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*Winchester, Mechanics' Institution Worksop, Reading Society and Mechanics' Institution *Windsor and Eton, Literary, Scientific and Mechanics' | Wrexham, Literary Institute
Institution *Wrington (near Bristol), Literary Society *Wirksworth, Mechanics' Institution Wisbech, Mechanics' Institute Yarmouth, Great, and Southtown, Young Man's Institute Wiveliscombe (Somerset), Mutual Improvement Society * * * Parochial Library and Museum. *Woburn, Literary and Scientific Institution *Yeovil, Mutual Improvement Society Wolsingham, Mechanics' Institute and Literary Society “York, Institute of Popular Science and Literature. Wolverhampton, Athenæum and Mechanics' Institute ALSO Wordsley, Library and Reading Association Hull, Chamber of Commerce and Shipping *Workington, Mechanics' Institution Liverpool, Chamber of Commerce
LONDON: Panren by w, raounge, 9, CUBSITOR STREET.
The First Ordinary Meeting of the One Hunredth Session was held on Wednesday, the 16th instant, Harry Chester, Esq., Chairman of Council, in the Chair. . The following Institutions have been taken into Union since the last meeting of Council:— 300. Birmingham, Polytechnic Institution. 301. Radford (Wilts), Literary Institution. * Huntingford, Literary Institute. §3. Coalbrookdale, Literary and Scientific Institution. *. Derby, Railway Literary Institution. o, King's Lynn, Free Library. * Market Drayton, Society for the Acquirement of Useful Knowledge. 87. Portsea, Watt institute. % on Literary and Philosophical Institution. * Soutbridge, Mechanics institution. Mr. CirstER, as Chairman of Council, then read the following
In the circulars by which this meeting was con*", it was announced to the members of the Society that. Captain Owen would deliver the * which the bye-laws require to be read "the chairman of the council, at the opening of a new session. **much to be regretted that, since the issue ofthe circulars, Captain Owen has been constrained by the pressure of duties elsewhere, to resign the *fchairman. At the request of my colleagues * undertaken to do the best that I can to "To his place. The difficulties which, under *" orcumstances, I must have felt in accept* the office of chairman of the council of this *Y. are greatly increased by the special cha*ter of the present session, and by my being talled upon, at short notice, and with very little *ure, to come before you with an address which "ght to have been prepared by some member of
the Society more experienced in its affairs, and more familiar with the subjects of arts, manufactures, and commerce, than I am. The first point to which your attention must be directed is the epoch which the life of the Society has attained. Its one hundredth session is now opened. In three letters published anonymously in 1721, proposals were made for the establishment of a society, to be called “The Chamber of Arts, for the preserving and improvement of operative knowledge, the mechanical arts, inventions, and manufactures." In 1748 Benjamin Franklin published his “Proposal for the Improvement of Useful Knowledge among the British Plantations in America,” by the formation of a society at Philadelphia, to be called “the American Philosophical Society,” of which he volunteered to act pro tempore as secretary. These publications appear to have produced a strong impression on the mind of the originator of our society. The are entered at length in his handwriting in the Society's first minute book: and the schemes of the three institutions are very similar. The “public spirit" of William Shipley, who is said to have been a drawing master, and brother to the Bishop of St. Asaph, “gave rise to the Society” of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, in 1753. Mr. Shipley first obtained the approval and concurrence of Jacob Viscount Folkstone, of Robert Lord Romney, and of Dr. Isaac Maddox, Lord Bishop of Worcester; and then proceeded to enlist others. The first meeting of the Society was held on the 29th of March, 1754, at Rawthmell's Coffeehouse, in Henrietta-street, Covent-garden.— There were present—Lord Folkstone, Lord Romney, the Bishop of Worcester, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Hales, John Goodchild, Esq., Messrs. Laurence, Baker, Crisp, Brander, Short, and Messiter, and Mr. Wm. Shipley himself, who acted as secretary. They put forth this “ ApDREss To THE PUBLIC :"
Some of the nobility, clergy, gentlemen and merchants, having at heart the good of their country, have lately met together in order to form themselves into a society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures, and commerce, in Great Britain, by bestowing rewards from time to time for such productions, inventions, or improvements, as shall tend to the employing of the poor, to the increase of trade, and to the riches and honour of this kingdom, by promoting industry and emulation; and, though at present their plan is not complete, yet it has, nevertheless, been resolved to make a beginning in manner following—viz., for cobalt, madder, and drawings, &c.
