Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Thomas Hancock

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Thomas Hancock (1786-1865) The father of the UK rubber industry

1786 May 8th. Born the second son of James Hancock, Senior, a timber merchant and cabinet maker at Marlborough. See Hancock Genealogy

1815 In partnership with his younger brother John Hancock as a coach builder, with a factory in Pulteney Street and a shop in St James's Street, London.

1816 Trading as Hancock and Co

1820 Patent covered the application of rubber to various articles of dress, to make them more elastic

c.1820 Thomas set up a new factory in Goswell Road to exploit his discoveries in rubber[1].

1820 Thomas Hancock built a machine (the pickle) to tear up scrap rubber, in the hope that the freshly torn surfaces would fuse together to give a uniform block, which could then be re-used. The process worked to perfection with the unexpected benefit that the torn, or masticated, rubber was much more soluble in his preferred solvent, a mix of oil of turpentine and naphtha, than was raw rubber.

1823 Charles Macintosh patented his discovery that a rubber solution used between two sheets of cloth made the resulting cloth rainproof. Together with the chemist George Hancock he developed the fabric to be used in coats, and together they set up a factory in Glasgow.

1824 Macintosh persuaded the Birley brothers, cotton spinners and weavers of Manchester, to build a factory next to their mill (presumably later to become Birley and Co) in which he could manufacture his rubberized cotton.

1825 Thomas Hancock realized that his products were superior to those of Macintosh. Eventually, with much secrecy on both sides, they co-operated to improve their products, although they remained separate corporate entities.

1826 Hancock was aware of Macintosh's work and took out a licence to manufacture the patented "waterproof double textures". Hancock’s solutions were able to have a higher rubber content than those of Macintosh. This gave a more uniform film on the cloth with less penetration through it and with less odour.

From about 1828, Thomas Hancock patented virtually every machine and process to successfully work india-rubber.

1828 Thomas Hancock purchased spirits of tar from the Gas Light and Coke Co, whose Brick Lane gasworks were near to his factory; these were to be used in manufacturing rubberised fabrics [2].

1835 When his brother John died leaving a widow and eleven children, Thomas although unmarried, took over the responsibility for the family

1830 Agreement that Hancock would supply Macintosh with his masticated rubber

1831 Mutual trust slowly developed and Thomas Hancock became a partner in Charles Macintosh and Co, their two companies merged and two years later the combined company bought Thomas’ brother’s (presumably John's) specialist rubber business which manufactured a range of rubber medical devices.

1841 Living at Marlborough Cottage, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington. (age 50), Merchant. With Fanny Hancock (age 23), Eliza Hancock (age 21) and Sarah (age 20). Three servants. [3]

1842 The company was still in the financial doldrums and Thomas’ old business was split from the company and sold to his nephew, James Lyne Hancock, whilst Thomas remained a director of Charles Macintosh and Co.

1843 Patent. He discovered that when rubber was immersed in molten sulphur a change took place, yielding ‘vulcanized’ rubber, which was capable of resisting extremes of heat and cold, and was very durable

1851 Living at 4 Green Lanes, Stoke Newington (age 64 born Marlborough), Caoutchouc Manufacturer, Unmarried. With nieces and nephews Frances (age 32 born Westminster), Harriett (age 28 born Islington), Catherine (age 25 born Fulham), Mary A. (age 24 born Fulham), Thomas (age 23 born Fulham) and Francis W. (age 8 born Knightsbridge). Two servants. [4]

1861 Living at Woodberry Vale, Stoke Newington (age 74 born Marlborough), Retired manufacturer. With nieces Maria (age 42 born St. James, Mddx) and Fanny (age 42 born St. James, Mddx). Four servants. [5]

1865 March 26th. Died at Marlborough Cottage, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington

1851 April 1st. Buried in Kensal Green Cemetery

1925 Charles Macintosh and Co was taken over by Dunlop Rubber Co.

From Wikipedia

Thomas Hancock (8 May 1786 - 26 March 1865), elder brother of inventor Walter Hancock, was an English inventor who founded the British rubber industry. He invented the masticator, a machine that shredded rubber scraps and which allowed rubber to be recycled after being formed into blocks or sheets.

Hancock was born in 1786 in Marlborough, Wiltshire, and little is known about his early life. His father was a cabinet maker and it is possible that Thomas Hancock was trained in the same trade: in 1815 he is recorded as being in partnership with his brother, Walter, in London, as a coach builder.

Hancock's interest in rubber seems to have sprung from a desire to make waterproof fabrics to protect the passengers on his coaches. By 1819 he had begun to experiment with making rubber solutions. In 1820 he patented fastenings for gloves, suspenders, shoes and stockings; in the process of creating these early elastic fabrics, Hancock found himself wasting large amounts of rubber. He invented a machine to shred the waste rubber, his "Pickling machine" (or "masticator" as it is now known). He called it by the deceptive name of "Pickling" because he initially chose not to patent it, instead preferring to rely on secrecy.

In 1820, Hancock rented a factory in Goswell Road, London, where he worked raw rubber with the machines he had invented. His machines produced a warm mass of homogeneous rubber that could then be shaped and mixed with other materials, and was more easily dissolved than raw rubber. The prototype of his masticator was operated by one man and could only hold 3 oz (85 g); it was a wooden machine with a hollow cylinder studded with metal "teeth", with an inner studded core that was hand-cranked. By 1821 he had produced a two-man machine that held 1 lb (0.45 kg), and by 1841, he had created a machine that could process up to 200 lb (91 kg) of rubber at a time.

