Clarence E. Kinne Kinne Collection Kinne Collection Kinne Collection Kinne Collection Water Turbine

The Kinne Water Turbine Collection
A Mechanical Engineering Heritage Collection

ASMEOn June 19th, 1999 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) in recognition of the unique character and breadth of the collection designated the Kinne Water Turbine Collection as a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Collection.


Kinne Group PhotoThis Water Turbine Collection, assembled by engineer Clarence E. Kinne between 1907 and 1937, is believed to be the largest in the world. Most of the turbines powered machine works, factories, and saw, grist, and paper mills in the northern counties of New York. Examples range from crude, one-of-a-kind wheels designed and built by their users based largely on instinct and observation and incorporating parts of wood, to sophisticated, high-efficiency, all-metal machines by large builders dedicated solely to turbine work. The collection represents American development from a time well before the invention of the “true” turbine to the evolution of the inward-flow reaction turbine used in today’s largest hydroelectric plants.


The collection, which contains 38 water turbines and waterwheels, illustrates the wide variety of water turbines produced in nineteenth-century America. It includes center discharge wheels, jonval axial-flow turbines, radial inward and mixed-flow turbines, register-gate and wicket-gate turbines, centrifugal wheels, and many combinations. The collection even includes a “Scotch turbine” descendent of “Barker’s wheel”, which works like a spinning lawn sprinkler. The evolution of designs exhibited in the collection provides an object lesson in the methods of engineering development, which apply as much today as they did in the era in which turbines in the collection were developed. With exception of an iron reaction waterwheel cast under Kinne’s supervision at the Bagley & Sewall Company, Watertown, New York in 1928, the water turbines were produced between 1810 and 1916. The diversity of wheels is significant to anyone interested in the study of hydraulics.


Clarence E. Kinne (1869-1950)

Clarence E. KinneClarence E. Kinne (1869-1950) observed the decline in dependence on water power as a direct source of mechanical power during his lifetime. He recognized the historical and technical significance of old water turbines as they were being cast aside by others and resolved to preserve representative samples of the old machines for his own enjoyment as well as for the benefit of future generations. He journeyed throughout northern New York to visit old water‑ powered mills and corresponded with almost anyone who might help him in his search for water turbine information and artifacts. He purchased a variety of old turbines with his own funds and was given others. He gathered an extensive collection of trade catalogs that described many of the water turbines in his collection. In 1928 he loaned his collection to the Jefferson County Historical Society for display in their museum's newly renovated basement. Mrs. Stuart E. Lansing, the widow of Kinne's former employer, funded the basement remodeling in honor of her late husband who had been president of the historical society as well as president of Bagley & Sewall (now GL&V/Black Clawson-Kennedy, Inc.) where Kinne spent most of his career.

Kinne's appreciation of waterwheels and turbines started early, probably at age 16 when he apprenticed at a machine shop in Camden, New York, that later became the Camden Waterwheel Works. At the age of 24 he began work as a draftsman at Bagley & Sewall, manufacturers of paper-making machinery in Watertown, New York. He spent the remainder of his career there, becoming in succession: Chief Draftsman, Mechanical Engineer; Superintendent, Secretary, Vice-President, and President of the company. He was a Life Member of ASME and served as President of the Jefferson County Historical Society from 1935 to 1947.

The Kinne Turbine Collection is on permanent display and can be viewed during normal museum hours. To obtain a complete catalog of the Kinne Turbine Collection contact the JCHS Curator at (315) 782-3491 or email: curator"at"jeffersonhistory.org.