Victor T. Fahringer, Inventor of the Jet Dyeing Machine
Victor T. Fahringer was a native of Nescopeck, PA, a small town on the east bank of the Susquehanna River. In 1916, he quit school at age 17 to join the U. S. Army. After serving in the infantry in France and Germany, he was selected to obtain further education and entered Officer’s Training School. After World War I, he was commissioned a second lieutenant. After active duty, he entered the U. S. Army Reserves. Shortly after the war, he finished high school at Temple University, Philadelphia and then attended Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, where he earned a BS in Electrical Engineering in 1922. Following graduation, he married Elizabeth Hoffman and began his engineering career that included jobs as chief engineer for the Sunbury Converting Works; chief engineer for the A. G. Spalding Sporting Goods Co., Chicopee, MA; and chief engineer for Robbins Mills, Clarksville, VA. He continued in the U. S. Army Reserves until World War II when he was called back to active duty and assigned to the Pentagon as chief of the engineering and inspection control branch of the ordnance division. He retired from the Army in June 1946 with the rank of Colonel. (1) When Burlington Mills acquired the Robbins Mills from Karl Robbins (2) ca. 1954, he continued as chief engineer at Clarksville, and was named chief engineer for the eight plants in Burlington’s Pacific Mills Division (worsted plants acquired from Pacific Mills, Lawrence, MA in 1954).(2) He held this post until retirement in 1965. In the mid-1950s he was in the dye house one day when the idea of using the jet principle for dyeing fabric. A coworker remarked that there should be a better, quicker way to dye fabric than pulling it from a standing dye bath over a turning reel. Knits were stretched and distorted when pulled without support. A few days later, he was reminded of something he had seen some 40 years earlier while serving in France during World War I. He remembered watching several women wash clothes in the Rhone River. Rather than scrubbing clothes by hand, they tied a rope to the clothing and tossed the loose end of the clothes into the river. The force of the rushing water passing around and through the clothes provided the agitation needed to get them clean. If moving river water could wash clothes, could moving dye bath improve the dyeing process? How could he get the water pressure he needed to move the fabric? He rigged a device using two different size pipes, one inside the other. He hooked both to a water supply and fed the rope of fabric into the smaller pipe. Just as he had hoped, the rushing water surrounded the fabric and propelled it through the inner pipe. Now that he had proven the theory, he began the long process of trial and error to perfect the idea. It took months to come up with something that was even close to commercializing. When he could dye fabric in 20 minutes what had previously taken 24 hours, he knew he had it. He filed his patent application on April 22, 1954 and was awarded US patent 2,905,522 on September 22, 1959. Further improvements resulted in the development of a venturi and nozzle design. US patent 2,978,291 (see Figure 3) was filed on September 5, 1958 and granted on April 4, 1961. Burlington assigned the rights to Gaston County Dyeing Machine Company, Stanley, N. C. Gaston County introduced the first production jet dyeing machine at the 1961 AATCC convention in Atlantic City, N.J., a machine that revolutionized the dyeing of knit fabrics in the 1960s and onward. (1)
Victor T. Fahringer died in November 1973. AATCC honored his memory and his inventive skills by awarding The Henry E. Millson Award posthumously in 1984. (1)
The Millson Award was established in 1979 to recognize outstanding contributions to textile wet processing technology.
Previous winners: (1)
- 1980: Samuel Smith, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., first commercially successful oil and water repellent fluorochemical textile finishes.
- 1981: L. Russell Maguire, Sr., Pioneer Finishing Co., inventor of the Althouse Flowtrue Logroll that eliminated dye streaks running in the warp direction of a roll of fabric.
- 1982: George M. Bryant and Andrew T. Walter, Union Carbide Corp., development of the FFT (Foam Finishing Technology) low energy process for finishing fabrics, US Patent 4,562,097. The patent was issued in 1985 and commercialised by Gaston County.
- 1983: Valentin Appenzeller, Eduard Kuesters Corp., inventor of the “Swimming Roll” concept for overcoming deflections of opposing rolls in padders, based upon US patent 2,908,964 . The patent was issued in 1959.
- “Victor T. Fahringer, Inventor of the Jet Dyeing Machine, to Receive the Millson Award”, Textile Chemist and Colorist, Vol. 16. No. 9, (1984), pages 48 and 68.
- “Karl Robbins”, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 5, William S. Powell, (error stating sale to J. Stevens when actually sold to Burlington), page 224. (1994)