Frictionless Metal Company Operated Smoothly for a While

Friday, January 13, 2012 - by Harmon Jolley
Advertisement for Frictionless Metal in 7/24/1906 Chattanooga News.  Click to enlarge.
Advertisement for Frictionless Metal in 7/24/1906 Chattanooga News. Click to enlarge.

Scrolling through the Public Library’s microfilms of old newspapers and city directories often inspires Memories articles. Such was the case when I recently came across the Frictionless Metal Company, a local business of the early 1900’s. The enterprise’s name was intriguing, both from a linguistic and physics perspective.

According to an article in the July 24, 1906 edition of the Chattanooga News, the Frictionless Metal Company began operations on April 7, 1887. It was located in a small one-story wood frame structure on what was then called Boyce Street. Today, it would have an address on the southern section of Chestnut Street.

In the era of continuing expansion of railroads and heavy industry, high-quality metals were needed in the moving parts of machinery. According to the Chattanooga News article, the founders of Frictionless Metal had obtained a secret formula and process for making frictionless metal.

Was the metal truly frictionless? I asked an engineering friend for his opinion. He said that this was probably just a marketing slogan. The metal might have been better described as friction-resistant.

Still, the products of Frictionless Metal sold well. The company sold less than 1,000 pounds of metal in its first year, but that quantity increased to 2,500,000 pounds in 1905. The company erected a large new building in the 1100 block of Chestnut Street, and opened a warehouse/shipping department at nearby Fort and Gillespie streets. Branch offices were in Chicago, Richmond, New York City, and Pittsburgh. A second factory was located in Montreal, Canada.

The president of Frictionless Metal was Charles Edward Buek. According to “A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans, a book published in 1913 by William T. Hale and Dixon L. Merritt, Mr. Buek was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1857, and was the son of a German immigrant who established an export business.

Charles Buek moved to Chattanooga in 1887, and became an agent for the Washington Life Insurance Company. He soon moved into other areas of business. In 1889, he bought the north Georgia mines of the Chattanooga Ore Company, and in 1891, was associated with the Frictionless Metal Company.

Mr. Buek continued his pursuits in the metals industry in 1901 by organizing the Lacey-Buck Iron Company of Birmingham, Alabama. The company had a furnace at nearby Trussville. Over the years, both Chattanooga and Birmingham had many ties to each other as a result of the iron and steel industry and associated products.

In 1898, the U.S. Patent Office issued patent 606,886 to Charles E. Buek of Richmond. The patented design was for a ectional feed-roll for gang-edgers, as used in machinery with rolling parts.

The year 1905 saw Charles Buek found the Chattanooga Iron and Coal Company, which had a furnace in Chattanooga. He also helped to organize the Citizens National Bank.

Frictionless Metal continued to be listed in the city directory until at least 1920, when Charles W. Bourne was listed as president. Mr. Bourne had been listed as a witness on the aforementioned patent of Mr. Buek's.

Charles Buek passed away in 1926. By then, Frictionless Metal had either ceased operations, or been acquired by another company.

If you have additional information on Frictionless Metal and its entrepreneurs, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

Charles Edward Buek was president of Frictionless Metal, and involved in other metal and financial businesses.  Click to enlarge.
Charles Edward Buek was president of Frictionless Metal, and involved in other metal and financial businesses. Click to enlarge.

Young Historians Series Showcases Award-Winning Student Projects

The Tennessee Historical Society and Humanities Tennessee are proud to announce the Young Historians Series will be held at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Public Library, 350 Pageant Lane in Clarksville, on Tuesday, Sep. 16.  The series features nationally recognized student projects addressing an array of state and local history topics. Projects include short documentaries ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meeting is October 7

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will meet at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Highway, on  Tuesday, October 7,  2014 at 1:00 pm. Refreshments will be served, followed by a short business meeting and program.   The speaker for the meeting is Linda Mines, Hamilton County Historian and head of the department of history and social studies at Girls ... (click for more)

Chancellor Rules That IDB Must Reimburse Attorney Fees, Other Legal Costs For Helen Burns Sharp On TIF Lawsuit

Chancellor Pam Fleenor has ruled that Helen Burns Sharp, who sued over the validity of a $9 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for a planned major development on Aetna Mountain, should be reimbursed her discretionary costs as well as her attorney fees. Ms. Sharp said in a recent court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka were $74,427 at the time. The ... (click for more)

Jumoke Johnson Jr. To Plead Guilty On Selling Crack Cocaine

A youth who was in the news earlier as a teen who had been the first in his family to graduate from Brainerd High School and who found a patron willing to pay for his college education is set to plead guilty on Tuesday to a charge of selling crack cocaine. Jumoke Johnson Jr., who turned 21 on Saturday, dropped out of Miles College in Alabama after one semester and has been ... (click for more)

ChattaData Is A Real Advance For The City

This past Tuesday, the city of Chattanooga's new performance management tool called ChattaData was unveiled. As the chairman of the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, I am excited to witness the city putting this important information online in a way that is accessible and transparent to all taxpayers. This approach shines light on how we as a city prioritize our ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s ‘Hate The SEC’ Day

The boo birds came out on the fly on the ESPN website Sunday afternoon, this moments after the latest AP College Football “Top 25” included eight teams from the Southeastern Conference.   What set naysayers aglow was Mississippi State, after upsetting LSU 34-29 Saturday night, debuted on the list at No. 14 while Clemson, playing Florida State in an overtime thriller, got tossed ... (click for more)