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 132,806 pages of information and 210,387 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Daniel Adamson

From Graces Guide

Jump to: navigation, search
1894.

Daniel Adamson (1820–1890) of Daniel Adamson and Co.

A notable English engineer who became a successful manufacturer of boilers and was the driving force behind the inception of the Manchester Ship Canal project during the 1880s.

1820 April 30th. Adamson was born in Shildon, County Durham, the 13th of 15 children born to the landlord of a public house, 'The Grey Horse' (today, 'The Surtees Arms') - Dan Adamson

At 13, after attending a Quaker school in Old Shildon, Adamson was apprenticed to Timothy Hackworth, an engineer for the Stockton and Darlington Railway, with whom he later (1841) served as a draughtsman and engineer.

In 1850, Adamson became manager of Heaton Foundry in Stockport, near Manchester. A year later, at Newton Moor near Dukinfield, he established an iron works, Daniel Adamson and Co, specialising in engine and boiler making. Initially, he followed designs created by Hackworth, but he improved the design and manufacturing process (pioneering the use of steel and taking out 19 patents in the process) over the next 36 years, exporting 'Manchester Boilers' worldwide, and building a business, the Newton Moor Iron Works, which by 1890 employed some 600 people.

1859 of Newton Moor Iron Works, Hyde.[1]

Adamson’s other business interests, included a mill building company in Hyde, the Newton Moor Spinning Co, the Yorkshire Steel and Iron Works at Penistone, the Northern Lincolnshire Iron Co at Frodingham, and large share-holdings in iron works in Cumberland and South Wales.

1863 Patent on improvements in machinery or apparatus employed in the manufacture steel and iron."[2]

However, Adamson's most significant contribution was to become champion of the Manchester Ship Canal. He arranged a meeting at his home ('The Towers', in Didsbury) on 27 June 1882, inviting representatives of several Lancashire towns, Manchester businessmen (Adamson was a director of Manchester's Chamber of Commerce), local politicians and civil engineers, including the canal’s eventual designer Edward Leader Williams. At this meeting that he was elected chairman of the provisional committee promoting the Ship Canal, and was at forefront in pushing the scheme through Parliament in the face of intense opposition from railway companies and port interests in Liverpool. The requisite Act of Parliament enabling the canal was finally passed on 6 August 1885, after which Adamson became the first chairman of the board of directors of the Manchester Ship Canal Company – a post he held until February 1887. As a result of his resignation, the first sod was cut by his successor, Lord Egerton of Tatton, the following November.

Adamson remained a strong supporter of the project but did not live to see it completed (in 1894).

1890 January 13th. Died at home in Didsbury.

Daniel Adamson and Co remained a family business until it was sold in 1964 to Acrow (Engineers).


1890 Obituary [3]

DANIEL ADAMSON was born at Shildon, in the county of Durham, on 30th April 1820; and could just remember being present at the opening in 1825 of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first commercial railway in the world.

Leaving school in 1833 on his thirteenth birthday, he became four days later a pupil of Timothy Hackworth, of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the earliest railway engineer and locomotive superintendent in England or the world under whose pupilage he remained till 1841.

He afterwards served under Mr. Hackworth's successor, Mr. William Bouch, as draughtsman and superintendent of stationary engines at the Shildon Engine Works, until in 1847 he became general manager of the works at the age of twenty-seven.

This position he resigned in 1849, in order to become general manager of the Heaton Foundry, Stockport, where he remained for the next two years.

In 1851 he commenced business on his own account as a manufacturing engineer, ironfounder, and boiler-maker, at Newton Wood and Newton Moor Iron Works, near Manchester, where he carried on an increasing business for twenty-one years, until the works became too small.

In 1872 he erected new and more commodious engineering works at Hyde Junction, Dukinfield, near Manchester, which subsequently were greatly enlarged, and were fitted with the most modern machinery; they now cover nearly four acres, and employ over six hundred men, whose wages amount to £40,000 per annum.

His engineering career was distinguished by his introduction of several valuable inventions. He it was who in 1852 first introduced the flange-seam flues for enabling Cornish and Lancashire boilers to carry higher steam-pressure; and at the time when the results were published of Sir William Fairbairn's investigations with regard to the strength of boiler flues to resist collapse, he had already made as many as 180 boilers with these sectional flues, all of which were carrying the highest steam-pressure of any till then manufactured. This flange-seam, known by his name, is now generally used by the best boiler-makers, not only throughout England but in Europe and America.

He was perhaps best known as the pioneer in introducing steel for engineering purposes in 1857 and 1858, more particularly in the construction of locomotive and other boilers; and, although for many years he was alone in using it, he persevered in its employment, until now the application of steel has completely superseded that of iron in his own works, and has generally come more and more into favour. Up to the present time his firm has made considerably over 3,000 steel boilers for working at pressures varying from 50 to 250 lbs. per square inch; and it is now much more practicable to carry a pressure of 100 lbs. per square inch in large boilers than it was in his early manhood to carry only 10 lbs. In 1858 he also applied hydraulic power to lifting jacks and to the riveting of metallic structures.

During 1861 and 1862 he designed a triple-expansion compound engine. In connection with compound engines he also introduced improvements in the superheating of the steam in its passage between the cylinders.

In 1873 he built and worked a quadruple-expansion compound engine for economising steam and saving fuel. To these practical efforts in the direction of higher steam-pressure and greater expansion may probably be ascribed much of the success attending the adoption of the triple-expansion marine engine, which is now such a marked feature of marine engineering.

In the manufacture of steam boilers he introduced in 1862 the practice of drilling instead of punching the rivet holes, and of drilling them through the two plates together, after the plates had been bent into position. This method of drilling the holes is now universally demanded in the practice of boiler-making.

Besides manufacturing all classes of heavy machinery, as well as general millwright's work and hydraulic machinery, he also constructed several , special American inventions, including engines fitted with the Wheelock automatic expansion gear; and his engine with this gear gained the gold medal at the Inventions Exhibition in London in 1885.

In 1878 he introduced a gas producer in conjunction with boiler furnaces; also machinery for testing the tensile strength of metals, and at his works are testing machines of from 30 to 2,000 tons power, for testing the breaking strength of bridge iron, and for other purposes; in 1881 appliances for the consolidation and working of metals; in 1887 improvements in the flues and shells of boilers, and in the machinery employed for making them; and a labour-saving arrangement by which as many as twelve tools can be worked simultaneously on a 60-ton bed. At the Edinburgh International Exhibition in 1886 his horizontal engine, which had been used for driving the electric-lighting machinery, was awarded the gold medal. The "Charter" gas engine was also manufactured by him.

About 1861 he because largely interested in cotton spinning, and was chairman of the Newton Moor Cotton Spinning Company from its formation in 1862, their two mills containing 107,000 spindles.

In 1863-4 he erected, as engineer and part owner, the Yorkshire Steel and Iron Works at Penistone, the first works in this country to depend entirely on the manufacture of Bessemer steel on a largo scale; he supplied the whole works with engine and boiler power and complete Bessemer steel plant. Shortly afterwards these works were sold at a considerable profit to Messrs. Charles Cammell and Co., of Sheffield.

In 1864-5 he erected blast-furnaces for himself at Frodingham, which were subsequently formed into the North Lincolnshire Iron Company, with himself as chairman. These are among the largest of the blast-furnaces erected in that district, and have been attended with a high measure of prosperity.

In 1863 he made improvements in converters for Bessemer steel, and in blast engines for blowing Bessemer vessels; these engines he fitted with the piston air-valves and solid air-pistons, having metallic surfaces without packing-rings, which have since been almost universally adopted. He made and supplied blast-furnace and Bessemer blowing engines, together with the requisite plant, for many of the largest iron and steel works in this country and abroad; and at the present time his own works consume about 80 tons of steel per week for engineering purposes.

It was more particularly as a manufacturer of steel boilers that he made his mark. This he did in three different ways, each of them sufficiently notable, namely:— firstly, by the early adoption of Bessemer and open-hearth steel, instead of iron; secondly, by recognising the importance of using high-pressure steam generally, and thereby economising fuel; and thirdly, by drilling the rivet holes, instead of punching them as bad previously been the custom.

He was a Member of this Institution from 1859, a Member of Council from 1876, and a Vice-President from 1885. He was a regular attendant at the meetings, and took the keenest interest in the Proceedings.

He was also a Member of the Iron and Steel Institute from its formation, and was elected President in 1887, presiding over the London meeting for the first time in May of that year. At the May meeting held in London in 1888, the gold medal of the Institute was presented to him for his investigations into the properties of iron and steel, and as the pioneer in the use of steel for steam boilers and for general engineering purposes. The papers which he read before the Institute included one in 1875 on high- pressure steam generally, and its application to quadruple engines; another at the Paris meeting in 1878, on the mechanical and other properties of iron and mild steel; and his last, read while he was President in 1888, on a horizontal compound-lever testing machine of 15,000 powers, with further recording lever of 150,000 powers.

He was also a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. As President of the North Staffordshire Institute of Mechanical and Mining Engineers, he read to that body a paper on some of the properties of puddled iron, ingot iron, and steel, for constructive purposes. He was a Member of the Cleveland Institution of Engineers, the British Iron Trades Association, the Railway and Canal Traders' Association, the Geological Society of London, the Society of Arts, the Manchester Geographical Society, the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, the Manchester Geological Society, the Duldnfield Library and Astley Institute, and others.

He was also a director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, the chief promoter and first chairman of the Manchester Ship Canal, and a magistrate for the county of Chester and the city of Manchester.

He possessed a fuller knowledge of the science and practice of metallurgy than most men of his time. Only last summer he was invited by the Italian government to report upon the capabilities of the iron mines of the island of Elba, and left England for that purpose in September 1889, calling at Paris, Leghorn, Florence, and Rome. The work itself occupied him about six weeks.

He is probably one of the most notable examples which this country has produced of what can be done by indomitable perseverance and tenacity of purpose, combined with a ready judgment. His death took place at his residence, The Towers, Didsbury, near Manchester, on 13th January 1890, in the seventieth year of his age, after an illness of several weeks consequent upon a disorder of the stomach, which had developed itself rapidly after his return from Italy at the end of October 1889.


1890 Obituary [4]

DANIEL ADAMSON was born at Shildon, Durham, in 1818, and in 1835 became a pupil of Timothy Hackworth - the first man who ever performed the functions of locomotive superintendent to a railway - at the Shildon Works of the Stockton and Darlington Company. Mr. Adamson’s pupilage ended in 1841, and he then became a draughtsman in the Shildon works.

In 1847 he was made Superintendent of stationary engines, and two years later became Manager under William Bouch, Hackworth‘s successor.

In 1850 Mr. Adamson became General Manager of the Heaton Foundry, and in 1851 he commenced business on his own account at Newton Wood and Newton Moor Iron Works, near Manchester. Here for twenty years he carried on an extensive business as a manufacturing engineer and boiler-maker until his operations outgrew the capacity of the works.

In 1872 he erected, from his own designs, new and more commodious works at Hyde Junction, Dukinfield. These were afterwards enlarged, and exemplified to the fullest degree the modern essentials of an engineering establishment.

Mr. Adamson introduced many improvements in connection with his business, and was in the front rank for activity and enterprise.

In 1852 he patented the flange-seam for high-pressure boiler flues, which is now in general use among boiler-makers, and is known as the 'Adamson flange-seam.' He also patented improvements in the super-heating of steam between cylinders of compound engines, &c.

In 1857 and 1858 he first applied steel in the construction of steam-boilers, and subsequently made more than two thousand eight hundred steel boilers for working at pressures varying from 50 lbs. to 250 lbs. per square inch.

In 1858 he patented hydraulic lifting-jacks and improvements in the application of hydraulic power for riveting metallic structures. During 1861 and 1862 he built a triple-expansion compound-engine, and in 1873 quadruple-expansion compound-engines under a further patent for reducing and economising steam.

In 1862 he commenced the making of steam-boilers by drilling the rivet-holes through the two plates together after the plates are put into position. This method of drilling holes is now generally demanded in the practice of boiler manufacture.

In 1863 and 1864 he erected the Yorkshire Steelworks at Penistone, and was part owner of the first works in this country that depended entirely on the making of steel on a large scale solely by Bessemer plant. But undoubtedly his principal professional achievement was his share in the introduction of steel as a material for steam-boilers, and the story of his connection with the great advance is best told in Bessemer’s own words.

