Josiah Wade

The man behind the Anglo-Amer­ic­an Arab press

Josi­ah Wade is often accor­ded the dis­tinc­tion of being a ‘self-made man’. The phrase is used fre­quently, and can lose its mean­ing — it’s worth remem­ber­ing the scale of Wade’s pro­gress. Born in cot­tages in Heb­den Bridge, los­ing his fath­er at five, and start­ing work at sev­en and a half is an inaus­pi­cious begin­ning. To end life hav­ing designed and built presses serving ‘the civ­il­ised world’, and hav­ing been elec­ted as May­or of his town is a great accol­ade. Indeed the Hal­i­fax Guard­i­an’s first reports of his death repor­ted that “His busi­ness career was one which stamped him as a man who by his own geni­us, per­sever­ance and shrewd­ness, rose from the humblest pos­i­tion to one of afflu­ence.” The Hal­i­fax Cour­i­er stated that Wade was “…one of a fairly numer­ous band of men pro­duced by this dis­trict that could claim the proud dis­tinc­tion of being a self-made man.” Wade must have demon­strated early mech­an­ic­al skill in being selec­ted for work by Mr Cross­ley, and later work for Mr Horner, a watch-maker. Before devel­op­ing the Arab, Wade had opened offices in Manchester to ser­vice the mar­ket for his eye­let­ting and labelling machines.

Even while the Arab was suc­cess­ful, Wade had oth­er busi­ness interests in Hal­i­fax: a boot-makers on St James road; and an iron­mon­gers on Sil­ver Street. Wade also pat­en­ted a cut­ting and bor­ing bar with a shield, but this nev­er entered production.

Aside from his com­mer­cial work, Wade took an act­ive role in muni­cip­al life. It’s easy to for­get how well-developed our sys­tem of loc­al gov­ern­ment is today, and just what needed to be done in the 1890s. Look­ing after the des­ti­tute; sup­ply­ing clean water and keep­ing the peace could not be taken for granted.

Wade stood for the Lib­er­al Party and was elec­ted to Hal­i­fax Town Coun­cil in 1891. As Chair­man of the Water­works Com­mit­tee, he super­in­ten­ded the con­struc­tion of the Walshaw Dean Reser­voir Scheme. The Hal­i­fax Cour­i­er repor­ted that his ser­vices would be “…pos­sibly tardily recog­nised by his col­leagues.” He also played a key role in the open­ing of the Salt­er­hebble Hospital.

Wade was chosen as May­or of Hal­i­fax Bor­ough in 1902, and repor­ted that he was utterly unable to cope with the num­ber of tele­grams, let­ters and tele­phone mes­sages sent by people con­grat­u­lat­ing him on the appointment.


1842, Dec 16 Josi­ah Wade born in cot­tages near Cross­ley Mill , Heb­den Bridge to Han­nah and Joseph Wade. Wade had five sib­lings: Wil­li­am, Sarah, Steph­en, John and Edwin
1847 Wades fath­er dies, leav­ing a wid­owed mother
1850 Begins work at sev­en and a half while attend­ing Harry Bob’s school
1855 Moves to full-time work
1858 Appoin­ted by Mr Cross­ley to work on the pro­duc­tion of Horse Rugs for export. How­ever Josi­ah Wade’s broth­er — John — was killed by light­ning at Cross­ley’s fact­ory. Wade could not return to work and moved to work for Mr Horner, a watch maker of Heb­den Bridge
1862 Wade opens a shop in Heb­den Bridge: tak­ing orders for print­ing. Wade (with the assist­ance of two engin­eers) begins work on an eye­let­ting machine with one of his broth­ers, Edwin. With Edwin, he also estab­lished the “Hed­ben Chron­icle” — a news­pa­per last­ing only a few months
1867 Wade left Heb­den Bridge for Well Lane, Hal­i­fax to con­tin­ue work on his eye­let­ting and labelling machines
1891 Stood for elec­tion to Hal­i­fax Town Coun­cil in the South Ward and elec­ted. Appoin­ted to the Hal­i­fax Board of Guard­i­ans, which he con­sidered to be the ‘most pro­gress­ive Board in England’
1892 Appoin­ted vice-Chair­man of the Watch Committee
1894 Left the Town Coun­cil because of ill-health
1895 Returned to the Town Coun­cil after health improved
1897 Became Chair­man of the Water­works Com­mit­tee. It’s repor­ted that much of his time at this point was spent on the Walshaw Dean rever­voir scheme in Heb­den Bridge. To secure good sup­plies for Hal­i­fax, he also arranged the pur­chase of 1,000 acres of land at Ogden
1899 Made a dona­tion to the Church and Sunday School in Heb­den Bridge. Wade’s sis­ter — Sarah — died
1900, Nov Elec­ted an Alder­man of Halifax
1902 Became May­or of Hal­i­fax for one term, and was per­suaded to stand for anoth­er term
1904 Awar­ded a ‘Com­mis­sion of the Peace’, and re-elec­ted as Alderman
1908, Thu 13 Feb 0200 Died from heart fail­ure at North Park, Hal­i­fax, leav­ing a wid­ow and no children.