The trade card in the lower compartment of the advertisement is for Roberts, Jeffery and Co, who manufactured buttons and toys in Snow Hill. A woman gazes at a monument to the firm, while packages and boxes containing silver and jewellery rest by her feet.
The engraving of Thomas Robinson’s trade card describes him as a chemist, medical electrician and seller of patent medicines in Union Street. Asclepius, the Greek God of Medicine stands on the right. In the foreground and on the left of the card, are various items of electrical equipment. Electrical experiments were a major aspect of 18th century investigation and members of the Lunar Society in Birmingham conducted them. Two Italians, Luigi Galvani, and Alessandro Volta in the 1790s, pioneered investigation into electricity’s capacity to stimulate the nervous system. Galvanism, the therapeutic use of electricity, is named after Galvani. Members of the Lunar Society, including Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley conducted electrical investigations in Birmingham. Evidently, by 1808, Thomas Robinson was a practitioner of galvanism in the town. Mary Shelley, in the preface to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, refers to her knowledge of the electrical experiments of Erasmus Darwin as a stimulus behind her book. She writes: “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated; galvanism had given token of such things: perhaps the component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth.” Robinson may not have tried to revive a corpse, but his interest in galvanism reflected a growth in the knowledge and potential of electricity.
The first business card is for Joseph Jefcoate, St Paul’s Square, Birmingham, a manufacturer of military ornaments, gilt chains, lockets, broaches and fancy dress ornaments. The second is for Groves and James Benson of Loveday Street, Birmingham, a jeweller and toy manufacturer. The designs of each card are similar, using classical images and showing examples of manufactured products. Three other similar businesses are also named in the space between the two cards.
Breweries were some of the largest industrial concerns in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Forrest and Sons produced porter, a dark and bitter-tasting beer, brewed from malt which was heated to a high temperature. Warstone Lane was on the edge of Birmingham in 1808, but was soon to be absorbed within the Jewellery Quarter. This engraving of the outside of a brewery shows a complex network of buildings including kilns for drying hops. A cart loaded with barrels of beer departs leaves from the gate of the premises.
An elaborate tree of cards lists several businesses including a veterinary surgeon, a pewterer, a bridle cutter, a picture frame maker, a drawing academy, a pastry cook and two chemical works: Collard and Peyton, an oxygen laboratory on Aston Wharf and William Shorthouse, a manufacturer of sulphuric and nitric acids in New Market Street.
There are eight engraved cards and the bottom of the page lists a seventh business. These include a hardwood, bone and ivory turner, a commercial and French academy, an iron merchant, a copper mill, a lock maker, a wire worker, a boarding and day school, a pocket book maker and music seller and dealer in second-hand books.
This engraving shows two images of file makers and grinders at work. The top compartment shows a workman using a water-powered grinding wheel. Through an open door, Birmingham Canal Navigation Offices and canal wharves can be seen. The second picture shows a seated row of file makers at work and a man manually operating a grinding wheel.
The advertisement lists seventeen merchants and seven factors. Factors were agents who bought and sold goods for others. The most prominent merchant with a separate card is Cauldwell, Burt, Molesworth, Dixon and Co., Baltic Merchants. Their wharf in Broad Street imported timber from Russia and other lands adjoining the Baltic Sea. Pine was likely to be the most important of these products.
The business card advertises Messrs. Wilks and Co. Printers, Booksellers and Stationers, 27 New Street, Birmingham. The elaborate design shows Shakespeare receiving a crown of laurel leaves, surrounded by books and other examples of the writer’s art.
Below a scroll contains a list of nine auctioneers and appraisers and one additional bookseller and stationer.
The first business card advertises “Henry Jacob, Land Surveyor and Valuer, Sutton Coldfield, Estates neatly mapped”. The second is for “Neville and Lowe, Manufacturers of Coach Springs and all kinds of Plated and Brass Furniture, used either for Carriages or Harness”. Neville and Lowe have three addresses: King Street, Holborn London, Great Charles Street, Birmingham and Church Lane, Kevin’s Port, Dublin. This information is surrounded by examples of the products made by the brass makers.
