John B. McCormick

by Laurel | December 6th, 2013


John B. McCormick in his Workshop

John B. McCormick in his Workshop

Once again, thanks to Kevin Haarmann, for sending along the above photo of John B. McCormick in his workshop in Holyoke.

John B. McCormick (1834 – 1924) remains an interesting character to me. He was not from Holyoke, but from Blair County, Pennsylvania, born to a family who had settled in that area during Colonial times. McCormick moved to Holyoke around 1877 at the approximate age of 43 and remained long enough to make a name for himself on the international level for his “McCormick’s Holyoke Turbine.” McCormick did not remain in Holyoke forever, he ultimately returned to western Pennsylvania and lived the remainder of his life in an interesting looking house near Punxsutawney, PA (see photo, below) that is now on the federal historic register.

Around 1996 I had published a similar photo of McCormick in his workshop, in fact the photo was originally a promotional picture created by manufacturers in Holyoke and has been published many times over the years. McCormick interested me because of his association with the J. & W. Jolly Brothers in Holyoke, with whom he worked. The Jolly family is connected through marriage to my mother’s side of the family.

Not long after placing  the image online, I was contacted by a researcher who filled me in with other details about McCormick. He was, in a sense, a Renaissance man of the Industrial Revolution. Not only was he brilliant with machines and patterns, he was an expert woodworker, painter of fine art, and a musician. Among other things, in his earlier years McCormick was also a teacher of music to children in both churches and schoolhouses and it is said he walked 42,000 miles to his various schools over a period of 22 years. Not known to many, McCormick published two books of music collections that together amount to over 700  pages, known at the time as one of the most notable English language music collections.

The Jolly Brothers were not the only Holyoke concern that employed McCormick. Earlier he had been hired by the Holyoke Machine Company where he worked for 11 years and perfected the “Hercules” turbine. McCormick left the company after a “misunderstanding”  and ultimately successfully sued the Holyoke Machine Company with the help of former Massachusetts governor Hon. George D. Robinson who served as his attorney.


Home of John B. McCormick

Home of John B. McCormick
in the “Fare Vale” of Mahoning,
Near Punxsutawney, PA

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