Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton
and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com advises that these 19th Century
biographies, although edited, still contain period bias.
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PERKINS, Jacob,inventor, born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, 9 July, 1766;
died in London. England, 80 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, and three years afterward he invented a machine
for cutting and heading nails at one operation. Through the mismanagement of his
partners he was at this time involved in great pecuniary distress.
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.
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