Both cards are engraved by Francis Eginton. The first advertises George Bower, Fine Gilt Toy Manufacturer, 2 New Hall Street, Birmingham. The second is for S T and J Bellamy, Japanners, Freeman Street, Birmingham. This is the more detailed of the two and shows the tools of the japanners trade.
Several businesses are represented by their cards. The most elaborate is engraved by Francis Eginton for James Twist, Silver Plater, 5 New Hall Street, which displays the products of the firm including urns, a teapot and candlesticks.
The other five are simpler designs for a metal plater, porter merchant, toy maker, manufacturer of chandeliers and dry salter (a dealer in gums, dyes and oils).
Birmingham is presented across a series of fields populated by sheep and cows. The most prominent buildings are St Philip’s Church in the centre and the cone of a glass house to the right.
The listed manufacturers, mostly small concerns, include clock-dial makers, japanners, jewellers, gold watch-hand and gilt and steel toy makers and needle makers. Other businesses include an optician and hop merchant. One female manufacturer, Abigail Robinson, Gold Watch Hand, Pendant and Toy Manufacturer of 21 Price Street is prominently named immediately beneath the view of Birmingham.
The engraving identifies nineteen businesses. Most are Birmingham manufacturers: jewellers, iron masters, comb makers, tea urn manufacturers, tin-plate workers and ironmongers. Wastel Cliffe’s Iron and Steel Works, West Bromwich, is prominently named at the foot of the engraving.
A military monument describes the firm as “Manufacturers of Arms to his Majesty’s Ordnance; and all kinds of proved guns and pistols for the European, Asian, African and American markets”. Images of war and hunting dominate the engraving. Warships lie at anchor and a column of troops aim their rifles. On the right two men with their dogs are shooting birds. Flags, guns, swords, a bayonet and canon surround the monument which also contains a picture of a soldier firing at a tiger through a thicket of trees.
Five cards, engraved by J Gregory Hancock, portray different businesses:
Aldridge Boarding School for Young Ladies, Staffordshire run by Mr and Mrs Allport, Staffordshire. The school is shown in its rural setting. Books are strewn in the foreground in front of a globe.
Richard Hemming and Thomas Milward, Needle and Fish-Hook Manufacturer, Redditch, Worcestershire. The name of the business is presented as a classical monument surmounted by two urns.
Thomas Cartwright, Civil Engineer, King’s Norton, Worcestershire. A scroll containing the engineer’s name is set within a landscape representing the nature of his work: a bridge, canal and canal tunnel.
H Wright, White Lion Inn, Fazeley near Tamworth: “Fairs held there….Auctioneering etc.” The engraving contains an image of a lion and the dates of fairs.
Mary Willett’s and Son, Gun Makers, Wednesbury Forge, near Birmingham. The largest and most striking of the five cards shows emblems of war. On the left a forge is tended by a naked cherub, while a second beats his hammer on an anvil. A magazine of military ordnance radiates from a monument describing the details of the company. The owners are “Contractors to his Majesty’s Honourable Board of Ordnance”. A rural scene dominates the background to the right. A church, possibly Wednesbury Parish Church, sits upon a hill. Beneath, a hunter accompanied by his dog aims his gun.
The engraving by Francis Eginton graphically represents this London business. A local figure, Joseph Farror is described as agent for the Birmingham Department. Unlike the static view of the Westminster Life and British Fire Insurance Offices in London, Eginton presents a fire-fighting scene. On the right several men are working the hand pump of a fire engine. To the left, jets of water leap into the inferno of a burning building while three people escape the conflagration. In the foreground a goddess holds a shield emblazoned with an image of the phoenix, a mythical Arabian bird, worshipped in ancient Egypt, which burned itself every 500 years and then rose reborn from the ashes. This icon of the Phoenix Fire Office is echoed by the column in the background, which was built after the Great Fire in 1666 and symbolised London’s rejuvenation from the flames. It was topped by an image of the risen phoenix.
