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John Jacob Holtzapffel (1836-1897)

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John Jacob Holtzapffel (1836-1897) of Holtzapffel and Co

c1837 Born the second son of Charles Holtzapffel

1881 Living at 5 Great Coram Street, Bloomsbury: John J. Holtzapffel (age 44 born London), a Civil Engineer. With his wife Elizabeth (age 46 born London). Two servants. [1]


1898 Obituary [2]

JOHN JACOB HOLTZAPFFEL, the second son of Charles Holtzapffel, who was at one time an Associate Member of Council, was born in June, 1836, and was educated at King’s College School, London, and at Cromwell House, Highgate.

In consequence of the death of his father in 1847, he was called upon, at a very early age, to take part in the business of lathemaking and turning, founded by his grandfather, John Jacob Holtzapffel, in 1794, and in due time he became the head of the firm, which position he occupied at the time of his death. His elder brother, Charles, died at the age of 10, before his father.

During his early years, Mr. Holtzapffel devoted himself to the improvement of the lathe for ornamental turning, and he has left his impress in many useful and interesting additions, amongst which are the rose-cutting frame, a contrivance which to a certain extent superseded the old and costly rose engine; the tangent screw or circular dividing engine for the lathe; and the eounting rachet for the slide rest.

The great task he always had before him was the completion of his father’s projected work, 'Turning and Mechanical Manipulation,' and after many years of careful preparation he commenced what was to him more a labour of love than a desire for profit. The work was originally intended to be completed in six volumes, of which Charles Holtzapffel only lived to publish the first two, but of these it was said that they marked 'an epoch in the literature of mechanics.' The third volume was edited by his widow from his incompleted notes, and published shortly after his death.

In 1879 Mr. J. J. Holtzapffel published the fourth volume on 'Plain Turning.' This met with great success, both with amateur and professional turners, and would alone have established his reputation, but feeling it a duty to his father’s memory, and encouraged by the praise of his readers, he proceeded in 1884 to publish the fifth volume, on 'Ornamental Turning.'

In 1894 he revised and added largely to the third volume, which he considered was not all his father intended, or would have made it. The labour expended on the fourth volume was greatly added to, as, not content with the literary part, he also drew on the wood all the illustrations, amounting to upwards of 750. The fifth volume was one of the earliest examples of book illustration by the autotype process, a method he employed to reproduce the numerous beautiful examples of turned works in ivory and other materials, many of which he designed, and some of which he himself turned.

Mr. Holtzapffel was admitted to the Turners’ Company of London in 1862, and became Master in 1879. The Turners’ Company was one of the first of the City Guilds to take up the subject of technical education, and Mr. Holtzapffel at once saw the importance of the question, identified himself with the movement, and was greatly instrumental in establishing the Turner’s Competition, held annually at the Mansion House, to encourage the art of turning amongst workmen. He was for tmenty-three years one of the judges, and only retired in 1896, when compelled by failing health. He was one of the earliest appointed examiners of the City and Guilds of London Institute, and for several years examiner to the British Horological Institute.

For more than forty years he conducted his business with painstaking care, giving the most minute attention to all matters that came before him, whether connected with lathes or with other machines and instruments. The attainment of the extreme accuracy required by many of these machines was always his pride, as it had been that of his father before him. Although a very busy man, he found time for the acquirement of many accomplishments, and he was a water-colour artist of no mean order.

On his return in 1873 from Egypt, where he had been sent for his health, he brought a large collection of drawings and sketches, which were exhibited. His last appearance in a public capacity was at the Society of Arts in 1895, when he read a Paper on 'Sand Blast Processes,' for which he was awarded the Society’s silver medal.

Mr. Holtzapffel was distinguished by uprightness of character and purpose, and was always ready to extend a helping hand to any one requiring it, whether to younger professional men, or to those in less fortunate circumstances than himself. He had an affectionate and retiring nature, and showed a delicate kindness and large-heartedness in bestowing help which will make his loss felt in many directions. He was a Member of the Society of Arts and a corresponding Member of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia.

He was always of somewhat delicate health, and his death, which was undoubtedly brought about by overwork, and possibly accelerated by fatigue in moving his factory from Long Acre to Regent’s Park, took place at Eastbourne on the 14th October, 1897. Mr. Holtzapffel was elected an Associate on the 3rd February, 1863, and was subsequently placed in the class of Associate Members.


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