1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Starley, James

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

STARLEY, JAMES (1830–1881), British inventor, the son of a farmer, was baptized at Albourne, Sussex, on the 13th of June 1830. At eighteen he ran away from home and started on foot for London, but on the way obtained work as a gardener at Lewisham, Kent, where he lived for a number of years. He had always been an ingenious mechanic, inventing trifling novelties and repairing watches and clocks in the neighbourhood, and when sewing machines began to be much used they attracted his practical attention, and aroused his inventive genius. Leaving his garden he went up to London and became working mechanic for a firm of sewing-machine makers. Here he was in his element, and in several particulars improved his principal's machines, and invented a new one with an arm attachment that permitted circular as well, as straightforward work. With a fellow workman he moved in 1857 to Coventry, and started the manufacture of the “European” and other sewing machines from his patents. This was the beginning of the Coventry Machinists' Company, the pioneer of all the great bicycle and tricycle works which afterwards made that city the centre of the industry. Former acquaintances of Starley at Lewisham and elsewhere migrated to Coventry to become skilled mechanics for this company. In 1868 they began the manufacture, after a Paris model and at first for French use, of bicycles, several of the earliest suggested improvements being Starley’s. A number of firms were soon devoting themselves exclusively to the manufacture of bicycles, and for one of these Starley—whose financial successes were always for others—designed the Coventry tricycle. As it was harder to propel than the bicycle he invented the balance gear, and applied it in the Salvo, which is the type of the present tricycle (q.v.). Starley died on the 17th of June 1881, and a public monument has been erected to his memory in Coventry. His nephew, J. K. Starley, patented the tangent wheel in 1874.