This engraving portrays a London company which is represented in Birmingham by a local agent, J Gottwaltz. Classical motifs dominate, including images of strength: a lion, justice: a pair of scales, an anchor: stability, and wealth: a cornucopia. Outside of the offices a fire engine, driven by two horses, turns a corner.
Edward Thomason’s Manufactory is described in Bisset’s Directory (p 58) as a “Button and Toy-maker in general” who also made “Patent Gun and Pistol Cocks, Patent Carriage-steps etc.” The advert itself notes that the business has available “for Exportation all kinds of Buttons, Watch Chains, Ear rings, Necklaces, Seals, Keys, Faux montres, and all such kinds of Toys.”
The engraving is in two parts. At the top a carriage is displayed on a classical plinth draped with laurel leaves. The wording on the plinth draws attention to “Thomason’s Patent Steps for Carriages”. The vehicle is shown with its door open and steps descending. Within the base of the plinth there is an image of the trigger mechanism of a firearm. On either side the text reads “Also his Patent Cocks for Gun and Pistol Locks”.
The lower section of the advert portrays Thomason’s warehouse in Church Street, Birmingham with a carriage outside. The lion and the unicorn and Prince of Wales mottos: “ Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense” (Evil to him who evil thinks) and “Dieu Et Mon Droit” (God and what is right)” are emblazoned in the foreground.
One of several glass houses in Birmingham. The exterior view of Jones’ and Smart’s Glass House is dominated by the glasshouse cone, a huge brick structure, from which smoke emerges. The cone served as a giant chimney, creating an updraught for the furnace. The interior view of the cone shows the furnace and glassmakers at work. Glass was melted inside clay pots and the glassblowers inserted their irons into the furnace to withdraw the molten glass. A boy on the left, called a teaser, feeds coals into the furnace. Next to him the servitor is blowing glass to create the bowl of a wineglass. On the right, the footmaker roughly forms a lump of molten glass on his iron. Close to the furnace, the senior workman, the gaffer, is seated at the glassmaker’s chair. He shapes small lumps of glass brought to him by the footmaker to create the stem and foot of the wineglass. The gaffer also connected the stem and bowl. The glass had to be kept at a high temperature to enable it to be soft and workable and would therefore have to be reheated. When finished it was taken to an annealing chamber. This was a long tunnel where heat was maintained at different temperatures through which glass was drawn so that it could be cooled very slowly. The glass could then be engraved and cut.
The elegance of New Street is presented in this full-page engraving by Francis Eginton. The focal point is Lloyd’s New Hotel, whose neo-classical lines are emphasised by the geometry of the street’s architecture. The tower and cupola of the Free Grammar School of Edward V1 rises behind. William Hutton who disliked the school building as a whole, nevertheless described the tower as being “in a good taste” (Hutton, An History of Birmingham.., 1781, p 208). The scene is animated by a passing carriage, a couple walking along the street and other figures by the doors and windows of the hotel. A maid observes the scene from a top-floor window.
The top compartment of the engraving shows Dearman’s and Francis’s Eagle Iron Foundry in Broad Street. In front of an image of their works are examples of the firm’s products. They include gear wheels, gates, fire hearths, pots, safes, weights, a gas lamp and a garden roller.
The lower compartment provides a view of William Whitmore’s Manufactory. Bisset’s Directory (p 59), describes him as “Engineer and manufacturer of all Kinds of rolling and flatting Mills, Machines for weighing Barges, Boats, Waggons, etc., Engines, Lathes, Stamps, Presses and Lancashire Watch-tools etc.”. Several examples of Whitemore’s products are shown on the left and in the foreground of the engraving.
Matthew Boulton’s Soho Works was built between 1762 and 1764 to provide a base for his expanding buckle and button business. Rapidly the range of products expanded and Soho became the largest factory in the world. The advertisement lists the “annexed firms” which formed part of his industrial and commercial empire:
- M Boulton and Button Company – buttons in general,
- M Boulton and Smiths – buckles, latchets etc.,
- M Boulton and Plate Company – silver and plated good,
- M Boulton – mint for the Government and coins,
- M Boulton – medals, rolled medals etc.,
- M Boulton – Mercantile trade in Birmingham,
- Boulton, Watt and Sons – iron foundry and steam engines,
- J Watt and Co – letter copying machines
The mint for producing coins is shown to the right of the works. Soho was located in a rural setting when Boulton bought the lease for his Handsworth site in 1761. By the time of Boulton’s death in 1809, Soho, though within Staffordshire, was effectively part of the Birmingham conurbation. The engraving provides a brief glimpse of nearby Birmingham on the hill towards the left of the factory.
