Street View: 42
Address: 19 Cheapside
The advertisement that bookseller and stationer Edward Suter put in Tallis’s Street View concerned a ‘Patent Letter Coping Machine’. It was a device for quickly copying a text, rather than copying it by hand. The method was to use special ink for the original, to place a piece of thin damp paper over the original and to put these two sheets under the press. The idea was first patented by James Watt, but improved upon by Patrick Ritchie of Nicholson Street, Edinburgh. The presses became a standard item in Victorian offices, but the ones that turn up today are usually thought of as book presses.(1)
As Suter’s advertisement states, he is the sole agent for the machines in London and quotes a number of testimonials from satisfied customers. According to Suter they were used in the offices of solicitors, merchants and bankers and could be supplied in four sizes, depending on the paper required (large 4to, foolscap, large post and extra large post).
Suter may have been the sole supplier for London, but Ritchie farmed out his invention all over the country. Howlett & Co. were the agents for Norwich and Norfolk(2) and in Hull they were sold by Thomas Freebody at the Hull Packet Office(3). They even crossed the Atlantic where David Felt of Stationer’s Hall, Pearl Street, New York received them “direct from Patrick Ritchie”.(4)
But selling copying presses was not all Suter did. He was heavily involved in all sorts of charitable and missionary organisations who could always rely on his support. In July 1834, for instance, the Society for Promoting Female Education in China, India and the East was formed in response to David Abeel’s pamphlet Appeal to Christian Ladies in [sic] behalf of Female Education in China. The Baptist Magazine of January 1835 published the appeal and concluded with “Those readers who desire further information may obtain it from Mr. Suter, 19, Cheapside; by whom contributions will be thankfully received.” The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle of 1838 also reported on the Society and mentioned that “communications may be addressed, and parcels and boxes sent to either of the secretaries, Miss Hope or Miss Adam, care of Mr. Suter, 19, Cheapside, or of Mrs. Chevalier, 42, Great Coram-street”. By 1838 the name of the society was shortened to Society for Promoting Female Education in the East, and was often simply referred to as the Female Education Society. The publishers for the Society’s magazine Female Missionary Intelligencer were Suter and Alexander at 32 Cheapside (a later address and partnership). They are also listed as the publishers of Missionary Leaves by the Church Missionary Society and for the Annual Report of the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society. This interest in missionary work was of course a general Victorian pastime, but may also have been prompted by his acquaintance to Samuel Dyer, missionary in China and Malaysia, who was the son of John Dyer, Secretary of the Royal Hospital at Greenwich. Edward Suter, the father of the bookseller, was Dyer’s clerk and he gave his son the second name of Dyer after his employer.
Suter acted for all these charitable organisations as bookseller and postal address, but he was actively involved himself as a member of the Spitalfield Benevolent Society, set up in 1811 by the evangelical Reverend Josiah Pratt to assist the poor. In 1820, Suter is named as one of the stewards of the Society.(5) The Society was associated with Whe(e)ler Chapel, Spital Square which was built in 1693 at the expense of Sir George Wheler to serve the people of Norton Folgate, Spitalfields and Mile End. In 1845 the chapel became a parish church and was renamed Saint Mary Spital, after a medieval hospital that used to stand in this area.(6)
But the biggest involvement Suter had was with the Infant School Society who decided in 1828 to move their depository from 15, Bucklersbury to 19, Cheapside.(7) Suter was obviously proud of this choice as he had the name of the society splashed on the front of his shop in the Street View elevation. The society was founded in 1824 to support “the care and education of the infant children of the labouring classes”. Pictures were used to teach the children basic knowledge and discipline, which would give them an advantage when they went to, what we would now call, a primary school. Some members of the Society’s committee were also involved with the Spitalfields Benevolent Society which may have been why Suter’s shop was chosen for the depository.(8) The philanthropic repertory of plans and suggestions for improving the condition of the labouring poor of 1841 recommended the Infant School initiative and announced that scripture lessons, illustrations, &c. for Infant schools could be had from Suter. In the Publishers’ circular of 1862, Suter advertised “A new catalogue of lessons, pictures, and apparatus, used in Infant Schools, Sunday Schools, and Nurseries”.
One of these picture publications was a set of six coloured depictions of the sugar trade, accompanied by letter-press text leaves which have the imprint ‘Printed by Edward Suter, printer to the Infant School Society, 19. Cheapside, London, for the Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Early Education of Negro Children’. The aquatint plates had first been published in 1823 in William Clark’s Ten views in the Island of Antigua and were re-used by the Ladies’ Society with large letter text to teach children to read. This Ladies’ Society (offically founded as The Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Early Education and Improvement of the Children of Negroes and people of Colour in the British West Indies) had been established in 1825 and paid for schools in the West Indies from voluntary contributions.
Who was this Edward Dyer Suter? As said above, he was the son of Edward Suter, clerk, sometimes referred to as purser, in the Royal Navy. His mother’s name was Sarah Burn and he was born in Greenwich on 23 June 1815 (baptised 25 July). The census of 1841 finds him living with Richard Suter, architect, his uncle, in Fenchurch Street, but in 1851 he lives with his parents in Canonbury Street, Islington. He marries Maria Hannah (sometimes referred to as Hannah Maria) Elliot in 1858. Where they live in 1861 is not known, because on the day of the census they are found visiting George Hooper in Theydon Bois and their home address is not stated. What is stated is that he employs three men and two boys. Ten years later, he and his wife live at Kent Lodge, Islington and he is then employing six men and three boys. Business is obviously going well, in fact, so well, that in 1881 he is listed as retired. A year later, on 31 July 1882 Maria dies, but probate for her estate (£703 17s. 9d.) is not granted until June 1888. Edward Dyer died 13 March 1886 at Hastings. When probate is granted on 21 April, his estate is worth £12,501 7s. 2d., but in June 1886 the executioners are resworn and the amount has increased to £12,645 11s. 2d. Both the probates of Edward and Maria are granted to Catherine Hasell and Lucy Gregory Burn, sisters of Edward.(9) What became of the business is not known.
(1) More information on copying machines is to be found in Barbara J. Rhodes and William Wells Streeter, Before photocopying, the art & history of mechanical copying, 1780-1938 (1999).
(2) Advertisement The Norfolk News 30 May 1846.
(3) Advertisement The Hull Packet 24 December 1847.
(4) Advertisement New York Evening Post 19 April 1836.
(5) Edward Bickersteth, The chief concerns of man for time and eternity:
Being a course of valedictory discourses preached at Wheler Chapel, in the autumn of 1830, p. 287.
(6) Survey of London: volume 27: Spitalfields and Mile End New Town, ed. F.H.W. Sheppard (1957), p. 103.
(7) Phillip McCann and Francis A. Young, Samuel Wilderspin and the Infant School Movement (1982).
(8) Notice in The Quarterly Review, July 1828, p. 14.
(9) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1886 and 1888.
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