James Cox (inventor)

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James Cox (1723–1800) was a British jeweller, goldsmith and entrepreneur[1] doing business at the Golden Urn, in Racquet Court, Fleet Street, London.[2] who is now best known for creating ingenious automata and mechanical clocks, including Cox's timepiece, powered by atmospheric pressure, and the Peacock Clock,[3] now in the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.

A typical "toy": a necessaire and watch by Cox (Walters Art Museum)

For a time in the 1770s Cox managed a private museum in London, in which capacity he managed to purchase Oliver Cromwell's head as a curiosity. In 1773, in conjunction with John Joseph Merlin (1735-1803), Cox built the Silver Swan automaton now exhibited at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Teesdale, County Durham.[4]

Cox despatched his son John Henry to Canton, China in 1782 to sell off an accumulated stock of mechanical toys [5] known as “singsongs”, which were popular with the Chinese. In Canton, both James and John Henry became partners with Daniel Beale and his brother Thomas in the firm of Cox & Beale.


  1. ^ James Cox (ca. 1723–1800): Goldsmith and Entrepreneur Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History; Roger Smith "James Cox (c. 1723-1800): A Revised Biography" The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 142, No. 1167 (Jun., 2000), pp. 353-361
  2. ^ Arthur Grimwade , London Goldsmiths 1697-1837: Their Marks and Lives, s.v. "Cox, James"
  3. ^ The State Hermitage Museum: Exhibitions
  4. ^ Holledge, Richard (21 December 2012). "Magic Wrought by a Merlin". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Ride, Lindsay; Ride, May; Mellor, Bernard (ed.) (1996). An East India company cemetery: Protestant burials in Macao. Hong Kong Univ Press. ISBN 978-962-209-384-3.  Online version at Google books p. 13

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