Deritend, south of the River Rea, was the original location for Birmingham’s industries. Several major concerns are listed in the advertisement, including Yates and Co, Brass Founders, Biddle, Cope and Biddle, Soap Manufacturers and Whyley, Cope and Biddle, Aqua Fortis Makers. Aquafortis or nitric acid was widely used in the engraving trade. Birmingham was a centre for the making of chemicals.
Twenty-five button-making businesses are named on a scroll. The engraving is particularly interesting in showing machinery for the trade, including a stamp, lathe and presses. Button making had become one of Birmingham’s most important industries by the early 19th century, benefiting from rising demand at home and overseas and increased mechanisation.
The top of the advertisement presents Birmingham across a field with the Warwick Canal in the middle distance. In the background, three churches dominate the urban landscape; from left to right they are St Martin’s, which was originally a medieval foundation, and two 18th century buildings, St Philip’s and St Bartholomew’s. The smoking chimneys of a mill and forge provide evidence of industrial activity. The artist is keen to portray Birmingham in a rural setting; two cows graze in the middle foreground, providing a central focus for the picture.
The rest of the page lists the names, addresses and business activities of twenty-five manufacturers, shopkeepers and professional men.
Fifteen businesses form the subject of the engraving, amongst them a wire worker, two pocket book makers, a coach spring manufacturer, a confectioner and a dealer in new and old clothes.
There are two parts to the advertisement. A scroll in the top half lists ten japanners, the most famous is Henry Clay who established the Birmingham decorative papier-mâché industry in the 18th century. The scroll rests upon an artist’s easel. In the foreground a cherub is painting a head, using a classical bust as a model while another cherub observes his work. They are located in a wooded landscape with, what appears to be a portion of a neo-classical building, probably St Philip’s Church in the background.
The second image is a view of the Park Glass House in Birmingham Heath, formerly belonging to John Hawker, but as from the date of publication (1808), belonging to Biddle and Lloyd. The engraving presents the Glass House in a rural context with trees close to the buildings and a field in the foreground. In the background, Birmingham’s industrial landscape – smoking kilns and a canal – encroaches on the scene. A horse-drawn carriage travels towards the town along the road which passes in front of the Glass House.
A scroll and other devices lists twenty-eight businesses including two surgeons, a barrister, two makers of tooth-pick cases, an awl and needle maker, a stone mason and a maker of plated buckles, bridle bits, nutcrackers and snuffers. The left background presents a view of St Paul’s Chapel. A figure of Mercury, a cornucopia, pocket watches, barrels and packaged goods complete the picture.
A scroll lists twenty-four toy makers and other businesses. The scene in the background is a view of Birmingham with St Philip’s Church on the left and St Martin’s on the right. The Birmingham Canal Navigation Offices in Suffolk Street are shown in front of St Philip’s.
Seven Brass Founders are listed in the upper engraving with a view the Brass House above. The Birmingham Metal Company founded the Brass House in 1781; a consortium of local brass founders set up to free themselves from suppliers who raised the price of copper in 1780. The engraving shows the outside of the building. Next to the works is a canal. Though the water cannot be seen, a raising device is shown which would enable the movement of goods up and down the canal bank. Heating zinc (calamine) and copper together produces brass. The toy industry was a major consumer of brass, for buckles, buttons and badges. Horse and carriage fittings were made from the product as were whistles, taps, and plumbing equipment. By the early 19th century, Birmingham had become the most important centre for brass making in Britain.
Beneath this advert a collection of business cards show the variety of trades in the local economy; most have a direct link with brass making.
