Leander Kellam was one of the self-taught polymaths of the early 20th century. His first businesses included building round barns Hanou and opening a garage to service and build automobiles. By the 1920s, however, he was employed by the Ohio Power Company [subsidiary to General Electric?] and learning his way around turbines for generating electricity. [More detail will be added to this section from family records.]
[The documents listed here by bold-face dates are in the family's possession.]
On June 18, 1927 Kellam was informed by W.S. Culver, District Engineer, writing from Cleveland to the Cincinnati Office, that his suggestion from "last year" for "a change in the coupling between the Main & House Generators" had been "partially incorporated in a new designed coupling" then being manufactured "for use on a 94,000 KW machine" to go into service "next October." He was asked to keep the matter confidential, but assured of "some recognition" "if the coupling works as we hope, and is then adopted for other units."
E?H. Freiburghouse, writing from "Schenectady" to E.L. Rich in the Patent Department on July 30, 1927, gave a more complete account and made it official [CC to Lee Kellam]:
Quite frequently large turbine generators are provided with coupling to drive a direct connected auxiliary alternating current generator. ... It is desirable at times... to operate the main power system and auxiliary power system in multiple, consequently, the rotors of the main and auxiliary generators should be electrically in line. The coupling between the rotors of the two alternators should be of such construction that the two sides of the coupling can be adjusted angularly with respect to each other. Frequently the electrical tie between the main and auxiliary generators is through a 'Y' delta transformer bank. This makes it desirable that the rotors of the two generators can be shifted with respect to each other by 30 electrical degrees.
We have been using an adjustable flexible coupling of this nature which has been manufactured by the Bartlett Hayward Company. This coupling is commonly known as the Fast coupling. Two halves of the coupling are provided with gear teeth which mesh into teeth at each end of a cylinder between the two coupling halves. These couplings have been made with one more tooth on one end of the cylinder and coupling half than at the other end thereby obtaining a vernier adjustment in addition to that which would be provided if equal numbers of teeth were at each end. This coupling also permits axial movement of one generator with respect to each other.
I am not certain, but believe the suggestion to employ an uneven number of teeth on the two halves of the Fast coupling to have come from this engineering department. The coupling provided us by the Bartlett Hayward Company has given considerable trouble from the standpoint of lubrication. ... A more rigid coupling but having the adjustable feature obtained by the gear teeth was suggested by Mr. Lee Kellam in a sketch sent to the Contract Service Dept., under date of October 2, 1926, along with a letter from Mr. F.K. Murray.
The fundamental idea suggested by Mr. Kellam has been employed in the design of the coupling shown by our drawing T-3637627. We expect to use two of these couplings for the first time in connection with the No. California Edison Co.'s generator.... As suggested above the principal[sic] of this construction is the intermeshing of the gears of the main generator side of the coupling having 44 teeth and the service generator side having 45 teeth. We assume drawing T-3637627 will be self-explanatory and would suggest that you enter a patent application in favor of Mr. Lee Kellam as the inventor of this coupling.
The claim for the coupling may be based on - first, angular adjustment of the two generator rotors with respect to each other, the elimination of axial movement and the elimination of any effective system of lubrication which has been so necessary with respect to the Fast coupling. Also, a very desirable characteristic has been obtained that the coupling may be disconnected, the centering spacer removed and the main generator operated with the auxiliary generator at rest without the removal axially of the auxiliary generator.
[The family holds a copy of the blueprint for drawing T-3637627, presumably that sent to Lee Kellam at Freiburghouse's request.]
We have a copy of Mr. Kellam's sketch. We understand, however, that the original sketch is now in the possession of Mr. W.E. Onion (J.D. Betts, Jr.), Secretary of the Committee on Suggestions.
Dated August 5, 1927, a Schenectady form over Alexander D. Lunt's name informed Lee Kellam at "A.C. Turbine Eng. Dept., Building #56" that, following on Freiburghouse's letter, "a patent application on your invention for Adjustable Rigid Couplings" had been docketed under number 40,920 and "the case will be taken up for action as soon as possible."
On March 19, 1928, Wm.E. Onion's office in Schenectady informed Kellam, through the Cleveland Office, referencing "Suggestion #25,560," that
On July 30, 1927, we received a letter from Mr. E.L. Rich, stating that your coupling would be tried in connection with the Southern California Edison Company's generator.... A few days ago the rigid adjustable coupling, which you proposed, was installed on the first unit of the Southern California turbo-generator equipment. However, it is felt that the true merits of your coupling cannot be determined until at least six months. Therefore, we are holding your suggestion in abeyance until September.
Just about a month later, however, on April 12, 1928, W.S. Culver, District Engineer, informed Kellam at the Terre Haute Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Co. in Terre Haute, after reviewing the events from submission of the suggestion in "the latter part of 1926" to the March "advi[ce] direct from Schenectady," that "It was recently decided that a preliminary award should be given you with the understanding that if the coupling proves to be entirely successful that an additional award will probably be given." The family holds a copy of the check for $100, dated April 5, 1928, the "Suggestion Award Payment Order" to the Works Cashier, and Culver's record dated April 16. Culver concluded,
The company is always glad to receive suggestions and I hope you may be able to send in something more and the fact that you have been given an award for the coupling will be circulated among the construction men and Service Shop employees as an incentive for them to do likewise.
The last document retained by Lee Kellam in this saga and passed to his family is also from W.S. Culver, District Engineer, as internal correspondence from Cleveland, October 9, 1928 to Kellam at 2103 Lucy Ave., Zanesville, Ohio:
Last week I asked about the adjustable coupling that is being tried out in California, and Mr. Mahoney has advised that after consultation with others it seems that the coupling is operating satisfactorily but they do not care to pass definitely on it until a few months later at the time the first annual inspection will be made. When that is done the coupling will be disassembled and a very careful inspection made of it.