First Deaf Motorist and inventor of the wing mirror, Arthur James Wilson
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 27 April 2012
WILSON, Arthur James (1858-1945)
A younger version of Wilson appears on a picture in an earlier item on the National Deaf Club. Here we see him in middle age. He was born in Camden Town at 43 Arlington St, on 17th of February 1858, the son of a schoolmaster. Catching scarlet fever aged 12, he became totally deaf. His education continued at home, and Dimmock tells us that he composed an article at the age of 14 that appeared in A Magazine intended chiefly for the Deaf and Dumb (we have this journal in the library). For a time employed as an engraver, his eyesight not being strong enough Wilson became a journalist. With the aid of the Rev. Samuel Smith he helped found the National Deaf and Dumb Teetotal Society .
Wilson was a keen cyclist, and organised races and hill climbs in the late 1870s on one of the heavy tricycles then in vogue. He raced in Ireland, from which came the offer of a position in Dublin on the Irish Cyclist (Dimmock). Marrying a hearing lady in 1887, he moved back to London as manager for the Pneumatic Tyre Company.
In 1896 Wilson was the first Deaf person to purchase and drive a motor vehicle, and he was reputedly the inventor of the wing mirror. He became wealthy and was acquainted with the Prince of Wales, getting him interested in cycling, and taught King George V to cycle. He was an important figure in the development of Deaf Sport in the London region, which led to the establishment of the British Deaf Amateur Sports Association in 1930 (Dimmock).
Wilson was a founder of the Federation of London Deaf Clubs in 1918, and President of the Midland Counties Institutes for the Deaf (later Coventry Institute for the Deaf) as early as 1915 shortly after it was founded. His business fell into a decline after the Great War and was wound up in 1929. He died in 1945 in Leamington Spa.
See also annual reports for Coventry & Warwickshire Association for the Deaf.
Mr. Arthur J. Wilson, Ephphatha (First series) 1898 Vol.3 p.113-4