Obituary of Joseph Slater Lewis

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers

London, England
vol. CXLVII, p. 428-429

Obituary of Joseph Slater Lewis


JOSEPH SLATER LEWIS was born on the 4th June, 1852, at the Rake House, Helsby, and the early part of his life was spent there. He was at first intended to follow agricultural pursuits, but he early showed that talent for scientific methods which, bringing him into touch with prominent agriculturists, led to his becoming Secretary of the Birkenhead and Wirral Agricultural Society. It was here that the talent for industrial organization which he displayed in a high degree later first showed itself, and under his management the Society developed and prospered. Whilst thus engaged his attention was directed to the growth of the telephone industry, and he brought out a new form of line insulator, which had great popularity in England and also in America. This led to his establishing a small factory at Helsby, out of which grew the Telegraph Manufacturing Company, with Mr. Lewis for some time as Managing Director. Leaving Helsby in 1889, he moved to Birmingham, where he became identified with the Birmingham Telegraph Factory, and in 1892 he came to London as General Manager to Messrs. W. T. Goolden & Co., electrical engineers, which post he filled until 1894. It was during that time that the ideas and experience he had been accumulating culminated in the development of a complete system of factory organization which was first put into operation at Messrs. Goolden's works, and that he wrote his book on the "Commercial Organization of Factories "a book which remains the standard modern work on all that appertains to the methodical recording and cost-keeping in the complex manufacturing work of to-day. This work gave rise to a large correspondence from all over the world, and brought him in touch with a number of the leading manufacturers in this country.

In 1894 Mr. Lewis became General Manager to Messrs. P. R. Jackson & Co., of the Salford Rolling Mills, and organized an electrical department in connection therewith. A few months before his death he was invited to become a Director of the Brush Electrical Engineering Company, and for that purpose he removed to London. Mr. Lewis was one of the first members elected to the Cheshire County Council when that body was constituted, and took at one time an active part in public and political affairs. In politics he was a Radical. He was known and respected by a very wide circle of friends of every shade of views and opinions, for although of strong convictions himself, he did not allow them to interfere with his appreciation of those from whom he differed. For some little time before the end he had not seemed to be in his usual health, and there is no doubt that he had carried on his work with difficulty, but his sudden death on the 27th July, 1901, from a stroke of apoplexy, came as a great surprise and shock to all who knew him. He died at the early age of 49, at a time when his experience was matured, and the years of strenuous work in the attempt to modernise the industrial condition of English manufacturing were just beginning to bear fruit. In engineering matters he was not so much personally an originator as a combiner and organizer of the detail work of others, but his sound common sense often was very useful to those with whom he was cooperating.

Mr. Lewis was elected an Associate Member of the Institution on the 1st February, 1898.


Keywords:Slater Lewis
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Elton Gish
Date completed:July 12, 2009 by: Elton Gish;