5. Patents

Reilly patented a number of inventions, and not just related to chair construction. The earliest may be attributable to his father as the next one refers to JR the younger:-

1853. Patent (A.D.1853, 2nd December. No.2800). Invention for “Improvements in machinery or apparatus for tenoning, mortising and sawing wood, metal or other material”.

“My invention consists of a peculiar arrangement of mechanisms, by which I cut or form tenons and mortises, and is peculiarly adapted for chair work, cabinet and cabriole work, joiner’s work, ship carpenter’s & railway work, or other similar manufactures, but the principle is equally applicable to other and larger work, by making the machine of proportionate size and strength. It consists of a frame made of any suitable metal or material, the cutters, planes or centre part of which, work with a quick vertical motion in slides or slots. The article or material to be operated upon rests upon a moveable table upon which is fixed a moveable fence or block, against which the article to be operated on is held, and causes it to move to any bevil or angle required, by means of bolts and thumb screws. The vertical or up and down motion of the planes or cutters acts upon the wood or material, and forms the tenons or mortises as may be required, either square, bevil or to any angle or cant. I also use one or more saws for cutting the wood or material, and give them either a vertical or circular motion as may be found most convenient.” Reilly supplies drawings in illustration of the mechanisms which may be worked by hand, treddle levers or steam power.”

Ref. British Library GB185302800A

1858. Patent (A.D. 1858, 7th January. No.27). Invention for “Improvements in chairs and seats of various descriptions”.

Reilly claimed his invention as “the combination of cylinders, pistons and springs, with the necessary apparatus for working the same, to give various motions to chairs and seats”.  It involved a cylinder(s), or guide, inside which was a spring, through which would pass a piston(s). The cylinder(s) would be attached to the frame of the chair and the piston(s) to the seat, or vice versa. The frame could be attached to rockers or made partly spherical, thus allowing a further range of movement. “By placing the cylinder on a ball or universal joint, any description of see-sawing or oscillating movement may be achieved”.

He listed a number of potential uses: 1) Domestic chairs and stools, 2) Easy chairs, for ease and comfort, 3) Seats in railways, carriages, cabs, ships’ cabins, gardens, places of amusement, 4)Sofas and couches, 5) Perambulators- using india rubber or gutta percha to reduce noise, 6)Rocking horses, 7) Music stools.

This patent expired 7th January, 1861.

Ref. British Library GB185800027A

1863. Patent (A.D. 1863. ( ) No.769) (with William Martin). Invention for “Improvements in Lubricating Horizontal Shafting and Bearings”.

Reilly & Martin's Lubricating etcReilly & Martin's Lubricating etc 2

Article reproduced courtesy of Grace’s Guide

1864. Patent (A.D. 1864, 21st March. No.711). “Manufacture of Chairs &c” Invention for “Improvements in the manufacture of mahogany and other wood chairs, tables, couches, sofas and other similar articles of furniture”.

The first account of the “bolt back” method in which chair backs are bolted to the seat frame. Reilly explained that “This Invention consists in improved modes of jointing or framing together the different parts composing the chair, table, couch, sofa or other article of furniture”. In one case, a nut is embedded between tenons in the stile and receives a bolt passing from inside the side rail on the inside of the chair. In another, the bolt passes from the back, through stile and side rails to a nut visible inside the seat frame. He describes several variations on this theme, and also a modified bolt which has a threaded hole drilled through it so as to serve as a nut for a second bolt.

(Ref. British Library. GB186400711A)

1867. Patent (A.D. 1867, 14th January. No. 91). “Making and Repairing Highways, Adjusting Sleepers &c”. Invention for “Improvements in Making and Repairing Highways, Roads or Walls, which improvements are also applicable to bedding and adjusting railway sleepers and other similar purposes”.

Here Reilly claims the use of organic matter, such as wood turnings, borings, blocks of any size or even sawdust, covered with tar or preservative, to provide a stratum on which stones, used to form the road, would be laid. He then fills in the spaces between stones (which he prefers to be of smaller than usual size) with more and similar organic matter, the purpose being to bind or lock the stones together. The use of heavy rollers on the top surface would further bind together the stones preventing friction and wear, and thus deterioration of the road surface. In the case of railway sleepers, he felt the treatment would “prevent the ordinary unpleasant jar and at the same time give additional elasticity to the sleepers and prevent decay”. He would apply 1cwt. (hundredweight) of organic matter to 1 ton of stone, the lower stratum being about 1” thick, and the rest used to infill the crevices. A wonderful re-purposing of the waste material from his chair works!

(Ref. British Library GB186700091A)

1867. Patent (A.D. 1867, 11th March. No.1396). “Mechanical Aids for Swimming &c”. Invention for “Mechanical Aids for Swimming” being an improved system of mechanical aids, worked by hand or motive power, for enabling the arts of swimming, floating and diving to be rapidly acquired”.

