A machine used by the first company to mass produce toothbrushes currently languishes in store at Cambridge Museum of Technology (CMT) since it was collected from the Addis factory in Colne Valley Road in about 1971.
Haverhill Family History Group discovered it during research for its Haverhill at Work project, which opens next month at the town’s arts centre.
CMT now wants to concentrate on its Cambridge Collection and has lottery funding to develop the museum which is based in the city’s Victorian sewage pumping station. It wants to find a home for the machine before the site closes for refurbishment in six months.
Alan Bumpstead of the family history group said: “Haverhill Family and Local History groups hope that through the forthcoming exhibition more will become known about this machine, from the Addis employees who operated and maintained the it, and that volunteers will come forward to rescue, restore and find a new home for this important piece of Haverhill’s industrial history.”
It was known as a ‘drill and fill’ machine because on the right hand side holes were drilled into the brush handles which were then moved to the left side where the bristles were inserted.
It is also part of the country’s social and manufacturing history because the company, founded by William Addis, is believed to be the first to mass produce toothbrushes, starting in 1780. Addis had the idea of a toothbrush while in jail for rioting and made his bone-handled prototype while in prison.
When he died in 1808, the company passed on to his son and remained family owned until 1996. It is now known as Wisdom Toothbrushes and makes 70 million a year in the UK alone.
The family history group has spent nearly a year gathering oral memories from people who worked locally, during and since the expansion period of the 1960s,
A display of posters can be viewed in the Bistro area of Haverhill Arts Centre during the month of March with a special exhibition of workplace souvenirs and keepsakes from local firms and their workers and will be staged in the centre’s Studio Room between 10am to 4pm, from March 2 to March 6 (excluding Sunday).