At the annual meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute on the 9th of May, 1888, while he held the office of President, Sir Henry Bessemer, at the request of the Council, presented to Mr. Adamson the Bessemer gold medal. Without in any way making an invidious comparison, Sir Henry said the unanimous decision of the Council to award the medal to their President met with his most cordial and entire approval. He recounted how, twenty-eight years ago, Mr. Adamson had induced John Platt, of Oldham, to let him use Bessemer steel for six boilers under order, and how those boilers were still at work at the time Sir Henry was speaking.

In 1863 Mr. Adamson patented improvements in converters for Bessemer steel. In 1863 and 1864 he introduced improved blast-engines for Bessemer blows.

Up to the time of his death Mr. Adamson manufactured all classes of heavy machinery as well as general millwright work and hydraulic machinery, and was sole manufacturer for several American specialities, notably of engines fitted with the Wheelock automatic expansion gear.

Mr. Adamson had in recent years patented other inventions, such as compressing machinery, boiler-furnace, and testing machinery, and at his works were manufactured testing machines of from 30 to 2,000 tons power for testing the breaking strength of bridge members and other purposes.

Among his recent inventions was a labour saving arrangement by which as many as twelve tools could be worked simultaneously on a 60-ton lathe-bed. Mr. Adamson also took an interest in the fight between guns and armour-plates, and recently patented a new breech-loading gun, its principal characteristic being a new and effective arrangement of the breech.

He also from time to time wrote Papers on subjects of interest to the mechanical world, among which may be mentioned one on 'Quadruple Expansion Engines,' read before the Iron and Steel Institute in Manchester, at its meeting in 1876. At the meeting. in Paris in 1878 he read a Paper on the 'Mechanical and other Properties of Iron and Mild Steel.'

Outside his special vocation Mr. Adamson employed his restless energy in various directions open to a wealthy manufacturer. AS a metallurgist he was frequently consulted by persons interested in new speculations. In addition to being at the head of the. boiler and engineering works at Dukinfield, he was Chairman of the North Lincolnshire Iron Co, Limited, and of the Newton Moor Spinning Co, Limited, which run two large mills with one hundred and seven thousand spindles.

In official life Mr. Adamson was a prominent figure. He was on the Commission of the Peace for the county of Chester, and was. also a Magistrate for the city of Manchester. He was a Director of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, in whose important functions he took great interest; and he was the President of the Iron and Steel Institute for 1888 and 1889, being one of the original members of that body. At one time he occupied the Presidency of the North Staffordshire Institute of Mining Engineers.

He was a member of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, a Fellow of the Geological Society, and of various other scientific societies. But that by which Mr. Adamson will be best remembered is his connection with the Manchester Ship Canal, of which he was the virtual founder.

On the 27th of June, 1882, Mr. Adamson convened a meeting at his residence, The Towers, Didsbury, the object of which was to consider the practicability of constructing a waterway, which should afford direct communication between Manchester and the great ports throughout the world to which her. commodities are consigned. As a result of the meeting, a provisional committee was appointed, with Mr. Adamson as Chairman, to inquire into the whole bearings of the subject, and report upon the practicability of the project. A preliminary fund to cover the cost of detailed surveys was liberally subscribed to, and the project was received by the public with the greatest enthusiasm.

The Provisional Committee, after receiving the reports of the engineers, who had been appointed to make the surveys, decided to apply to Parliament for powers to carry out the undertaking; and a Parliamentary guarantee fund was subscribed to cover the expenses of the application. Scores of meetings were held throughout the city and district, at which the vigorous eloquence of Mr. Adamson was heard as he expounded the scheme with a force and energy born of confidence in its wisdom and feasibility. Zeal for the project was infectious, especially amongst the working classes, and in the first stage of the movement the Ship Canal was victorious all along the line.

To describe the part which Mr. Adamson played in the early stages of the Ship Canal undertaking would be to recount the history of that enterprise,’ which is already well known. When the Ship Canal Bill received the Royal assent on the 6th of August, 1885, Mr. Adamson occupied the post of Chairman of the Directors, and in that capacity he did much useful work.