This patent concerns five separate devices to assist in the acquisition of swimming and diving skills. The first is a frame or table which supports the body out of the water. The hands and feet are encased in gloves, shoes or straps and a mechanical system simulates the movements of swimming. The second device supports the swimmer in the water and allows the limbs to be moved in a manner produced by the first device. The third involves a radial device allowing the swimmer to proceed in a circular path through the water. The fourth involves a steam or machine powered continuous chain, running the length of the pool from which swimmers are suspended as they progress. The fifth is a mechanical system to assist in the learning of diving skills.

(Ref. British Library GB 186701396A)

1871. Patent (A.D. 1871, 16th February. No. 403). “Chairs”. Invention for “Improvements in the Manufacture of Mahogany and other wood Chairs”.

One object of the invention was to allow “chairs to be manufactured of different patterns by the addition of certain parts so as not to require such large stocks as are at present necessary.” The second object was to make chairs economically by using screws and bolts in improved positions. 

The additional part was to be a smaller rail fitted atop the side rails of the seat frames so that smaller slip seats could be used. He pointed out that he would employ this on chairs where bolts were being used as well as chairs made “in the ordinary manner.” The improved position of screws involved the use of bolts passing 1) through the stile from the back and into a nut mortised into the side rail, or 2) in the case of spoon back, balustrade or similar chairs passing from under the side rail into a nut located in the back. He also indicated that “when desired I substitute for the ordinary strengthening corner pieces or braces metal plates fastened by screws or bolts.” The bolts would be notched or perforated so they could be turned by a driver or key.

(British Library GB187100403A)

1872. Patent (A.D. 1872, 26th February. No. 615). “Signalling in Railway Trains”. Invention for “Improved arrangements for communicating between passengers, guards and engine drivers of railway trains”.

This was an early version of what came to be known as the “communication cord”. In Reilly’s case, it involved a continuous cord running from one end of a train to the other, being connected to the body or uniform of the driver at the front, and to the body or uniform of the guard at the rear. The cord would run across the tops of the carriages, and at various points would pass through pulleys at the tops of rods which descended through insulated holes in the roof, vertically down into the passenger compartment to a handle. A passenger could turn the handle which would cause a change in tension in the cord, alerting driver and guard.

(Ref. British Library GB 187200615A) 

1872. Patent (A.D. 1872, 26th March. No. 918). “Apparatus for Preventing Accidents on Railways”.

This rather long-winded specification concerns a system of gas lights and semaphore signals alongside railway track which block the line for a determined distance to prevent collisions and which dispense with the need for men to work signals at various parts of the lines.

(Ref. British Library GB 187200918A) 

1874. Patent (A.D. 1874, 23rd July. No. 2586). “Improvements in Four-Wheeled Carriages”. Relating to Broughams and other carriages and aimed at “ensuring greater convenience, comfort and security than can be obtained in any of the vehicles at present in use”. Provisional Specification only.

Relating to Broughams and other similar four-wheeled carriages Reilly proposed the construction of a platform between the front of the body and the splashboard. It could be used for luggage, carrying young people or for the occupant to enjoy the air. He also proposed a communication cord to signal the driver which way to turn and a brake so the occupant would have control over the horse and vehicle.

(Ref. British Library GB187402586A).

1875. Patent (A.D. 1875, 16th June. No. 2213). “Casings and Sealings for Steam Boilers” for “saving fuel, time and labour and for heating water and generating steam”.

(Ref. British Library GB187502213A)

1876. Patent (A.D. 1876, 21st December. No.4936). “Counting Machines”, “applicable to Turnstiles and other counters used in Places of Amusement, Tram Cars, Omnibuses… “etc

Presumably associated with Reilly’s involvement in the leisure industry and tracking numbers of visitors to Pomona Palace Gardens.

(Ref. British Library GB187604936A)

1877. Patent (A.D.1877, 1st February. No. 423). “Chairs”. Reilly left a provisional specification at the Patent Office in which he begins, rather unclearly, to propose improved methods for the shaping and finishing of chair backs using powered machines. He talks about shaping the joints in accordance with the grain of  the different parts to be joined “so that the greatest possible strength may be obtained with extreme economy in the time and labour required for the manufacture”. He also states that  ” I prefer them (chair backs and fronts) to be fixed by screws or bolts in the manner described..” in his 1871 Patent specification.

(Ref. British Library GB187700423A)

1878. Patent (A.D. 1878, 23rd October. No. 4229) “Abutments or Supports for Protecting Castors, &c”. Invention for “improved abutments or support for the protection of the ordinary castors used in furniture and other articles, and for improvements in the wheels and axles of castors, which improvements are also applicable to the wheels and axles of wheelbarrows, tram cars and other vehicles”.

