SMILES SAMUEL 1812-1904WRITER: Manuscript of Josiah Wedgwood, F.R.S. His personal history

Scope and Content

Manuscript of Josiah Wedgwood, F.R.S. His personal history. Including notesand copies of letters from Wedgwood to John Flaxman and others.

Administrative / Biographical History

Samuel Smiles 1812-1904

Smiles was educated at Haddington Grammar School. In 1826 he was apprenticedto local medical practitioners. He studied at Edinburgh University, 1829-32,and engaged in practice at Haddington, 1832-8. Smiles published PhysicalEducation (1837, new editions 1868 and 1905). He travelled in Holland andfirst visited London in 1838. Smiles was editor of Leeds Times, an advancedradical organ, 1838-42. He was assistant secretary of Leeds and ThirskRailway, 1845, secretary of South Eastern Railway, 1854-66, and president ofthe National Provident Institution, 1866-71. In his leisure time he focusedupon the advocacy of political and social reform on the lines of Manchesterschool, and to biography of industrial leaders or of humble self-taughtstudents.

His publications include:

  • Life of George Stephenson (1857)
  • Lives of the Engineers (3 volumes 1861-2)
  • Self-help (1859)
  • Character (1871)
  • The Huguenots in France (1874)
  • Thrift (1875)
  • Life of George Moore (1878)
  • Duty (1880)
  • Life and Labour (1887)

Josiah Wedgwood 1730-1795

Wedgwood began his career working as a potter at Burslem, Staffordshire,1739, first as a 'thrower' on the wheel, and later as 'modeller'. In 1751 hebecame a partner in a small pot-works near Stoke, and then at Fenton.Wedgwood opened works of his own at Burslem, in 1759, supplying the modelsand mixing the clays for his workmen. He was regarded as having greatlyimproved ordinary wares, Egyptian ware or black basaltes, and variegated ormarbled ware. In 1763 he patented a cream-coloured pottery which became knownas queen's ware. Wedgwood then turned his attention to developing what wasknown as Egyptian Black objects. This included inkstands, salt-cellars,candlesticks, life-sized busts and vases. These black basaltes were sometimesdecorated with encaustic colours, silvering, gilding or bronzing. In 1762Wedgwood met Thomas Bentley in Liverpool. They became friends and in 1768became partners in a company producing ornamental vases. These were verypopular and in 1771 Wedgwood built a new factory called Etruria where heemployed famous artists such as John Flaxman (1755-1826) to design his vases.At Etruria Wedgwood greatly increased the output of his workers byintroducing what later became known as 'division of labour'. This involvedsubdividing all the skills of the potter (mixing, shaping, firing andglazing) and allocating each job to a specialist worker. Wedgwood alsosuccessfully advocated road-improvement and canal-extension in the potteriesdistrict. In 1766 he helpd to start building the Trent & Mersey Canal. Whenthe canal was completed in 1777 Wedgwood was able to bring Cornish clay tohis Etruria factory. Wedgwood also used the canal to transport the finishedgoods by barge to Liverpool or Hull.


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