Skip to main content

W. L. Teter Papers

Identifier: Mss. Acc. 2010.783

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Ledgers, letterbooks, diaries, and other material, 1878-1920s, related to W. L. Teter of Pennsylvania and  Goshen, Virginia.  Teter was an inventor and these volumes contain his expenses and sketches and descriptions of various inventions, as well as details about his personal life. Papers include stock certificates, clippings, genealogical notes, and other related material. There are also volumes, which include a book of drawings of W.L. Teter's patents, account books, copy books, and diaries.


  • Creation: circa 1878-1911


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical Information:

William L. (W. L.) Teter was an American inventor and entrepreneur of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Teter was born in Morgan County, Ohio on February 20, 1841 to Henry and Catherine Teter(s). He was the third of their five children. His siblings were named John H., born 1829, George W., born 1833, Philip, born 1846, and Catherine, born 1844. Henry Teter maintained a farm in Morgan County.

W. L. Teter married Parmelia Vaughn, also of Morgan County, on April 19, 1863. Their first child, Frank, was born the following year, and their daughter Pearl, was born in 1874. During the Civil War, Teter served in the Union Army as a Private in Company H of the 17th Ohio Infantry. A request for an "invalid pension" indicates Teter may have been wounded during the Civil War.

Soon after his military service, Teter moved his family to Rockbridge County, VA and settled in the town of Goshen. (Interestingly, a "William L. Teter" appears as an enlistee in McClanahan's Company of the Virginia Light Horse Artillery, also known as the Staunton Artillery of the Confederate Army.)

Teter'searliest inventions were to improve methods in the processing of grain. In 1874, he assigned US Patent Number 154,268 for an "Improvement in Millstone-Dress" to J. D. Mines of Moffett's Creek, VA. Teter's idea for an "invention ... whereby a mill-burr may be dressed so as to prepare the grain for flouring at the eye of the stone, and this save a large percentage of the power ordinarily well as permit the mill to operate by twenty-five per cent less water" was handed over to Mines for implementation.

United States Patent 224,969 was awarded to Teter in 1880 for an improvement on a device used in the production of flour. His enhancement was to the "middlings purifier." The patent was for a special rotating bolt into which kernels of wheat are fed to remove the husk and in the construction of the purifier box whereby air is admitted to control the process at various points along the bolt.

In 1882, Teter was awarded United States Patent 262,505 for the "process of and apparatus for the cleaning of grain." The object of the invention was "to clean wheat and other grains by removing its outer or bran coating, thereby producing an article from which to make flour which shall retain its nitrogenous elements upon grinding it into a flour in the ordinary mill." In 1885, Edward H, Graham sued Teter unsuccessfully for patent infringement.

The focus of Teter's inventions shifted from agricultural improvements to the increased popular applications in the use of electricity and other emerging technologies of the period. He founded and invested in companies attempting to profit from the technological advances of the period.

In 1893, Teter was granted a patent, along with H. L. Webster, for "improvements relating to the generation of heat by the combustion of fuel and to apparatus thereof."

Teter invented an "electric water filter" and was awarded U. S. Patent No. 583,718 in 1897. His invention was for a device of "relatively inexpensive construction which will operate automatically in separating the contained foreign matter from water during the passage there through...destroy all germs and application of a current of electricity and thereby render the water absolutely pure." Three years later, he filed for a patent for improvement to this patent in collaboration with J. A. Heany. That same year he incorporated the Standard Electro Magnetic Power Co. to acquire electric, electromagnetic, and other patents to be used in the manufacture of dynamos.

In 1899, he co-founded, along with M. L. Ritter, O. W. Sellers and L.C. Stalnaker, and incorporated the Jeffries Automatic Air Brake Co. "to purchase and sell patents for air, water steam and railway appliances." His business interests called for him to move from to Philadelphia for a time to be closer to newfound business associates and opportunities.

As shown on an application for a veteran's widow pension, W. L. Teter died on October 28, 1911.

Further information about this individual or organization may be available in the Special Collections Research Center Wiki: .


1.40 Linear Feet

Processing Information:

Accessioned and minimally processed by Benjamin Bromley in January 2011. Additional processing by Joe Cantazaro, May 2011.

Guide to the W. L. Teter Papers
Finding Aid Authors: Joe Cantazaro, Special Collections Staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository