Celebrating the life, work and legacy of Matthew Boulton
Matthew Boulton - The Father of Birmingham
During his lifetime he was a world-famous figure, but since the twentieth century Matthew Boulton’s name has been largely overshadowed by that of his business partner, James Watt. But without Boulton’s entrepreneurial vision, drive and ambition it is unlikely that Watt would have fulfilled his potential as an engineer and inventor. Boulton’s work as well as Watt’s pushed the technological boundaries of his time and led directly to Britain occupying centre-stage as the world’s first industrial nation, something which has shaped our lives ever since.
What makes Matthew Boulton’s story so remarkably accessible is that all of his personal papers are preserved in Birmingham. From the hundreds of letters and notebooks emerges an attractive and engaging character, a one-time buttonmaker who was as welcome at the court of King George III as he was at the fireside of his friends.
2009 marks the bicentenary of Boulton’s death. This anniversary provides The City of Birmingham with a major opportunity to celebrate Boulton’s historical significance, and to raise his profile regionally, nationally and internationally. These pages provides an introduction to Matthew Boulton, and outlines the plans being made to celebrate him in 2009 (co-incidentally the year which also marks the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, grandson of twoof Boulton’s greatest friends, Erasmus Darwin and JosiahWedgwood).
The 2009 celebrations are a collaborative partnership involving Birmingham City Council (Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and Birmingham City Archives), the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, the University of Birmingham, the University of Central England, and The Birmingham Assay Office.
A. Bracebridge to Matthew Boulton, 1803
Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) is arguably the individual with the greatest historic significance associated with Birmingham, a city internationally renowned for nurturing innovation, aspiration and industry.
Picture 1:Matthew Boulton, by C.F. Von Breda, oil on canvas, 1792.
Picture 2: Silver Medal issued by Edward Thomason in 1809 to commemorate the death of Matthew Boulton. Engraved by P.Wyon after P. Rouw.