Fourdrinier machine  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Fourdrinier Machine is the basis for most modern papermaking, and it has been used in some variation since its conception. The Fourdrinier accomplishes all the steps needed to transform a source of wood pulp into a final paper product.

Nicholas Louis Robert of Essonnes, France, was granted a patent for a continuous paper making machine in 1799. At the time he was working for Leger Didot with whom he quarrelled over the ownership of the invention. Didot thought England was a better place to develop the machine, but, these being troubled times, he could not go there himself so sent his brother in law, John Gamble, an Englishman living in Paris. Through a chain of acquaintances, Gamble was introduced to the brothers Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, stationers of London, who agreed to finance the project. Gamble was granted British patent 2487 on 20 October, 1801. With the help particularly of Bryan Donkin, a skilled and ingenious mechanic, an improved version of the Robert original was installed at Frogmore, Hertfordshire, in 1803, followed by another in 1804. A third machine was installed at the Fourdriniers' own mill at Two Waters. The Fourdriniers also bought a mill at St Neots intending to install two machines there and the process and machines continued to develop.

As far as the USA is concerned, the first recorded paper machine was Gilpin's at Brandywine Creek, Delaware in 1817. This was a cylinder mould machine, quite different in operation but also developed in England, not a Fourdrinier machine which was not introduced into the USA until 1827.



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