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De La Rue, Thomas (DNB00)


DE LA RUE, THOMAS (1793–1866), printer, was born on 24 March 1793 in Guernsey, in which island he was educated, and apprenticed at an early age to a printer and publisher named Chevalier. In 1815 he was in business in connection with a brother-in-law, named Champion. This firm published ‘La Liturgie,’ illustrated by engravings on steel, from paintings by R. Westall, R.A., and they also issued a newspaper. Not long after this De la Rue was in London, and appears to have been engaged in the manufacture of straw hats. These, however, went out of fashion, and his inventive faculties led him to introduce bonnets of embossed paper. These for a time were a great success, and they led De la Rue into the card and ornamental paper trade, and thus established the well-known house of De la Rue & Sons. De la Rue introduced the extensive use of sulphate of barytes as a pigment, being a substitute for white lead, and the beautifully white enamel which is now generally used upon the superior kinds of cards is a barytes white. He introduced several new printing inks, and invented the embossing of bookbinders' cloths and paperhangings. Among many other novelties, he patented sundry improvements in playing-cards and the fixing of iridescent films on paper. He commanded the talents of the best artists of the day, and he was lavish in the expenditure of money to secure the highest excellency in every branch of art manufacture which he brought into his works.

He was a man of considerable taste, and had collected many articles of virtu. His collection of Wedgwood ware was regarded as an exceedingly good one. It was sold after his death at Christie's. In the Great Exhibition of 1851 De la Rue acted as deputy-chairman to Class XVII. (paper, printing, and bookbinding) and joint reporter. In 1855 the firm, of which he was the senior partner, received from the French the grand gold medal of honour, and De la Rue was created chevalier of the Legion of Honour. He died in 1866.

[Walford's Men of the Time, 1862; Men of the Reign, 1885; Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, vol. v. 1846; Eliza Meteyard's Life of Wedgwood, 1873; Art Journal.]

R. H-t.