Thomas Stevens (weaver)

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Thomas Stevens
Thomas Stevens HAGAM.tif
Thomas Stevens in 1888
Foleshill, England
Died24 October 1888(1888-10-24) (aged 59–60)
London, England
Resting placeCoventry cemetery
Known forInventing the Stevengraph

Thomas Stevens (18281888) was a 19th-century weaver from Coventry, famous for his invention of the stevengraph, a woven silk picture.

Coventry City and Metropolitan borough in England

Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England.

Stevengraph Pictures woven from silk, originally created by Thomas Stevens in the 19th century

Stevengraphs are pictures woven from silk, originally created by Thomas Stevens in the 19th century. They were popular collectable items again during the revival of interest in Victoriana in the 1960s and 1970s.

Silk fine, lustrous, natural fiber produced by the larvae of various silk moths, especially the species Bombyx mori

Silk is a natural protein fiber, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The protein fiber of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons. The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm Bombyx mori reared in captivity (sericulture). The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colors.



Stevengraph showing the London and York Royal Mail Coach, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Silk picture of the London and York royal mail coach.JPG
Stevengraph showing the London and York Royal Mail Coach, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum.

In the 19th century the town of Coventry, England, was the centre of a ribbon weaving industry. Thomas Stevens was born in Foleshill, just to the north of Coventry, in 1828 to a relatively poor family. [1] Stevens worked for Pears and Franklin, a local ribbon weavers in Coventry, and by 1854 had created his own ribbon firm. [1] In 1860, however, the Cobden–Chevalier Treaty was signed; this free trade treaty introduced new competition into the industry, leading to a collapse in the local ribbon economy and a huge loss of employment in Coventry. [2]

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Ribbon long, narrow woven textile, used for trimming, belts, filets, and straps of various kinds

A ribbon or riband is a thin band of material, typically cloth but also plastic or sometimes metal, used primarily as decorative binding and tying. Cloth ribbons are made of natural materials such as silk, velvet, cotton, and jute and of synthetic materials, such as polyester, nylon, and polypropylene. Ribbon is used for innumerable useful, ornamental, and symbolic purposes. Cultures around the world use ribbon in their hair, around the body, and as ornamentation on non-human animals, buildings, and packaging. Some popular fabrics used to make ribbons are satin, organza, sheer, silk, velvet, and grosgrain.

Foleshill human settlement in United Kingdom

Foleshill is a suburb in the north of Coventry in the West Midlands of England. Longford, Courthouse Green and Rowley Green are to its north and Keresley is to its west. The population of the Ward at the 2011 census was 19,943.

Stevens had considerable experience of experimenting with the Jacquard loom and responded to the local recession by trying to develop new products. He had invented a way of using the programmable loom to weave colourful pictures from silk. [1] By 1862, Stevens could produce four different designs; he attempted to appeal to the mass market, selling his products between six pence and fifteen shillings each. [3] Some of these pictures were used for bookmarks, greetings cards and specialised products for the Admiralty. [1]

Jacquard loom loom fitted with a Jacquard machine for weaving complex patterned fabrics

The Jacquard machine is a device fitted to a power loom that simplifies the process of manufacturing textiles with such complex patterns as brocade, damask and matelassé. It was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1804. The loom was controlled by a "chain of cards"; a number of punched cards laced together into a continuous sequence. Multiple rows of holes were punched on each card, with one complete card corresponding to one row of the design. Several such paper cards, generally white in color, can be seen in the images below. Chains, like Bouchon's earlier use of paper tape, allowed sequences of any length to be constructed, not limited by the size of a card.

Bookmark thin marker, commonly made of card, leather, or fabric, used to keep the readers place in a book and to enable the reader to return to it with ease

A bookmark is a thin marker, commonly made of card, leather, or fabric, used to keep the reader's place in a book and to enable the reader to return to it with ease. Other frequently used materials for bookmarks are paper, metals like silver and brass, silk, wood, cord (sewing), and plastic. Many bookmarks can be clipped on a page with the aid of a page-flap.

Admiralty British Government ministry responsible for the Royal Navy until 1964

The Admiralty, originally known as the Office of the Admiralty and Marine Affairs, was the government department responsible for the command of the Royal Navy first in the Kingdom of England, later in the Kingdom of Great Britain, and from 1801 to 1964, the United Kingdom and former British Empire. Originally exercised by a single person, the Lord High Admiral (1385–1628), the Admiralty was, from the early 18th century onwards, almost invariably put "in commission" and exercised by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who sat on the Board of Admiralty.

Business boomed and Stevens acquired two larger factories in turn; by 1875 he was calling his product the "Stevengraph", named after himself. [1] He exhibited internationally in America, France and Holland, winning some 30 medals and diplomas. [1] In 1878 Stevens moved to London and began to mount his Stevengraphs as framed pictures - by the late 1880s Stevens had over 900 different designs. [3] In 1888 Stevens died following a throat operation and was buried in Coventry. [1]


By the 1930s, Stevengraphs were considered collectable items, but the hobby was considered eccentric and mainly confined to female collectors. During the Second World War Coventry was attacked by German bombers; on 14 November 1940 the Coventry Blitz occurred, apparently destroying the Stevens factory and the records of the Stevengraphs. In the late 1950s it emerged that Henry Stephens, a descendant of Thomas, had saved one of the pattern books the night before the attack and kept it in safe storage; Henry donated it to the Coventry City Council, who in turn entrusted it with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. Stevengraphs became valuable, with more male collectors entering the hobby. [4] Prices rose, particularly for unusual or rarer images less popular during the Victorian period. [2] A large collection of Stevens' work from his pattern book is still held at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum. [1]

Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe, who share a common German ancestry, culture and history. German is the shared mother tongue of a substantial majority of ethnic Germans.

Coventry Blitz German bombing raids on the English city of Coventry in World War II

The Coventry Blitz was a series of bombing raids that took place on the English city of Coventry. The city was bombed many times during the Second World War by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). The most devastating of these attacks occurred on the evening of 14 November 1940 and continued into the morning of 15 November.

Coventry City Council Local government body in England

Coventry City Council is the local government body responsible for the governance of the City of Coventry in England, which has been a metropolitan district since 1974.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Lynes, (n.d.).
  2. 1 2 Stevengraphs - What are they? , Stevengraph Collectors Association, accessed 4 October 2011.
  3. 1 2 Stevengraphs - What are they? , Stevengraph Collectors Association, accessed 4 October 2011; Lynes, (n.d.).
  4. Wollen, pp.68-69.


International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.