Inventor, of Germany and Providence, R.I.
Papers, 1900-1968. Bulk, 1900-1947.
Size: 0.75 linear feet
Catalog number: MSS 1106
Processed by: Rick Stattler, September 2002
©Rhode Island Historical Society
Joseph P. Fox (1867-1954) was born in Baltic, Connecticut on January 22 1867 to Irish immigrants Patrick and Catherine (Spellman) Fox. He came to Providence with his father by 1890, and worked as a picture framer until moving to New York City in 1896. In 1900 he was appointed as a United States commercial agent, stationed in Saxony, Germany. He later attained the position of vice-consul. While in Germany, he was the author of several automobile-related German patents, leading to the foundation of the Fox-Motorwagen company there. Fox married Adele Reucher (1879-1957), the secretary at the consulate, and had three children: Mary J. (Fox) Culp (1904-?), John N. Fox (1906-1992), and Isabelle A. (Fox) Cunningham (1909-1988). Fox and his family returned to Providence in 1911, and he soon launched the Fox Auto Searchlight Company, which marketed his rotating auto headlight. The company existed in the development stages through at least 1922, but apparently never went into full production. Over the next twenty-five years, Fox continued to work as an inventor, while earning more steady income as a hardware salesman and picture framer. Among his inventions were an improved weaving loom, a more efficient engine, an automotive "trouble-detecting instrument," and a non-refillable bottle. He also worked as a patent attorney and consulting engineer. Fox moved to Cranston circa 1935, and settled at 74 Olive Street in Providence in 1948. He died in Providence on March 2, 1954.
Conversation with grandson Francis J. Culp
Providence directories, 1890-1896
Social Security Death Index
1920 U.S. Census, Rhode Island E.D. 1, page 31
1930 U.S. Census, Rhode Island E.D. 31, page 19
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Scope and content:
Almost all of these papers relate to Fox's career as an inventor, including correspondence, patent applications, notes, and promotional materials. He was an aggressive promoter of his inventions, and wrote many letters to prominent figures seeking investment capital. These efforts are most evident regarding his automobile endeavors and with the "power plant" he promoted to the U.S. Navy and other parties in the 1930s. Fox's general correspondence files relate mostly to his activities in Germany, and especially to his automobile ventures. Many of those letters are in German.
A few files were compiled by Fox's daughters in the 1950s and 1960s, as they attempted to capitalize on his inventions. In particular are an undated sale contract by Mary Culp for the automatic screw machine; extensive documentation of Isabelle Cunningham to produce a prototype of the non-refillable bottle in the 1950s and 1960s; and a few notes on the improved weaving loom compiled in 1966.
Among the few papers in the collection which do not relate to inventing are signed notes of recommendation from Nelson Aldrich in 1900 and 1901; a 1942 letter certifying his birth date and parentage; and a folder of letters addressed to prominent political figures, mostly in support of the proposed minimum wage in 1936. Preserved in this file are two short signed responses he received from United Mine Workers leader John L. Lewis (November 3 1936 and January 23 1937). Fox later claimed that "it was letters written by me to John Lewis ... that was responsible for the drive by Mr. Lewis ... for a national minimum wage" (letter to Joseph P. Kennedy, February 18 1938).
Other related items can be found in the Graphics Division and Museum Department.
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These papers were donated in 2002 by Fox's grandson, Francis J. Culp.
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Box 1, folder 1. Business cards and letterhead, undated
Box 1, folder 2. Correspondence, 1900-1910
Box 1, folder 3. Correspondence, 1911
Box 1, folder 4. Correspondence, 1912
Box 1, folder 5. Correspondence, 1913-1917
Box 1, folder 6. Correspondence, 1923-1943
Box 1, folder 7. Correspondence (political), 1932-1944
Box 1, folder 8. Correspondence, undated
Box 1, folder 9. Thomas J. Fitzpatrick papers re East Palestine Rubber Co. of Ohio, 1916-1917
Box 1, folder 10. Typewriter rental, 1911-1912
Automatic screw machine
Box 1, folder 11. Patent and contracts, 1942-1949 and undated
Box 1, folder 12. Miscellaneous, 1938-1944
Box 1, folder 13. Cost estimates, 1946-1947
Fox Auto Searchlight Co.
Box 1, folder 14. Correspondence, 1916-1922
Box 1, folder 15. Patent papers (3 versions), 1919
Box 1, folder 16. Patent notes, 1912-1922
Box 1, folder 17. Promotional materials, 1912-1922 and undated
Box 1, folder 18. Stock and patent rights papers, 1913-1922
Box 1, folder 19. Miscellaneous, 1916-1922
Fox-Motorwagen Co. (Germany)
Box 1, folder 20. Patent papers, 1903-1920
Box 1, folder 21. Promotional materials, 1906-1912
Box 1, folder 22. Correspondence, 1938-1965
Box 1, folder 23. Description, undated
Box 2, folder 1. Fabrication dispute, 1967-1968
Box 2, folder 2. Miscellaneous, undated
Power plant (engine)
Box 2, folder 3. Correspondence, 1930-1940
Box 2, folder 4. Specifications and claims, undated
Box 2, folder 5. Miscellaneous, 1933-1941
Box 2, folder 6. Patent application, 1935
Weaving loom improvements
Box 2, folder 7. Specifications and claims, undated
Box 2, folder 8. Miscellaneous, 1933-1966
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Aldrich, Nelson W., 1841-1915
Automobile industry and trade - Rhode Island
Bottling - Rhode Island
Cunningham, Isabelle A., 1909-1988
Fox Auto Searchlight Company (Providence, R.I.)
Fox Motorwagen (Germany)
Germany - Commerce
Inventors - Rhode Island
Kennedy, Joseph P., 1888-1969
Lewis, John L., 1880-1969
Patents - Rhode Island
Textile machinery - Design and construction
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