Bettendorf, William Peter
- Robert L. Gale
Bettendorf, William Peter (01 July 1857–03 June 1910), inventor and manufacturer, was born in Mendota, Illinois, the elder of two sons of Michael Bettendorf, a schoolteacher and later a store clerk and then a federal government clerk, and Catherine Reck. Moving with his parents and three younger siblings to Sedalia, Missouri, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he had only the most rudimentary schooling. While living at Fort Leavenworth, he attended St. Mary’s Mission School, an institution established to educate Native Americans. For a time, his father also tutored him at home. About 1872 the family returned to Peru, Illinois. But Bettendorf’s formal—and informal—education at the hands of others ended when at the age of fifteen he became totally self-supporting. Bettendorf had already been a messenger boy in Humboldt, Kansas, and a hardware store clerk in Peru. Next, in 1872 or 1873 he obtained a position as an apprentice machinist for a plow-manufacturing company in Peru. Leaving that town for a period of several years, he worked as a machinist for another plow company in Moline, Illinois, and then for a company in Canton, Ohio, that made a variety of agricultural implements. He married Mary Wortman in Peru in 1879. The couple had two children, both of whom died early. While in Canton, Bettendorf began an avid study of theoretical and practical aspects of mechanical engineering....