IDE, ALBERT L. (deceased). - - No compendium such as the province of this work defines in its essential limitations, will serve to offer a fit memorial to the life and accomplishments of the honored subject of this sketch, a man who was remarkable in the breadth of his wisdom, in his indomitable perseverance, his strong individuality, and yet one whose entire life had not one esoteric phase, being an open scroll, inviting the closest scrutiny. True, his were "massive deeds and great" in one sense, and yet his entire life accomplishment but represents the result of the fit utilization of the innate talent which was his, and the directing of his efforts in those lines where mature judgment and rare discrimination led the way. There was in Mr. Ide a weight of character, a native sagacity, a far-seeing judgment and a fidelity of purpose that commanded the respect of all. A man of indefatigable enterprise and fertility of resources, he carved his name deeply on the record of the commercial and business history of the State, which owes much of its advancement to his efforts.
The name of Albert L. Ide, is familiar in mechanical circles throughout the civilized world for his designing, constructing and perfecting a high-speed automatic engine for electric lighting purposes, and at the time of his death was connected with many business and financial enterprises in Springfield, Ill. He was at that time the senior partner and original founder of the firm of A. L. Ide & Sons, proprietors of the Ide Engine Works, at Springfield; President of the Springfield Electric Light & Power Company; a Director of the Ridgely National Bank, and a Director of the Springfield Consolidated Railway Company. The Ide Engine Works reached phenomenal success and secured world-wide reputation under his able management, selling the finished product in many foreign countries, as well as throughout the United States. He was a natural genius, a mechanic of the highest order, and met success as a business man, an inventor and a manufacturer. He was the first steam fitter who established himself in business in Springfield and one of his larger contracts was the fitting of the present State Capitol with heating facilities.
Mr. Ide became a resident of Sangamon County in 1843 and was long accounted a leading citizen and representative business man of Springfield. He was one who, under the pressure of necessity and the stimulus of competition, rose to prominence in trade circles in Central Illinois, and in his career exemplified the fact that no country offers the advantages to its citizens as great as those furnished by America. Unhampered by caste of class, the people of this land may rise through the inherent force of character and the exercise of indomitable industry to positions of power and influence, and thus it was that Mr. Ide became one of the leading representatives of industrial life in Springfield and won the proud American title of a self-made man. The Ide family of which he was a representative, was founded in Vermont in colonial days and was afterward established in Ohio. In the latter State the subject of this sketch was born March 20, 1841, his parents being Harrison and Mary (Stockdale) Ide. The father, also a native of the Buckeye State, came to Sangamon County in 1843, settling on a farm near Williamsville. He there carried on agricultural pursuits through the summer months and in winter season engaged in teaching school. He resided in Sangamon County several years, but there was something attractive to him in pioneer life, as he took pleasure in claiming wild land and improving it for purposes of civilization. This induced him to move farther west, and he went to Sanford, Iowa, where he purchased land and began its development, there carrying on agricultural pursuits until his death. The mother of the subject of this sketch had died in Springfield, and the father was afterward married a second time, his union then being with Mrs. Reynolds, who is also deceased.
Albert L. Ide acquired his education in the country schools, which were taught by his father near Williamsville. He was about two years of age when brought to the county and he made his home continuously in this locality until called to his final rest. When he had completed his education he entered upon his business career as an apprentice in the machinist's trade in Springfield, the trend of his mind and his native powers all tending in this direction. An incident of his early life showing this is related. While his parents were attending church one Sunday, Mr. Ide, then a small boy, amused himself by boring a hole in a stick of wood, fitting it with a chamber and touch home, and used this toy cannon by loading it with powder and firing it off in the house. However, the cannon exploded and the flying pieces damaged the plaster of the ceiling, and he was trying to repair it when his parents returned. He also took considerable price and pleasure in repairing the neighbors' clocks. At the age of fifteen years Mr. Ide entered the shop of Campbell & Richardson, in Springfield, as an apprentice, and as they built steam engines for saw and grist mills, he thus became familiar with the work which engaged so much of his attention later in life.
At the first call for troops by President Lincoln, Mr. Ide enlisted in the Seventh Illinois Infantry and, at the close of his term of service, became drill master at Camp Butler, remaining in that post one year, when he re-enlisted and was chosen Major of the Thirty-second Illinois Infantry, finally being honorable discharged for disability after a severe attack of typhoid fever.
Upon leaving the army Mr. Ide clerked in a merchandise store, by diligence and care saving up a few hundred dollars, with which capital he purchased an interest in the jewelry business of Henry C. Meyers, of which he ultimately became the sole owner. After the war he superintended the building and equipment of the Springfield City Railway Fifth Street Line and became President of the company.
In 1870 Mr. Ide engaged in the steam fitting business in Springfield, and soon after secured the contract for furnishing the heating apparatus for the new capitol building. In 1876 he purchased from the city the Market House property at the corner of Fifth and Madison Streets, and equipped a more complete and extensive machine shop and foundry than he had before been able to own, and this became the nucleus of the present engine works plant. Many of the largest public institutions of Illinois have been fitted with heating and ventilating systems by Mr. Ide. About 1880 his attention became centered upon efforts which were being made to perfect and introduce a commercial and practicable system of electric lighting, and in the interests of this enterprise Mr. Ide visited Mr. Edison, at Menlo Park, to witness results which had there been accomplished. He discovered that the greatest difficulty encountered was in regulating and governing the engines furnishing the power so that this would not fluctuate and cause unsteadiness, pulsation and variation of the intensity of light furnished. In the next few years he accomplished much in studying the leading engines of the country, their use in connection with lighting plants and their various attachments and appliances for regulating power. His subsequent designing, experimenting, and perfecting of his engine resulted in the present product of the plant at which he spent so many active years. Besides the governing mechanism, he developed for his engines a self-oiling system, and in 1886, when he had completed his invention, his engine was named the "Ideal," after the surname of the inventor, with his initials added. This engine rapidly became popular in the trade, and various improvements were afterward added and patented. The trade constantly grew, commanding an enlargement of the plant, and today it is the largest enterprise of the kind in this part of the State. Mr. Ide continued in business up to the time of his demise, when he was also connected with other industries and enterprises of the city.
Albert Ide married Miss Adelaide Pierce, who was born in New York, and was the daughter of Simeon Pierce, who followed farming throughout his entire career, and died in Cass County, VA. Five children were born of this union: Harry L., who is a member of the firm of A. L. Ide & Sons; Albert who resides in Chicago; Francis P and Roy W., who are also connected with the engine manufacturing business; and Chester E., a teacher of music, in Springfield.
Mr. Ide passed away on the 6th of September, 1897. He had never taken a very active interest in politics, but voted the Republican ticket. He was a member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Stephenson Post G.A.R. and attended the Second Presbyterian Church. Causes of local improvement elicited his attention and co-operation, and in matters of citizenship e was always progressive and public-spirited. In a business career of industry, integrity and success, he made for himself an honorable name, never incurring an obligation that he did not fulfill or making an engagement that he did not meet. He came to enjoy, in large measure, the respect and confidence of his employees, as well as his acquaintances of social life, and his death, therefore, was deeply regretted by a wide circle of friends. His widow resides in a beautiful home at No. 1515 North Third Street and the sons all own fine residences in that neighborhood.