Heilmann, Josué (Joshua)

Heilmann, Josué (Joshua)
SUBJECT AREA: Textiles
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b. 1796 Alsace
d. 1848
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Alsatian inventor of the first machine for combing cotton.
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Josué Heilmann, of Mulhouse, was awarded 5,000 francs offered by the cotton spinners of Alsace for a machine that would comb cotton. It was a process not hitherto applied to this fibre and, when perfected, enabled finer, smoother and more lustrous yarns to be spun. The important feature of Heilmann's method was to use a grip or nip to hold the end of the sliver that was being combed. Two or more combs passed through the protruding fibres to comb them thoroughly, and a brush cylinder and knife cleared away the noils. The combed section was passed forward so that the part held in the nip could then be combed. The combed fibres were joined up with the length already finished. Heilmann obtained a British patent in 1846, but no machines were put to work until 1851. Six firms of cotton spinners in Lancashire paid £30,000 for the cotton-combing rights and Marshall's of Leeds paid £20,000 for the rights to comb flax. Heilmann's machine was used on the European continent for combing silk as well as flax, wool and cotton, so it proved to be very versatile. Priority of his patent was challenged in England because Lister had patented a combing machine with a gripper or nip in 1843; in 1852 the parties went to litigation and cross-suits were instituted. While Heilmann obtained a verdict of infringement against Lister for certain things, Lister also obtained one against Heilmann for other matters. After this outcome, Heilmann's patent was bought on speculation by Messrs Akroyd and Titus Salt for £30,000, but was afterwards resold to Lister for the same amount. In this way Lister was able to exploit his own patent through suppressing Heilmann's.
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Bibliography
1846, British patent no. 11,103 (cotton-combing machine).
Further Reading
For descriptions of his combing machine see: W.English, 1969, The Textile Industry, London; T.K.Derry and T.I.Williams, 1960, A Short History of Technology from the Earliest Times to AD 1900, Oxford; and C.Singer (ed.), 1958, A History of Technology, Vol.
IV, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
RLH

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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