Levers (Leavers), John

Levers (Leavers), John
fl. 1812–21 England
d. after 1821 Rouen, France
English improver of lace-making machines that formed the basis for many later developments.
John Heathcote had shown that it was possible to make lace by machine with his patents of 1808 and 1809. His machines were developed and improved by John Levers. Levers was originally a hosiery frame-smith and setter-up at Sutton-in-Ashfield but moved to Nottingham, where he extended his operations to the construction of point-net and warp-lace machinery. In the years 1812 and 1813 he more or less isolated himself in the garret of a house in Derby Road, where he assembled his lacemaking machine by himself. He was helped by two brothers and a nephew who made parts, but they saw it only when it was completed. Financial help for making production machines came from the firm of John Stevenson \& Skipwith, lace manufacturers in Nottingham. Levers never sought a patent, as he was under the mistaken impression that additions or improvements to an existing patented machine could not be protected. An early example of the machine survives at the Castle Museum in Nottingham. Although his prospects must have seemed good, for some reason Levers dissolved his partnership with Stevenson \& Co. and continued to work on improving his machine. In 1817 he altered it from the horizontal to the upright position, building many of the machines each year. He was a friendly, kind-hearted man, but he seems to have been unable to apply himself to his business, preferring the company of musicians—he was a bandmaster of the local militia—and was soon frequently without money, even to buy food for his family. He emigrated in 1821 to Rouen, France, where he set up his lace machines and where he subsequently died; when or in what circumstances is unknown. His machine continued to be improved and was adapted to work with the Jacquard mechanism to select the pattern.
Further Reading
W.Felkin, 1967, History of the Machine-wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufactures, reprint, Newton Abbot (orig. pub. 1867) (the main account of the Levers machine).
W.English, 1969, The Textile Industry, London (a brief account of the Levers lace machine).
D.M.Smith, 1965, Industrial Archaeology of the East Midlands, Dawlish (includes an illustration of Levers's machine).

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

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  • leavers — [livœʀ] n. m. ÉTYM. V. 1850; mot angl., du nom de (John) Leavers ou Levers, artisan de Nottingham. ❖ ♦ Techn. Métier pour la fabrication du tulle. Par appos. || « Un métier à tisser leavers » (le Nouvel Obs., 22 janv. 1973, p. 32) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

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