January 4, 2024

Edward Wyon

This is the obituary for Edward Wyon which appeared in the Birmingham Daily Post of August 24, 1906.

"The late Mr. E. Wyon of Canton, China, who died suddenly while on a visit to Kobe, Japan, on the 16th inst., was a Birmingham man, whose career was a remarkably interesting and eventful one. At the time of his death he held the position of Chief of the Operative Department in the Imperial Mint at Canton. Mr. Wyon commenced his business life about 1857 [sic] when he was apprenticed to the late Mr. Ralph Heaton of the Birmingham Mint, who, in that year, sent out a mint to Marseilles to strike bronze coins, having received a contract from the French Government to convert the copper coin into bronze. In the early part of 1864, Mr. Wyon was sent out to Burmah on behalf of his employers to superintend the erection and equipment of a mint for the Burmese Government That the work was satisfactorily performed may be gathered from the following quaint testimonial which Messrs. Heaton subsequently received, the 'foreman' referred to being the late Mr. Wyon.

'We, the Atween Woon, Yah-Bhat-Myinigi Woon, Yaw Myoza-Min, and Mingee-Miulha-Maha-Sec, Burmese Ministers of State, do hereby certify that the great merchant and his deputy undertook, in the name of the most powerful God (on oath), to purchase for us instruments with which to coin money, and that they arrived in this heaven-like country in February 1864. The said merchant also sent out a foreman to manage our mint, and he has proved himself a most capable and able man in his business, and the ministers are therefore most thankful to God.'

"After a considerable stay in the 'heaven-like' country Mr. Wyon went to Japan and worked at the Imperial Mint there for a brief period. From Japan he journeyed to Egypt where he managed a cotton mill at Nikla, but he subsequently returned to the service of Messrs. Heaton. Shortly afterwards, his employers received an inquiry from the Republic of Colombia and a contract was entered into for the erection of a mint at Bogota. Mr. Wyon was entrusted with the superintendance of the erection of the machinery and the instruction of the Colombians how to use it. That was in 1881 and he remained there for five or six years and taught the new staff every branch of the work. In 1888 Messrs. Heaton erected a mint for the Chinese Government at Canton which was, at that time, the largest Mint in the world. It was a great undertaking but Mr. Wyon was equal to it, and he erected machinery capable of striking 2,700,000 coins per day. He was accompanied by a large staff of men from Birmingham, including a chief cashier, a roller, a coiner and a die-maker. They remained at Canton for two years and after instructing the Chinese in the manufacture of money, the party returned to England with the exception of Mr. Wyon who entered the service of the Chinese Government of Canton of the Operative Department. So completely satisfied were the Chinese authorities with the work done that in October 1893, the following communication was addressed to Mr. Ralph Heaton from the Imperial Mint, Canton.

'To: Mr. Ralph Heaton, Esq., The Manager of the The Mint, Birmingham, (Limited), Dear Sir, this large mint which our late Viceroy Chang in the 12th year of Kwang Su, who ordered from you through the late Minister Lew is working to the satisfaction of our present Viceroy Li, by whose permission the accompanying gold badge, as a token of your good work, is presented to you through Mr. Wyon. It has four Chinese characters thereon, signifying that you have "no rival in the world as constructors of minting machinery". Hoping that you will give us the pleasure of accepting same.'

"Mr. Wyon was held in high esteem by the Chinese Government and his services were recognized by the conferment upon him of a distinguished order. While at Canton, he went to Pekin on behalf of Messrs. Heaton to conduct some negotiations in connection with the proposed establishment of a mint there. This was during the Boer disturbances and Mr. Wyon who was accompanied by his wife entered Perkin shortly before the European Legations were besieged. He and wife were locked up in the city throughout the siege and Mrs. Wyon died during that trying time. Mr. Wyon escaped without injury although on one occasion he was reported as dead and his death was recorded in the home press.

"He returned to England about eighteen months ago and married a daughter of Mr. Hugh Middleton of Birmingham. They returned to China shortly afterwards. A few months ago a letter was received from Mr. Wyon saying that he intended to retire to England but before doing so he wished to spend a holiday in Japan, a country which had always held a great attraction to him. He had apparently commenced the tour with his wife and sister, but was taken ill at Kobe and died suddenly on Thursday of last week. He was related to the late Mr. Leonard Wyon, the famous engraver at the Royal Mint in London. The news of Mr. Wyon's death was received with great regret at the Birmingham Mint where he was held in the highest esteem and where his exceptional abilities were appreciated to the full."

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