This Day in History – August 29th, 1876

On August 29, 1876, Charles F. Kettering was born in a farmhouse near Loudonville, Ohio. After graduating high school, Kettering taught at rural schools to save for college tuition. He enrolled at the College of Wooster but had to drop out due to problems with his eyesight. He returned to teaching until he enrolled at Ohio State University, but again he had to drop out due to his eyesight. After a brief stint as a lineman, Kettering returned to Ohio State, this time graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical and electrical engineering.

As an engineer, Kettering invented an electric cash register that eliminated the need for a hand crank, developed the first self-starting auto ignition system, and organized the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (Delco). Kettering had more than 140 patents.

Kettering PatentsThe bricks at the base of the sculpture to honor Kettering shows his patent numbers.

After selling Delco to General Motors, Kettering became GM’s VP of Research and was known as “Boss Ket.” At GM, Kettering set up a lab that was the location of the development of a lightweight diesel engine, safety glass, spark plugs, auto lighting systems, and four-wheel brakes. Kettering, along with Thomas Midgley, invented Freon. Freon made it possible to refrigerate food and air-condition homes. Ridgeleigh Terrace, Kettering’s home, became the first home to have central-air conditioning.

In 1952, citizens of Van Buren Township voted to change its name to Kettering. Kettering died in 1958 at the age of 82.

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