Page:Dictionary of National Biography. Sup. Vol II (1901).djvu/447

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Holden
Holden
435

father managed to give him a little more schooling, the family having removed in the meantime to Kilbarchan and Johnstone, and then back to Paisley, where he learnt Latin under a capable teacher. In 1823, after a year's experience at shawl weaving, which proved too much for his strength, Isaac joined the school of James Kennedy at Paisley, where he soon became an assistant teacher. In 1826 his father died, and he found his mother and a younger brother dependent upon him. Leaving Kennedy's school in January 1828 he became mathematical teacher successively at Leeds, Huddersfield, and Reading. There, in October 1829, the idea of applying sulphur to the explosive material that was necessary to produce instantaneous light first occurred to him. The idea was circulated by him without any reserve, and shortly afterwards friction matches or lucifers came into common use. Many years later Holden claimed the invention, but he did so with modesty and reserve, and it cannot be said that his claim has been established. In February 1894 he virtually abandoned his claim to priority in favour of John Walker (1781?–1859) [q. v.] of Stockton-on-Tees, though he still claimed complete independence for his invention (made two years and six months after the first record of the sale of ‘friction lights’ in Walker's day-book). In June 1830 Holden returned from Reading to Glasgow, and he seems for a time to have cherished the idea of entering the Wesleyan ministry, but an accident determined his career in another direction. In November 1830 he was strongly recommended by some friends for the post of bookkeeper in the old-established firm of Townend Brothers, worsted manufacturers of Cullingworth, near Bingley, in Yorkshire. Holden promptly sold the goodwill of the school he was about to set up, abandoned the idea of the ministry, and set out for his new post, devoting himself for over sixteen years with the utmost energy to the interests of the Townends, in whose service his inventive faculties had full play. He was rapidly moved from the counting-house to the mill; his application to the work was intense, and he was soon meditating the application of machine power to the various operations of wool-combing. The Townends, however, were averse from acquiring exclusive rights, and they were unwilling to aid him in patenting his square-motion wool-comber, which was his most important invention. When they took up the same attitude with regard to his new process for manufacturing genappe yarns in 1846, Holden left them, and became associated with another inventor, Samuel Cunliffe Lister, afterwards first baron Masham. In conjunction with him, having obtained a patent for a new method of carding and combing and preparing genappe yarns (Patent 11896, 7 Oct. 1847), and having brought the new machinery as near perfection as possible, Holden opened a large fabrique at St. Denis, near Paris, in 1848. In 1864 Holden concentrated his business at Bradford, and it rapidly became the largest wool-combing concern in the world, counting over thirty millions of fleeces yearly, branching out at Croix, near Roubaix, and at Rheims, and employing over four thousand persons. The foreign establishments were managed in the main by his son and son-in-law, Isaac Holden Crothers; but Holden relaxed none of his industry, and amassed an enormous fortune, becoming widely known as a model employer and a munificent patron. He remained a devout Wesleyan, and in 1865 he entered parliament for Knaresborough as a supporter of Gladstone. He lost his seat in 1868, but sat for the Keighley division from 1882 until his retirement from politics in 1895. He was created a baronet by Gladstone on 1 July 1893. As he grew older Holden became a valetudinarian, and studied longevity as an art with all his old assiduity. The essential things he regarded to be fresh air, fruit, and exercise. In order to enable his wife to take walking exercise in bad weather, he erected an enormous winter garden at a cost of 120,000l. at Oakworth House, near Keighley, where he also fitted up a Turkish bath. In regard to diet he was extremely punctilious. Like Wesley, whose ‘Natural Philosophy’ he studied as a boy, he saw in farinaceous food a thing to be avoided by the elderly. ‘I take for breakfast,’ he said, ‘one baked apple, one orange, twenty grapes, and a biscuit made from bananas. My midday meal consists of about three ounces of beef, mutton, or fish, with now and again a half cupful of soup. For supper I repeat my breakfast menu.’ The orange was his favourite fruit. Wine he eschewed; but on returning from the House of Commons to Queen Anne Mansions he had a tumbler of hot whisky and water. He took no drink with his food, which obliged him to masticate well. He smoked two or three cigars a day, a practice which he claimed to be beneficial. But for the whisky and cigars he was regarded by enthusiasts of self-help as a model which not even Dr. Smiles could have improved upon. Sir Isaac retained his health and his faculties to the very last, dying in his ninety-first year, at his seat of Oakworth, on 13 Aug. 1897.