Henry Cole (1808 – 1882) British design education leader

Organiser – Great Exhibition of 1851

Henry Cole influential British Designer
Henry Cole, an influential British Designer

Henry Cole was a significant force in 19th-century British design education, emphasising its importance to the industry. He was also instrumental in organising the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the founding of the Journal of Design.


He started working with public records at 15, eventually rising to Assistant Keeper’s rank at the Public Record Office in 1838. He became interested in various design-related ventures under the pseudonym Felix Summerly, including the release of illustrated children’s books and the first Christmas card designed by J. C. Horsley. He was also involved in the creation of the first adhesive postage stamp. The Royal Society of Arts awarded Cole a Silver Medal in 1846 for his design of a tea service, which Minton later produced.

In 1847, he established Felix Summerly’s Art Manufactures, commissioning various artists to create designs in multiple media. His interest in art manufactures led to annual exhibitions through the Society of Arts from 1847 to 1849, which he had joined in 1846.

International Exhibitions

Crystal Palace drawing
Crystal Palace drawing

Cole was also active in the London International Exhibition of 1862 and the Paris International Exhibitions of 1855 and 1867, having worked closely with Prince Albert and other Royal Commission members for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

Achievements in Design

He also published the Journal of Design and Manufactures (1849–52), a significant campaigning voice for British design education changes, with the artist Richard Redgrave as its editor. Cole was appointed joint secretary of the Department of Practical Art with Lyon Playfair in 1852, the same year the Board of Trade formed it to oversee the Government Schools of Design. In 1858, he became his secretary, a position he held until 1873. He also assembled a design archive that would later serve as the foundation for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collections. In 1875, he was knighted.


The Industrial Design Reader. (2003). United States: Allworth.

MacCarthy, F. (1972). All things bright and beautiful; design in Britain, 1830 to today. University of Toronto Press.

Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

Arts & Crafts Movement | Amazon

You may also be interested in

Owen Jones (1809-1874) British architect and ornamental designer – Encyclopedia of Design

Owen Jones (1809-1874) was a British architect and ornamental designer. He studied at the Royal Academy in London and under the architect L. Vuillamy (1825-31). During the 1830s, he travelled extensively and was mainly influenced by Arabic ornamentation.

Mauboussin – French Jewellry – Design Profile – Encyclopedia of Design

Maubossin is a jewellery company in France. The original company was established in 1827 in Paris, on Rue Grenata, where it manufactured jewellery. Starting in 1903, M.B. Noury was the owner and nephew of Georges Maubossin, who had been the director of the company since 1877.

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.