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P1306 Photographic reproduction of a drawing, mounted, beam engine made in 1785 by Boulton and Watt for Whitbread's Brewery, [albumen] / paper /cardboard, photographer unknown, photographed for Whitbread and Company, London, England, c.1880-1887. Click to enlarge.

Photograph of a drawing of a 1785 Boulton and Watt beam engine

Made in London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom, Europe
The drawing that is the subject of the photograph is a finely detailed and rendered illustration of the Whitbread engine. At the time the photograph was taken, the engine was known to be significant as an early example of the rotative engines made by the ground-breaking firm of Boulton and Watt.

The engine is now recognised as the oldest rotative engine in the world, so the photograph is significant as a record of how the engine appeared in its final form at Whitbread's London brewery. It completes a record that begins in the holdings of the Birmingham City Archives with drawings, dated 1784, of the proposed engine; continues with drawings in the same collection showing the engine's conversion from single-acting to double-acting in 1795; and includes a drawing by John Farey, created around 1812 for Rees' Cyclopaedia, of the engine and the brewery equipment it powered.

Unfortunately, the caption below the photograph perpetuates the myth that the engine's output was originally 35 horsepower and that this was doubled to 70 horsepower in 1795. These figures were included in a plaque that was once attached to the engine but which probably never left England. It ascribed the invention of the steam engine to Edward Somerset and celebrated the contributions of Thomas Savery, Thomas Newcomen and John Cawley, John Smeaton, and James Watt and Matthew Boulton, to the engine's improvement. From other evidence, both documentary and based on the bore and stroke of the engine, the engine's original output was closer to 10 horsepower and its final output was 15 or 16 horsepower.

The photograph represents the esteem in which Whitbread & Co held the engine even as it decided to dispose of it. This esteem was shared by Professor Archibald Liversidge and led him to request that the engine be donated to the Museum.

Debbie Rudder, August, 2007

Summary

Object No.

P1306

Object Statement

Photographic reproduction of a drawing, mounted, beam engine made in 1785 by Boulton and Watt for Whitbread's Brewery, [albumen] / paper /cardboard, photographer unknown, photographed for Whitbread and Company, London, England, c.1880-1887

Physical Description

A photograph reproduction showing a drawing of the beam engine made by Boulton and Watt for Whitbread and Company in London, England. The drawing is a finely detailed rendered image of the engine that is now in this Museum's collection. It shows the engine in its final form at the brewery, with some detail of the supporting timbers and safety railings. It also includes a cutaway view of the tank, revealing the separate condenser, air pump, hot well and dashpots. The photograph is mounted on cardboard and text has been printed on the mount, above and below the image. There is a stamp on the back of the mount.

Marks

Above the drawing is printed text 'Engine by Messrs Boulton & Watt, of Soho, Birmingham', and below is printed 'Erected for Messrs Whitbread & Co, 1785, as of thirty-five horse power. Altered in 1795 and increased in power. Removed 1887.' Handwritten below this 'Presented to Professor Liversidge for the Tech Mus Syd, Dec 1887'.
Around the edge of the oval stamp on the back of the mount 'THE TECHNOLOGICAL / INDUSTRIAL / AND SANITARY / MUSEUM OF NEW SOUTH WALES' and in the centre of the stamp 'APR 21 1888'.

Dimensions

Height

400 mm

Width

355 mm

Production

Photographed

c. 1880-1887

Notes

There is no signature on the drawing. It would have been produced in London after the 1830s, when the engine reached its final form. The photograph was probably taken in the 1880s in order to produce multiple copies from the drawing.

The drawing would probably have been commissioned by Whitbread & Co.

History

Notes

The photograph was owned by Whitbread & Company between approximately 1880 and 1887. The company gave it to Professor Archibald Liversidge, in his role as Trustee of the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum, at the same time as it donated the engine to the Museum.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Whitbread & Company, 1888

Acquisition Date

21 April 1888

Cite this Object

Harvard

Photograph of a drawing of a 1785 Boulton and Watt beam engine 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 July 2020, <https://ma.as/320558>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/320558 |title=Photograph of a drawing of a 1785 Boulton and Watt beam engine |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=8 July 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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