Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 148,386 pages of information and 233,851 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

John Common (1778-1868)

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search

John Common (1778-1868), agricultural engineer

1778 born in High Buston, Warkworth, Northumberland, son of Robert Common of High Buston, a millwright and cartwright, and his wife (probably Jane Wilson of Alnwick).

Common followed his father's profession

c.1803 He assisted Henry Ogle, a schoolteacher of Newham, in improving a reaping machine design. His plans, from which two models were made, substituted a clipping or shearing action for Ogle's rotary one.

1804 Married Mary Leithead of Widdrington.

1811 Demonstrated a full-size version of the reaping machine secretly, at night; it appeared to "answer well"

1812 a model was sent to the Society of Arts by Hugh, Earl Percy. However, the society made no award of its reaping machine premium as the invention was "incomplete" without proper trials. A second full-size machine, with a reel to bring the standing corn to the knives, and rollers to deliver the cut corn to the ground, was demonstrated before witnesses.

After this Common decided to discontinue further experiments because of the trouble and cost, and he passed the patterns to Thomas Brown and his son (Joseph), iron-founders of Alnwick, who emigrated to New York state with the designs in 1824.

1818 Common gained recognition for other inventions, including a Society of Arts silver medal for a double-drill turnip sower of 1818.

Common later claimed that McCormick's reaping machine (shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition), which also had a reciprocating action for the knives, was just like the ones he had made 40 years before. This claim was included in a detailed letter he wrote to a local paper (see John Commons letter to 'The Alnwick Journal' published 15th August 1860 )

He continued as an agricultural machine maker and a cartwright for the Northumberland estate until an advanced age

1868 He died at his home in Denwick, near Alnwick, on 28 June.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of John Common, ODNB