John Dickinson, FRS. 1782-1869
John Dickinson founded a giant business empire eventually employing many thousands of people world-wide at its peak. He started his working his life by training as a stationer in the City of London, becoming enrolled at Stationer’s Hall in 1804 of which he eventually became Master for two years in 1857. A keen businessman and of an inventive practical nature he must have been frustrated by the myriad of small paper mills with which he did business and realised that to be efficient he would have to have the whole process under his own control. At that time each mill was under individual ownership using their own methods of making each sheet of paper individually; a slow and expensive process often with variable quality.
He was the holder of many patents relating to paper and its use. His first was for a non-smouldering paper for use in rifles called Cartridge Paper; said to have been particularly helpful to Wellington’s Peninsular campaign and at Waterloo by increasing the British firing rate whilst simultaneously reducing premature firing accidents. His next patent was for a means of making paper in a continuous sheet in what has become known as the Cylinder Mould machine. He would have known of the Fourdrinier patent for making paper continuously which was tied up by patents. Dickinson arranged financing to buy Apsley mill in 1809 and the nearby Nash Mill in 1811 where he installed and developed machines of his design which were producing some of the best and most consistent paper in the country.
Dickinson was involved with the development of the Penny Post, producing a paper containing silk threads for security purposes. He also patented a method of slitting paper with sharp bevelled wheels, still used on machines today and from which office guillotines in common use have evolved. In addition to his factories at Apsley and Nash he built two brand new mills at Home Park and Croxley in 1825 and 1828. Other sites in Manchester, Liverpool and elsewhere were created for distribution. Transportation of goods and coal occupied him in the early days and litigation with the Grand Junction Canal Company resulted in the re-routing of the canal closer to his Apsley and Nash mills. He successfully tendered for the building work of locks and wharves required for the diversion in 1818.
During his career folded envelopes were developed and a wide variety of uses for paper and paper products explored. In 1858 John Dickinson retired handing over the running of the business to his nephew, John Evans. Dickinson died in January 1869 having refused to call in his doctor on the grounds that he was too ill to see anyone!