Hancock experimented with rubber solutions and in 1825 patented a process of making artificial leather using rubber solution and a variety of fibres. His choice of solvents, coal oil and turpentine, was probably influenced by Charles Macintosh’s 1823 patent. In the same year he began working with Macintosh to manufacture his "double textured" fabric.

By 1830 it was obvious to everyone concerned that Hancock’s leather solution, prepared with his masticated rubber, was better than Macintosh's. The two began more fully cooperating, constructing, for example, an automatic spreading machine to replace the paint brushes previously used by Macintosh.

In 1834, Hancock’s London factory burned down and Macintosh had already closed his Glasgow factory. The work was moved to Manchester where, in 1838, another fire destroyed that factory. A new factory was soon built and business continued as before, even though Macintosh’s 1823 patent had expired in 1837. It was only in 1837 that Hancock finally patented both his masticator and spreader (UK patent 7,344).

On 21 November 1843, Hancock took out a patent for the vulcanisation of rubber using sulphur, 8 weeks before Charles Goodyear in the US (30 January 1844). He mentioned in his "Personal Narrative" that his friend William Brockendon invented the word vulcanisation from the God Vulcan of Roman mythology. Hancock did not credit himself with discovering the reaction of sulphur with rubber; he instead said that in 1842 Brockendon had showed him some American rubber samples which had been treated with sulphur.

Brockendon later said in an affidavit that he never heard or knew of Hancock analysing the Goodyear samples, a claim Hancock verifies in his "Personal Narrative", where he claimed he had been experimenting with sulphur for many years himself. A number of chemists also swore that even if he had analysed Goodyear’s material, this would not have given him enough information to duplicate the process. Alexander Parkes, inventor of the "cold cure" process (vulcanization of fabrics in a using sulphur chloride in carbon disulphide solution), claimed that both Hancock and Brockendon admitted to him that their experiments on the Goodyear samples had enabled them to understand what he had done.

The firm had large display stands at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris. In 1857 Hancock published the story of his life’s work as "The Origin and Progress of the Caoutchouc or India-Rubber Industry in England". He continued to work until his death in 1865.

HANCOCK, THOMAS (1786–1865)[6]

Founder of the indiarubber trade in England, was second son of James Hancock, a timber merchant and cabinet-maker at Marlborough, Wiltshire, where he was bcrn 8 May 1786. Walter Hancock [q. v.] was a younger brother.

He was educated at a private school in his native town, and after spending his 'earlier days in mechanical pursuits,' as he states in his 'Personal Narrative,' he came to London.

About 1819 his attention was directed to the uses of indiarubber. His first patent, which bears date 29 April 1820, related to the application of indiarubber springs to various articles of wearing apparel. Observing that two freshly-cut surfaces of indiarubber readily adhered by simple pressure, he was led to the invention of the 'masticator,' as it was afterwards called, by the aid of which pieces of indiarubber were worked up into a plastic and homogeneous mass. This machine consists of a roller set with sharp knives or teeth, revolving in a hollow cylinder of slightly larger diameter, into which the material to be operated upon is introduced. The knives, or teeth, tear the indiarubber in every direction, thus producing a constant succession of freshly cut surfaces which adhere together by the effect of the heat evolved during the operation, and by the pressure against the cylinder. By aid of the masticator a substance was obtained capable of being pressed into blocks, or rolled into sheets. With the invention of this process, which was perfected about 1821, the india-rubber trade commenced. Hancock took premises in the Goswell Road (where his successors still carry on business), and commenced manufacturing indiarubber. The masticating process was never patented, but remained a secret in the factory until about 1832, when it was divulged by a workman. Experiments showed that masticated india-rubber was much more easily acted upon by solvents than ordinary rubber, and this discovery brought him into communication with Macintosh, the well-known manufacturer of waterproof garments, who carried on business at Manchester. Eventually Hancock became a partner in the firm of Charles Macintosh & Co., though he still carried on his own business in London.

Indiarubber articles still possessed serious defects due to the material itself; they became sticky, and at low temperatures lost their elasticity. In 1842 specimens of 'cured' indiarubber, prepared in America by Charles Goodyear according to a secret process, were exhibited in this country. Hancock investigated the matter, and discovered that when indiarubber was exposed to the action of sulphur at a certain temperature a change took place. He thus obtained 'vulcanised' india-rubber, which is capable of resisting extremes of heat and cold, and is very durable. This discovery was patented 21 Nov. 1843. Although Hancock was not the inventor of vulcanising in the strictest sense of the word, he first showed that sulphur alone is sufficient to effect the change, whereas Goodyear employed other substances in addition. Hancock also discovered that if the vulcanising process is continued, and a higher temperature employed, a horny substance, now called vulcanite or ebonite, is produced. This is said to have been the result of an accident, a number of samples having been left in the oven and forgotten. The manufacture of 'hard' indiarubber is also included in Hancock's patent.

Hancock took out sixteen patents in all relating to indiarubber between 1820 and 1847. He displayed remarkable ingenuity in suggesting uses for what was practically a new material, and the specifications of his patents cover the entire field of indiarubber manufactures, though many of his ideas were not carried out at the time. His brothers Charles, John, Walter, and William were also associated with him, and were concerned in patents for developing various branches of the trade. Hancock died 26 March 1865, at Stoke Newington, where he had lived for fifty years.

He published at London in 1857 'Personal Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the Caoutchouc or Indiarubber Manufacture in England.'

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Biography of Thomas Hancock, ODNB
  2. Chemicals from Coal, by C A Townsend
  3. 1841 Census
  4. 1851 Census
  5. 1861 Census
  6. Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 24
  • [1] DNB
  • Wikipedia