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The Man Behind the Lift Jack, Screw Jack, Hydraulic Jack and More Jacks

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Ms. Millar has been an online writer for over eight years. She is well-versed in website development and has created several websites.

Frank L. Gormley and the BUDA team

Great Grandfather Frank L. Gormley (3rd from the left in dark suit)

Great Grandfather Frank L. Gormley (3rd from the left in dark suit)

Frank Sr. & Wife, Helen

Frank L. Gormley Sr. & Wife Helen

Frank L. Gormley Sr. & Wife Helen

Where Would We Be?

It's hard to imagine where we would be today if not for the invention of the Jack. Capable of lifting thousands of pounds the Jack had a huge impact on the world.

Frank L. Gormley Sr. was born an orphan in Nova Scotia approximately 1881. The Canadian birth records building, holding his birth record, burned to the ground, taking with it, when and exactly where he was born.

Mr. Gormley was working at the BUDA Co. located just outside Chicago, in Harvey, Illinois, when he invented the jack. BUDA Foundry and Manufacturing company supplied the nation's railroads with special track-work and the jacks, drills, scales, levels and signals needed to maintain the right-of-way. The company also had a reputation for building durable velocipedes, hand cars and push cars for line-crews. Mr. Gormley was to discover, or invent, ways in which these materials could be moved, lifted and transported at optimum ability.

Mr. Gormley did just that. Starting with the the Lifting Jack in 1905.

Jacks lined up at the Buda Company yard.

Jacks lined up at the Buda Company yard.

Frank L. Gormley, Inventor


1881, 1882,1883 or 1884

Birth of an Inventor

Frank L. Gormley



Mr. & Mrs. Frank L. Gormley


1st Son born

Frank L. Gormley Jr.


2nd Son born

Harrold V. Gormley


Frank Sr. approx 23 yrs old

1st Patented Invention the Lift Jack


Frank Sr. approx 26 yrs old

2nd Patented Invention yjr Screw Jack


WWI began

Reduced inventing & modifying


American joined WWI

18 yr old Frank Jr. ran off to fight in the war


Flu Pandemic

17 yr old Harold dies in the flu Pandemic.


War ends

Frank Jr. returns home and Frank Sr. goes on a roll inventing!

Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr.

The Lifting Jack

In 1896 Mr. Gormley married (he was about 16 or 17 yrs old). He, and his wife Helen, had two sons; Frank L. Gormley Jr. 1898, and Harrold V. Gormley 1900.

In 1905, Mr. Gormley. was 24 yrs old, he invented the Lifting Jack. This was an incredible invention because it is capable of lifting thousands of pounds (tons!) of weight. Mr. Gormley offered a prototype to demonstrate the ability of his invention. The prototype is merely 4" tall, yet it can raise 1,000 lbs by itself!! That is 1/2 a ton lifted by an object smaller than your hand!

Lifting Jack

1905 Patented Lifting Jack Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr.

1905 Patented Lifting Jack Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr.

Screw Jack

Screw Jack Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr.

Screw Jack Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr.

Ball Bearing, Ratchet, Screw Jack Operation

Wilt or Thrive in Adversity

In 1908 Frank Sr.invented, and patented, the screw jack. Then he invented, and patented, hydraulics! His very first patent, the lifting jack set the stage for hundreds of variations and additional patents. He was granted the royalties for the first five (5) years and then royalties turned over to the BUDA company.

These inventions brought great notoriety and wealth. Unfortunately, no amount of notoriety or wealth could make the events that transpired during his inventing years go away or change.

Some people wilt in the face of adversity, others thrive. Frank L. Gormley thrived in adversity.


America Declares War on Germany

America Declares War on Germany

Ratchet Device for lifting jack.

Ratchet Device for lifting jack.

Frank Sr kept a close eye on the competition

Frank Sr kept a close eye on the competition

Scroll to Continue


1911 a ratchet device is patented for the lifting jack. After this patent we don't see anything again until August of 1918.

During the years from 1911 to 1918 we don't see anything from Frank Sr, but he is keeping a close eye on his competitors and his oldest son has gone off to war.

Without a word Frank Jr signs on to fight in the war. He sends a letter home relating to his parents his desire to fight in the war, but he didn't want the conflict it would cause at home, so he just left. Frank Jr is very close to his parents, but at that time, a young man up and joining the army was not unheard of. So when it happened in their family they took it in stride, and pride in their son. They kept in touch with letters, literally, written daily.

While Frank Jr. was off fighting in the war his younger brother Harold was having the time of his life camping and traveling. The brothers exchanged mail fairly often. Usually relating the latest news in Boston and Frank updating Harold on what country he was in and what he was allowed to tell his brother about his duties.

There are literally hundreds of letters that were sent between Frank Jr. and his family. Most of the letters are mundane.

Suddenly there is a break in the correspondence of letters. Between November 1918 and January 2019 not one letter is sent. There had to be a good reason for this close knit family to suddenly stop communicating?

The reason is Harold, Frank's 17 year old brother, died of the flu. The letters stopped because the reverted to using the telegraph. Messages could be sent back and forth in under 4 minutes by telegraph compare to the two days a letter would take.

Then, January 20, 1919 the letters resume.