The meetings continued to be held at Rawthmell's until the 10th of January, 1755, when Peele's Coffee-house was resorted to. That place of meeting being “found inconvenient,” a house in Craig's-court, Charing-cross, was taken by Mr. Shipley, “expressly to accommodate the Spciety,” and the first meeting held there was on the 5th of March, 1755. In 1756 larger apartments were engaged at Mr. Fielding's, in the Strand, opposite to Beaufort's-buildings; and on the 12th of October, 1774, the Society assembled for the first time in this building in the Adelphi, which was erected for the Society by the Brothers Adam, on the site of Durhamhouse, the residence of the Bishop of Durham. Viscount Folkestone was elected first president on the 5th of February, 1755, and occupied the residential chair until his decease in 1761. }. Romney was president from 1761 to 1793; the Duke of Norfolk from 1793 to 1815; His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex from 1815 to 1843, when the Society had the houour of electing as its president Her Majesty's Consort, His Royal Highness Prince Albert, than whom it may justly be said—
“Nemo est primarum artium magis princeps.”
In 1847 the Society was incorporated by royal charter for “bestowing pecuniary and honorary rewards for meritorious works in the various departments of the fine arts, for discoveries, inventions, and improvements in agriculture, chemistry, mechanics, manufactures, and other useful arts, for the application of such natural and artificial products, whether of home, colonial, or foreign owth and manufacture, as appear likely to nfford fresh objects of industry, and to increase the trade of the realm, by extending the sphere and operations of British commerce.” To give you even a tolerable idea of what the Society has done, since the twelve worthies before-mentioned were first assembled at Rawthmell's coffee-house, on the 29th March, 1754, would be to relate the history of arts, manufactures, and commerce, of ideas, designs, discoveries, inventions, and industries, from that time to the present. You will probably be satisfied to receive a brief enumeration of some of the Society's operations, and of some of the subjects for which prizes were offered or awards made. At the first meeting before mentioned, three sets of rewards were offered—1st, 30l. for the production of cobalt found in England; 2nd, 30l. for madder grown in England; and 3rd, “151.
each for the best drawings by boys and girls under fourteen years of age.” Great attention was bestowed upon the promotion of what were then called “the polite arts.” Among the most distinguished of the British artists who have received the Society's honorary rewards are Nollekens, Bacon, Flaxman, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Sir William Ross, Edwin Landseer, Allan Cunningham, Mulready, Wyon, Millais, &c., doc. Cosway, the painter, received the first prize ever awarded, when he was only fifteen years of age. Nollekens is said to have derived important assistance from the countenance and patronage of the Society. Sir W. Ross, who subsequently received many rewards, obtained his first prize in 1807, when he was only twelve years of age, for a drawing of Wat Tyler. The Society did much to excite among the nobility and gentry a knowledge and love of art. Among other measures adopted for this purpose, gold and silver medals were offered for the best and second-best drawings, of any kind, by young gentlemen, the sons and grandsons of peers or peeresses, and by young ladies, the daughters or granddaughters of peers or peeresses. Many of these medals were claimed and received. Similar medals and money awards were given for drawings by the sons and daughters of commoners of the higher, middle, and lower classes. In many of these cases the maximum of age was fixed at fourteen, sixteen, or eighteen years; in others, no limit of age was declared. Particular encouragement was held out to young persons who were desirous of becoming artists; and great stress was laid, at an early period, upon the application of art to the improvement of design in manufactures. Nor were the materials and mechanical appliances of art forgotten by the Society of Arts. It put forth many suggestions of desiderata; offered many rewards, and rewarded many inventions and improvements in that direction. The reputation acquired by artists whose works were seen and criticised in the Society's rooms, before and after adjudication, occasioned an application to be made for an exhibition to be held in the large room. This was granted, gratuitously, for several years, and the first public exhibition of the works of British artists in the metropolis was held at the Society's House in the Strand, in 1760; and “hence arose,” it is said, “the annual exhibitions of the rival artists.” Indeed it appears that the Royal Academy sprang from the Society of Arts; for the minute-book contains a complete scheme for the establishment of the Academy; and that scheme expressly refers to the example of this Society. In iT76 the Society proposed to the members of the Royal Academy, which had been instituted in 1768, that they should paint the Great Councilroom, where we now are, and be remunerated by the public exhibition of their works therein. The
