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les croyons faits sur un tr^s bon principe, particuli^re-
ment pour ceux qui desirent se passer d*un domestique ;
certainement nous saisirons toutes les occasions a les
faire voir, & nous ne doutons pas que leurs effets les

*^ Nous sommes,

" Monsieur,
" Vos tr^s humbles et obeissants serviteurs,

"(Sign6) Leader & Co.

"Londres, Janvier, 1799."

"Rapport de Mens. J. Vidler, Manufacturier des
Carosses Royales de Postes aux Lettres.
"M. Thomason,
*• Monsieur,

" Ayant minutieusement examin6 le principe
de vos marchepieds a patentes, je les trouve du meilleur
mechanisme que ce pays ait jamais produit, & je n'ai
au€une doute qu'ils ne deviennent d*un usage g6neral,
ainsi qu'avantageux pour vous & le public.
" Je suis,

" Monsieur,

" Votre tr^s humble servifeur,
" (Sign6) J. Vidler.

" A la Manufacture Royal de Carosses de Postes,
a Londres, Janvier, 1799."

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This invention was made public through the medium 1799*
of circulars.

I put a pair to my own carriage, which I used for
twelve years. I received orders for many for the Con-
tinent, and from physicians in this country; but the
great expense of the steps, and the difficulty that coach-
makers experienced in putting them to carriages, set the
coachmakers against them ; and it so occurred, at this
period of 1799> that the carriages were principally
straight, flat-sided, which form was absolutely essential
to the fixing of these steps, but in the following year the
doors of the carriages were made of a bulged form, not
at all adapted for the peculiar machinery requisite to
admit the roller affixed at the bottom of the door to
work easily upon the curved lever.

I do not think that I made and sold one hundred
pair, thereby not realizing a profit, but some little less,
by the invention I

I next turned my attention to the improvement of
the locks of fowling-pieces. I was aware that many,
accidents occurred by leaving guns charged in a room,
and the common custom with sportsmen during their
morning's walk, shooting : they stopped at some house
to lunch, but never thought of drawing the charge,
hence the numerous accidents which occurred by incau-
tious and ignorant persons taking hold of the gun in the
absence of the sportsman. It was obvious that the gun
frequently missed fire in consequence of the flint not
presenting a proper angle to the lever. I made the
cock part of the lock, so that what are called the jaws,
which hold the flint, should slide off the spindle part
by the pressure of the thumb and finger upon a spring ;
thus, when pulled off, which could be done in a few

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1801. seconds, the gun would remain powerless, and could not
be used except by the person who was in possession of
the flint-holder. And another improvement in the lock
was, that the jaws turned round upon the spindle part of
the cock, and were regulated by a small racket work
with a catch, so that by turning the wheel with the
thumb and finger, the flint might be adjusted to what-
ever angle was required, realizing an almost certainty
of giving fire. But it did not answer, although approved
of by several eminent gunmakers, for sportsmen were
not aware of any danger in leaving their guns loaded,
nor any danger by hacking the flint, although the gun
was loaded, for detonating locks were not invented at
the period of my patent, and I never sold enough to
pay the expenses.

I now turned my attention to the improvement of the
corkscrew. At this period, 1801, it was a kmd of
fashion for persons to draw the corks of the wine even
at their own table, and which not only required some
strength and skill, but was sometimes attended with
accident, by the breaking of the neck of the bottle, and,
furthermore, it was next to an impossibility to take the
cork fix>m the worm without soiling the fingers. To
avert these two inconveniences, I directed my improve-
ments, and I produced a combination of the three screws
working together, and following each other, so that,
on piercing the cork with the point of the worm, and
continuing to turn the handle, the cork was drawn out,
and by turning the handle the contrary way, the cork
was discharged from the worm, and fell into the finger-
glass. I obtained his Majesty's Royal Letters Patent
for this invention, under the name of the ^' Patent ne«
plus-ultra Corkscrew.** I enjoyed the privilege in the

