Presentation certificate - Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Machinists, Millwrights, Smiths and Pattern Makers
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An elaborate certificate of membership. The artist uses a symmetrical architectural monument to unify a composition that includes realistic contemporary detail, portraits of engineers of achievement as well as much symbolism and allegory. The iconography is a combination of Classical ideals with the practical aspects of the trade. A key to the symbolism was published as a lithograph by the printing firm of Butterfield & Mason. The key includes notes that the winged figure is the: "Goddess of Fame standing on the Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty in the act of crowning a Smith & an Engineer with a wreath of Laurel"; Mars, the God of War, is "soliciting the Smith to repair his broken sword, which the latter refuses"; Clio, one of the Muses is "presenting a design to the Engineer, which he willingly accepts"; the two kneeling figures illustrate "Aesop's Fable of the Bundle of Sticks, shewing 'Union is Strength'"; the portrait in the centre is of "James Watt, improver of the Steam Engine". His rotative engine is depicted centre bottom. The portrait on the left is of: "Samuel Crompton, inventor of the Mule jenny"; the right hand portrait is of "Sir Richard Arkwright, inventor of the Spinning Frame". Below the image of the Phoenix rising from its ashes, the five branches of the iron trade are represented. The practical results of Science and Labour are displayed either side of the central structure. The rose, thistle and shamrock are the floral emblems of England, Scotland and Ireland. British trade unionism in engineering first emerged in the 1780s when a Friendly Society of Mechanics was established. In the 1820s local engineering unions began to develop in industrial areas and in 1851 a successful attempt was made to form a national union. The result was the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, Machinists, Millwrights, Smiths and Pattern Makers. This society was one of a number of groups in the United Kingdom that merged in 1920 to become the Amalgamated Engineers Union. All Australian branches followed suit. In Britain the amalgamation was announced with great fanfare. However, in Australia the reaction ranged from mild enthusiasm to protest, as the new union was more exclusive.
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