Birmingham Cathedral

Edward Thomason by Robin Draper

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Edward Thomason was born c 1769, the son of a Birmingham buckle maker with a manufactory in Colmore Row/Church Street. When he was 16, his father articled him to Matthew Boulton to learn the trade.

In 1793, Edward took charge of the factory. A man full of ideas, he was soon making high quality gilt and plated buttons and gold jewellery. He went on to strike medals and tokens in gold, silver and bronze, and also produced toys, chains and buckles in silver.

In 1799 Thomason patented a design for retractable carriage steps, and sold about 100 sets to coach makers.

Then in 1802 came patent no. 2617, for an improved corkscrew. He produced 130,000 over the next 14 years, and each carried the motto “Ne Plus Ultra”, meaning “none better”. These were produced alongside tableware and jewellery.

He invented a toasting fork with an ejector plate in 1809, and his inspiration continued with other items such as swordsticks, walking canes with built-in cigar lighters and safety catches for guns. There was even a dice thrower for backgammon.

In 1806/7 there were shortages of coinage in Great Britain, and Thomason supplied silver and bronze tokens (£15,000 worth) to Welsh mine owners. He went on to strike coinage for markets at home and abroad.

He made 5,000 medals for Haitian President Henri Christophe, with Christophe’s image on one side, and text from his maiden speech on the other. Christophe provided many orders after that. Thomason’s factory became a place for international VIP visits, and in 1810 was extended. Exports grew year on year.

Thomason was appointed vice-council at Birmingham for eight countries. In 1818 he was made high Bailiff of Birmingham, and was knighted in 1832.

In 1844 he retired and wrote his memoirs. He died on 29th May 1849, and is buried in the family vault at the Cathedral.

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