Prominent among the enterprising, progressive and prosperous business men of Racine is George Gorton, who in 1892 embarked in his present line of business-the manufacture of fine machine tools and engraving machines. The work done in his establishment is of expert character and the excellence of the product insures a ready sale on the market.
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Mr. Gorton, a native of Racine, was born February 5, 1865, a son of George and Elizabeth (Buffham) Gorton, both of whom were natives of Rochdale, England. The father, who was born in 1825, became a resident of Southport, now Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 1845, and the following year removed to Racine, where he continued to reside until his demise. He was a druggist and chemist and conducted the first drug store of this city. He was long identified with commercial interests here and the enterprise which he displayed in the conduct of his interests made him one of Racine’s foremost merchants for many years. His wife was a daughter of William Buffham, a Racine pioneer. Both were consistent members of the Baptist church and in his political views Mr. Gorton was an earnest republican. He died June 14, 1888, while his wife survived for more than a quarter of a century, passing away in April. 1914.
Reared in the city in which he still makes his home, George Gorton obtained a public school education and afterward worked for his father, who was connected with the Racine Basket Company, having purchased that business. This was one of the oldest industrial enterprises of the city and was closed out in 1892. In that year George Gorton established a machine shop for the making of fine machine tools and also for the building of engraving machines. He now produces the only engraving machine which will place the Lord’s Prayer complete in a circle of one, thirty-second of an inch in diameter, the letters being two thousandths of an inch in height. The largest engraving machine made by the company weighs twenty thousand pounds and is used by all rubber companies for engraving tires and doing similar work. The same type is also used in rolling mills and other establishments for marking letters on iron,’ the rolls weighing up to forty tons. Their type also includes the matrix machines used by all typewriting, typecasting, type foundries and adding machine companies for making their matrix, which the working type comes from. This business, which was established in 1893, has now grown to large proportions and the product is today sold all over the world. Another output of the company, and one of the most. important, are the high speed heavy-duty cutting-off machines, which are a type of machine that the company has been developing for some years and has resulted from the designing and building of a number of different machines in the Gorton shops, several of which have been illustrated in various engineering papers during the past decade. ‘However, as these have not presented a point of perfection desired by the company, they have not been placed upon the market, but continued development has brought forth a tool which certainly has reached almost absolute perfection, based on the actual building and testing out of various styles and types. Particular attention has been given to oiling methods throughout and the machine is exceedingly rugged in every detail. The intention has been to produce a cutting-off machine suitable for constant, hard service and capable of being operated continually month in and month out without the excessive repairs ordinarily placed on such machines. It is especially adapted to the hard work required by rolling mills, car and locomotive works, navy yards, engine builders, electrical concerns and machine builders generally.
The principles involved admit of driving the cutting teeth at both feeds and speeds heretofore unattainable, and when operating to its maximum capacity. as for instance, when severing a seven and one-half inch ordinary round steel bar in twenty-nine seconds, there is absolutely no chatter or vibration. It is entirely possible to sever an ordinary seven and one-half inch round bar in twenty-nine seconds, but it is not practicable to regularly maintain such speed with present tool steels. It is probable that considerable improvement will be made in high duty steels in the future, and upon such development this machine is capable of driving such steels to their fullest capacity. The intention has been to produce a machine fully equal to anything that may be required in the future. Given a suitable cutter, the machine itself is capable of severing round steel bars as stated, without the slightest injury. The bed and cutter head are exceedingly massive, probably containing even more metal than is absolutely necessary. Chatter and vibration are two troubles which cause the machine operator by far the most annoyance in this line of machine tool, and when these troubles are occasioned through poor driving mechanism and machines of light weight, they are entirely beyond his control. The method of driving the cutter blade produces a machine which is many times more efficient than any other design of machine can possibly be. Compare the main driving gear with cutter blade attached with any other drive obtainable. The large diameter of this main driving gear and the fact that there is but one joint between the source of power and the actual cutter teeth, that joint being the contact of the driving pinion with this main gear, also accounts largely for the great efficiency of this machine. There are many other advantages, particularly in the cutter blade; for instance, the blade is securely fastened entirely around its periphery, which is the strongest portion of the blade, instead of merely at the weak centre point as in an ordinary cutting-off saw. By reason of this rigid mounting, it is impossible for the blade to snake or deflect in any manner from its true position. Inserted cutters being placed on the internal bore instead of on the periphery, it is possible to key the cutters much more firmly, without any danger or possibility of springing the blade, and the cutters may therefore be thoroughly secured without a possibility of their ever becoming loose or flying from their pockets. All of the different kinds of machines which are produced by the Gorton Company have been developed in the Gorton shop. The business is now carried on under the name of the George Gorton Machine Company, a New Jersey corporation, owned by Mr. Gorton. The plant has fifteen thousand square feet of floor space, and a new shop is now being built which will give them an additional space of sixty thousand square feet. They employ ninety people, including some of the most expert machinists in the country. In addition to his Racine interests Mr. Gorton is president of the Gorton Fence Company of Waukegan, Illinois, manufacturers of ornamental fence and gates of their own patented designs, made by means of automatic machinery of their own design. Some of Mr. Gorton’s machinery exhibited at the Paris Exposition in 1900, received a bronze medal, that being the Highest Award.
On the 28th of November, 1900, Mr. Gorton was united. in marriage to Miss Sophy Thorstenson, a daughter of Ole Thorstenson and Anne Gregerson, both of whom were born in Arendal, Norway. They immigrated to the United States in 1871 and soon afterward took up their abode in Racine. To Mr. and Mrs. Gorton have been born four children: George, fourteen years of age; Elizabeth Fry, eleven years of age, and James and Charles, twins, seven years of age. The parents are members of the First Baptist church, in the work of which they are very active. Mr. Gorton has ever been a most generous contributor to the church and his recent gift of fifty thousand dollars will make possible the erection of a large and spacious Sunday school building for the First Baptist church. He purchased a lot eighty by one hundred feet and it is planned to erect a building thereon sixty by ninety feet, leaving ten feet between it and the church proper, with space for a drive on the south. By the vote of the members of the church it will be known as Gorton Hall and will be used not only for Sunday school but also for missionary meetings and for the social activities of the church. Dark vitrified brick will be the building material and large windows are to be a feature of the edifice. In the basement there will be a space suitable for a gymnasium and the ceiling will be eighteen feet high, thus allowing ample room for basketball and other athletic games. Two full length bowling alleys will be installed, around which there will be space for spectators. There will be lockers and shower baths for both men and women and on the balcony will be writing, reading and game tables. The main floor will be used for the Sunday school department, ladies’ parlors and a large assembly hall. The balcony on three sides of the main hall will be conveniently divided into small and separate Sunday school classrooms. This gift of Mr. Gorton’s is but one indication of his deep interest in the work, especially in the training of the young people along the lines of physical, intellectual and moral development.
In politics Mr. Gorton is a republican. He has served as a member of the school board and is an important factor in many of the forces which work for the improvement of the community. He stands for progress and improvement and for the high moral elements which promote the uplift of the individual as well as of the district, and at the same time he is a practical and progressive business man and along legitimate lines of trade has built up a business of gratifying proportions, the expert character of the work winning for the company a wide and well deserved reputation.