Monday, 30 August 2010

From the archives: kamptulicon

One of the joys of research is looking for one thing only to find something totally different. While browsing through a Deptford directory, I came across mentions of something I'd never heard of: kamptulicon. It turned out to be a shortlived but intriguing product which was even considered for battleships!

A local directory of 1874 lists three Deptford manufacturers of kamptulicon floor cloth: a rather distinctive-sounding product which I hadn't come across before. Indeed, the product was an interesting one which was fated to enjoy only relatively brief popularity.

Kamptulicon was patented in 1843, by Elijah Galloway; presumably the same Galloway who invented the feathering paddlewheel and various engines such as a non-dead centre engine designed to be started in any position by a single crank. By the 1850s kamptulicon had appeared at the Great Exhibition and was used in the Houses of Parliament. The product seemed amazing: a soft, warm flooring material which deadened sound and was easy to clean. In fact, it was even considered as a lining material for iron warships:
Experiments were conducted at Woolwich with some plates rivetted together like the sides of an iron ship, these plates being lined inside with cork and india-rubber, (the first idea of a cofferdam). It was expected that this preparation, which was known as "kamptulicon", would close up after shot had passed through and prevent ingress of water. This was found to be quite correct, but the egress of shot on the other side had quite the opposite result.
However, even for conventional household use there was a significant drawback. Kamptulicon was manufactured by mixing powdered cork with gutta percha (India rubber), then coating it with linseed oil; but rubber was expensive, and rising in cost. Thus, as Granville Sharp commented in his Prize Essay on the application of recent inventions collected at the Great Exhibition of 1851, to the purposes of practical banking,
For quietness and durability the "Kamptulicon Floor Cloth," manufactured by Walter & Gough, is peculiarly distinguished. The price, however, is very high.
In 1863 an alternative material, linoleum, was patented by Frederick Walton. Linoleum was cheaper, since it used oxydised linseed oil rather than rubber. Faced with this competition, kamptulicon went out of fashion and before too long, out of production. However, during its period of popularity, Deptford seems to have supported a surprising amount of its manufacture.

1 comment:

Minnie said...

Oh, but I bet its sound-deadening qualities would win out over cheaper floor coverings ...!
Fascinating post, as ever, Caroline. It is a constant delight to follow you down all those different side-alleys your research reveals.

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