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British Industrial History

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Jacob Perkins

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Jacob Perkins (1766–1849) was an Anglo-American inventor, mechanical engineer and physicist.

1766 July 9th. Born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, Perkins was apprenticed to a goldsmith. He soon made himself known with a variety of useful mechanical inventions and eventually had twenty-one American and nineteen English patents.

Jacob went to school in Newburyport till he was 12 and then was apprenticed to a goldsmith in Newburyport named Davis.

Mr. Davis died three years later and Jacob (only fifteen) continued the business of making gold beads and added the manufacture of shoe buckles.

When he was twenty-one he was employed by the master of the Massachusetts mint to make a die for striking copper coins, this was the cent bearing an eagle and an Indian.

Jacob married on Nov. 11, 1790 to Hannah Greenleaf of Newbury and they had nine children.

In 1790 at the age of 24 in Byfield, he created machines for cutting and heading nails.

In 1795 he was granted a patent for his improved nail machines and started a nail manufacturing business on the Powwow River in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

In 1809 he invented the stereotype check plate for the prevention of counterfeit bank bills. During the War of 1812 he worked on machinery for boring out cannons. He also started working on water compression and invented a bathometer or piezometer to measure the depth of the sea by its pressure.

In 1816 he moved to Philadelphia and worked on steam power and refrigeration with Oliver Evans, who conceived the idea of a refrigerator in 1805 but never built a refrigerator..

In 1819 he went to England with a plan for engraving banknotes on steel, which ultimately proved a signal success, and was carried out by Perkins in partnership with the English engraver Heath. His firm, later trading as Perkins and Heath provided banknotes for many country banks, and foreign countries with postage stamps. Stamp production started for the British government in 1840 with the 1d black and the 2d blue postage stamps.

1820 Jacob Perkins, of Philadelphia and Austin Friars, London, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]

1823 Took additional premises in Water Lane, leaving others to run the printing business. Perkins made an experimental high pressure steam engine working at pressures up to 2,000 psi but these were not practical for the manufacturing technology of the time, though his concepts were revived a century later.

1824 Also had premises at the Steam Manufactory, Albany Street (Regents Park) where he demonstrated his steam gun but met opposition from the Duke of Wellington.

1824 Details of steam engine[2] [3] [4]

1824 of Fleet Street. Patent for throwing shells [5]

1824 of Fleet Street. Patent for improvements to propelling vessels. [6]

1825 Perkin's marine propeller patented by Jacob Perkins[7]

1826/7 Moved from Albany St to Francis St, Bloomsbury

1827 Jacob became the first person in England to use what he called a Uniflow steam engine, working at 800 psi (a locomotive on the South Eastern Railway was converted to the Uniflow system in 1849, although it is not known whose idea this was).

1827 Proceedings against his financial partner in other transactions involved the intellectual stock-in-trade of Perkins; he was then debarred from manufacturing or licensing further manufacture under his patents for high pressure steam engines (in contrast, the patent for the triple-stage heat-interchange boiler and simple, compound and triple expansion Uniflow engine with "no-oil" piston rings, was renewed in France in 1837). Perkins overcome the severe pressure from outside opinion thanks to the support of his friends, such as Sir Humphrey Davy.

c.1828 Jacob Perkins and his son Angier founded another business at 48, Regent-square based on their exclusive systems of heating.[8]

1832 Perkins established the National Gallery of Practical Science on Adelaide Street, West Strand, London. This was devoted to showing modern inventions. A popular feature was his steam gun, which did not find favour with the military.

1834 Invented the first freezing machine. [9]

Perkins is credited with the first patent for the vapour-compression refrigeration cycle, assigned on August 14, 1834 and titled, "Apparatus and means for producing ice, and in cooling fluids", although the idea was that of Oliver Evans. The Perkins patent, X6662, was granted just prior to a fire at the USPTO, so the text of the patent may not be extant. The same patent was granted in both Scotland and England separately.

1836 Perkins applied his hermetic-tube system to steam locomotive boilers and a number of locomotives using this principle were made in 1836 for the London and South Western Railway. This was a very early example of a high pressure steam locomotive.

Through experiments he proved the compressibility of water and measured it by a piezometer of his own invention.

1836 Jacob retired from business at the age of 69.

1849 July 30th. He died in London aged 84 and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.

His second son, Angier March Perkins (1799–1881), also born at Newburyport, went to England in 1821, and worked with his father in Perkins and Bacon, later setting up his own business of A. M. Perkins and Son.

His grandson, Loftus Perkins (1834–1891), most of whose life was spent in England, experimented with the application to steam engines of the use of steam at very high pressures, constructing in 1880 a yacht, the Anthracite.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1820 Institution of Civil Engineers
  2. Mechanics Magazine 1824/06/05
  3. Mechanics Magazine 1824/06/12
  4. Mechanics Magazine 1824/06/19
  5. Mechanics Magazine 1824/06/19
  6. Mechanics Magazine 1824/09/04
  7. Mechanics Magazine Volume XXXIX (39) 1843 Pt2 p210
  8. The Engineer 1931/06/19
  9. The Engineer 1889/03/08
  • [1] Wikipedia
  • Camden History Review [2]