Two years later, however, financial difficulties arose which caused Mr. Adamson to retire from that position. In the initial stages of a great commercial enterprise something more than enthusiasm and engineering skill is necessary, and the failure of the attempt to float the Ship Canal Company naturally led to much discouragement. The contretemps induced many leading men to make a critical analysis of the situation. The conclusion was soon arrived at that it would be useless to make a fresh appeal to the investing public until steps had been taken to place the facts and financial prospects of the Ship Canal beyond reasonable doubt. For that purpose it was decided to invite a number of prominent citizens unconnected with the scheme to form a Consultative Committee, to investigate the facts on which the prospects of the company were founded, and to report its conclusions to the shareholders.

This was undoubtedly a critical period in the history of the canal, and great prudence and foresight were necessary. The Consultative Committee prepared a report, which was in every way favourable, but appended to it a recommendation that the Board should be reconstructed before any further attempt was made to float the company.

This view was emphasized in the annual report, and several of the Directors resigned in order to give an opportunity for the policy of reconstruction to be entered upon. Mr. Adamson did not coincide with the report, and when it was subsequently adopted by a large majority of the shareholders at the third annual meeting, on February lst, 1887, he retired from the Board.

But although no longer officially connected with the enterprise he continued to take the greatest interest in it, and no one rejoiced more than he when the success of the later arrangements, mainly through Messrs. Rothschild, for raising the capital, enabled the works to be started.

As may be gathered from the foregoing, Mr. Adamson was a shrewd, hard-headed north-countryman. He was of the stuff of which successful colonists are made, and one of those men who seem specially created to refute those pessimists whose talk is of the decadence of England.

Mr. Adamson was elected a Member of the Institution on the 29th of May, 1877. He died on the 13th of January, 1890.


1890 Obituary [5]



1890 Obituary [6]

DANIEL ADAMSON, Past-President of the Iron and Steel Institute, was born at Shildon, near Darlington, in 1818, and died at his residence, The Towers, Didsbury, near Manchester, on the 13th January 1890. He was apprenticed under the late Timothy Hackworth at the Shildon works of the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company, where he remained until 1841. This pupilage gave Mr. Adamson exceptional chances and experience. At that time the Shildon works, next to the works of Messrs. Stephenson, at Newcastle-on-Tyne, were regarded as the nursery of the locomotive engine, and Timothy Hackworth, whose connection with some of the most notable improvements in the locomotive is very well known, was justly regarded as one of the most competent railway authorities of his time. After leaving the "shops," Mr. Adamson acted for a time as managing draughtsman under the late Mr. William Bouch, and a little later he acted as superintending engineer of the Stockton and Darlington Works. From 1847 till 1849 he was the general manager of the Shildon Engine Works, an appointment which was conferred on him at the comparatively early age of twenty-nine. No higher compliment could have been paid to his aptitude and capacity by those who had the best reason to know the extent and the value of both.

Mr. Adamson, however, was not content to remain long in a subordinate capacity, or in a sphere where there appeared to be set limits to his acquisition of knowledge and experience. In 1850, accordingly, he resigned his appointment at Shildon to become the general manager of the Heaton Foundry, near Manchester. In this capacity he turned out a considerable amount of useful work, including the construction of a cotton-mill at Stockport, of which he prepared the plans in 1850-51. In the latter year he left Heaton to commence business on his own account at Newton Wood. At the Newton Moor Ironworks, near Manchester, he carried on an extensive business for twenty-one years as engineer, ironfounder, boiler-maker, &c., until the works became too small. In 1872 he erected new and more commodious engineering works at Hyde Junction, Dukinfield, near Manchester. These were afterwards enlarged, and they exemplified in the fullest degree all the modern essentials of a great engineering establishment. The works cover nearly four acres, and usually employ over 600 men, whose wages are stated to amount to about £40,000 per annum.

Mr. Adamson distinguished himself as the patentee of a series of inventions, extending over a period of thirty years. In 1852 he patented the flange seam for high-pressure boiler flues, which is used throughout the trade by the best boiler-makers, and is known as the "Adamson flange seam." He also patented improvements in the super-heating of steam between the cylinders of compound engines, &c. In 1857 and 1858 he applied steel to the construction of locomotive boilers, and subsequently made over 2800 steel boilers for working at pressures varying from 50 lbs. to 250 lbs. per square inch. In 1858 he also patented hydraulic lifting-jacks, and the application of hydraulic power for riveting metallic structures. During 1861 and 1862 he built a triple-cylinder compound engine under a patent of his own, and in 1873 quadruple-action compound engines were made by him, under a further patent for reducing and economising steam. In 1862 he patented and commenced the making of steam boilers by drilling the rivet-holes through the two plates together after the plates are put into position. This method of drilling holes is now generally applied in the practice of boiler manufacture.

