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British Industrial History

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John Smith (1822-1897)

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Sir John Smith (1822-1897) of the Brass Works, Derby - John Smith and Co

1860 John Smith, Brass Works, Traffic Street, Derby.[1]

1897 December 10th. Died.[2]

1898 Obituary [3]

Sir JOHN SMITH was born at Ashby-de-la-Zouch on 26th August 1822.

In due time he became apprenticed to Mr. Prosser, a brassfounder in Derby; and, shortly after completing his apprenticeship he started there on his own account in St. Mary's Gate, having acquired the brass founding business of Mr. Henry James.

By the excellent quality of his castings he soon secured the confidence of some of the largest engineering establishments in the country, especially those of the Midland Railway, the North Staffordshire Railway, the Gloucester Wagon Works, the Admiralty, and the large marine engineers on the Thames, besides many collieries and ironworks. At first he was engaged chiefly in the production of gun-metal and brass castings; but on removing about 1858 to larger premises in Traffic Street and Siddals Road he began the machining of all kinds of gun-metal and brass work for engines, breweries, and other purposes.

On the adoption at Messrs. Bass and Co.'s brewery, Burton-on-Trent, of what is technically known as the Burton Union system of fermentation, he was entrusted with the manufacture of the whole of the brass valves and fittings; and for Union casks his attemperator was adopted to the extent of many thousands, which enables the brewer to regulate the temperature of the beer during fermentation.

About 1858 also he undertook the sole manufacture of Mr. James Roscoe's lubricator for steam cylinders, which he modified and perfected, and of which upwards of 20,000 have been made.

For a number of years he was also the sole maker of Jacobs' cask-washing machine; and he himself devised a useful racking apparatus for filling casks without the risk of overflowing, which has been largely adopted.

In 1860 he opened a complete branch establishment at Burton-on-Trent, for dealing conveniently and promptly with urgent work for the large breweries of the town.

After having extended his business on a wide basis, he retired in 1886 from the active management, while continuing a busy man in municipal and other public affairs.

During the year of his mayoralty he entertained the Prince and Princess of Wales on their visit to Derby in December 1872 to distribute the prizes at Derby School, of which he was a governor.

In 1887 he received the honour of knighthood.

His death took place at his residence in Derby on 10th December 1897 in the seventy-sixth year of his age, after his health had for some time previously been failing.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1860, and was a frequent attendant at the summer meetings, his last appearance having been at the Birmingham Jubilee Meeting in 1897 (Proceedings, page 280).

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