At the same time I introduced another improvement in connection with these foundry ladles which, although of minor importance, has in no small degree contributed to the perfection of large castings. This consisted in hanging "the skimmer" to the edge of the ladle, so as to keep back the scorae that invariably float on the surface of the melted metal. This was formerly done by hand, and many accidents were the consequence. But now the clear flow of pure metal into the moulds was secured, while the scoriae were mechanically held back. All that the attendant has to do is to regulate the inclination of the Skimmer so as to keep its lower edge sufficiently under the surface of the outflowing metal. The preceding illustrations will enable the reader to understand these simple but important technical improvements.
These inventions were made in 1838. I might have patented them, but preferred to make them over to the public. I sent drawings and descriptions of the Safety Foundry Ladle to all the principal founders both at home and abroad; and I was soon after much gratified by their cordial expression of its practical value. The ladle is now universally adopted. The Society of Arts of Scotland, to whom I sent drawings and descriptions, did me the honour to present me with their large silver medal in acknowledgment of the invention.
In order to carry on my business with effectiveness it was necessary that I should have some special personal assistance. I could carry on the whole "mechanical" department as regards organisation, designing, and construction; but there was the "financial" business to be attended to,--the counting-house, the correspondence, and the arrangement of money affairs. I wanted some help with respect to these outer matters.
When I proceeded to take my plot of land at Patricroft some of my friends thought it a very bold stroke, especially for a young man who had been only about three years in business. Nevertheless, there were others who watched my progress with special interest, and were willing to join in my adventure--though adventure it was not. They were ready to take a financial interest in my affairs. They did me the compliment of thinking me a good investment, by offering to place their capital in my concern as sleeping partners. But I was already beyond the "sleeping partner" state of affairs. Whoever joined me must work as energetically as I did, and must give the faculties of his mind to the prosperity of the concern. I communicated the offers I had received to my highly judicious friend Edward Lloyd. He was always willing to advise me, though I took care never to encroach upon his kindness. He concurred with my views, and advised me to fight shy of sleeping partners. I therefore continued to look out for a working partner. In the end I was fortunate. My friend, Mr. Thomas Jeavons, of Liverpool, having been informed of my desire, made inquiries, and found the man likely to suit me. He furnished him with a letter of introduction to me, which he presented one day at the works.
The young man became my worthy partner, Holbrook Gaskell. He had served his time with Yates and Cox, iron merchants, of Liverpool. Having obtained considerable experience in the commercial details of that business, and being possessed of a moderate amount of capital, he was desirous of joining me, and embarking his fortune with mine. He was to take charge of the counting-house department, and conduct such portion of the correspondence as did not require any special technical knowledge of mechanical engineering. The latter must necessarily remain in my hands, because I found that the "off-hand" sketches which I introduced in my letters as explanatory of mechanical designs and suggestions were much more intelligible than any amount of written words.
I was much pleased with the frank and friendly manner of Mr. Gaskell, and I believe that the feeling between us was mutual. With the usual straight forwardness that prevails in Lancashire, the articles of partnership were at once drawn up and signed, and the firm of Nasmyth and Gaskell began. We continued working together with hearty zeal for a period of sixteen successive years; and I believe Mr. Gaskell had no reason to regret his connection with the Bridgewater Foundry.
The reason of Mr. Gaskell leaving the concern was the state of his health. After his long partnership with me, he was attacked by a serious illness, when his medical adviser earnestly recommended him to retire from all business affairs. This was the cause of his reluctant retirement. In course of time the alarming symptoms departed, and he recovered his former health. He then embarked in an extensive soda manufactory, in conjunction with one of our pupils, whose taste for chemistry was more attractive to him than engine-making. A prosperous business was established, and at the time I write these lines Mr. Gaskell continues a hale and healthy man, the possessor of a large fortune, accumulated by the skilful manner in which he has conducted his extensive affairs.
CHAPTER 12. Free Trade in Ability--The Strike--Death of my Father