John Oldham, Miniature Painter

(b. 1779,d. 1840)

Miniature Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Was born in Dublin in 1779. He was apprenticed to an engraver, but afterwards became a miniature painter. He exhibited five miniatures at the Parliament House in 1801, and was referred to, in a notice of the exhibition in the "Freeman's Journal," as "a young artist, now for the first time before the public, advancing with rapid strides." He again exhibited the next year, a portrait in oil and three miniatures. Besides working as a miniature painter he was employed as an engraver in Duffy's Calico Printing Works at Ballsbridge. He had a strong bent for mechanics and in 1807, when he was living at 29 Westland Row, he invented a machine, called by him an Eidograph, which, according to his advertisement, on being applied to the face would "delineate the most expressive and animated miniature with unequalled accuracy and expedition." And in another advertisement he says that he had been extremely successful in taking profile miniatures by the instrument, finished by himself. For these he charged eleven and fourpence halfpenny.

It was not, however, as a miniature painter that Oldham was to achieve fame; his inventive genius led him on in other directions. He turned his attention to discovering a means of preventing the forgery of bank notes. His first invention was a numbering machine which in 1809 he unsuccessfully offered to the Newry Bank, but which in 1812 was adopted by the Bank of Ireland, and he was appointed engineer and chief engraver. In 1837 he entered the service of the Bank ot England, where he made many improvements in the machinery for printing and numbering notes. A system of heating buildings devised by him was adopted by the Bank of Ireland and subsequently by the Bank of England. In 1817 he obtained a patent for propelling ships by means of paddles worked by a steam engine, an invention he further improved in 1820 and 1827. The first sea-going iron ship, the "Aaron Manby," was fitted with his contrivance. He died in his house in Montagu Street, Russell Square, on 14th February, 1840. He was succeeded at the Bank of England by his son Thomas, born in 1801, who died on the 7th November, 1851. An India ink portrait of a man, a small full-length, seated, signed J. Oldham 1802, belongs to Mr. L. A. Waldron, Marino, Killiney.

« Manus Massey O'Keeffe | Contents and Search | William Oldham »