Paul, Lewis (DNB00)

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PAUL, LEWIS (d. 1759), inventor of spinning machinery, was the son of one Dr. Paul, who died when Lewis was very young. The boy was left under the guardianship of Lord Shaftesbury, and his brother, the Hon. Maurice Ashley Cooper. In February 1728 he married Sarah Meade (formerly Bull), the widow and executrix of Robert Meade, solicitor, of Aylesbury, who had been solicitor to Philip, duke of Wharton. His wife died in September 1729. About this time he invented a machine for pinking shrouds, from which he derived considerable profit. Dr. Johnson's friend, Mrs. Desmoulins, was in early life a pupil of Paul in learning the art of pinking.

In 1738 he took out a patent (No. 562) for ‘a machine or engine for spinning of wool and cotton in a manner entirely new.’ He is described as ‘of Birmingham, gentleman,’ and he seems to have lived in Birmingham for many years. The invention comprised in this patent was of the greatest importance, and is in use in every cotton-mill in the world. It is known as ‘roller-spinning,’ and consists of two pairs of rollers of small diameter, one pair revolving at a slightly greater velocity than the other. ‘Slivers’ of cotton or wool are passed through these rollers, and are stretched or ‘drawn’ in a regular manner, the second pair of rollers pulling the sliver forward faster than the first pair delivers it.

Paul set up a mill at Birmingham, and he obtained the assistance of John Wyatt, a skilful mechanic, and apparently a man of some means, as he was in a position to lend money to Paul. A claim has been set up on Wyatt's behalf to be regarded as the actual inventor of spinning by rollers, and the matter has given rise to much discussion [see Wyatt, John, 1700–1766]. The enterprise was largely helped by Thomas Warren, a well-known Birmingham printer; Edward Cave, of the ‘Gentleman's Magazine;’ Dr. Robert James, of fever-powder celebrity; Mrs. Desmoulins, and others. Dr. Johnson took much interest in the scheme. A mill was also started at Northampton, but this and the Birmingham concern were both failures; and the invention did not become a commercial success until it was taken up by Arkwright many years afterwards. To the Birmingham free library Wyatt's descendants presented a hank of yarn spun by Paul's machine, worked ‘by asses walking round its axis, in a large warehouse in the Upper Priory at Birmingham, about the year 1741.’

Paul patented in 1748 (No. 636) a machine for carding cotton, wool, and other fibres, which contains the first suggestion of a circular or continuous carding engine, and of a comb for stripping off the carding. His claim to this invention is not disputed by the friends of John Wyatt (see Baines, Cotton Manufacture, p. 172). It was tried both in Birmingham and Northampton, and when the establishment at the last-named town was broken up, the carding-machine was bought by a hat manufacturer at Leominster, and was introduced into Lancashire about 1760 (Kennedy in Mem. Lit. and Phil. Soc. Manchester, v. 326, 2nd ser.)

In June 1758 Paul took out a third patent (No. 724) for a spinning-machine, which is described in great detail in the specification and with the aid of drawings. It appears from the patent that he was then living at ‘Kensington Gravel Pits.’ This machine is evidently the one referred to in Dyer's poem of the ‘Fleece,’ published in 1757, and the description corresponds so closely to the drawings in the specification that Dyer must have seen the machine at work. The discrepancy in the dates may be explained by the supposition that Paul had completed his machine before taking out a patent.

He endeavoured to get the machine introduced into the Foundling Hospital, and the letter which he addressed to the president, the Duke of Bedford, was drafted by Dr. Johnson. It is without date, and is printed in Brownlow's ‘History of the Foundling Hospital’ (p. 64).

A letter from Dr. Johnson to Paul, containing a suggestion for obtaining money from Cave, is preserved in the Patent Office Library, London. Others are in the possession of Mr. Samuel Timmins of Birmingham. There are two deeds between Paul and Cave, dated 1740, in the British Museum (Add. Ch. 5972–3).

Paul died in April 1759 at Brook Green, Kensington, and was buried at Paddington, 30 April. He left a will dated 1 May 1758, the probate of which is in the British Museum (Add. Ch. 5974).

[About 1850 Robert Cole, a well-known collector of autographs, purchased a quantity of papers that had been removed from a lawyer's office in Gray's Inn. Among them were several hundred letters addressed to Paul, including thirteen letters from Dr. Johnson, about twenty from Edward Cave, between thirty and forty from Dr. Robert James, besides a number of legal documents bearing upon the history of Paul's inventions. Mr. Cole made use of these materials in the preparation of a memoir of Paul, which he read at the meeting of the British Association at Leeds in 1858. It is published in full in the appendix to G. J. French's Life of Samuel Crompton, 1859, and it forms the sole source of information respecting Paul's career. At Mr. Cole's death nearly the whole of the papers were purchased by the Birmingham Free Library, but before they had been thoroughly examined and catalogued they were unfortunately destoyed in the fire which took place in 1879. A rough list of the papers was published in the Birmingham Weekly Post, 29 Sept. 1877. A number of Cave's letters to Paul were printed in the same newspaper for 22 and 29 Aug. 1891, and some of Thomas Warren's letters appeared in the numbers for 29 Dec. 1891, and following weeks. These letters were purchased by private owners, and so escaped the fire. See also Baines's History of the Cotton Manufacture, pp. 119–141, 172; Cole's Memoir in French's Life of Crompton, p. 249; articles in Centralblatt für die Textil-Industrie (Berlin), 22 and 29 Nov. and 6 Dec. 1892.]

R. B. P.