Five sword cutlers and manufacturers are named on a ribbon, which issues from the trumpet of an armed and helmeted cherub. Several emblems of war are presented. As well as swords, the devices include spears, axes, shields, flags, a bayonet and a sheath of arrows. The lion and unicorn are presented at rest, but the lion lies down with a ram, indicating the end of war. The patriotic symbolism of the engraving is explicit in the motto on a second ribbon issuing from the cherub’s trumpet: “Pro Rege et Patria” or “For King and Country”.
Henry Clay was an 18th century industrial pioneer who founded the japanning industry in Birmingham. Japanning was a process of varnishing and decorating a papier-mâché product. It created a shiny black surface, which was painted. The engraving representing the business shows a set of classical ruins and other images of Ancient Rome, including a vase with an image of a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. Greek and Roman designs represented the highpoint of good taste. Several manufacturers including Matthew Boulton and Josiah Wedgwood created metalware and ceramic products derived from classical examples.
Linked to this image is an engraving of two adjacent canal locks containing barges, presumably representing the transportation of Henry Clay’s japanware from Birmingham. .
The lower portion of the advertisement lists fifteen Birmingham artists:
J Gregory Hancock
C Richards and Son
Above their names are several examples of the tools of their trade: an easel, an artist’s palette, ink, a magnifying glass, a sketch book, bust and finished portrait. Some of the named artists created the designs from which the engravings in Bisset’s Directory were made. These included Eginton, Hancock and Hollins.
Twenty-one businesses are described in each shield and two other businesses are labelled on banners. A notable feature is that emblems of their activities surmount each shield.
Miller and Baker: a sheaf of wheat.
Ivory and Hard Wood Turner: an elephant.
Scale Beam, Steelyard and Screwstock Manufacturer: a set of scales.
Manufacturer of Copper and Money Scales and Gold Machines: weighing scales.
Barge and Boat Builders: a boat.
Curer of Evils, Cancers and Scorbutic Complaints: a crab.
Clock and Watch Maker: a pocket watch and timer.
Saddlers, Collar and Coach Harness Makers: a horse in harness.
Whip Makers: two whips.
Tortoiseshell Box, Ivory and Horn Comb Makers: a comb.
Anvil, Axletree, Hammer and Vice Maker: an anvil.
Spring Gardens: a potted plant.
Nail Factor: two bound bundles of iron rods ready to be turned into nails.
Plater and Harness Maker: a horse in harness.
Plane Maker: two planes.
Astronomical and Musical Clock Maker: a clock.
Scotch Muslin Warehouse: a thistle.
Manufacturer of Scale Beams, Steelyards etc: an arm holding a hammer.
Auctioneer and Appraiser: a hand holding an auctioneer’s mallet.
Proprietor of the Improved Antiscorbutic Drops, Dr Anderson’s Scotch Pills, Worm Cakes etc: a bottle of medicine. Antiscorbutic medicines treated scurvy.
Clock and Weather-glass Maker: a barometer.
Twenty-four businesses are named on a scroll, including a physician, surgeons, an optician, builders, brush makers, stationers, a hatter and an organist. The scroll is held by an eagle and surrounded by a view of St Philip’s Church and Churchyard and the Blue Coat Charity School.
J Hancock’s engraving is dominated by a scroll, supported by a crane, which provides the names of twenty-one businesses. To the left is a view of canal wharves near the Crescent, a distinguished Georgian terrace. The canal basin presents commercial activity including barges, a canal bridge and a lock, which is partly hidden by the scroll. Goods in packages and barrels are shown ready for loading.
The top compartment lists the proprietors and names of nine establishments surmounted by a vine, bunches of grapes and a drunken Bacchus, the Roman God of Wine. Various inn and hotel signs complete the picture together with an image of St Philip’s Church and a carriage. Birmingham was located on several coach routes.
The lower compartment is a view of the different buildings forming part of Swinney’s Type Foundry in High Street, Birmingham. A printing press is shown in the foreground.
