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
I had no difficulty in obtaining abundance of skilled workmen in South Lancashire and Cheshire. I was in the neighbourhood of Manchester, which forms the centre of a population gifted with mechanical instinct. From an early period the finest sort of mechanical work has been turned out in that part of England. Much of the talent is inherited. It descends from father to son, and develops itself from generation to generation. I may mention one curious circumstance connected with the pedigree of Manchester: that much of the mechanical excellence of its workmen descends from the Norman smiths and armourers introduced into the neighbourhood at the Norman Conquest by Hugo de Lupus, the chief armourer of William the Conqueror, after the battle of Hastings, in 1066.
I was first informed of this circumstance by William Stubbs of Warrington, then maker of the celebrated "Lancashire files." The "P. S.," or Peter Stubbs's files, were so vastly superior to other files, both in the superiority of the steel and in the perfection of the cutting, which long retained its efficiency, that every workman gloried in the possession and use of such durable tools. Being naturally interested in everything connected with tools and mechanics, I was exceedingly anxious to visit the factory where these admirable files were made. I obtained an introduction to William Stubbs, then head of the firm, and was received by him with much cordiality when I asked him if I might be favoured with a sight of his factory, he replied that he had no factory, as such; and that all he had to do in supplying his large warehouse was to serve out the requisite quantities of pure cast steel as rods and bars to the workmen; and that they, on their part, forged the metal into files of every description at their own cottage workshops, principally situated in the neighbouring counties of Cheshire and Lancashire.