1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

    List of finding aids

    R.I.H.S. Library page

    R.I.H.S. home page

 Joseph P. Fox Papers

 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

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            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

Return to top

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.

Return to top


These papers were donated in 2002 by Fox's grandson, Francis J. Culp.

Return to top

Processing note:

Return to top



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

Cream extractor

Box 1, folder 12. Miscellaneous, 1938-1944

Croquet set

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

Non-refillable bottle

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

Trouble-detecting instrument

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

Return to top


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

End of finding aid - return to top