Online Encyclopedia of Silver Marks, Hallmarks & Makers' Marks
(c.1772 - 1849)
Boulton's advancement of manufacturing techniques changed not only Birmingham but much of 18th century England and inspired a generation of entrepreneurs. Birmingham at this period was like a huge factory and the world was its customer. Manufacturing in metals was the chief business, with buckle making alone estimated to employ an incredible five thousand workers. Men, women and children made them and men, women and children wore them, everybody, from the king to the farm labourer, and Birmingham satisfied that demand, turning them out by the million.
Always desperate to make a name for himself, Thomason also turned his mind to inventions. His first project, dating to 1796, was a design for an unmanned fireship that would destroy the French fleet whilst they were still in dock; it was rejected by the Admiralty. This project was followed, in 1797, by the idea of a wind powered water pump that again failed to impress. These setbacks did nothing to dampen the spirit of Thomason, if anything they drove him on.
On 7th May 1802 Thomason hit the jackpot when he entered patent no. 2617, for a improvement to the corkscrew. The next fourteen years saw his factory turn out 130,000 units before allowing others to manufacture under licence and the design is still to this day considered by many to be the finest corkscrew ever made. Perhaps Thomason knew this as each one carried the motto "Ne Plus Ultra" (None Better).
The years 1806 and 1807 saw great shortages of coinage in Great Britain with Boulton and Thomason working flat out supplying tokens. Thomason is known to have supplied two orders to Welsh mine owners for £5,000 and £10,000 of silver and bronze tokens, and Crowns, Half Crowns, Shillings and Sixpences for the Douglas Bank on the Isle of Man. The reputation of his work in this field saw him receive orders for silver coinage from as far afield as Africa. Thomason also produced many series of medals of the finest quality, depicting religious, political and historical events.
A typical example of Thomason's entrepreneurial skills was achieved in 1807. Henri Christophe, a revolutionary General who had helped oust the French from the island of St. Domingue, became the second President of Haiti after the assassination of Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Aware that the new ruler was hostile to Europeans, Thomason decided to appeal to Christophe's vanity; he somehow managed to acquire the text of the new president's first speech to the Haitian people, and within three weeks had struck a medal with a portrait of the new leader on one side and an extract of the speech on
January 1810 saw Thomason extend his factory to start production of close plated knives, forks and spoons. The following year he received an order for two million copper tokens from Samuel Fereday the great Iron-master.
According to the Birmingham Assay Office Site, Edward Thomason entered his first mark on 20th September 1815, followed by another on 16th August 1820 and another on the 11th July 1821. Although Jackson's has first mention of him during the period 1803-1807, a date I feel more likely to be correct.
Thomason's business went from strength to strength, producing large amounts of items for export. He was appointed vice-council at Birmingham to no less than eight countries, France, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Sweden and Norway, and was personally awarded over thirty foreign orders of merit. In 1818 be was made High Bailiff of Birmingham and in 1832 was knighted by King William IV.
Sir Edward Thomason died at home in Jury Street, Warwick on the 29th May 1849. He is buried in the family vault in St Phillip's Church, Birmingham.
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