Edward Andrew Deeds was born on a farm in Granville, Ohio on March 12th, 1874. Deeds graduated as valedictorian from Denison University in 1897 and came to Dayton in 1898 to work as an Electrical Engineer for the Thresher company. In the same building was the headquarters of NCR, and in 1899, Frederick Patterson offered Deeds a position at “the Cash.”
The first big impression Deeds made while working at NCR was by climbing up a 90-foot smokestack to prove to Frederick Patterson that the smokestack needed repairs. This gumption and mettle apparently impressed Frederick’s brother John Patterson, the President of NCR. Deeds left NCR in 1901 to build the Shredded Wheat factory in Niagara Falls. The factory was known as the “Palace of Light” and the design was influenced by the ideations of John H. Patterson, as it featured white tiles, air conditioning, well-lit workspaces, along with lunchrooms and showers.
In 1903, Deeds returned to NCR and took the role of Chief of Development & Construction. As Deeds was a “believer” of electricity, he developed prototype electric motors to prove that they could be used to power cash registers, making it easier to operate. Deeds was granted a patent on the idea, but recognized his shortcomings in that he didn’t have the expertise to perfect the design and prove his concept. In 1904, Deeds reached out to The Ohio State University to find and electrical engineer and found Charles F. Kettering. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and working relationship between Deeds and Kettering.
After three years, in 1907, Kettering had developed a working model that was put into production and established NCR as the worldwide cash register manufacturer. NCR grew across the world and Deeds managed the formation of factories in England, France, Italy, Germany, and Canada. As NCR grew, Deeds saw the growth opportunity in the automobile industry. He originally wanted to produce cars, which led him to build his “Suburban Sixty.” Ultimately Deeds realized that producing something to go in/on cars was more realistic, and decided to tackle the issue of engines stalling when they were at lower speeds.
Deeds donated a barn behind his house to be a workspace, and in 1908, Charles F. Kettering began working to create an ignition system that would solve the stalling issue. After a year, Kettering began to work full-time on the ignition system, and resigned from his position at NCR. After Kettering successfully developed the self-starter, Cadillac founder Henry Leland placed an order of 5000-8000 ignition systems (sources vary on the amount). This success and invention launched the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company – DELCO. While working in the barn, several engineers and industrialists gathered to help, and the group became known as the Barn Gang.
In March of 1913, Dayton was devastated by the Great Dayton Flood. Determined to protect the city from future flooding, John H. Patterson, Arthur Morgan, and Deeds founded the Miami Conservancy District. Morgan developed the concept of using dry dams to control water upstream, and his dry dam system became the model for flood prevention around the world. Through is work with Morgan, Deeds became known as an expert in flood control. In order to implement the dry dam system and plans Deeds worked with James Cox to pass the Conservancy Act was passed in 1914.
Some other notable facts:
- In 1914, Deeds and Kettering founded the Engineers Club of Dayton. The Barn Gang was a precursor to the Engineers Club, as Deeds wanted to create an environment for problem-solving and sharing ideas.
- Also in 1917, Deeds joined the US Army with the rank of colonel, and was responsible for the procurement of military aircraft at McCook Field (which was the precursor to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.)
- Deeds built a large home named Moraine Farm, in what is now the city of Kettering. The home includes an observatory and a large telescope, and was the first home in the US to have a private airstrip.
- The Deeds Carillon at Carillon Park commemorates the Deeds family. Each of the 23 bells are inscribed with the name of a family member.
- Deeds died at Moraine Farm on July 1st, 1960, and is buried along with his wife at Woodland Cemetery.