Developments of the X-Ray

J. Robert Kelley as a boy studied electricity in the district and graded schools at his village home in the Old State of Virginia.  As a result, he became interested in telegraphy and soon had many miles of wire strung over the hills of his native county with more than a dozen amateur telegraph offices presided over by other boys of his own age in the vicinity.

 In later years, while living in Boston, he became interested in the product of a firm manufacturing electrical and surgical devices.  At about this stage the Sunday papers were flooded with accounts of Prof. Roentgen’s discovery of X-rays.  He was at once interested, and failed to induce the firm in Boston to take up the development of this science.  He journeyed to New York City and succeeded in having a firm there do it.  Though the apparatus produced was most crude and inefficient, Kelley undertook to find a market for it, which brought him to Cincinnati.

 His experience with such devices gave him definite ideas for the construction of X-ray Generating Apparatus along improved lines, but not being a mechanic himself, he made diligent search for someone to develop such ideas.  Deviating decidedly from the usual practice, he gave no consideration whatever to the matter of finances, but rather sought mechanical ability, believing that if the proper apparatus could be produced, the matter of finances and production would be a natural solution.  The wisdom of this theory has been fully demonstrated by the success finally obtained.

 Albert B. Koett, born in Sachen Weimer received in his youth a very thorough technical training.  He would often play practical pranks upon his fellow students with electrical shocking machines of his own development.  Following his scholastic training, he spent seven years as an apprentice, during which time he attended night school each evening to further promote his education.  Koett then spent a year of travel, working at times in France, Spain, and Italy.

 At the age of twenty-one he came to America, became a naturalized citizen and went to work in earnest.  Koett first obtained employment as a cabinet maker.  He remained at this trade for several years following which he took up the art of wood carving and sculpture, traveling extensively throughout the United States, working on many churches, cathedrals and public auditoriums.

 After a number of years of this work, Koett made a home for his family n Covington, Kentucky, where he began designing and making musical instruments.  It is rather remarkable to know that along with his various trades and arts, Koett experimented at evening with electrical devices such as coils and the like.

 It is indeed fortunate that these two experimenters, Kelley and Koett should meet and agree to form a partnership for the manufacture of improved x-ray apparatus.  On account of lack of finances, the firm of Kelley-Koett of necessity had to commence business in a very modest way.  Therefore small devices had first attention.  These were perfected, brought to the attention of the profession, and marketed until the proceeds supplied sufficient capital to undertake the development of additional apparatus.

 The firm started in 1903 in a small shed in the back yard of Koett’s cottage in Covington, Kentucky.  The only machinery for the manufacture of the product was one lathe of small size, a monkey wrench, a few screw drivers, a hammer and hand drill.  The first device attempted was a motor driven rocker for the development of x-ray plates.  The second was a greatly improved wooden tube holder, selling price $10.00, which was considered exorbitant at that early stage.  The third attempt was a modified type after Albers-Schoenberg’s conception of a single compression diaphragm.  This more pretentious appliance was finally made to work in conjunction with an adjustable table upon which the patient was to lie for the making of x-ray pictures.  This proved to be a very decided success and was received with enthusiasm by the pioneer x-ray men throughout the county.  Demand for Kelley-Koett appliances increased so rapidly that it became necessary to secure larger quarters.  Therefore, a room 10x24 feet in size was secured.  These enlarged quarters enabled them to add other appliances such as electrolytic and mechanical interrupters, electrolytical rectifiers, etc.

 Within one year still larger space was necessary and an alley building 20 x 60 feet, half dug out and half above ground was secured, and it was in these quarters that the first really successful x-ray coil was produced.  Those on the market up to this time produced by a few inches of limited spark, while the new production was capable of drawing an enormous flame of 12 inches, and on test drew from Koett the exclamation “Grosse Flame!”  Kelley did not understand this term and inquired to know its meaning, when told it was German for “Great Flame,” it was at once adopted as a trade-mark for the new X-ray generator.

 The demand for this greatly improved device grew so rapidly that it seemed it would soon take the place of all existing types, so within a couple of years, still larger quarters were necessary, which resulted in a lease being taken on a new and modern three-story brick factory building which would accommodate as many as 50 workmen.  It was in these quarters that the firm grew in size and popularity until it was essential that a building be especially constructed more thoroughly adapted for the unusual type of product being made.  Therefore, property was purchased and the present magnificent structure at 4th and Russell Sts., Covington was commenced.

 The new building was brought to the present degree of capacity and modern completion just at the time when the United States entered the Great World War.  This was indeed fortunate, because when our government called upon the X-ray manufacturers to supply apparatus for the armies in France, The Kelley-Koett Manufacturing Company was able to efficiently meet the demand.  Eighty –three percent of the entire production of the plant was given over to the United States Government.  Scattered through the “U. S. Army X-ray Manual” are numerous illustrations and descriptions of KELEKET apparatus, which were adopted as standard by the government. It is of interest to know that during this late war hundreds of portable horizontal fluoroscopic tables were supplied for field work.  This type of table is known as the “Standard United States Army Table.” No. 6 Radiographic Tube Stands, Transformers, Plate Changers, Kassettes, Cones, and all were furnished in great qualities.

 From the foregoing it is evident that during the hostilities in Central Europe it was necessary for this company to neglect business at home, and they are very thankful to their many friends and customers for the patience shown during that period.  Keleket government production was not for war profit; it was one method of being of service to the country. 

After the signing of the armistice, civil business was again taken up and it was an agreeable surprise to note the large volume of orders which soon began to come in.  Some were from the old customers who had waited until domestic production could again be established.  However, a great number came from Roengenologists who had used KELEKET equipment while in service.

 During the year of 1920 rumors came drifting over from across the seas of the use of a higher voltage X-ray along with stories of the alleviation of deep-seated tumors. The Department of Development of the Kelley-Koett Manufacturing Company immediately started investigations relative to the design of generating apparatus capable of producing the desired higher voltages.  As a result an experimental generator was made. As soon as a high voltage tube was obtained, the experimental machine was thoroughly tested, and in due time shipped to Dr. Robt. H. Millwee, a pioneer Roentgenologist in the South.  This early model machine was the forerunner of many others.  Keleket Deep Therapy Apparatus is now in use in practically every state of the Union.

 During the evolution of the Kelley-Koett Manufacturing Company, the reader should not conclude that all was clear sailing and that the little firm commencing without money or credit was able by the wave of a magic wand to become the largest manufacturers of X-ray apparatus exclusively in America.  Long and strenuous days of toil and close financing were necessary to bring the ultimate result.

 The policy of the Kelley-Koett Manufacturing Company is to build efficient instruments.  The famous No. 6 Tube Stand, the most pattered after X-ray accessory in the field, revolutionized the art of radiography.  It is also interesting to know that the first Constant Potential Generator built for the general practice was designed and manufactured by the Kelley-Koett Manufacturing Company.  Many other like unique creations could be mentioned.

 The Kelley-Koett Manufacturing Company from its early small beginning in 1903, and continuing through to the present time, has retained its same managerial, personnel and policies.  It is constant and faithfully striving to offer the Roentgenologist X-ray Apparatus of the highest quality, which will better enable him to perform his work in the interest of mankind, and to give to his patrons that continuous efficient service so absolutely essential to success. 


The company published their history in 1924. No author was credited.