William Hoyt: inventor of the calliope

After the great debate of 1848 when Mr. Hoyt, probably with good reason, claimed the rights to the invention of the rail cog system used on the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, and lost, hewas once again embroiled in controversy involving, this time, of all things the calliope. In 1851 the Dayton Journal and Advertiser ran the following article: “Jenny Lind is about to be thrown in the background by a process of music making recently discovered by Mr. William Hoyt of Dupont, Indiana. Mr. Hoyt asserts that he has invented a plan by which music can be produced on steamboats, of the softest and most pathetic character by the agency of steam. His method is, to place across the boilers in a horizontal position a pipe of such length and size as may be proper for the purpose; both ends of course are tight. In or near the center must be a connection to let steam into the pipes. Upon the top of the horizontal pipe are placed seven or more small pipes in a perpendicular position, and at a suitable and convenient height, and in the top of these are inserted whistles of different sizes and tones. These whistles are so constructed as to turn up or down in such a way as to regulate the sounds while turning them, and a set of keys have also been introduced to let on the steam or shut it off when necessary in the same manner as the pedals press on a piano.” It goes on to say that Mr. Hoyt states “I am satisfied that music can be made on a boat or locomotive as well as it can be played with a brass instrument, and much cheaper, much louder, and without any loss of steam, as there is always a surplus while landing, whilst at the wharf and when leaving. It is my candid opinion that the Western boys will hear “Old Dan Tucker”, “Auld Lang Syne”, etc, played in Western waters by steam at a distance of ten miles”.

The Madison Courier on June 14, 1851 confirms Mr. Hoyt’s claim as follows: “A Mr. William Hoyt of Indiana says he has invented a plan by which music of softest and most pathetic character may be produced on steamboats by agency of steam. It appears that the steam is made to operate upon a number of pipes, placed across the boilers of the boat, furnished with certain whistles governed by a set of keys by which steam is let on, or shut off at will. Our Dupont neighbor is destined to make noise in this world.”

Perhaps Mr. Hoyt, after his disappointing experience of 1848, had had enough of patents, because in 1855, J. C. Stoddard of Worchester, Massachusetts is generally credited with inventing the calliope.