In 1863 and 1864 Mr. Adamson erected the Yorkshire Steelworks at Penistone, and became part owner of the first works built in this country to depend entirely on the making of steel on a large scale solely by Bessemer plant. In 1863 he set himself to try to improve what he regarded as defects in steel-making plant. He patented improvements in converters for Bessemer steel, and in 1863 and 1864 he introduced improved blast engines for blowing Bessemer vessels with pistons with metallic surfaces.

Up to the time of his death, Mr. Adamson manufactured all classes of heavy machinery as well as general millwright work and hydraulic machinery, and was the sole manufacturer of several American specialties, notably of engines fitted with the Wheelock automatic expansion gear, which obtained a high prize in all competitions. The Wheelock engine, exhibited by him at the Inventions Exhibition in 1885, gained the gold medal. Mr. Adamson had in recent years patented other inventions, such as compressing machinery and boiler furnace and testing machinery. Testing machines were fitted up at Isis works from 30 to 2000 tons power, for estimating the breaking strength of bridge iron and for other purposes. At the Edinburgh International Exhibition, a gold medal was awarded to his firm for their horizontal engine, which had been used in connection with electric lighting machinery. Among Mr. Adamson's recent inventions may be named a labour-saving arrangement by which it is said that as many as twelve tools can be worked simultaneously on a 60-ton bed. Mr. Adamson also took an interest in the fight between guns and ships, and had recently patented a new breech-loading gun, the principal characteristic of which was a new and effective arrangement of the breech.

Having sold the Penistone works to Messrs. Charles Cammell and Co., of Sheffield, who carried them on until a year or two ago, Mr. Adamson cast his eyes in the direction of another fresh field - that of Lincolnshire, which was just then coming into prominence as an ironmaking centre. Here he was one of a company that erected, and have for more than twenty years successfully carried on, the North Lincolnshire Ironworks, Mr. Adamson having for the greater part of that time acted as chairman. A number of other blast furnaces have since then been erected in this district, but those of the North Lincolnshire Company have been all along the largest, and probably no other works in that district have been attended with so high a measure of prosperity. Excepting his own works at Manchester, these were the only works of their kind in which Mr. Adamson took a leading interest, although he has been a shareholder in ironworks in South Wales and Cumberland. It was, however, as a manufacturer of iron and steel boilers that Mr. Adamson chiefly made his mark. He did this in three different ways, each of them notable, viz.:— (1.) By the early adoption of Bessemer and open-hearth steel instead of iron; (2.) by the recognition of the importance of using high-pressure steam generally, and thereby economising fuel; and (3.) by the advocacy of drilling instead of punching rivet holes already referred to.

Dr. Dalton, another Manchester man, ascertained in 1801 that atmospheric air and other gases doubled their volume by increasing their temperature 480 degrees Fahr. This law, which he had mastered at an early stage of his career as a boiler-maker, led Mr. Adamson to consider whether it would be possible to introduce in boiler construction an intermediary appliance which would not only prevent condensation but enable Dalton's law to be taken advantage of. He thereupon introduced a system of quadruple engines, provided with an intermediate receiver and super-heater, with a blow-off pressure of 110 lbs. per square inch, which at that time, about 1873, was regarded as a perfectly novel and even doubtful departure in engineering. Mr. Adamson's first engine on this principle was fitted up in a Manchester cotton mill with over 48,000 spindles, in which he succeeded in reducing the consumption of fuel to 117 lb. per horse-power per hour, working the engine, of course, at a much higher pressure than was then usual or regarded as safe. The compound engine had, of course, been introduced many years previously by Mr. John Elder, of Glasgow, and others, but to Mr. Adamson is due the credit of having foreseen that triple and quadruple expansion would be adopted in course of time, and so far back as 1875, in a paper which he read at Manchester before the Iron and Steel Institute, he expressed his belief that 150 lbs. steam pressure might be used "with less risk than the present system admits of carrying 50 lbs. per square inch on stationary boilers." He stated at the same time that the manufacturer and user of steam ought to be able - by using multiple engines, with super-heating in the lower range of pressures between the cylinders, and nursing the heat of the steam as it passed on from cylinder to cylinder with every possible care - to reduce his consumption of coal to 1 lb., or at the most 1 lb., per horsepower per hour. His anticipations have since then been realised.

