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Transportation, Automobile, Art, Dr. Church’s London Birmingham Motor Car, Antique Print, 1833

$750

John Cooke (after)
Josiah Allen (engraver)
Dr. Church’s London & Birmingham Motor Car, Built at Birmingham 1833
Birmingham, England: 1833
Hand-colored engraving
8.25 x 11.75 inches, image
11.25 x 14.5 inches, overall
$750

Engraving of an early steam-powered carriage invented by Dr. William Church, a physician, engineer and inventor associated with the short-lived London & Birmingham Steam Carriage Company in the 1830s. The illustration shows an elegantly decorated vehicle — somewhat akin to a public transportation bus — carrying numerous passengers and a driver on the roof as well as in compartments at the front. A laborer stops to watch as it rolls down a country road rutted with the tracks of the horse-drawn stagecoaches it was designed to replace. The massive vehicle seems improbably balanced on three relatively small wheels, and indeed, the print is probably more promotional than factual — the first documented demonstration of Dr. Church’s invention did not occur until 1835. Other examples of this rare print are in the collections of the Beamish Museum in Northern England and the London Science Museum, the latter uncolored.

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Description

Dr. William Church (c. 1778-1863) was an American inventor who patented what was probably the first typesetting machine in 1822. By 1824, he had moved to Birmingham, England, where he was listed in the business directory as a physician, though he continued to take out patents on devices for metalworking and printing. In 1829, he began patenting designs for steam engines and associated equipment. The London & Birmingham Steam Carriage Company was formed in 1832 for the purpose of producing Church’s steam coach and operating a route between the two cities. According to a 19th-century history of steam locomotion, the first known demonstration of Dr. Church’s invention occurred in 1835, when it transported 40 passengers “for a considerable distance” from the factory. A few days later, it managed a round trip of 12 miles. Despite numerous attempts, however, he was unable to make it run reliably for long distances, and in 1837, the company was dissolved. Between 1820 and 1840, a number of British companies attempted to develop steam coach services on common roads and a few succeeded at surmounting the technical issues that thwarted Church. They were ultimately hampered by government policies that imposed high taxes as well as the unpredictable conditions of gravel roads, and ultimately were superseded by steam locomotives. Church apparently returned to America in 1861.

Josiah Allen was an engraver in Birmingham, England.

Full publication information: John Cooke, Delin. Eng’d by Josiah Allen, Birm’m.

Condition: Generally very good with usual and expected wear, soiling and toning.

References:

“‘Dr Church’s London & Birmingham Steam Coach,’ 1933.” Science & Society Picture Library. http://www.scienceandsociety.co.uk/results.asp?image=10420391&wwwflag=2&imagepos=4&screenwidth=1458 (26 November 2012).

“Dr Church’s London & Birmingham Motor car built at Birmingham – 1833. Engraved by :- Josiah Allen, Birmingham.” Beamish Museum. 2012. http://collections.beamish.org.uk/search-detail?item=IRN37747 (26 November 2012).

Fletcher, William. The History and Development of Steam Locomotion on Common Roads. London: E. & F.N. Spon, 1891. pp. 104-107. Online at Archive.org: http://archive.org/details/cu31924022808731 (26 November 2012).

Girvan, Ray. “Dr Church’s Steam Coach: 1830s Vapourware.”JS Blog: Journal of a Souther Bookreader. 25 March 2010. http://jsbookreader.blogspot.com/2010/03/dr-church-steam-coach-1830s-vapourware.html (20 November 2012).

“William Church (inventor).” Wikipedia. 9 May 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Church_(inventor) (26 November 2012).

Additional information

Century

19th Century