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manufocturing and sale of these for the term of fourteen 1801.
years. The patent answered well, and it not only made
my name known as the inventor, hut was the means of
introducing other articles made in my manufactory, as
fine huttons, and jewellery, and steel work. It appears
that I made during the fourteen years ahout 130,000,
and a larger numher has since aimuaJly heen caUed for,
owing to the very great reduction in the price. In 1801
the shopkeepers in London sold them at one guinea each,
hut in the course of ten years they were sold at the low
price of 4s., which rendered the price to he within the
reach of all classes. The Earl of Mountnorris (then
Lord Valentia), on returning home from his celebrated
travels in India, was so kind as to relate to me an anec-
dote which occurred at some small city on the borders
of the Red Sea, during his short stay there for refresh-
ment. He heard the native servant call out, ^^ firing
me the Thomason." His Lordship enquired if a person
of that name was there, when his Lordship was answered,
" The man was only asking for the machine to draw the
cork.'' Thus do the Sirmingham manufactures find
their way into the remotest comers of the globe. Mr.
James Watt, the celebrated engineer, paid me a high
compliment for this novel mode of applying the three

In 1809 I invented the sliding toasting-fork, some
with one, two, or three slides, within a handsome japan-
ned handle, common now in all the shops.

I also invented one, that by the action of drawing the
slide the same movement raised a shield from off the
prongs, and upon shutting up again of the slides this
action moved the shield over the prongs again.

I also invented a third kind, which was that the three

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1803. prongs collapsed together, which, on the shutting up of
the slides of the fork, drew the same into the mouth of
a snake, the head of a silver snake heing attached to
one end of the outer slide or handle.

The ahove were made in silver, gilt, plated, and brass ;
and large quantities were sold even by me ; but, as I
did not protect this invention by patent, thousands were
made and sold by other manufacturers.

During the year 1803, I put up a complete machine
for drawing tubes in a new and peculiar way. The
radius of the wynch connected with and governing a
series of wheels gave the machine great power.

This mode of drawing tubes led to much novelty in
invention, and produced new objects of manufacture in
my establishment In all cases I kept the different
trades in separate rooms or workshops.

This led me to another invention, and for which I
obtained a patent, viz., the sliding hearth brushes, which
I called, in my specification of my patent, the
"NoN Constat."

These were made of plated, gilt, bronze, brass, and
steel, the case generally oi papier machSe*

The patent answered extremely well; and it was subject
to an endless variety of patterns, the cases being painted
in any device.

In watching the operation of drawing brass and copper
tubes upon the mandrells, I found that it required as
much power to slide off the hollow tube from the mandrell
as was required to draw it on. The pushing it off
was done by forcing a circular collar against it, and it
required the whole force of the machine to dislodge it ;
and finding that the union of copper and iron (or any
two metals) were firmly attached by pressure, provided

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that, in the action of pressing them together, the air 1803.
should he exploded or forced out, I hegan to consider
what was the phenomena of soldering two metals together,
hecause, in the case of soldering, no pressure was used, and
yet, hy the introduction of a third metal, as A, which fused
at a lower temperature than B and C, B and C would he
firmly attached ; and as there was no affinity existing in
either of these metals for each other, the cohesion must
be made by metal solder. A, running into the interstices
of the metals, B and C, the air being totally expelled
during the operation of soldering by tlje blast of the
bellows upon the heated metals to be attached. On
stripping B and C so soldered, it was plainly seen, by a
high magnifier, that the globules of the solder. A, had
penetrated into the indentured fissures or grainery of
the surfaces of the copper, B and C, which was the sole
cause of holding a soldered piece together. It then
appeared to me that pressure must have the same effect,
provided the air was expelled at the moment, and as the
collar of the machine would move upon the sheath of
copper tubing, while the solid iron within the sheath
would travel with it, the air was expelled, and, at the
same moment, — ^indeed, in part of a second of time
before, — the collar pressed the tube upon the solid rod I

I perceived, then, that where strength and cheapness
were required, in plain, circular, and hollow rods, which
should, or would, appear like solid brass or copper, this
new idea might be turned to some account,

Ist In the making of copper bolts for shipping.

Sd. Making solid brass rods for stair carpets.

3d. Making solid brass rods to go round the top of
a room to suspend pictures^

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1803. 4th. For curtain rods for drawing-rooms, of any
length or thickness.

And 5th. For halustrades for staircases.