At one time there was a considerable controversy among engineers as to whether the punching or the drilling of boilers was the proper mode of treatment in providing the rivet holes. Mr. Adamson made up his mind after a long and careful series of experiments, and arrayed himself on the side of those who stood for drilling with great effect. He described punching as a barbarous mode of treatment, which destroyed the fibre of the material, and led to accidents, and in his own works he never would allow any piece of metal to be subjected to treatment of this kind. As a boiler-maker and "manufacturing engineer," as he was accustomed to call himself, Mr. Adamson enjoyed a reputation second to none for the solidity and quality of his work and his extreme care in turning it out satisfactorily. He had every plate subjected at his own works to the most careful tests, both chemical and mechanical. This fact, of course, enabled him to accumulate a great deal of experience as to the qualities of steel and iron which could be obtained in no other way, and the earlier fruits of this experience were communicated to the Iron and Steel Institute in 1878, in a paper read at Paris "On the Mechanical and other Properties of Iron and Mild Steel." This paper was of a very elaborate and thorough character, and formulated certain laws and principles in reference to the qualities and manipulation of steel that have been of much subsequent service to the trade. It was Mr. Adamson's intention to have written another paper, bringing the subject more fully up to date, and he had accumulated a large mass of materials with that end in view, which may yet be published.

The idea of a waterway for ocean-going vessels, affording Manchester access to the sea, had engaged the attention of the inhabitants of Manchester from time to time during the last sixty years - in 1825, 1841, and 1877 - but it was not until Mr. Daniel Adamson, who was in full sympathy with, the objects of those who had been ventilating the subject in the press, organised a committee, with their assistance, that the movement had its practical inception. Mr. Adamson was so satisfied with the case put before him that he resolved to make the Ship Canal project the main object of his energy. Accordingly, on June 8, 1882, he sent out an invitation to a large number of influential municipal representatives of the most important manufacturing towns of Lancashire, Cheshire, and the West Riding of Yorkshire, and to some of the most influential merchants and manufacturers in these districts, to a meeting to be held on June 27 at his house. The meeting was of a thoroughly representative character, and was attended by a large number of the wealthiest and shrewdest men of Manchester, and the area of which it is the commercial capital. Not only were manufactures and commerce represented by sixty to seventy leading merchants and manufacturers, but the great interest felt in the project was further evidenced by the presence of a number of municipal dignitaries, amongst whom were eleven mayors of the towns most immediately interested. The result of the meeting was the appointment of a Provisional Committee, with Mr. Adamson as chairman, and the commencement of a guarantee fund to cover preliminary expenses. Of two plans, submitted, respectively, by Mr. E. L. Williams and Mr. Hamilton Fulton, the latter, which was "to straighten, deepen, and widen the Irwell and Mersey rivers between Trafford Bridge, Salford, and Liverpool, so as to afford a depth at low-water spring tides of 22 feet," was abandoned, and that of the former engineer was adopted, which was "to construct the navigation, with a series of large locks, capable of passing ocean-going vessels as well as smaller ones, and so as to maintain the water at nearly its present height at the docks at Manchester." The prolonged Parliamentary conflict which ensued was one of the most arduous and protracted in the annals of private Bill legislation. The inquiries of the Select Committees appointed to investigate into the merits of the project during three sessions of Parliament extended over a period of 175 days. The number of the examinations-in-chief and cross-examinations of witnesses exceeded 1000, and their exhaustive character is illustrated by the fact that no less than 87,936 questions were proposed and answered, making in all 175,872 interrogatories and replies, the daily average of questions put and answered exceeding 1000. The proceedings resulted in the incorporation of the Manchester Ship Canal Company by the Act 48 and 49 Victoria, cap. 188, which received the Royal assent on the 6th August, 1885.

