1866 Alfred Bird

First (now 2nd*) to manufacture soap bubble solution & kit. RAINBOW BUBBLES.

What a blast to have found this. 1866? Yes!

Also: Bird entertained the Royal family at Windsor Castle with his bubbles.

"A more simple or more beautiful experiment can hardly be invented."

"Magnificent Spheres, 24 inches in circumference"

*Correction: Earliest manufactured bubble play product -- pushed back by 1 year!

When I created this page, Bird with his Rainbow bubble toy & solution (1866) was the earliest bubble toy I'd found.

Scratch that.

One year earlier, 1865 & also in London, an optician and maker of scientific apparatus W. LADD (located on Beak and Regent Streets) had a bubble play kit for sale...

THE PATENT BULLIERE OR BUBBLE ENTERTAINMENT WITH GEOMETRIC FRAME --- It was a bottle of prepared Plateau's Glycerine Soap Bubble Solution with an available kit of Geometric Frames and full instructions.

The top 2 advertisements come from The Times of London in December of 1865. The bottom comes from: the Intellectual Observer Review of Natural History also 1965.

Does that mean that Bird stole/improved upon Ladd's idea? Hmm. Either way, Bird did improve the toy and invested in marketing and I haven't seen evidence that Ladd's kit was literally "patented".

That said, my hat is now off to W. Ladd. The current title holder of: Earliest bubble play apparatus manufacturer.

Other than Ladd's Ads, I haven't found more interesting stuff about him to report so he doesn't get his own page on Soabubbler.com yet.

About Alfred Bird (1811 – 15 December 1878)

From his chemist’s shop in Birmingham, England [Established 1837], Bird invented and manufactured food products and became exceedingly wealthy. Most famous for inventing an (eggless) Egg Custard and the Baking Powder we know today. His interest in experimental chemistry also took him in other directions.


I believe this was the first bubble liquid & kit manufactured for fun and pleasure. As you'll see below, the kit included a Glass Blower, Tripod and fluid sufficient for hundreds of these lovely bubbles. The tripod was a ring on a three legs upon which bubbles were placed for maximum enjoyment.

Bird's Rainbow Bubbles claim to be an improved formula originally developed by Joseph Plateau about 30 years earlier for use in scientific research.

Let's take a moment to celebrate Alfred Bird's long forgotten bubble achievements - Hip Hip Hurrah!

1866 January 25 as reported in the Birmingham (UK) Post.

THE RAINBOW BUBBLE — Mr. A. Bird, chemist, Worcester Street, has just introduced to our notice a new scientific discovery, by which bubbles may be blown, and fixed on a wire stand, on which they will remain for six or seven minutes.

The fluid used was first discovered by M. Plateau while engaged in experimenting on the deportment of liquids freed from the influence of gravity. Mr. Bird has, however, greatly improved the fluid, and made it so tenacious that bubbles, 24 inches in circumference, may be blown without difficulty. It is impossible to describe adequately the grace and beauty of these bubbles. On being blown they can be fixed on a wire stand, on which they sway to and fro. The surface continues incessantly in motion, every particle appearing to retain the colour first imparted to it on being blown. These particles never seem to mingle, but chase each other round the surface, every second presenting the most gorgeous changes of colour, until the eye becomes confused with the mass of lovely hues that are formed. No two bubbles present exactly the same appearances; each one differs in the glory and brilliancy of its colours from its predecessor.

The film of the bubble is so tenacious that they can be kept afloat in the air by allowing them to bounce on the sleeve of a coat. The fluid is perfectly harmless, and the blowing so simple that a child can easily do it.

A more simple or more beautiful experiment can hardly be invented.

1866 3 22 Birmingham Post UK Thanks to mikejee at birminghamhistory.co.uk

BIRD Entertains Royals with Bubbles!

THE RAINBOW BUBBLE — On Tuesday last, Mr. A. Bird, chemist, Worcester Street, had the honor of receiving a summons to Windsor Castle, to exhibit his experiments in the manufacture of “The Rainbow Bubble.” On arriving at the Castle, Mr. Bird was shown into the Crimson Drawing Room, adjoining the Brunswick Tower. Here a table was set apart for his use and seats were ranged in a semicircle, for the members of the Royal Family. When everything was ready. Sir John Cowell and Sir Thomas Biddulph ushered in Prince Leopold and the Princess Beatrice, and they were followed by the Prince and Princess of Hohenlohe, the Duchess of Roxburghe, nearly all the Ladies in Waiting, and a number of children. Altogether, upwards of thirty entered. Before commencing, Mr. Bird gave a short description of the nature of the light; and for more than an hour the whole party remained watching the manufacture of the bubble, and various experiments with it. The delight of the Royal audience was most marked, and frequent exclamations of surprise and joy rewarded the experimenter. On leaving, Mr. Bird was highly complimented on the success which had attended his experiments.

From 1866 Sept 22 :: The Lancet [article about new science toys]

Another eminently popular toy just now—the "rainbow bubble"—is a passing result that was obtained in the course of certain abstruse experiments on the refraction of fluid media. It is of exquisite beauty, but its resources as an amusement are not half developed. Thus, it is easy to blow one bubble within another by simply trusting a fine glass tube charged with the fluid through the very material of the bubble itself, and then blowing an inside sphere. So also the finger, similarly moistened, may be introduced, and the bubble left to hang on a digit like one of the fruits in Aladdin's garden.

The Town Crier or Jacob's Belles Letters 1866.

Adverts like this appeared in various papers in 1866 - 1867


Alfred Bird has had the honour to show these fine Prismatic Spheres before the Royal Family at Windsor Castle.



"-----Add another hue / unto the rainbow" Shakespeare

Magnificent Spheres, 24 inches in circumference, and of the most gorgeous prismatic colours, can be produced. The Glass Blower, Tripod, and Fluid sufficient for hundreds of these lovely bubbles for 2, or free for 36 stamps. Also, Wholesale.

Alfred Bird, Experimental Chemist, Worcester Street, Birmingham

:: More About A. Bird ::

From THIS PAGE (totally worth visiting) about the history of the man and his business:

"It all began in 1837, when young newlywed, Alfred Bird, set up shop by the old Market Hall, in Birmingham’s Bell Street. Alfred was 24 years old and had just qualified as a Fellow of the Chemists Society. Having served his apprenticeship with druggists, Philip Harris & Company, Alfred was ready to supply Victorian Brum with the usual household medicines and toiletries.

[His eggless custard and baking powder] Business went well, but it was experimental chemistry that Alfred really loved. Each night, after the shop closed, he indulged his passion for experimenting. What the young newlywed, Mrs Bird, thought about Alfred’s long hours in the lab we can only guess. . .

. . .Apart from pioneering what we call convenience foods, nowadays, Alfred also experimented in other fields. A love of music led him to invent a new musical instrument, "The Musical Glasses’’. This came about when he discovered the trick of producing a musical note by rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a glass. He even went to Buckingham Palace to give Queen Victoria a demonstration." Read more HERE.