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Robert Dick


1820 - 1891

Industrialist. Born in Kilmarnock (East Ayrshire), the son of an innkeeper who died when he was a youth. His mother moved the family to Glasgow where Dick was apprenticed to a jeweller and eventually set himself up as a watchmaker. In 1846, with his younger brother James, he began experimenting with gutta-percha (a form of natural rubber) and the pair pioneered its use to make soles for shoes. They bought a shop on the Gallowgate and produced shoes which were at first regarded as a novelty. Having improved the manufacturing process they were able to reduce the price of their shoes to establish them as a mass-market product. R & J. Dick Ltd. built a four-storey factory and opened shops across the UK, achieving sales of more than 30,000 pairs of shoes weekly. The brothers grew wealthy, but Robert never married. He went on to invent and manufacture rubberised-textile drive belts (the Dickbelt) for machinery which became an international success.

He died at his home on Monteith Row in Glasgow, next to Glasgow Green.


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