Academy, with Sir Joshua Reynolds at its head, refused this proposal; but, in the following year, Barry, who had signed the refusal with the rest, volunteered to decorate the room without any remuneration at all. The “Handbook of London" states that when he made his offer he had but sixteen shillings in his pocket. His offer was accepted, and you see the result. The reclaiming of bogs and fens, and of land from the sea; the planting of wastes; the introduction of useful and ornamental trees and plants; and the improvement of agriculture and horticulture, have been from first to last promoted by the Society with great zeal and success. Immense plantations of oaks, firs, larches, alders, chesnuts, and other trees are due to its efforts. The premium lists are full of notices of such objects as these: The cultivation of hemp; the introduction of foreign grasses, and of roots for food for cattle; the improvement of agricultural implements—the encouragement of drill husbandry, drill ploughs, drain ploughs, and scarificators, horsehoes, rootcutters, strawcutters; the benefits of bone manure; the analysis of soils; irrigation, water meadows, tanks and carts for collecting and distributing liquid manures—all these occur before 1790. In 1783 we have the following offer of a reward “for inventing a machine to answer the purpose of mowing or reaping wheat, rye, barley, oats, or loans; by which it may be done more expeditiously and cheaper than by any method now practised; provided it does not shed the corn or Pulse more than the methods in common practice, and that it lays the straw in such a manner as may be easily gathered up for binding." All kinds of arts, sciences, and manufactures have been encouraged and improved. To show how very wide in its scope this Society has been, and at the same time how practical and suggestio, I will enumerate a very miscellaneous list of objects for which rewards have been offered:— Improvements in dyeing, tanning, tapestry weaving, spinning, lacemaking, designs for weavers, “motoiderers, and calico printersby boys and girls under seventeen; for papermaking, sextants, gunharpoons, sawmills, quadrants, miscroscopes; for *Traging poor operatives to improve the pro* in which they were engaged (under this * many substantial rewards have been given to the poor weavers of Spitalfields and Bethnal**), also for life-boats, all kinds of improvemonts in shipbuilding and architecture; for accu* maps of the counties; for artificial mothers of *ions, locomotive fire-engines, pumps, rising longes, beet-root sugar, carding machines, factitious cotton," made from refuse of hemp, also called “flax cotton ;” to commercial olmasters for teaching French, German, and Italian ; surgical instruments, drugs, culinary "Povements, hydrometers, locks, time-pieces; *ines for teaching arithmetic, music, needle
work, and writing to the blind; to Captain Bligh for introducing the bread-fruit into the West Indies; for an universal standard of weights and measures, &c. &c. In short, the objects are innumerable, and of every possible kind. The total amount distributed in premiums and bounties exceeds considerably the sum of 100,000l. Medals were first given, on the motion of Mr. Baker, in 1756. The first gold medal, which was designed and presented to the Society by Flaxman, was awarded, in 1758, to Lord Folkestone, “for eminent services;” and the first silver one was presented, in 1757, to Lady Louisa Grenville “for a drawing.” The Society's transactions, as distinguished from the books of premiums and prize-lists, were first published in 1783. Only the first fifty volumes, up to 1836, are indexed. It is much to be desired that the whole series should be indexed by some competent person. It contains an immense amount of highly interesting matter, and I cannot but think that if the contents were more generally known some patents would be seen to have been granted on insufficient data. For many years the Society promoted the improvement of our fisheries, and the supply of the metropolis with fish by land-carriage. The large fish-carts that used to travel, at what was thought a tremendous pace, from the coast to London, were the result of rewards offered by this Society. To improve the trade and commerce of the colonies; to introduce into them useful trees, plants, and animals, and also manufactures, trades, and useful arts, has always been a great object with the Society. The Society has taken an active part in improving our postal system—domestic, colonial, and international; in exposing unjust and injurious monopolies, fiscal restrictions, and laws damaging to trade and commerce; in collecting trade-reports and statistics in connexion with arts, commerce and manufactures; in advocating a decimalization of weights, measures, coins, and accounts; in amending the laws of partnership; in promoting education in art and science. The Free Economical Society of St. Petersburg was established in 1786, upon the model and in consequence of the success, of our Society. Many of the institutions of the United Kingdom are indebted to the Society of Arts for the first kindling of the interest which led to their establishment. Wisely and rightly the governing body of this Society has always rejoiced when the interest which it has laboured to excite in any object has become sufficient to justify the estab. lishment of a separate Society, which, by a more exclusive attention to that object, might be expected to produce more important and useful results. As an example of what has been done in this way, I need only specify the formation of the