The object of the first part of his invention was “to prevent the breakage which frequently occurs with the ordinary castor”. To achieve this he added, “to the castor, a foot or roller, having its bottom end slightly above the floor when there is not more than the average weight on the article but which rests on the floor when there is an overweight”. To ensure stability he made “the vertical centre of the foot or roller in line with the axis of the bearing on which the bracket of the castor works, thereby relieving the castor from the extra weight”.

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(Ref. British Library GB187804229A)

1880, Patent (A.D. 1880, 18th June. No 2479). “Manufacture of Chairs and Seats &c”

This Provisional Specification is full of ideas: 1) Dispensing with the bottom rail of the back of a chair and introducing it into the back of the seat frame. In this way, the seat and back can be separately upholstered and slip seats are unnecessary.

DSC_0323  DSC_0324 - Copy

2) A cramping table with studs arranged in the shape of the chair back or front. The component pieces are assembled and laid inside the studs which have adjustable shoes which can be tightened to hold the piece firmly to shape. 3) A table with associated horizontal circular saw which can level chair legs to sit squarely on the ground. 4) A set-up for boring concentric and vertical holes into chair legs to receive Reilly’s patent caster of 1878. 5) Abandoning the use of steam or power bending wood in favour of cutting components from solid timber. 6) Countersinking holes for external bolt heads (plain or ornamental) so they would be flush with the surface of the wood, or more deeply countersinking and filling the gaps with plugs. 7) The use of moulds for the forming of upholstered seats or backs. 8) To create a stronger solid-seat wooden chair, he proposed tapping holes to receive the front legs which would have a screw thread cut at the top. The legs could be glued and screwed into the seat. Nuts would be mortised into the backs of the solid seat to accept bolts passing through the stiles of the backs. 9) To combat the scourge of moths on upholstered seats he proposed the use of coiled steel wire, built up in a former or laced and worked to the desired shape, or wire netting woven to the shape of a seat and attached to the seat frame by springs or bands of India rubber, to give elasticity. Another method was to place a metal disc, with a central hole and many smaller holes radiating from the centre, in the middle of the seat frame. Wires would be threaded through the holes and fixed around the frame.

 (Ref. British Library GB188002479A)

1880. Improvements in Colliery Tubs. Reilly devised “an ingenious arrangement for constant automatic lubrication, and also for giving more freedom of action to the wheels of colliery tubs….”. He proposed the wheels of the tubs should run freely on the axles, rather than be fixed, and that the wheel hubs be so constructed as to include an oil-box, or reservoir, which could allow the bearings to be lubricated.

(Ref. The Newcastle Courant &c, 29/10/1880).

1887. Patent (A.D. 1887, 21st September. No. 12790). “Improvements in Manufacture of Ordinary Chairs”. The provisional specification is possibly the most poorly written and least punctuated  of all the patent documents. It does, however, read easily when Reilly rails against bugs and vermin in upholstery! “The Public has for years had their Homes made very uncomfortable by the breeding of Moths, Grubs and all other sorts of vermin in consequence of the filthy sorts of materials, which has been used for inside stuffing of middle and other Class of Furniture, this sort of material is principally old Rags, Flocks and other rubbishy materials, gathered from all parts of the Country, ground up and carrying sickness and even Death to many Homes.” His solution is to build a more substantial seat frame, and to use wire instead of webbing. Over this is stretched sacking or strong carpet which is, in turn, covered by Morocco leather, damask, Utrecht velvet,or something similar.

He goes on to describe the use of lathes and fly cutters to produce decorative chair parts, or to achieve consistency in the carving and shaping of parts. He describes machinery used for the work. To produce a cheap chair for indoor or outdoor work he assembles a strong round frame with a hole in the middle . The front legs have a screw thread and are glued and screwed into tapped holes at the front of the frame. Nuts are mortised into the rear quarters and holes drilled to accept bolts which pass through the stiles of the rear legs. Finally, he refers to the machinery he uses to create gimp from thin sheets of metal.

(Ref. British Library GB12790A)

1889. Patent (A.D. 1889. No. 11874) “Upholstering”. No further information available at British Library.

Luke Millar first wrote about Reilly and his patents ( Millar, Luke.  “J. Reilly’s Patent”. Regional Furniture Society Newsletter, 13. Winter 1990) and, in particular, described those of 1864 and 1871 which were concerned with the bolt-back method of chair construction.

3 thoughts on “5. Patents

  1. Pingback: Reilly’s Patent Caster, 1878 | James Reilly (1825-1889) Manchester Chairmaker

  2. Pingback: Reilly and Martin’s Lubricating Horizontal Shafting and Bearings | James Reilly (1825-1889) Manchester Chairmaker

  3. Pingback: Patent Page Update | James Reilly (1825-1889) Manchester Chairmaker

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