The Story of My Life - George Nicholas Saegmuller

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Appendix 2


November 27, 1925

Inasmuch as only Mr. Edward Bausch and Mr. Wm. Drescher were present at the meeting when I declared my intention of severing my relations with the Company, I think it is advisable that I put on paper the reasons which decided my action for the benefit of the other members of the Company who were not present, and especially for the younger members of the firm who do not know the reasons for my coming here from Washington and what I gave up and brought here at that time.

At the time of the St. Louis Exposition Dr. Czapski, the then head of the Zeiss Works, called on me in Washington, and asked me how I would like to associate with Zeiss and become their American representative, as they were very much dissatisfied with their connection with B & L, as the business in Binoculars did not amount to anything and that the photographic line was not much better. I told him that would have been a very attractive proposition for me if it had come a year sooner, but that I had entered into an agreement with B & L to consolidate with them and move my plant to Rochester. He thought that might improve conditions between them and B & L and the matter was dropped. I introduced him at the Bureau of Ordnance but he came back with the statement that nobody could do anything there as they were all for Saegmuller.

My relations with the Navy Dept. were very close. Several years before the Spanish War I took up the matter of Fire Control instruments with Admiral Sampson, whom I had known as Lieutenant when he was stationed at the Naval Observatory; in fact, I showed him how to adjust the instruments, how to observe and how to reduce the observations. Admiral Sampson was at the Bureau for three terms - six years - and he came to me with the various problems for fire control, which I solved to his entire satisfaction. When he left and Admiral O'Neil became his successor, he called me to his office and told me that the Bureau had decided to give me the work without advertising for it, but that I must not take out my own patents. The reason for this was, that patents disclose everything and they wanted to keep this secret from other Navies. In return for this I would get all the work as long as I supplied a superior article, at a fair price to be agreed upon between the Bureau and myself.

Washington is not an ideal place for manufacturing; not only was it difficult to obtain supplies, but the presence of the various Government Bu¬reaus that required skilled mechanics made it hard for me to keep them. The higher grade mechanics I had no difficulty in keeping, as they worked mostly on piece-work and made more in this way than the Government paid, but it was the average run of mechanics, those making $3.00 or $3.50 per day (at that time) that looked out for Government positions, where they received the same pay with only 8 hours work (I worked 91/2 hours) one full month's leave of absence and one month's sick leave with pay. Of course, no private firm could do this and I was only used as a stepping stone until Government positions offered themselves. The fact is that nearly all the mechanics in the Navy Yard, Naval Observatory, Coast Survey, Geological Survey and other Bureaus, were trained by me.

So when Mr. Edward Bausch came to Washington, some time in 1903, and visited me on my farm and I related the difficulties I had, we both came to the conclusion that my removal to Rochester and combining with B & L would benefit both concerns. At that time Lee had just returned from Europe. I had him trained to do the office work, but had also a full course of training for astronomical and geodetic work, in order that he could intelligently handle the correspondence.

Fred, who had graduated the year before at the University of Virginia as C. E. was at that time in Boston at the Mass. Institute of Technology. I sent him there upon the advice of Admiral Taylor, at that time Chief of Construction at the Navy Department, which office he was to enter after he left Boston.

My youngest son, George, was then attending Washington University.

At that time my business, although small, was quite prosperous. The farm provided me with a living and my property brought me in about $500 per month. My wife was opposed to my leaving Washington, which, of course, was only natural, as all her relatives lived there. I therefore resolved to put up the question of removal to the boys, and in consequence they, with my old friend Wines, came to Rochester to look the situation over. They all thought that there was more opportunity for them in Rochester than in Washington.

So it was decided that we move our factory to Rochester. I brought large orders from the Navy with me and continued to receive them for several years, although Keuffel & Esser tried very hard to get into the game. They even brought political influence into the play and the Bureau of Ordnance was bothered and besieged by Members of Congress and Senators and K & E should have a share of the work. Finally Admiral Mason, then Chief of Ordnance, who faithfully adhered to the agreement of the Bureau with me, decided to have the matter looked into and appointed a Board of Officers to visit Rochester for the purpose of looking into the whole matter and report to the Bureau. The head of the Board was Admiral Cowden and two lieutenants, whose names I have forgotten. They looked into the methods of manufacturing, obtained the costs and finally made a report to the Bureau that it was the unanimous opinion of the Board that it would not benefit the Navy to make a change in its policy. So matters went on and we continued to receive large orders.

But Keuffel & Esser were not satisfied and they had an able man in Mr. Kollmorgen to help them. Although I spoke to Dr. Kellner time and time again and told him that we must improve on our telescopes and pointed out the direction in which he should work, he did nothing, being too busily engaged in launching Mrs. Kellner on her musical career. It is no wonder that Kollmorgen succeeded in offering the Bureau a Gunsight Telescope which in certain points surpassed our product. The Bureau had both telescopes examined at the Bureau of Standards, who pronounced their decision in favor of K & E. We then lost the prestige I had and Admiral Mason (very reluctantly he told me) had to advertise for competitive bids.

This, in short, is the history of my business with the Bureau which I brought with me from Washington. It is needless to dwell on its future history, our activities in the War, etc., as this is known to all of you.

Now, as to my determination to sever my relations with B & L. The first reason is my physical condition. My loss of hearing and impaired eye sight makes it impossible for me to attend to the business.

In the second place, I am not at all satisfied with the results of my coming up here. With the help of Zeiss, known all over the world, with the B & L resources and the reputation I had in astronomical circles, together with the large and ever increasing business of the Navy, I thought we would become an establishment in America equaling the great Zeiss Works in Germany, but in this I was sorely disappointed.

I was also chagrined because my advice was never taken. When Admiral Fiske visited me at the hospital in New York he mentioned that we two should have come together before. I told him that perhaps it was not too late, as at that time we had no military representative in Washington, and as he was retired but a member of the Navy Advisory Board, which necessitated his going to Washington several times every month I thought he might become our adviser in Naval matters. This appealed to him and he thought we could get General Coe of the Army, who was also to be retired, to act in a similar capacity as regards military matters. We could have obtained the services of these two prominent men for less money than we now pay Mr. Belt. I brought this proposition before the Executives but never had a reply to the suggestion. The duty of a military representative is not so much to visit the Bureaus, but to find out what is needed for increased accuracy by visiting the Proving Grounds at Indian Head and Aberdeen in Md. I used to go to Indian Head two or three times a month, discussing with the various officers ways and means of increasing the precision of firing and thus be in the lead, heading off competition. (See my letter to Belt on file)

When it became evident to me that with the orders on hand for the Navy we must not only increase our designing force but also engage more first class mechanics I spoke to Mr. Eisenhart and I think Mr. Lemke advertised for mechanics. It was not long before Mr. Edward Bausch received a letter from Buff objecting to our advertising in Boston. Mr. Bausch stopped the advertising and no additions were made to the force. Had we procured more help there would have been no necessity of writing that humiliating letter to Admiral Bloch, acknowledging our fault causing the delays in delivery and promising to do better by increasing our force and work overtime. Of course, at a great cost in production.

But the main reason which has determined me in severing my connection with the Company is due to the complete elimination of us in the Anderson investigation. I thought, and still think, that Fred should have been called in. To my mind it appeared clear that we were not wanted and that it was better to get out than to be treated as intruders.

In parting, however, I wish to say that as far as I am concerned I wish it to be a friendly parting. Outsiders need never know why I am going, the mere fact of my poor health will be reason enough.

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