General Grant’s Visit to Birmingham, and the Jewellery Quarter
When the Ex-president of the United States honoured Birmingham with his presence, the Municipal Authorities determined to make his sojourn interesting by showing him some of the ‘Lions’ of the town, for which purpose it was arranged that visits should be made to the following world-famed Manufacturing Establishments, viz.:—Messrs Green, Cadbury & Richards, (Button manufacturers), Messrs. Elkington & Co. (Electro-platers), Messrs, Gillotts, (Steel Pens) and Messrs. K. W. Winfield, (Chandeliers and Tubes).
In this round of visits, the General was accompanied by His Worship the Mayor of Birmingham, Mr. Alderman Geo. Baker, The Hon. Levi P. Morton, New York, J. B. Gould Esq., U.S. Consul, and Joseph Chamberlain, M. P. (now President of the Board of Trade).
The details of the visit to the works of Green, Cadbury & Richards was reported in the local media on the following day:
‘In the afternoon a visit was paid to the works of Messrs Green, Cadbury & Richards, Button Manufacturers, of Great Hampton Street. They were received in the show room by Mr. Joel Cadbury, who conducted them through the works. They first went into the machine and cutting shop, and saw the process of cutting the blanks for buttons; then into the stamping shops where livery buttons are made; through into the gilt jewellery stamping shop, and thence into the dipping and cleansing department. After inspecting the stamping room for brace buttons, the General was conducted into the burnishing room and the brass button warehouse, where wrapping up, was going on. The metal piercing, linen covering, die sinking, gold stud engraving, enamelling, and pearl departments were also inspected.
The several stages of button making were explained as the General passed through the various departments and he appeared greatly interested in the ingenious machinery employed, and the dexterity with which the workpeople accomplished their work. Some of the rooms were occupied by upwards of 100 females, each hard at work at their hand presses, and the General lingered in different departments and watched the different processes with keen interest.
His attention was also drawn to a library in connection with the works. It was explained to him that it was conducted on a similar system to the Free Library of the town, and was made self-supporting by the fines which were imposed on employees for breaches of discipline in the works. His Excellency and the Mayor remarked upon the general excellence of order that was manifested, and the extreme cleanliness and many comforts which were observable on every hand.
On returning to the show room the General inspected a variety of articles of jewellery, ivory, pearl, and other goods of very tine manufacture, and the various processes pearl is subjected to’.