Wm. G. Dunn (1883-1968) undoubtedly was the most prolific inventor in southwestern Iowa and possibly in the entire state. Without any formal technical education he possessed a remarkably creative mind that led to the granting of some forty-nine patents; ranging from aircraft engines to a gadget for sharpening razor blades. In the early days most of his inventions related to automotive accessories. Two these are a counterbalancing system for Model-T Ford crankshafts and a luggage carrier to be fastened to the running board.
Dunn started manufacturing operations in 1917 in the back of his hardware store on the east side of the square in Clarinda as the Dunn Counterbalance Company. As the business he relocated to several places before building a factory on South 15th st. just off the square, by now named the Dunn Manufacturing Company.
With a keen interest in aircraft, Dunn secured the services of an aircraft engineer to design a high-wing, three-place monoplane which was built in his factory and was first flown in 1928. The plane was licensed and subsequently sold, but no production ensued.
In late 1934, Dunn was attracted to the development of wind-driven generators to power battery chargers for radios, particularly for farm use. Dunn's principle invention related to a method of governing the propeller speed. In 1936 he teamed with C.L. Parris, formerly of Sioux City and whose forte was in marketing, to form Parris-Dunn Corporation, first with Parris as president and Dunn as vice-president. Later these positions were reversed.
The chargers became widely popular. In 1937 some 37,000 units were shipped to all states and 93 foreign countries. However, with the advent of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) the market waned.
During World War II, Parris-Dunn manufactured training rifles for the army and navy. Some 500,000 trainers were produced and the company was awarded the Army-Navy "E" for high achievement. As many as 250 people were employed. After the war this activity led to the production of "pop guns" and related items for juveniles. By 1946 over two million such guns had been manufactured.
In 1949 Dunn desired to retire and Parris-Dunn Corporation was dissolved. The operation was taken over by Parris who moved the company to Tennessee.
In the present era of high technology and the investments of huge amounts of capital in research and development, the prospects of an individual inventing, manufacturing and successfully marketing a product are remote indeed. But for his time and place, W.G. Dunn represented a truly remarkable individual who could visualize a need and was not content until he had done something about it.
J. Howard Dunn August, 1989
Maurice O. "Dutch" Greiman was the principle engineer (and, in fact the ONLY degreed engineer) for Parris-Dunn from late 1943 until 1949. When Mr.Parris bought out Mr.Dunn in 1949 and moved the bulk of the company to Tennessee, Maurice Greiman went to work for WinPower in Newton, Iowa who took over production of the Parris-Dunn designed wind turbines and sold them as products of "the Parris-Dunn division". It appears that Mr. Greiman continued to work at WinPower until about 1955 and during that time corresponded and traveled extensively throughout central and South America where thousands of Parris-Dunn designed machines were sold. There was even correspondence in the files from Taiwan expressing interest in Parris-Dunn wind turbines. After Maurice Greiman's death, his daughter Elaine went though his papers and set aside several items including some original blue prints, manuals, correspondence and even several of the silk screens used to private label Parris-Dunn machines for numerous radio companies and hardware stores. When the Nodaway Valley museum was formed, she was instrumental in establishing a display dedicated to Parris-Dunn and eventually transferred all of the original items she had to the museum.
In 1919 the inventive genius of W.G. Dunn came into play in the back room of his hardware store in Clarinda. The demand for his products forced him to seek larger manufacturing quarters, so he leased the property on 14th Street just north of Washington. Three years later, he acquired the location on South 15th Street, a block south of the square and contined to expand with his inventions, largely automotive accessories. The products spread to national and international proportions and the factory grew to employ a large number of men during the peak seasons.
The expansion of business was greatly augmented by a windcharger whose speed governor was distinctive and highly practical-the increase in wind velocity causing the two bladed vane to turn upward, assuming a more horizontal plane as the wind increased, automatically slowing it down to prevent too rapid an effect on the radio batteries which it was designed to recharge. Visualizing the vast potential of the new idea, Mr. Dunn sought sales development experts to associate with him in the marketing of his invention. In late 1936, a corporation was formed with C.L. Parris (sales manager for Kari Kleen Company of Sioux City), disposing of his interests in his former company to join the new Clarinda firm. Others with experience in manufacturing and selling fields joined local men in the expansion. In early 1937 , Diego Fernandez of New York was added to the firm as export manager, his familiarity with foreign ports proved an asset to the concern with carloads of the windchargers sent to international destinations.
Numerous improvements produced several models of Mr. Dunn's original "Gyromatic" windcharger. The "Lo Tower". "Hi Tower" and "Free Lite" stepped up the adaptability of the windcharger to lighting and power for small motors on farms all from the free air.
Another interesting invention on which W.G. Dunn received a patent in January 1925, was for an automobile body constructed as to eliminate the old type framework. Mr. Dunn's plan contemplated an auto body "build like a truss bridge" with wheels attached directly to the body, eliminating much of the undergear. He publicized his idea and sold his patent to Detroit lawyers. Only after the 17 year limit of patent rights did the use of this kind of car body become a reality on a Nash automobile.
Probably the best known products of the Parris-Dunn Co. were the wooden training rifles used by the U.S. military during World War II. After 1948 the company was disolved and moved to a southern state.
Recent incorporation of the Parris-Dunn company of Clarinda is of more than passing interest locally, for it means a notable increase in this city's industrial standing, as well as an increase of business in the addition of several new families and an influx of monetary receipts from all parts of the world.
The Parris-Dunn company is an expansion of the Dunn Manufacturing company, which has been successfully conducted for years by W.G. Dunn in the manufacture of auto accessories and various other articles. When Mr. Dunn developed his now widely distributed wind-charger, the gyromatic, he tapped a modern demand that calls for a rapidly increasing output. He then brought into his company one of the successful men with whom he had been in contact in kindred industry. C.L. Parris, who saw the possibilities of this factory and its superior product and backed his confidence in it with an important investment. Mr. Parris has been made president of the new Parris-Dunn company and is taking an active part in its management.
The company plans considerable expansion and will extend its trade to all important countries of the world. The program includes advertising in the national and international publications as well as local newspapers.
It is expected that at least 200 men will be employed within another year which will mean the addition of many families to Clarinda incidentally creating further demand here for new residences or apartments.
Mr. Parris was a former distributor of Kari-Kleen products of Sioux City, with Minneapolis territory, and was for a time sales manager for Kari-Kleen at Sioux City and identified with other industrial concerns.