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Title: Enterprise and growth in the early engineeing industry : the case of James Nasmyth
Author: Cantrell, John Anthony
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 1982
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This thesis is a business and technical history of James Nasmyth's engineering Firms established at the Bridqewater Foundry, Patricroft, near Manchester, between 1836 and 1856. Th~ First two chapters examine the role and contribution of his partners in providinq capital resources, business connections end commercial expertise. Contrary to the impression propagated by Smiles, it is demonstrated that Nasmyth was heavily dependent on the Financial support of these associates for achieving the speedy transition From small workshop to large-scale enqineering factory. Holbrook Gaskell's introduction of efficient accounting systems, credit controls and other monitoring processes was equally important and olaced the activities of the Firm on a sound business Footing. The third chapter investiqates Professor A.E.Musson s observation that Nasmyth was an early pioneer of massproduction engineering, and confirms that he was extensively involved in the production of standardised products, based on stocks of standard patterns,. which were advertised for sale in printed catalogues. This section also attempts to quantify Nesmyth's stock selling activities and argues that this practice was of limited significance when expressed as a percentage of annual turnover. Nasmyth's early plans to establish the "ready-made concern" were diverted by his Firm's preoccupation with heavy capital goods such as locomotives and tools of the largest dimensions. Chapters Four and Five evaluate Nasmyth's mechanical inventions usinq the sales records where appropriate. The steam hammer invention debate is examined, as is the part played by Robert Wilson, who designed the self-acting mechanism. It is suggested that Nesmyth's contribution has been both exaggerated and overpersonalised, though he was primarily responsible For promoting the invention and applying its principle to pile-driving. Chapter Six analyses the markets For locomotives, stationary steam enqines, machine-tools and miscellaneous products, stressing the importance of London and the export trade. Railway company contracts and qovernment orders, both domestic and foreiqn, are shown to have dominated the business. The final chapter looks at working conditions, Nasmyth's system of Factory management and the effect of his labour policies on the work Force. Strike action is explained as a predictable response to the threat posed by the introduction of self-acting machine-tools, which displaced skilled labour. The thesis concludes by emphasising Nasmyth's entrepreneuriel skills. His Fortune and early retirement were as much the result of his commercial perception and business acumen as the product of his undoubted mechanical talent.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available