Charles F. Kettering 
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    The Parade of Progress was the brainchild of Charles F. Kettering who was inspired by GM's popular Science and Technology Exhibit at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair. Kettering convinced GM board chairman Alfred P. Sloan, Jr. and public relations vice president Paul Garrett to take these educational exhibits on the road.
    Charles Franklin Kettering was born August 29, 1876 - Died November 25, 1958. He invented the first electrical ignition system and the self-starter for automobile engines and the first practical engine-driven generator. Born in an Ohio farmhouse, Kettering graduated from Ohio State University in 1904 as an engineer then joined the National Cash Register Company, where he oversaw development of the electrically operated cash register, among other products. In 1909 he left NCR and, with businessman Edward A. Deeds, set up the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company or Delco, where he invented his most significant engine devices. Kettering's engine-driven generator, named the 'Delco,' provided electricity on millions of farms. In 1916 Kettering sold his company to General Motors. At G.M. he set up and directed a central research laboratory and stayed for 31 years, until his retirement in 1947. The lab developed the lightweight diesel engine that made the diesel locomotive possible, the refrigerant Freon, four-wheel brakes, safety glass, and many other items. Kettering was the holder of some 140 patents. Along with G.M. President Alfred Sloan, he established the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.
    Charles F. Kettering was a "screwdriver and pliers" inventor who, even today, continues to impact all aspects of our society. The world-recognized Delco Products Division of General Motors Corporation was first created by Charles Kettering and Edward Deeds. At his death in 1958, Kettering was a co-holder of more than 140 patents and possessed honorary doctorates from nearly 30 universities. Kettering believed strongly in the combination of hard work, ingenuity and technology to make the world a better place.


  • Electric cash register
  • Electric auto ignition and self-starter for automobiles first appeared on the 1912 Cadillac. Within a few years, Delco produced a complete starting, ignition and lighting system that is credited with the phenomenal rise of the automobile industry.
  • Spark plug
  • Freon for refrigerators and air conditioners. Ridgeleigh Terrace, Kettering's residence in Dayton, was the first air conditioned home in America.
  • Leaded gasoline
  • Quick drying paint for automobiles
  • Safety glass
  • Portable electric generator
  • Four-wheel brakes
  • Automatic transmission
  • Electric railway gate
  • First synthetic aviation fuel

May 13, 1953 -- C.F. Kettering (second from right), talks with (left to right Donald Stroetzel of Pathfinder magazine; Windsor Booth of National Geographic and Devon Francis of Popular Science magazine.

Listening to a presentation inside the Aer-O-Dome are C.F. Kettering (left), Dayton, Ohio Mayor Lois Lohrey and Paul Garrett, General Motors vice president in charge of public relations.

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