A Family History Newsletter

Volume 3, Number 4

4th Quarter 2004

Amos E. Tullis, Inventor

by Thomas S. Tullis (Editor), with additional information and photos provided by Steven R. Maley (s.maley @ badgeroil.com)

Editor’s Note: When I make a business trip to someplace, I often try to find a little time to visit the local library or historical society and check out information on any local Tullis history. Recently I attended a conference in Minneapolis, MN, and was able to spend a little time at the Minnesota Historical Society. While there, I discovered information about an Amos E. Tullis who ran an artificial limb manufacturing company in Minneapolis. The Historical Society’s library even had a copy of a booklet published by his company in 1928. Curious about how Amos “fit in” with the other Tullises I already knew about, I started researching his family and ancestry. While writing this article, I happened to be contacted by Steve Maley, who is a grandson of Amos’ daughter, Lauretta. He was able to fill in many of the gaps and also provide some wonderful family photos for this article.

The Balch-Tullis Artificial Limb Company, about 1928,
located at 1501 Washington Ave., N. Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The following passage and photo are taken directly from pages 2 and 3 of their booklet, Balch-Tullis Artificial Limb Company (RD 756.B34 A55 1928 at the Minnesota Historical Society Library in Minneapolis).

The Evolution of the Air Cushion Limb

Mr. A. E. Tullis, the Patentee of these appliances, lost his left limb about ten inches below the knee several years ago in train service. In common with the rest of mankind, he procured a limb being known at that time, as one of the leading limbs upon the market. After some months of use, during which time he suffered continuously, he was compelled to return to the Hospital for re-amputation.
A. E. Tullis, Patentee
Superintendent of Construction
Having recovered, he again started wearing the hard-socket limb at that time being the only thing available. After becoming disgusted with the misery caused by his first limb, he secured two more made by different firms which treated him no better and it was while trying to get relief at night by bathing and soaking his tortured stump in a pail of hot water that he accidently secured his first idea along the line of an Air Cushion limb.

There being considerable room in the socket of his limb, caused by excessive shrinking of the stump, he inserted a hot water bottle around the stump in the socket, and tested his weight thereon. This felt very soothing to his sore stump and he began to wonder if anything of a practical nature could be done along this line. In thinking it over, he at once realized that water could not be used during freezing weather. But the idea would not leave him and later he secured an old bicycle tire and wrapped it around his stump and inserted it in the leg. Then he pumped in a little air and started out for a walk. Owing to there not being a caseing or covering over the tube, he had not worn it long before it “blew out,” but he had secured a proof of the comfort to be derived, if he could figure out some method of making a properly shaped Air Tube, protected in a proper manner by a substantial leather caseing. Being naturally mechanically inclined, this was a simple matter and so after a little experiment he proceeded to build a limb for himself. He then applied for Letters Patent.

It was not long before residents noticed the vast difference in the ease with which he handled the limb, and the comfort he derived therefrom, and were astonished at his expert running and jumping. The news began to spread and one by one wearers of the hard-socket limbs came to him begging him to make them one of these wonderfully comfortable appliances. At this time Mr. Tullis was employed as an expert decorator, but was compelled to lay this aside and devote his entire time to the production of his invention.

As there was practically no capital behind the enterprise, he was compelled to depend upon the boost of his customers for business, and the business has grown in this way until the number of his patrons, scattered throughout the United States and Canada numbers in the thousands. Once more it was proven that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.”

It is possible that the reader has never heard of this appliance, and that is not surprising, as no advertising has ever reached the general public, but now, owing to expansion, with added capital and increased factory facilities, we are now prepared to take care of the additional business, which could not be handled before.

United States Patent # 598,452

United States Patent # 598,452, dated February 1, 1898, issued to Amos E. Tullis of Fargo, ND. He was also issued patents in 1914 and 1933 for enhancements to the artificial limb design.

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