PERSONNEL: Mechanic Makes Good

In Detroit one day in 1930, a partnership was formed between an ex-blacksmith and a mechanic. The blacksmith was Fred Fisher of the famed Fisher brothers; the mechanic was Harry Franklin Vickers, 31, who had invented a hydraulic steering device for autos. Fisher wanted to make the gadget, but he was 20 years ahead of his time; no automaker would buy it.

Instead, Vickers, Inc. sold the mechanism for trucks, buses and construction machinery. Inventor Harry Vickers cashed in on a new hydraulic safety valve for machine tools, built up a fat business making hydraulic controls for Navy guns. In...

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