A classical monument, resembling the victory columns of Roman emperors such as Trajan, dominates the engraving. It is inscribed with the names of fifteen gun makers, including the Quaker and Lunar Society figure, Samuel Galton. A helmet rests on top of the monument and several trophies of war radiate from its base. As well as guns and pistols there are flags, swords, spears, a battering ram, cannon, a trumpet and a drum. A lion and unicorn protect an English rose and Scottish thistle. The patriotic message presented by the engraving is unmistakable.
Nineteen businesses, including the Castle Inn and Swan Hotel are named on a scroll emerging from behind High Street buildings, including the Swan Hotel and Aris’s Birmingham Gazette. The spire of St Martin’s Church is shown in the background.
Twenty different businesses are named on a scroll supported by two cherubs. Separate labels identify three others. There are two buildings in the background, one is Bisset’s Museum and the other is the Theatre Royal, which was granted a royal licence in 1807. The poster shows that it is performing Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
A scroll lists the proprietors of twenty-one mercantile businesses, including Matthew Boulton resting on an anchor. There are several images linked with trade and the wider world, including ships, a globe, the winged staff of Mercury, barrels and goods wrapped for transport. Holding the scroll is the patriotic figure of Britannia. Her foot rests on another scroll which contains the message “Shipp’d by the Grace of God on Board the Good Ship”.
The upper compartment of the engraving draws attention to three banking businesses whose names are inscribed on a tablet, Coales, Robert Wooley and Co., Spooner, Attwood and Co. and Taylor and Lloyds. An anchor, a pyramid, trunks and moneybags are emblems of stability. Wealth is revealed by a cornucopia, or horn of plenty, issuing coins.
The lower compartment, entitled “Adjacent to Birmingham” presents a scroll containing the names and addresses of fourteen leading businessmen, including Matthew Boulton, Samuel Galton, William Hutton, Sampson Lloyd, Samuel Lloyd, John Taylor and James Watt. The scroll rests upon a venerable oak tree, a symbol of stability and tradition. In the background are two buildings, including a distant view of Boulton’s Soho House.
The focus of the engraving is an image of Richard’s shop with a view of middle-class customers through the door. The business is also described as silversmiths, jewellers and cutlers, at the top of the advertisement.
The card at the top of the page lists five cabinetmakers and upholsterers, William Ethell and Sons, William Fleming, Thomas Hensman, Thomas Molesworth and William Ryley. There are four smaller cards. Two are for gun makers, Bird and Ashmore and William Ketland and Co. The remaining two are for William Ryland and sons, Platers of Coach, Coach Harness and Saddlery Furniture and J and W Handley, Saddlers, Harness and Trunk Makers. The designs of the five cards are similar, showing the businesses surrounded by examples of their products.
The engraving represents a tomb, with a cherub and an angel to the right and left advertising the business founded by John Taylor, who died in 1775, one of Birmingham’s major entrepreneurs who manufactured buttons and snuffboxes. In the background, the ship symbolises the firm’s trading links overseas and the elephant the source of ivory. In the foreground are jewellery boxes, gold and silver items and a tortoise, another creature providing a raw material for the business, in this case tortoiseshell.
Two cards present two similar businesses, F and F Smith, Bull Street and Samuel Horton, High Street, Birmingham. Both designs show cherubs surrounded by drapery.
The top of the engraving advertises Thomas Bate, Sword Cutlers to the Board of Ordnance, Aston Street in Birmingham. Swords, sabres, cannon and other accoutrements of war, together with a fighting lion and unicorn, surround his card. The centre of the engraving lists three gun makers, John Probin, James Rose and Joseph Simmons. The lower section presents another sword-making business, Joseph Reddell and Company. Like the Bate advertisement, it contains military symbols, but the lion and unicorn are at rest.
Presented in two parts, the top portion of this engraving contains a tablet with the names and addresses of seventeen legal practitioners in Birmingham surrounded with laurel leaves, Roman emblems of distinction. The sun radiates behind the laurel; attorneys or solicitors illuminated the law. The tablet is mounted on a plinth, which supports various allegorical devices including the sceptre, a symbol of royal authority, law books, the sword and scales of justice. Peeping from behind the plinth is an owl representing wisdom. The lower part of the engraving shows the business card of Thomson’s, Law Bookseller, Printer and Stationer and the Stamp Office for Birmingham. This probably explains the presence of the insignia of monarchical authority on the card, including the lion and the unicorn.
