It is interesting to note that at the same time Root was developing his metal rollers he apparently had some doubt as to whether he might be in danger of infringing Wagner's patent. In June, 1876, he published several letters from Wagner relating to the work which he had done. In a footnote, Root mentions the fact that Quinby had made comb foundation as early as 1846. It is strange, if this is so, that Quinby laid no claims to discovery, for this was much earlier than Mehring made his invention. In early issues of Quinby's book, he advocates the use of pieces of guide comb to start the bees in the right direction. He suggests that one edge of the comb be melted, or that it be dipped in melted wax and applied to the wood before it cooled. It was probably this kind of foundation to which the reference applied.
There is some question as to just where to draw the line in giving credit to the men who were working toward the perfection of foundation at this early period. There appears to be no question as to Root's having solved the problem finally, but others seem to have been very near to it. A. J. Cook, in the early editions of his Manual of the Apiary, states that the King Brothers made and secured a patent on the first rollers. These, however, were mere wheels an inch and a half wide, stamped like the German plates. They were used to stamp the wax that was run on wood solely for guides. The machine proved of little value and never attracted much attention.
Cook credits Frederic Weiss with the invention, in 1873, of the machine which really brought foundation into common use. His rolls were about six inches long, with shallow grooves between the pyramidal projections so that a shallow wall was raised between the cells. Cook states that it was on this machine that the foundation was made by John Long in 1874 and '75 which proved that foundation was a success. As one who had used some of this early foundation, Cook should be a competent witness. He expresses regret at the tendency to ignore Weiss's services. In later editions he credits Root with having brought it into common use, but still credits Weiss with the invention. The Dadant-Langstroth Honeybee credits Weiss with the first manufacture of foundation in America, but states that it was probably on an imported machine.
With the problem of making the impressions solved, there still remained the necessity of getting the wax in proper form to run through the mill. For a time the best method known was to dip a board in melted wax and peel off the resulting sheet after it had cooled. This at best was tedious and unsatisfactory.
This led D. S. Given, of Hoopeston, Illinois, to attempt the manufacture of foundation by means of a press which would make the sheet in a wired frame ready for use. This press was described in the bee magazines in 1879 and for a time received considerable attention. Root stated in Gleanings that the Given press would make it possible to make up frames with foundation ready for use and to ship directly to the beekeeper as needed.
Given's press was made of metal and produced a fairly good product, according to the comments published at the time. A year before, Oliver Foster made a plaster of Paris cast which appears to have been similar to that described by Cheshire and which he described with enthusiasm. In his published comments he stated that if made of metal, the plates would last indefinitely. Perhaps his suggestion may have provided the inspiration which started Given to work. The Given press was composed of two metal sheets impressed with the cell base form.
Given's foundation press, 1879, was composed of two metal sheets impressed.
These were joined together with a hinge which made it possible to bring them together with a sheet of wax between. The plates were then placed under a press built similar to printing presses of that day which would exert heavy pressure. Thus, by shutting the plates together like a book over a sheet of wax and exerting sufficient pressure, it was possible to get a fair imprint. The product was not to be compared with that produced by roller mills, and it was impossible to get more than a small sheet, so the Given press was later discarded.
Many early honey producers made satisfactory comb foundation with the hand press (above).
Although Root was far in the lead with his rolls, the difficulty of sheeting the wax left him in position to make but little progress, and he continued to encourage every new method. In 1880 he paid one John Faris, of Virginia, $143 to come to Medina and demonstrate an outfit which he had made by using plaster of Paris.
This was not different from others in important details which made for progress, yet Root appears to have been impressed with it. He stated in Gleanings that he was not ready to make the plates for sale under the circumstances, although the foundation was better than any made by rolls. He thought that it would be improved and would not have been surprised if rolls had been laid aside entirely by another season.
Following the publication of the account of the visit of Faris to Medina, W. G. Phelps, of Maryland, claimed prior invention of the process described. When publishing his letter, Root commented that several others had made similar claims, which indicates that experiment along similar lines was rather common just then.
The Dunham mill gave thin base and high side walls, a definite improvement.