NOMA: ‘Invented by a deaf man … please use it and tell your friends to do same’
By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 June 2017
We recently found a poster for Noma, a substance for polishing aluminium. On it Selwyn Oxley had written ‘Invented by a deaf man, W Maddison please use it and tell your friends to do same’. This sent us off on a quest to find out more about this mysterious substance.
To our surprise there is no W Maddison. Instead Noma was invented – and patented by – Noel G. Maddison, who regular readers will recall we wrote about last November. It seems most likely that Noma was derived from Maddison’s own name – NOel MAddison. Using Espacenet, the worldwide patent search, we were able to get a copy of Maddison’s patent, titled ‘Improvements in or relating to the Manufacture of Powder for Cleansing, Polishing and like purposes’, which revealed the composition of the substance – silica 84%, curd soap 3.25%, Castile soap 3.25%, French chalk 7% and borax 2.5%. Curd soap is, sadly, just plain soap, while Castile soap is soap made with olive oil and soda.
You may notice that ‘Aluminium Archie’ appears to be female.
Further investigation showed that for some years Maddison and his aunt, Marion Chappell, were business partners operating out of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire. Chappell had lived there since at least 1911, when the census records her occupation as ‘private means’, but we don’t at present know exactly where the Noma was made. The partnership came to an end in 1931. The London Gazette reported simply –
Our assumption is that Chappell, at this point aged about 80, and a grand daughter of the music publisher Samuel Chappell, provided Maddison with capital to start the company; she died, aged 91, in 1942. Madisson lived until 1955, when he died at the age of 66.
We would be interested in finding out more about Noma – please let us know if you have any information.