The top part of the plate represents Hygeia, the Greek Goddess of Health, strewing her medicinal virtues over the earth. The Romans used the name Salus for the goddess. Birmingham General Hospital stands in the background. Eight physicians, all M Ds, are listed and seven have addresses. Five are located in New Street or Temple Row, but one Edward Johnstone resides at Edgbaston Hall, the former residence of Dr William Withering, one of the Lunar Men.
The lower compartment depicts an emblematic device of the Good Samaritan who aided an injured traveller at the roadside. The story would be familiar to readers of the Directory from the life of Jesus in the New Testament. Twelve Surgeons are named with their addresses, one of whom is described as a dentist and another as an oculist who would perform operations on the eye. The names and locations of three apothecaries and chemists follow the list of surgeons.
The advertisement accurately presents the medical class structure by the early 19th century. Physicians were the aristocracy of medical practitioners; university graduates who could command high salaries. Their training in what we now call science gave them an insight into the body and disease, but there were huge variations in the standards of medical education and no regional regulation of medical licensing. Surgeons were not usually graduates, but were apprenticed and learned their craft of surgery whilst working. Traditionally a low status occupation, they were shaking away their origins as barber surgeons who cut hair as well as performed operations. The advent of anatomy classes, textbooks on surgery and general infirmaries in the late 18th century “contributed to surgery’s emergence from a manual craft into a scientific discipline involving physiological investigation” (Porter, 1997, p 280-281). Apothecaries who dispensed drugs were licensed in London, but “unregulated chemists and druggists blossomed, together with quacks and unorthodox practitioners” (Porter, 1997, p 288).
Image from: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide or Grand Copper Plate Directory for the Town of Birmingham, 1808
[From Birmingham Central Library]
04. Bankers and Public Companies in Birmingham
The engraving presents a monument surmounted by an urn. Two female figures draped in classical dress stand on either side. Justice stands on the left. In her right hand she holds a pair of scales, which symbolise her capacity to weigh up the merits of a case. She is blindfolded and therefore blind to special pleading. Her sword, resting in her left hand, shows her ability to implement the law – to dispense justice. The figure on the right supports a shield advertising Swinney’s Birmingham Chronicle. She also holds the winged staff entwined with snakes associated with the Greek god Hermes, known to the Romans as Mercury. He was the messenger of the gods and therefore his staff was an apt symbol for a newspaper, a conveyor of information. Various businesses have their names inscribed on the monument.
The top segment lists two weekly papers:
• Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, Knott and Lloyd Proprietors, Printers and Publishers
• Birmingham Commercial Herald, R Jabet and Printing Company, Proprietors
The middle segment identifies six bankers:
• Coales Robert Wooley, Gibbins and Gordon
• Freer, Rotton, Lloyd, Lloyd and Onion,
• Galton, S, S T Galton and P M James
• Spooner, Attwood and Company
• Taylors and Lloyds
• Wilkinson, Startin, Smith and Smith
The Plinth contains the names of six firms:
• Crown Copper Company, Minories
• Union Copper Comp Congreve Street
• Birmingham Canal Company
• Birmingham Mining and Copper Company
• Rose Copper Company
• Warwick and Birmingham Canal Company
Image from: Bisset’s Magnificent Guide or Grand Copper Plate Directory for the Town of Birmingham, 1808
[From Birmingham Central Library]
03. Birmingham Fire Office
The engraving shows an image of the Birmingham Fire Office, Union Street, established in 1805 mounted on a plinth. Above the building sit two cherubs and two fire buckets are located on either side of the plinth, an alternative to the usual classical urns. The front of the plinth presents a fire-fighting scene. On the right, men with water buckets are tackling a burning house. Their efforts appear to be ineffective as to the left, a fire engine is rushing to attend the fire. Seated at the front, a woman clothed in classical dress, complementing the cherubs above the Fire Office, holds a shield emblazoned with an image of a stationery fire engine with the legend “Birmingham” underneath.