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.

Service Auto Parts Once Kept Chattanooga's Cars Running

When I think about working on cars, I think of the times that I helped my father (or vice versa, after I started driving).  Engines were simpler then, with enough space under the hood for a mother cat and kittens to ride as stowaways one day to my father's work.  "Where is that meowing coming from?" he thought.  Fortunately, the felines were fine, though their nine ... (click for more)

Reader Seeks Information on African-American Race Track from 1940's

A reader is searching for information on a segregated car racing track in Alton Park in the 1940's.  He came across an article in my previous series on River City racing (http://www.chattanoogan.com/2010/4/18/173711/River-City-Racing---Warner-Park-and.aspx).   The following is the reader's e-mail: "I saw the story linked below in which you wrote about, among ... (click for more)

EPB Says It Did Not Overbill The City; Says City Got $685,877 Break

EPB officials said Tuesday that an exhaustive audit of its street light contract with the city showed that it did not overbill the city. Instead, it said it found that the city was underbilled $685,877. EPB said it only goes back one year on errors so the amount owed by the city would be $178,314. Officials said that would be discussed with the city. Stan Sewell, the city's ... (click for more)

Citizens To Comment Next Tuesday On Sound Control Ordinance That Allows Higher Sound Around Downtown Clubs

Citizens will be allowed to comment next Tuesday on a new Sound Control Ordinance that allows higher sound from nightclubs in a downtown Controlled Sound Boundary. Track 29 behind the Chattanooga Choo Choo, that has drawn the wrath of some nearby Southside residents, is within the boundary, which goes along the river on the north and west, to around Erlanger Hospital on the ... (click for more)

I'm Number One In A Round About Way

Roundabouts have been popping up all over Chattanooga over the past few years and for the most part have been successful.  Unfortunately there are some who just don’t get it as I have found out the hard way.    My latest instance was last week when a young woman on her cell phone almost t-boned me as she flew into the roundabout without yielding.  A near miss ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Oscar Brock’s True Passion

I don’t pay much attention to the Hamilton County School Board. Once the moon and the stars aligned behind Superintendent Rick Smith, you hear very little, if anything, from the nine-member council that oversees an annual budget of almost $400 million and employs 4,480 people. So chew this for a minute: approximately 2,000 of those people are not teachers. Yes, there are 78 principals ... (click for more)