Fox, Samuel

b. 1815 Bradfield, near Sheffield, England
d. February 1887 Sheffield, England
English inventor of the curved steel umbrella frame.
Samuel Fox was the son of a weaver's shuttle maker in the hamlet of Bradwell (probably Bradfield, near Sheffield) in the remote hills. He went to Sheffield and served an apprenticeship in the steel trade. Afterwards, he worked with great energy and industry until he acquired sufficient capital to start in business on his own account at Stocksbridge, near Sheffield. It was there that he invented what became known as "Fox's Paragon Frame" for umbrellas. Whalebone or solid steel had previously been used for umbrella ribs, but whalebone was unreliable and steel was heavy. Fox realized that if he grooved the ribs he could make them both lighter and more elastic. In his first patent, taken out in 1852, he described making the ribs and stretchers of parasols and umbrellas from a narrow strip of steel plate partially bent into a trough-like form. He took out five more patents. The first, in 1853, was for strengthening the joints. His next two, in 1856 and 1857, were more concerned with preparing the steel for making the ribs. Another patent in 1857 was basically for improving the formation of the bit at the end of the rib where it was fixed to the stretcher and where the end of the rib has to be formed into a boss: this was so it could have a pin fixed through it to act as a pivot when the umbrella has to be opened or folded and yet support the rib and stretcher. The final patent, in 1865, reverted once more to improving the manufacture of the ribs. He made a fortune before other manufacturers knew what he was doing. Fox established a works at Lille when he found that the French import duties and other fiscal arrangements hindered exporting umbrellas and successful trading there, and was thereby able to develop a large and lucrative business.
1852. British patent no. 14,055 (curved steel ribs and stretchers for umbrellas). 1853. British patent no. 739 (strengthened umbrella joints).
1856. British patent no. 2,741 (ribs and stretchers for umbrellas). 1857. British patent no. 1,450 (steel wire for umbrellas).
1857, British patent no. 1,857 (forming the bit attached to the ribs). 1865, British patent no. 2,348 (improvements in making the ribs).
Further Reading
Obituary, 1887, Engineer 63.
Obituary, 1887, Iron 29.

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

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