the team in LeRoy. John
Lapp, Sr. joined
his sons briefly
initial factory
setup, and set
upmuch of the
early tooling.
In“The Gold-
en Years at
Lapp Insulator
Co.” by Budd
Dewey, he de-
the press room
that were built
by John Lapp
Sr.: “Two ma-
chines of Lapp
design were to
the right of the door. They were es-
sentially walking beams and cranks
having a constant direction of rota-
tion.The remarkable fact about them
was that they required only three
horse-power as compared to ten or
more used by other machines. The
threading was done by an adjacent
machine that wobbled at the bot-
tom of the stroke. (Threading was
the process of putting the threads
into the bottom of the insulator so it
could be screwed onto a peg which
in turn was attached to the power
pole). These machines were called
“wobblers”and John Lapp held a pat-
ent for their unique design.
Lapp Insulator used the “wet
process” to manufacture porcelain
insulators. Sometimes called cast
or the “plastic” process, it requires
mixing raw ingredients, flint, feld-
spar and clay. In order to produce
porcelain, the raw ingredients have
to be thoroughly mixed with water
and eventually this mixture is placed
into a pug mill to be worked until it
is malleable. One of the problems
that existed was that the clay often
trapped small pockets of air. This
compromised the strength of the
insulator. In 1922, Grover Lapp pat-
ented the Lapp Vacuum Process that
revolutionized the preparation of
wet process porcelain. It removed all
the air from the porcelain mixture.
Then in 1925, Lapp introduced and
patented the Lapp Clay Mixing Pro-
cess that changed the production of
the pug mill.
John S. Lapp
1,2 4,5,6