Fourdrinier, Henry (DNB00)

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FOURDRINIER, HENRY (1766–1854), inventor, was born on 11 Feb. 1766, in Lombard Street, London. His father was a paper-maker and wholesale stationer, and was in all probability grandson of Paul Fourdrinier [see under Fourdrinier, Peter]. Henry Fourdrinier succeeded his father as a paper manufacturer. In conjunction with his brother Sealy he devoted himself for many years to the invention and improvement of paper-making machinery. Their first patent was taken out in 1801. In 1807 they perfected their machine for making continuous paper. This machine imitated with some improvements the processes used in paper by hand. Its chief advantages were that it produced paper of any size, and with greatly increased rapidity. The experiments were very costly, and much litigation was required to protect the patent. When the invention was completed they had expended 60,000l., and became bankrupt. Parliament extended the Fourdriniers' letters patent for fourteen years, and the new system of paper-making was widely adopted, but the brothers were greatly hampered by the defective state of the law of patents. In 1814 the Emperor Alexander, while visiting England, was interested in Fourdriniers' machine. An agreement was made that the Fourdriniers should receive 700l. annually for the use of two machines for ten years. The machines were erected at Peterhoff under the superintendence of Henry Fourdrinier's son, but no portion of the stipulated yearly sum was ever paid. Henry Fourdrinier repeatedly asserted his claim, and at the age of seventy-two, attended by his daughter, made a journey to St. Petersburg, and placed his petition personally in the hands of the Emperor Nicholas. No result followed. Meanwhile the Fourdriniers had petitioned parliament for compensation for the losses sustained by them. On 25 April 1839 a motion was brought forward in the House of Commons, when the chancellor of the exchequer promised to go into the merits of the case. On 8 May 1840 7,000l. was voted to the Fourdriniers. Many persons thought this inadequate, and a few years later a subscription, raised by firms in the paper trade, enabled annuities to be purchased for Henry Fourdrinier, the then surviving patentee, and his two daughters, insuring a comfortable income during their respective lives. Henry Fourdrinier died on 3 Sept. 1854, in his eighty-ninth year, at Mavesyn Ridware, near Rugeley, where he spent the last years of his life in humble but cheerful retirement.

His brother, Sealy Fourdrinier, participated in the parliamentary compensation, but died in 1847 before the subscription had been applied.

[Hansard, vols. xlvii. liii., 3rd ser.; Illustrated London News, 9 Sept. 1854; British and Colonial Printer and Stationer, September 1888.]

J. B-y.