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British Industrial History

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Thomas Barnabas Daft

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Thomas Barnabas Daft (1816-1878)

1856 Patent Sealed: Thomas Barnabas Daft, of the Irish Engineering Co, Seville Iron Works, Dublin, for improvements in the manufacture of metallic and other bedsteads, and articles of metallic and other furniture. Dated 26th March, 1856.[1]


1879 Obituary [2]

MR. THOMAS BARKABAS DAFT was born at Birmingham, in 1816. He was early apprenticed to a clever mechanic named Egginton, who, among other occupations, was in the habit of making models for engineers. Here Daft learned his business so promptly that at the age of fifteen he constructed a small working steam-engine entirely with his own hands.

A year or two afterwards he commenced business as a model and instrument maker on his own account; and at the age of nineteen, having saved some money, he joined his father in a larger business as iron founders, and manufacturers of metallic hot houses, erecting large structures of the kind in various parts of the kingdom.

In 1839 he resumed the manufacture of philosophical apparatus, and soon afterwards he was consulted by the late Mr. Brockedon on the manufacture and use of india-rubber, which had been recently much improved by the process of “vulcanizing.” Nr. Daft at once saw the great capabilities of the improved material, and he devoted himself with energy to its applications, which occupied him more or less for the whole of his subsequent life. One of the earliest uses he put it to was to form the “elastic bands ” which are now in such every-day use. He proposed the plan of making a series ol them in concentric circles, and designed at once the machine which has ever since been exclusively used for cutting out the whole series at one blow. His inventions and improvements in regard to india-rubber attracted much attention, and he was soon afterwards engaged by the firm of Charles Macintosh & Co. to manage their extensive india-rubber works at Manchester-a post he filled with great advantage to them and credit to himself for many years.

In 1856 he joined, as managing partner, the "Irish Engineering Company,” who had a large establishment in Dublin ; but the business was not prosperous, and he lost by it a considerable property. At later periods he was connected with india-rubber manufacturing works at Tottenham and at Northampton.

Mr. Daft was an ingenious and prolific inventor, twenty-eight patents being taken out between 1839 and 1877 in his name. Many of these had to do with the subject he had made peculiarly his own, among them being the manufacture of elastic webbing, the well-known cellular india-rubber mats, and the application of the same substance to the coating of metals. .But several of his inventions were more pretentious : he contrived a new mode of sheathing ships ; he had an idea that a peculiar construction of large raft, worked by steam power, would be advantageous for marine purposes; he wished to revolutionize railway construction by substituting sledge motion for the rolling wheels and axles; and he had an ingenious plan for laying down a tunnel across the Straits of Dover. On these schemes he unfortunately wasted much time and money without any return. But the list included many other inventions of minor kinds, which were both useful and profitable, several being taken up by manufacturers and worked extensively without connection with his name. He also furnished the Ordnance Department with plans for conveying heavy guns across bogs, and for molten iron shell.

He was elected an Associate of this Institution in February, 1860, and he died in London on the 4th of December, 1878.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Staffordshire Sentinel and Commercial & General Advertiser, 14 June 1856
  2. 1879 Institution of Civil Engineers: Obituaries