The Royal Mail have launched a set of ten postage stamps today celebrating the inventions that drove the industrial revolution.
We don’t send a lot of post nowadays (this probably has something to do with the transatlantic cable, celebrated on one of the first-class stamps), but as patent attorneys dealing every day with inventions of the present and, hopefully, the future, we thought we would brighten up the mail we do send with these images of inventions of the past.
Perhaps someone in the Royal Mail has a sense of humour, because the only stamp with enough postage to reach the USA pictures “The Incandescent Light Bulb by Joseph Swan”.
Swan developed his light bulb, apparently independently, at around the same time as the more famous American Thomas Edison. Transatlantic patent litigation between Swan and Edison reached a negotiated compromise and the two inventors ended up merging their UK businesses in 1883 to form the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company.
The set also includes two stamps from opposing sides of another patent action of yesteryear – and in the Albright IP Cornwall office we are pleased to see Richard Trevithick’s locomotive on a first-class stamp. Appropriately, James Watt’s older and less efficient engine gets you only second-class postage. Trevithick may be the only loser of a patent infringement case to get his own day of celebration complete with marching bands and processional dancing – read more about it here – and now he gets a stamp as well.
The Transatlantic Cable stamp (first class but sadly only for letters remaining in the UK) doesn’t mention an inventor by name, perhaps reflecting the reality that true engineering transformations are rarely the work of just one person.
The cable ships USS Niagara and HMS Agamemnon are pictured, which laid (half of it each) the first cable from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1858. The first message – a 98-word greeting from Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan – took nearly 16 hours to send.
Today, hundreds of cables cross the sea (many of them landing in Cornwall at Sennen, Porthcurnow and Bude), and a 16 minute delay in a transatlantic email would no doubt be considered a serious malfunction.
The full series includes:
- The Bessemer process for the production of steel
- Watt’s rotative steam engine
- The Penydarren locomotive by Richard Trevithick – see above
- The spinning jenny by James Hargreaves
- Lombe’s silk mill
- Portland cement
- Faraday’s electrical generator
- The transatlantic cable – see above
- Deptford power station
- And the incandescent light bulb by Joseph Swan – see above
We look forward to writing to you!
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