As to the moral qualities and character of Mr. Adamson, we cannot do better, perhaps, than reproduce the following extract from a leading article that appeared in the Manchester Guardian on the day following his decease:— "Mr. Adamson was emphatically a man of action. He was bent upon doing, and he could conceive of no reasons why the thing he wanted done should not be done out of hand at once. In his own career he had been eminently successful. He had carved out his own fortune, and he had done so largely by the force of an indomitable will. In his private enterprises he had nobody but himself to consult. He had relied upon his own judgment, he had formed his own decisions, and it was seldom necessary for him to consult other minds before carrying them into effect. Moreover, he had to do with iron. This was the staple material of his business. How to manage this and fashion it into skilful mechanisms according to model was the task which engrossed his thoughts from boyhood. The material in question, stubborn, unyielding, utterly impracticable as it seems to inexpert eyes, is malleable by heat and hammer, and can be bent as easily as the fingers of a child. To a man conversant through a long lifetime with operations of this kind, and with nothing else, how easily would the conclusion be wrought into his very nature, that mere force and will directed by one brain and applied by a few attendant hands could accomplish anything. He had a great fund of eloquence, to which the Doric accent of the North added a great charm. His fancy glowed when he discoursed on his professional pursuits, and his wide knowledge furnished him with an abundance of metaphors for illustration which were caught up as they were wanted and dropped the moment they had done their work. He would dwell with something like pathos upon the rottenness of iron under frequent percussion. You could hammer the very soul out of it, till it became almost like tinder. The Ship Canal scheme was not more unconquerable than iron. It only needed setting about with a will and with plenty of heat and hammering, and everything that was toughest in it would give way. It was in this respect that he had to discover the fallibility of his conclusions. The carrying out of the Ship Canal scheme involved above everything else, as a first and last ingredient, the management of men, with whom mere force, whether of will or of passion, availed nothing. The mechanical genius which reigned easily supreme in the workshop was but ill suited to the atmosphere of a committee, and when one will clashed with twenty, numbers necessarily, and, as a matter of justice, considering that each will had a head behind it, carried the day.

"In this way it happened that Mr. Adamson had to take leave of his colleagues and go into retreat, leaving his nursling, now grown almost to adult stature, in their hands. The critical stage in the enterprise was reached, the financiers had to be consulted, their views considered, and even their nerves treated with some delicate regard. A single blunder at this point would have upset everything, and the scheme would fail, in spite of any amount of popular enthusiasm and any number of Parliamentary Bills. The financial stage of the undertaking called for the services of men skilled in finance and endowed with proper sentiments of deference for those with whom it rested to supply the sinews of war. But nothing can ever deprive Mr. Adamson of the honour of having been the originator of the enterprise, and much more than the originator. He drove it into the popular mind. He welded the two things together so that they became inseparable. The Ship Canal was soon a fixed idea. No scepticism and no argument could displace it. He knew the effect of frequent percussion, and the result corresponded to his experience. The success of the scheme with the people of Manchester and of Lancashire in general was something without precedent. Town after town was captured. The municipal wards were roused and organised, the people shouted and the Councils capitulated. Every victory in Parliament was the occasion for a public demonstration. Oxen were killed and roasted, the church bells were set ringing, and triumphal arches raised. Mr. Adamson was the most popular man in Lancashire. His name became a household word, and it was a word which had some magic in it. At his call thousands of persons, to whom investments had hitherto been a thing unknown, began calculating how many shillings would buy a share in the Ship Canal, and how by clubbing together they could help to build it. Mr. Adamson has undoubtedly disclosed to us some secrets in the natural history of enthusiasm.' "

Mr. Adamson became a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1869. Four years later he became a member of Council, and he continued to hold that position until he was made Vice-President in 1885. In 1887, he was elected President of the Institute, in succession to the late Dr. Percy, and on the 9th of May 1888 he was presented with the Bessemer gold medal, as a recognition of the valuable services which he had rendered in the development of the knowledge and use of the properties of Bessemer steel. Mr. Adamson seldom missed a meeting of the Institute during his long connection with it, and while, during the first five or six years of his membership, he was an excellent listener, and hardly ever spoke, he was induced during later years to contribute freely to the discussions the fruits of his long and ripe experience. His colleagues on the Council have suitably acknowledged Mr. Adamson's services to the Institute.


See Also

Loading...

Sources of Information