Pitts’ and Gluyas’ Patent Model of a Steam Condenser – ca 1872

This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 131,779 issued to Washington R. Pitts and George K. Gluyas of San Francisco, California, on October 1, 1872. The claim of the inventors was a new design for an improved high pressure condenser for a steam engine. The purpose was for the steam exhausted from the engine’s cylinder to be passed through the condenser and be converted back to water and returned to the boiler for reuse.
The condenser design was intended for use on side-wheel steam boats. It would be located behind the paddle wheel where the water splashed up by the wheel would pass over the condenser and in the process cool the hot steam inside the condenser. The condenser consisted of a series of tubes passing between chambers at each end as shown in the image. Steam entered the condenser via an opening at the bottom left (not shown) and any remaining steam could be exhausted via the outlet pipe shown at the bottom right. This outlet had a valve that would cover it in normal operation since the goal was to have the steam converted to water prior to exiting. However, the engineer could open the valve as needed in operation to reduce any undue buildup of steam pressure within the condenser. The condense water exited via a series of tubes not shown at the back of the picture.
Note, that the condenser was intended to be mounted with the steam exhaust up and to the right and the condense water outlet pipes on the bottom. The chambers at each end of the condenser were divided into compartments to cause the steam to travel back and forth two times prior to reaching the exhaust. The compartments were of decreasing volume with fewer tubes contained within them (seven rows of tubes in the first diminishing to four in the last) as can be seen by the grouping and gaps between tubes in the image. The intent was to balance the amount of condense water collected throughout the condenser.
To control the flow of condense water and prevent steam pressure from blocking it, Pitts and Gluyas provided metal flanges over each of five exit holes for the water. The inventors did not claim as new the tubing, chambers and valves. Their claim was based primarily on two details. The first was division of the chambers at each into compartments having diminishing volumes. The second was the inclusion of the covers over the outlet pipes. Research of available trade literature and other sources has not revealed any commercial product that may have made use of this invention.
The patent model is constructed of brass. The end plate is inscribed “Wash’n R. Pitts and Geo. K. Gluyas, San Fran’co.” The key features of the invention are illustrated by the model to include the end chambers, tubing, condense water outlet pipes, steam inlet, and the steam outlet with rubber valve. Diagrams showing the complete design can be found in the patent document online at www.uspto.gov.
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date made
patent date
Pitts, Washington R.
Gluyas, George K.
place made
United States: California, San Francisco
associated place
United States: California, San Francisco
overall: 12 in x 7 in x 5 3/4 in; 30.48 cm x 17.78 cm x 14.605 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
patent number
Patent Models
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Industry & Manufacturing
Bulletin 173
Patent Models
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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