The automotive Industry was full of men of vision and passion: Henry Ford, Walter Chrysler, John and Horace Dodge, Louis Chevrolet, William Durant and Ralph Teetor. Most of those are very familiar names carried on the cars they made and the companies they created, with the exception of Ralph Teetor. Most of you have probably never heard his name, or even associated it with the automotive industry. Ralph was a visionary in the truest sense. At the age of five he worked in his father and uncle’s bicycle shop. He envisioned a four wheel cart at age nine and built his first working car at age twelve. He designed and built the pedal powered railroad inspection car the workmen used to inspect and repair the tracks. His design was light enough to be lifted on and off the tracks by the workmen. He perfected the piston ring making engines more efficient and extending their life. During WWI his design balanced the high speed rotors on naval destroyers. In 1922 Ralph perfected the selective gear shift and developed a pressure resistant accelerator that created the modern cruise control. He gave back to the community by tutoring Boy Scouts and was the founder of Junior Achievement. Ralph Teetor has been called a man of vision and he truly was. He foresaw the future and improved it. He made it more comfortable, and convenient, and he made it safer for us all. The interesting thing about Ralph’s contributions to the automobile was the fact that he never once drove one, never, not even the first car he hand built at age twelve. The images of the future and the designs Ralph Teetor created were all in his mind. He created them with the many precise and intricate tools in his workshop though the touch of his hands in total darkness. There were no lights in Ralph’s workshop; he had been blind since the age of eight. A workshop accident may have taken Ralph’s eyesight, but did not take his vision and passion for the mechanical world he loved. It only fueled the desire to create intricate designs with incredible focus on making things better.
Think about that for a moment, close your eyes and imagine with your mind’s eye, like Ralph Teetor, how to make the things important to you and those around you better, more productive, and perhaps more convenient. Then develop a plan to make them happen through the touch of your hands.