Peter Gibson Esquire
Like his father and brother, Peter Gibson made a living as a blacksmith. His trade, over more than 40 years, developed further to incorporate machine making and wheel/cart production from his premises at the foot of Gellatly Street, bordering Dock Street.
Subscription value in 1863:
Relative to inflation up to 2020:
Relative to income compared to 2020:
Personal details and history
Date of birth
Place of birth
Newbigging, Tealing, Forfarshire (Angus)
Married - wed on 02-09-1831 - registered in Dundee and Cupar, Fife
Name of spouse
Margaret Nicholson - daughter of Robert Nicholson, wright in Cupar, Fife
Joseph (1832): Robert (1834): Isabella (1836): Peter (1839):
Age at death:
Place of death:
Dalgleish Street, Ferry Port on Craig
Date of death:
Affiliations, clubs, offices and related subscribers
Subscriber 91 – Joseph Gibson – nephew of Peter Gibson
Career and worklife
Place of work
Career to date:
The son of a blacksmith, Peter Gibson made his way from Tealing into Dundee by, at least, 1834 and, possibly, earlier. An advertisement placed in 1851 suggested that his business had been in operation for 'upwards of 20 years,' giving a probable date of 1831/2. Prior to that date, it can be assumed that he operated as a smith in his home parish. It was reported (by himself) that he was responsible for having made the principal part of Bell's reaping machine in 1826 (see comments). Gibson's earliest listings in Dundee (1834-45), indicate that he earned his living as a 'smith,' 'blacksmith' and 'shipsmith.' His subsequent listings incorporated the claims of having become a blacksmith and machine maker. By 1851 Peter Gibson also commenced trading in 'wheel and cart work' and that work undertaken was by 'superior workmen.' By the later 1860s, the final listing for his business in the local directory indicated that he had taken his son into the firm which was thereafter named, 'Peter Gibson & Son.' This was a short-lived venture with 'Peter Gibson & Son' ceasing to trade by 1868.
While his father and his younger brother, William, remained in Newbigging, Peter himself (and also his elder brother, Joseph), made their way into Dundee to make their living. This was after the point that Peter claimed his part in the introduction of a new invention – that of the reaping machine.
Patrick Bell (1799-1869) is credited with having designed the first practical, mechanical reaping machine which had several features that were incorporated into early combine harvesters.
However, Peter Gibson, a fellow from a neighbouring parish, in a letter to the Northern Warder, claimed:
‘I was the first that brought the reaping machine into practice. I made the principal part of Mr Bell’s original machine in 1826. Mr Bell had the idea: I carried it into execution; and for this invention Mr Bell obtained a premium of £50 from the National Society. In 1830, I made one. In 1832, I made four. In 1836, I made one and the last one I made was in 1844, for the Count de Bombelles, Austria. The machines were never brought into general use, principally because of the persons entrusted with them (generally one of the farmer’s own servants) not knowing how to work them properly.’
There would appear to be further evidence of general acknowledgement to support Peter Gibson’s claims. A report in the Dundee Advertiser (long after his death) gave the following impression:
‘Chicago is also the headquarters of the Harvest Machine makers, who are busily engaged for next season turning out great numbers to meet demand from Mexico, the Argentine Republic, and other South American States, and difficult to meet all the orders coming in.
Here is a fine opportunity for a new trade to your city – almost the birthplace of these celebrated machines.
Little did Peter Gibson, of Dock Street, when a young man, think that the machine he constructed, and not understood or appreciated in his own country, but sent here for inspection and sale, to the care of the old established firm of Boorman, Johnston & Co in 1835, would turn out to be the nucleus, or rather beginning, of such a prosperous and lucrative trade. The machine was shown to inventors here, who no doubt improved and perfected the models, from which the present great industry sprung. After the great fire of 1837 it disappeared, and others reaped, along with the harvests, all the benefits to themselves.’
Although engaged in the production, fabrication and modification of working machinery, no further attributions for inventions of note were awarded to Peter Gibson. His business was doubtless involved in all the thriving trades and industries of the time within Dundee, where he remained in business until the late 1860s.
Within a few years of his retirement, Peter Gibson’s death was unremarked in the local press, a quiet ending to a promising start.
- Old Parish Registers. Tealing. Births. (1804). 322/ 30 113. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Old Parish Registers. Dundee. Marriages. (1831). 282/ 220 55. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1841). 282/15/ 15. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1851). 282/ 57/ 9. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Census Returns. Dundee. (1861). 282/1 12/ 25. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Directory, 1861-62. p.146. Local Studies, Central Library, Dundee.
- Census Returns. Forgan. (1871). 431/ 3/ 2. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Statutory Registers. Ferry Port on Craig. Deaths. (1873). 429/ 41. ScotlandsPeople website.
- Dundee Courier. 6 October 1852. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Directory, 1853-54. p.58. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Dundee Courier. 8 June 1847. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 3 October 1845. p.2. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Directory, 1864-65. p.126. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Dundee Directory, 1850. p.105. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Dundee Directory, 1867-68. p.132. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Dundee Directory, 1842-43. p.32. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Dundee, Perth & Cupar Advertiser. 19 September 1851. p.1. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Advertiser, 23 December 1863. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Directory, 1834. p.20. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal & General Advertiser. 28 September 1852. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
- Dundee Directory, 1837-38. p.32. Dundee Central Library, Local Studies.
- Dundee Advertiser. 21 October 1889. p.4. British Newspaper Archive website.
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