It so occurred that, whikt I was making these experi-
ments, and had actually brought some of them to the
finish, and that I had sold a few of the ship-bolts
to a ship-builder, to make the trial for me, Mr.
Benjamin Cook, of Birmingham, a partner of Mr.
Thomas Attwood, in the brass - foundry way, had
actually obtained a patent for the same thing. On
proving to Mr. Cook that I had invented, finished, and
sold some of mine before he had even thought of the
plan himself, Messrs. Attwood and Cook, to prevent
their patent becoming void, gave me their letter of
licence, permitting me to make and sell whatever I
might approve, during the fourteen years of the patent.
I manufactured many splendid stair-cases for the
nobility, viz., for the Queen of Wurtemburg, Marquis
of Westmeath, Lord Forester, and numerous others of
the nobility and gentry; and, as most persons visit
Cheltenham, I manufactured the brass stair-case at the
Plough Hotel, as one of the first trials, and which
method succeeded. This mode of manufacture led to
the brass bars, or railing, at the front of the London
shop windows. It gave strength, and the appearance
of solidity, when, at the same time, the whole was only
of sheet iron, except the thin casing of brass drawn over
by pressure.

I mentioned my method of covering iron bolts with
sheaths of copper to the ship-builders, when both
the ship-builder and myself thought of much suc-
cess, and the ship^builder was in extacy when he dis-
covered that the bolts drove in well without stripping ;

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but we had both forgotten the action of the muriatic acid 1803.
of the sea water insinuating itself by degrees, between the
iron and copper, which, in a short time, would render the
bolt slack and unsteady, which prevented a second triaL

In 1803, I applied the drawing of tubes to place into
the walking cane (which every fashionable gentleman
then carried) a set of tubes that, by the action of the
handle of the cane pulling up towards you, and by
pushing it back with some force, caused a piece of fungus,
which lay at the bottom of the tube, to take fire. The
phenomenon was by the sudden concussion of the air
upon the saturated fungus. The sponge or fungus would
last for above one hundred trials, and the invention was
merely adopted by those gentlemen fond of smoking
cigars in their country walks. I did not pray his
Majesty for a patent for this, because the knowledge of
compressing air to obtain a similar result was stated in
the Philosophical Transactions, and, therefore, so far,
I could not lay claim to the principle.

The sale of these canes was very limited ; but, being
obliged to put up machinery for the boring of them, it led
me to the idea that dirks might be placed in (sword)
canes, and pass through the ferule at the bottom by
the action of pulling the top part of the cane towards
you, and then pressing it down again to its place, which
disposed the unexposed machinery in the inside of the
cane to cause a short sword to protrude through the
noee of the ferule, and become an instant guard, or
defence, in walking in the night, or through woods and

I obtained his Majesty's patent for this invention,
and I purchased, at the East India House, many tb«»-

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1804. sands of what was called the rattaa cane, to be filled
with this patent machinery.

The invention answered very well, particularly in
foreign countries.

In December, 1804, the French papers noticed an
invention, done by a Parisian, of an elegant machine,
that was placed upon the loo or other gambling tables at
Paris, and which was placed there as a substitute for the
throwing of the dice, if any party better approved of this
method ; that it consisted of two horizontal wheels, with
the spots of one to six marked upon them ; it was set in
motion by releasing a double semicircular spring, which
impelled in motion the two wheels, yet with different
velocities. The motions were stopped instantaneously,
by stopping the action of the spring ; if not stopped, the
wheels continued for about a minute in motion, gradually
decreasing in velocity, until they came to a close.

At this period was upon a visit at my house a parti-
cular friend of Mrs. Thomason*s, who was in a declining
state of health, and sought the advice of our celebrated
physician, Dr. Johnstone. This lady was partial to the
game of back-gammon, and my perceiving that the noise
of throwing the dice was a little annoying to her nerves,
it appeared to me that I could apply the principle stated
in the French papers to be an elegant substitute for, the
dice-box, so as to prevent all noise. In a week, I accom-
plished this to my mind, and placed in a flat round box,
like a snuff-box, which was set in the centre of the back-
gammon board, and became convenient for either party
to move and stop the spring, exhibiting, under the square
hole of a silver plate, the numbers or appearance of two
distinct dice.

