Nathan Frederick English

Last March we talked about Benjamin Livermore, inventor among other things, of the so called “Permutation Typograph” or “Pocket Printing Machine”. Benjamin was the brother of Emily Livermore English who was married to Nathan Frederick English 1822-1902. Nathan is the star of the show for this newsletter.

English Family ca. 1855

English Family ca. 1855

The photo above was taken by Nathan English around 1854-55. It shows his wife Emily (Livermore) and the four oldest of their ten children.

Nathan English was a remarkable man with a remarkable family. He was an inventor (we have many of his patents, CYM) as were his sons, Euler, Analdo and Ernest. He also had some inventions with his brother-in-law, Benjamin Livermore.

A kindly man who carried raisins in his pockets to give to the children, N.F. spent countless hours in his shop on Lull brook inventing such things as a machine to bind or wrap horse whips and he made a drill that would drill cast iron. The Foundry people wanted to buy it but he wouldn’t sell. Told them to come over when they wanted anything bored and he would do it for them. [Good businessman !!]

The following is from Analdo and Ernest’s reminiscence recorded by Howland Atwood in 1938.

“Back in 1847 or1848 Nathan and his brother-in law got up a line of shoe machinery -press and dinking machines, etc. They went to Milford, Mass. and hired a loft with power and he was the pioneer in introducing shoe machinery. Formerly a shoe factory was merely a warehouse. The materials were accumulated and dealt out to men who cut out shoes - though in those days, boots were mostly made. The people used to come there and they were given so many pegs and various shoe parts, which they took home. They lived on little farms and had a room or two in their homes which was used as a shop where they worked on or made the shoes. The people did not all do the same thing. There would be a team of stitchers who would go and get their materials and take them home and stitch them. The bottomers pegged or sewed on the bottoms-did lasting. The news leaked out that English and Livermore were making shoes by machinery. English used to hire teams of men to work for him and the people, being jealous, would mob the men and disable them so they couldn’t work for a few days. Of course, when the men weren’t able to work, English and Livermore used to work in their places and Mr. English got very tired. Milford was sort of a malaria city and Mr. English became sick and he and Livermore gave up the business as things didn’t go right. Mr. English came home, poorer than when he left, when Analdo was a baby. Mr. English was sick for 2 or 3 years and wasn’t able to do much. A partner in their business had absorbed what was left.

A daguerreotype had not been out a great while and along in 1850 Mr. English made them. After awhile he dropped that and began experimenting with machinery. Along in the 1850’s he and Lysander Billings became partners and made machinery. Mr. English’s first shop was in the barn and then he had a shop around 1854 or 5 with a round top roof which was a rather long and narrow building. This stood at the back of the house cut in unison with the turning of the last. He carried on the last business for a few years (last- a wooden or metal block on which shoes were shaped). He wouldn’t make a fashionable last so that is probably why he lost the business. He made several of these turning machines. Hammond and Merritt had one in their factory on the mill gorge. There was a gristmill with several runs of stone and below that a sawmill with machinery for making other things out of wood in this establishment. There was one of Mr. English’s turning machines over in the foundry where they turned out wagon wheel spokes, etc.

Along in 1858 - 59 Mr. English got up a sort of photographic apparatus, so that he took pictures around in the area. He had a room downstairs in the house for working with daguerreotypes and later a room upstairs for sensitizing and developing ‘amber types’. By the time the Civil War broke out he had completed a daguerreotype machine and used it for a year or so.

In 1862, Nathan English made up a portable ‘amber type’ machine. It was a box 10 inches square and 20 inches long. This was the wet process. Mr. English made quite a few of these apparatus’s and he used to fit out men with them. He outfitted and man named Hart and H.B. Cross, a boy studying to be a doctor who put himself through college by taking pictures during vacations - at the seashore and elsewhere. Mr. Milliken, editor of the Brattleboro Reporter bought the patent right. Mr. English took hundreds of
pictures, many of them portraits.

Ed Bagley … sold Nathan English a piece of land near the Lull Brook and he built a dam and put up a shop there. For 6 or 7 years Analdo worked in his father’s shop. His father did some but mostly liked to be up in the front room of the house mostly - making models, etc.

In the square shop Nathan built a 40 horsepower engine for John Labaree as Labaree had gotten the idea that he could run a flouring mill along in the 1850s. This mill, in the Ladies Aid Hall in Four Corners was discontinued before 1861.

N.F.’s last years were spent making microscopes, telescopes, etc. He ground thousands of lenses and had rather a craze for making them. He spent months making powerful microscopes. He had one with such a wonderful lens that doctors used to come from all over to use his microscope, as it was so much better than theirs.

His son Euler did a lot of work in the shop after Analdo went away in 1872. Euler got up a machine for sawing marble in the quarry. It had a rectilinear frame which went

Mr. English once invented a flying machine and his son Euler tried it out. Mr. English always said the flying machine was practical if they had an engine to run it. The only engine he could have was steam. Mr. E once told some farmers that it would be only a few years before motorized vehicles came and they would sometime be everywhere.

Reprinted from the Hartland Historical Society Newsletter, Winter 2007.

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