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British Industrial History

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Simpson, Maule and Nicholson

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of Walworth, and Hackney Wick, maker of dyestuffs

1853 A Kennington dealer in chemical apparatus, George Simpson, took into partnership a pharmaceutical apprentice from Lancaster, George Maule. They set up a business to sell scientific apparatus and fine chemicals (such as pyrogallol), and were soon joined by one of A. W. Hofmann's pupils, Edward C. Nicholson. The business was located at Locksfields, Walworth, in south London.

Following W. H. Perkin's development of the first aniline dyestuff, mauve, Simpson and Co became one of the earliest British dyestuffs firms, second only to that of Perkin himself. Unable to acquire from Perkin the manufacturing rights for mauve, they began by making the intermediates nitrobenzene and (later) aniline, which they supplied to Perkin and other manufacturers. For this purpose Nicholson invented cast-iron stills with mechanical stirring.

1859 Started to manufacture the newly discovered roseine dye (their trade name for it) (which was also known as fuchsia, magenta or rosaniline). This had been obtained by oxidising impure aniline with tin chloride, and Nicholson improved the process by using arsenic acid as the oxidant, as was almost simultaneously discovered by Medlock.

From 1862 they made 'Nicholson's blue' (sulphonated rosaniline) together with 'Hofmann's violets' (alkylated rosanilines).

1863 Introduced 'aniline yellow' (the oxalate of aminoazobenzene), one of the first of the azo dyes.

By 1865 they were the largest producers of coal tar colours in Great Britain

1865 The firm built its Atlas Dye Works at Hackney Wick.

1866 The firm lost its legal action to defend the patent on Nicholson's process for making magenta dye.

George Simpson retired from the firm.

1868 Nicholson and Maule retired and the firm was sold to Edward Brooke, becoming Brooke, Simpson, and Spiller


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Archives of the British chemical industry, 1750-1914: a handlist. By Peter J. T. Morris and Colin A. Russell. Edited by John Graham Smith. 1988.
  • Biography of Edward Chambers Nicholson, ODNB