Thomas Stevens

British, b.1828, d.1888

The Present Time, 60 Miles an Hour

  • c. 1879
  • Stevengraph in woven silk
  • Gifted by Mrs Ethel Horrocks
  • 235 x 345mm
  • 99/269

Woven silk pictures such as this were produced by Thomas Stevens, of Coventry, England as an extension of that city's long established silk ribbon industry. They were produced by transferring drawn designs to a series of punched cards – one card per row of weaving – so several thousand cards were required for each design. The looms followed the instructions on the punched cards over and over again, just like the instructions in a computer programme. This arrangement was not an original invention: the famous Jacquard loom which first used punched cards dates from 1801.

Stevengraphs, as they were called, were immensely popular and were produced as bookmarks, birthday and Christmas cards and as framed mantlepiece decorations.