Patent no. 405,232 – window cap

Galvanized sheet-metal window cap by Mesker Brothers Iron Works (design no. 691 in 1898). Mendota, IL.

Always ahead of the competition, Mesker Brothers Iron Works invented and patented various improvements to architectural sheet-metal work. Out of the company’s 62 patents, 44 were issued between 1887 and 1892, showing the company’s early commitment to becoming the leader in the sheet-metal front business. While not the most important, one of their most interesting patents is for an adjustable window cap or hood.

The ingenious design of patent no. 405,232 (patented June 11, 1889) allowed for lateral adjustment of corbels in order to accommodate various window widths. This meant that the main portion of the cap could be of a fixed size which in turn translated to significant economic savings for the Mesker Brothers as they only needed to stock one size. The corbels were attached to the cap through a groove in the underside of the soffit, with the groove also serving as a drip edge. Furthermore, the ornamental top portion of the cap came separate and was attached after the wall was completed. This provided several advantages including faster construction of the wall, prevented cutting of the brick around the ornament and provided protection of the ornament from construction-related damage. It also allowed Mesker Brothers to provide numerous distinct designs by simply altering this single separate ornamental component. The galvanized sheet-metal cap was inserted into the mortar joints of a masonry wall through flanges and served a purely decorative non-structural function (unlike window hoods made of cast iron or stone).

To clarify, not all window hoods offered by the Mesker Brothers utilized this patented technology. Those that did can be easily distinguished by a delicate floral motif of the adjustable corbels. In the company’s 1898 catalog, of the 35 various window cap designs nearly half appear to have been made according to this patent. Prices ranged from $1.50 to $3.30 depending on the level of ornamentation.

The technical ingenuity of this clever contraption is not evident without study and comparison of several installations. But just like the rest of the Mesker facade products, this was precisely the point – to fool the passerby into believing the element to be cast iron or stone, made of a single continuous object (and much more expensive than it actually was). While the intended imitation is more than satisfactory, the truth behind the separate and moving parts of the Mesker window caps is far more interesting.

Patent no. 405, 232 for a window cap by Herbert Symonds, assignor to Mesker Brothers. Image from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Diagram showing the components of the patented Mesker Bros window cap.
Adjustable corbel and the groove that allows for its lateral movement. The corbel's floral motif is an instant indication of the patented window cap design. Burlington, WI.
Galvanized sheet-metal window cap (design no. 705 in 1898). Princeton, IL.
Another instance of design no. 705, same as above. Note the different position of the corbels. Pawnee, IL.
Design no. 712 (1898 catalog). Chrisman, IL.
Design no. 716 (1898 catalog). Sheffield, IL.
Window cap with a top ornament matching that of design no. 693 (1898 catalog). By altering just the top ornament, Mesker Brothers were able to create numerous variations at minimum cost. Chester, IL.
Yet another variation. Hillsboro, IL.
Page from an 1898 catalog by Mesker Brothers Iron Works. Nearly half of the designs offered here are variations of the patented window cap.

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