Flu Epidemic Hits America Hard

Flu Epidemic Hits America Hard

Transcription Of The Above Newspaper Announcement

The caption below the striking headline is hard to read. It was on the front page of the Daily News. The caption is about Mr. Gormley and wife and their son Harold.


"In the news today, thousands of people are succumbing to the flu. It's being called a pandemic at this time. Harold Vaughn Gormley has passed away at the tender age of 17 yrs. The son of a reknown inventor and his wife, who are deeply struck by his passing. His dear brother is off fighting in the war. So many people are dying in the epidemic that the army will not grant leave for the men if a family member succumbs to the illness. They must grieve and say goodbye from the battlefield."

The date on the paper reflects 1916. The paper is a print from the Library of Congress Newspaper Archives. Harrold didn't pass away until October 1917 all records reflect. I have noticed when an important part is missing on a newspaper in the archives the information is sometimes provided. I can only guess that is why the date is 1916 when it should read 1918.

Original Letter sent by Frank Jr. to Frank Sr.

Original Letter sent by Frank Jr. to Frank Sr.

Transcript of Above Letter

(Brewster is Frank Jr.'s best friend that he met at the army training camp. Brewster turns into a good friend and confidant for Frank Jr. Frank's parents Mr. Gormley and wife like Brewster and send him boxes of goodies as well.)

January 20, 1918

My dear Folks,

Well, I have a surprise for you. Yesterday I was called back from my detached service. I guess they are going to Salvage my car or exchange it for another the car is old but it is hard to part with it.

I had been five months on one job so I guess I have done my bit and now I am spending a couple of days cleaning it up and putting it in good shape.

I put my name down for a furlough (2 days) in a French leave area, so I guess General Marsch is right when he says mid Summer will see the Army of Occupation home.

Brewster and myself are living in our old home at Mayen the one I used to write you so much about.

We have to answer revellie now at 6:45 A.M. every morning, my gun was stolen off of my truck in Trier, but I am getting a new one.

I received a dandy parcel from Mr. Norton and family consisting of Lobster, Yarmouth blouters, Mock Turtle soup, salmon, 2 pounds of fancy cookies and some preserved grapes.

I am going to write them a letter, but I want Pa also to thank them for remembering me. It certainly puts "pep" into you to have such thoughtful friends back home.

I received a letter from Willie and two from George, Brewster and I have been talking the matter over and he said, "Frank, you have never mentioned those fellows to me, but watch out, for now the war is over and they know you can afford to give them a good time when you get back. They will play you for a sucker."

Willie sent his sympathies and condolences, the letter was dated Dec 16 and I didn't think his letter could be so damnable for in it he mentions frequently in connection with my friendship towards him and George and ends up by saying, "You know Frank it is going to be hard to go home and not see Harold. It got me sick and Brewster was sore and I went to bed with a splitting headache."

Now dear folks I don't want to make you feel out of sorts but I just wanted to let you know what they said.

Brewster received the Sunday post and I received the two November papers about General Edwards return home and the pictures of old Boston looked good.

Well I must go down to the company so I will close now with love sand kisses. I will try and write everyday now.

Your devoted Son Frank.

Harrold V. Gormley 1900-1917

Harrold contracted the Spanish flu and died at just 17 years old. A letter was entirely inappropriate to announce the death of his brother so a wire had been sent to Frank Jr. The family was devastated. One son off at war and the other dies. So many people were dying from the flu epidemic the solders were not allowed leave for the funerals of their family members. They were made to grieve at their post.

Mr. Gormley had a lot to grieve about. WWI had taken his first son, temporarily, the flu epidemic took his second son, quickly without mercy, competitors were breathing down his neck and the pressure was building to produce more.

Then the war ended and Frank Jr came back home, safe and sound. Frank Jr was a great inspiration for Mr. Gormley. Frank Jr was a smart man, fresh from the fight, and a real go getter.

The Inventor, Frank L. Gormleys Son, Frank Jr. Returns From the War

Frank L. Gormley with wife and daughter

Frank L. Gormley with wife and daughter

Frank Sr & Frank Jr

Mr. Gormley dove into his work, and work hard he did. His next patent was in 1918, another addition to the lifting jack. Then five separate new devices for the lifting jack are patented. Then a governor for all jacks and applications is invented and patented. An operating mechanism for jacks, a safety lock for lifting jacks, a new high-speed lifting jack!

1926 saw pages of new patents from Mr. Gormley. He continued inventing until 1938 when he retired. Comfortable, wealthy and living in the lap of luxury he enjoyed his retirement years.

Frank Jr. married and brought a beautiful little girl into the world, my mother, with his wife Kathryn. With Frank Jr. an only child, and now the grandchild an only child you can imagine the love and attention their daughter enjoyed! But that's a whole other story of its own!

Frank Sr. passed away and then his wife Helen. Frank Jr. contributed to the jack industry for many years. He also enjoyed the YMCA a great deal and throwing elaborate parties. He enjoyed life with his wife and daughter until 1967 when he passed away. I wasn't even one year old when grandpa died. He did hold me many times that first year of my life! I may not have had much time with him, but I know him better than he could ever imagine! My only wish is that I could have met both Frank Sr. and Helen too.

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