Edwin Albert Battison
Edwin Albert Battison
Collector, researcher, curator, writer, mentor, and also machinist, Ed Battison is best known today as the founder of the American Precision Museum in Windsor, Vermont. In a lifetime of study and travel he assembled the nation’s finest collection of early machine tools and related materials. In the 1960s Battison bought the 1846 Robbins and Lawrence Armory Building to house the museum and he became its first director. Now a National Historic Landmark, the museum was designated an International Heritage Site and Collection by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1987.
Battison was born in Windsor in 1915 and took to mechanics at a young age, hanging out in machine shops and learning from local factory owners and machinists. His formal education ended with high school and in the 1930s he started working at the Cone Automatic Machine Company in Windsor, Vermont, moving to Fellows Gear Shaper in nearby Springfield in 1939.
An avid collector since childhood, Battison was also an assiduous researcher. As he described it, his focus was “significant things that have changed the course of mechanical history.” His search for information led him to write to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and to visit there in 1956. The curators were so impressed with his knowledge that they offered him a job. He was a curator of mechanical engineering in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of History and Technology until retiring in 1973.
Battison wrote several books and contributed many articles to both popular and scholarly journals. After he retired from the American Precision Museum in 1991 he used his remaining wide-ranging collections (not machine tool related) to start another museum which he named the Franklin Museum of Nature and the Human Spirit (now the Battison Museum). An admirer of Franklin, Battison explained the title by saying that “the human spirit takes what nature provides and makes it something special.” This could be an apt description of Battison’s contribution to the history of precision manufacturing.
He died in 2009 at the age of 93.
- The Cone Automatic Machine Tool Company (the forerunner of Cone Blanchard)
- The Fellows Gear Shaper Company in Springfield, Vermont.
- Horological and Small Machinery Curator at the Smithsonian Institution
- Founding Director of the American Precision Museum
and Franklin Museum of Nature and the Human Spirit