I invoked Sir Vicary Gibbs, then the Attorney-

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General, to exWbit my petition to the Kmgi to grant me 1804.
a patent for this novel introduction. Sir Vicary, after
passing many compliments on the invention, said, that,
in a moral point of view, he could not advise his Majesty
to grant his royal letters patent for this beautiful inven-
tion. He thought it might get into improper hands, and
encourage the unlawful practice of gambling ; but, he
observed, that in the hands of the well-disposed, and in
private society, it would be very acceptable with the
back-gammon table. He should be obliged to me, if I
manufactured them for this class of persons, to let him
have two of them. I presented Mr. Watt with the

" Heathfield, Jan. 5, 1804-

« Dear Sir,

" I received your kind note on Saturday,
accompanied with your very ingenious dice-box, and feel
myself very much obliged by your kind oflfer of it as a
present ; which, however, I hope you will excuse me
from accepting in that light, not being conscious of
having merited it, and that you will allow me to settle
for it when we meet, which I hope will be soon.

"Mrs. W. and myself should have done ourselves
the honour of calling upon you and Mrs. Thomason
before now, but have been hindered by bad weather and
indifferent health, which at present confines Mrs. Watt
to her room ; she, however, desires to join me in wishing
to you and Mrs. Thomason many happy years, and
that success which your ingenuity so well merits.
" I remain, dear Sir,

" Your obliged servant.

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1804. At this period, his Royal Highness the Prince Regent
visited Cheltenham, and some one of the nohle guests
who passed through my manufactory was shewn the
novelty, and imparted the same to the Prince. The
consequence was that Colonel M'Mahon wrote to me,
by the command of his Royal Highness, for six of them,
which I was enabled to forward by the same evening^s
coach. This flattering order gave me the gratification of
first placing his Royal Highnesses name in my ledger ;
a circumstance I did not omit, on proper opportunities,
to notice. It gave, however, eclat to the invention in the
proper society, and 1 withheld, for years, sending any of
them to my agent in London, but kept them solely at my
own establishment Although the invention was left
open, no one, to my surprise, followed me in making
them. I kept two persons almost constantly at work at
them, and they were sold as fast as they were made.

In July, ISO^:!, Joseph Robley, Esquire, the then
Governor of Tobago, brought me a letter of recom-
mendation. It was of that description that I gave up
two days to introduce him to many of the principal
manufacturers, whose establishments he visited, and
with whom he had much conversation respecting the
amount of wages, &c.

Mr. Robley said, " I am directed to visit your manu£Btc-
tories in Birmingham, and to note down the average
wages of each class or kind of manufacture paid the opera-
tives, their mode of living, their moral and religious
acquirements, their hours of work, and apparent state of
happiness.'* It was at this period that Mr. Wilberforce
was addressing the Parliament, night after night, in a
strain of unequalled eloquence for the abolition of the
slave trade. I was, in common, I believe, with my towns-

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men, a strong advocate and great admirer of the prin- 1804.
ciples which actuated Mr. Wilberforce's philanthropy,
and I was aware that the Governor entertained a
different opinion. On his quitting his hotel, on the 24th
of July, he addressed to me the following letter, which
may exhibit the opinions, perhaps^ entertained by the
Governors of the West India Islands, and the obstacles
Mr. Wilberforce and his friends in Parliament had to
contend with : —

" Birmingham,
" Swan Inn, Tuesday, 24th July, 1804.
« Dear Sir,

** I hope Mrs. Thomason and yourself did not
take cold at the Theatre last night, and that the young
gentleman is well, and in a singing humour this morning.
" As the Slave Trade is not only of very great im-
portance to the inhabitants of the West India Islands,
but also to the commerce of Great Britain, even so
much so as, in my opinion, the loss of the trade of
those islands would absolutely affect the revenue of
Great Britain, as well as its naval power, it has always
astonished me that the question on that subject should
have been brought forward now, with the dreadful
example of the effects of similar principles at Saint
Domingo before the eyes of the House of Commons,
and with almost an avowal of these canting abolitionists
not to stop at abolishing the trade to Africa, but to pro-
ceed oa to emancipation. I think the pamphlet which
I have now the honour to send you is well written, and
completely answers the most favourite arguments of these
misguided abolitionists. At your leisure, will you do
me the favour to read it ? And, if you approve it, let
such of your friends as you may think proper peruse it

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1804. also, for I am convinced that every effort which can be
made ought to be tried to thwart the diabolical views
of these canting hypocrites in the House of Commons,
as I am certain they intend to bring in the bill again
the next session.

