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Jacob Perkins

Jacob Perkins was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, 9 July, 1766; died in London. England, 8 July, 1849. In childhood he was apprenticed to a goldsmith, and at the age of fifteen he carried on the business of a goldsmith in his native town, and invented a method of plating shoe-buckles. When he was about twenty-one years of age he was employed by the state of Massachusetts to make dies for copper coinage. The 1787 Massachutes Cent was his design. In 1790, Perkins made what is perhaps his most important invention, a machine for cutting and heading nails in one operation. As a result, nails could be mass-produced and sold cheaply. Perkins patented his machine in 1795 and setup a nail-manufacturing company in Amesbury. The company was sold in 1824..

He made great improvements in bank-note engraving by substituting steel for copper plates. After residing for some time in Boston and in New York, he removed to Philadelphia in 1814, and became associated with a firm of bank-note engravers. In 1818 he went to England, accompanied by Mr. Fairman and several workmen, and obtained a contract for supplying the Bank of Ireland with plates. He carried on his business extensively for many years in London, and was employed in perfecting engines and machines to be worked by steam-power. He originated a process for transferring engravings from one steel plate to another.

He also invented an instrument called the bathometer, to measure the depth of water, and the pleometer, to mark with precision the speed at which a vessel moves through the water. He constructed a gun in which steam, generated at an enormous pressure, was used for propulsion instead of gunpowder, and with it passed balls through eleven planks of the hardest deal, each an inch thick, placed some distance apart. With a, pressure of only 65 atmospheres he penetrated an iron plate a quarter of an inch thick. He also screwed to a gun-barrel a tube filled with balls, which, falling into the barrel, were discharged at the rate of nearly 1,000 a minute.

Maker of the George Washington Funeral Medals

Washington died on December 14, 1799. Two funeral processions were held in Boston, the first was sponsored by the Masonic Lodge on Feb. 11, 1800 while the second was a general procession on February 22, 1800. According to Baker the Newburyport diemaker Jacob Perkins produced medals for each event. The two medals have similar obverses. The reverse of the medal for the Masonic procession, Baker 165, contains a legend in four lines with a small skull and crossbones at the bottom. The reverse of the medal shown above, though to be for the general procession, displays a legend in two lines with an urn in the center. Angel Pietri has discovered the Boston Masonic Lodge still owns an urn made by Paul Revere that contains a lock of Washington's hair. Pietri examined the procession in detail, using contemporary accounts. In the diary of the Reverend William Bently, who gave the funeral sermon for the Mason's event there is a mention of Perkins, "on this occasion so well known for his excellent medals ... of our General Washington." (Pietri, pp. 15 and 17). From this and the prominence of the urn in the procession Pietri suggests both Washington medals were produced and sold at the Masonic procession.


List of medals for his inventions while in England

Number 4400 11th October 1819 Machinery and implements applicable to ornamental turning and engraving.
Number 4470 3rd June 1820 Construction of fixed and portable pumps
Number 3732 10th December 1822 Steam engines
Number 4792 17th May 1823 Heating, boiling or evaporating by the steam of fluids in pans, boilers or other vessels
Number 4800 5th June 1823 Steam engines
Number 4870 20th November 1823 Construction of the furnace of steam boilers
Number 4952 15th May 1824 Throwing shells and other projectiles
Number 4998 9th August 1824 Propelling vessels
Number 5237 11th August 1825 Construction of bedsteads, sofas and other similar articles
Number 5477 22nd March 1827 Construction of steam engines
Number 5806 2nd July 1829 Machinery for propelling steam engines
Number 6128 2nd July 1831 Generating steam
Number 6154 27th August 1831 Generating steam; applicable to evaporating and boiling fluids for certain purposes
Number 6275 9th June 1832 Blowing and exhausting air; applicable to various purposes
Number 6336 20th November 1832 Preserving copper in certain cases from the oxidation caused by heat
Number 6662 14th August 1834 Apparatus and means for producing ice, cooling fluids
Number 7059 12th April 1836 Steam engines; generating steam; evaporating and boiling fluids for certain purposes
Number 7114 13th June 1836 Apparatus for cooking
Number 7242 3rd December 1836 Steam engines; furnaces; and boilers, partly applicable to other purposes