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

Updated on September 19, 2017
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MsMillar has been a writer on HubPages for five plus years. She enjoys the freedom Hubpages allows for her to explore her creative side.

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) | Source

Frank Sr. & Wife, Helen

Frank L. Gormley Sr. & Wife Helen
Frank L. Gormley Sr. & Wife Helen | Source

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.

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 Lift Jack
Frank Sr. approx 26 yrs old
2nd Patented Invention 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 from the flu
War ends
Frank Jr. returns home and Frank Sr. goes on a roll inventing!

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. | Source

Screw Jack

Screw Jack Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr.
Screw Jack Inventor: Frank L. Gormley Sr. | Source

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. | Source
Frank Sr kept a close eye on the competition
Frank Sr kept a close eye on the competition | Source


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. They kept in touch with letters written daily.

While Frank Jr. was off fighting in the war his younger brother Harrold 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 Harrold 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. There is a sudden break in the correspondence of letters. November 1918 not one letter is sent until January 20, 1919.


Flu Epidemic Hits America Hard
Flu Epidemic Hits America Hard | Source
Original Letter sent by Frank Jr. to Frank Sr.
Original Letter sent by Frank Jr. to Frank Sr. | Source

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.

Frank L. Gormley with wife and daughter
Frank L. Gormley with wife and daughter | Source

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 and wealthy he enjoyed his retirement years.

Frank Jr. married and brought a beautiful little girl into the world with his wife Kathryn. With Frank Jr. an only child, and now the grandchild an only child....well, that's a whole other story.

Frank Jr. enjoyed the YMCA a great deal and throwing elaborate parties. He enjoyed life with his wife and daughter until 1967. I wasn't even one year old when grandpa died. I may not have had much time with him, but I know him better than he could ever imagine!

Jacks, Jacks and More Jacks!

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