" I now send Mrs. Thomason the Yorkshire Concert,
which has much humour when sung by Emery.

*^ My niece unites in compliments to Mrs. Thomason ;

and I remain,

" Dear Sir,

" Your very obliged and obedient humble servant,

" Mr. Thomason." Governor of Tobago.

During this year, Elfi Bey, the chief of the Mamelukes,
visited my works, and, amongst his jewellery, he had a
piece of amber with a fly in its claw, and for which I
exchanged with him some pieces of jewellery.
1806. During the years 1804 and 1805, I was one of the
captains of the Birmingham Volunteers, accepted by me
in a spirit of loyalty to my sovereign ; and, like nume-
rous others, in November, 1805, finding that it inter-
fered with the attendance essential to my manufactory,
I resigned, when I received the following letter : —

"Sandwell, Nov. 1, 1805.
" Sir, — I beg to express my regret that your other
avocations will not allow you to retain your commission
in the L. B. V.

" I am. Sir, your obedient servant.

" To Edward Thomason, Esq.,
" Captain in the L. B. V.

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Every yoimg mechanician has, prohably, turned his 1805.
thoughts to that desideratum of inventions — ^Hhe per-
petual motion,** by the large premiums offered by our
Government and others, and the merit there would be in
obtaining that motion, which was by older heads deemed
impracticable. I entered the arena, and, after many
experiments, had reason to hope that I should be
successful. I went to some expense in erecting the machi-
nery, which, upon trial, proved abortive. This invention,
and putting up of the mechanism on a proper scale for
trial, took many months, and the trial was not made
until May, 1806.

In December, 1806, the Count Lorentz, the Danish 1806.
Charg6 des Affaires in London, came to Birmingham,
to offer a partnership with him in the new patent, which
he had just taken out, of the instantaneous light, which
was effected by the decomposition of zinc with muriatic
acid, placed in a small bottle, and the gas generated was
carried by a small tube under a water bath, which water
bath compressed the gas, and forced it to escape through
the same mouth by the turning of the handle, and coming
in contact with an electric wire, while the very action of
the turning of the same handle moved two metallic
plates. I informed the Count that I did not choose to
become a partner with any one, but I had no objection
to purchase it, if I approved of the price. He was to
inform me of his ultimate determination in a few weeks.
There was much merit in the invention, but, like all
others, unless such a machine can be managed by a
servant, it will operate against its sale. On the 4th of
April, 1807, tl^® Count wrote me the following letter
respecting his patent, and, like most other inventors,
(commonly called by the operatives, schemers) furnished

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1807. me with a list of new inventions which he had in
emhry o I

" London, the 4th April, I8O7.


*^ Having entered into a negotiation with a very
respectable party of this town on the subject of my
patent instantaneous light, which negotiation was com-
menced in the interval of the tune which you took to
declare your intention of sending your partner to town,
instead of coming yourself I am prevented from saying
to you at present any more on that subject ; that nego-
tiation not being yet terminated, and depending only
upon the adjustment of a few immaterial terms, the
adjustment of which will most probably not cause the
parties to separate otherwise than as friends.

" I have, however, entered several caveats at the
Patent Office for different new inventions of mine, for
which I intend taking out the patents, unless some
gentleman of business should offer me such premiums
for the purchase of the patent right which may induce
me to forego my prospective advantage in their favour.
One of those inventions is a patent candlestick ; another,
patent spurs, or any improvement thereon ; a third, for
an improvement on fire-irons, or either of them. Any
gentleman wishing to confer with me upon the premiums
to be given for such surrendering of my rights may choose
an impartial and respectable umpire, who, with a gentle-

Online LibraryQuébec (Province). LegislatureSessional papers → online text (page 2 of 25)