Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lewis Berger & Sons Ltd.

In 1760, a young German colour chemist named Louis Steingenberger emigrated from Frankfurt in Germany to London. In 1766 he established a dye and pigment making business in Shadwell, east London under his anglicized name, Lewis Berger. Berger had perfected a new process for making the colour Prussian Blue. Considering that it was the colour of most military uniforms at this time, the pigment assumed great importance and the new company a great boost. The firm expanded rapidly, moving to larger premises in Homerton in 1780 and establishing a City office in Well Court in 1785. By this time Berger was selling 19 different pigments, as well as black lead, sulphur, sealing wax and mustard.

Lewis Berger died in 1814 and two of his sons, John and Samuel, took control of the company which was incorporated as Lewis Berger & Sons Ltd. in 1879. Following a period of mismanagement during the closing years of the 19th century, the business was sold to an American paint manufacturing company called Sherwin Williams, thereby ending the direct involvement of the Berger family in the company.

In 1960 a merger with Jenson & Nicholson Ltd. created Berger, Jenson & Nicholson Ltd. A number of subsidiary companies were formed in the UK and overseas over the following years. In 1970 the company was taken over by Hoechst AG, the world's largest chemical company, of Frankfurt, West Germany. Berger's, it could be said, had returned home. In 1981 the business became Berger International Ltd. and was the holding company for the whole Berger group which manufactured and distributed paint, resins, wood preservatives, industrial sealants, household chemicals and wallcoverings. There was a total of 35 companies and divisions running 46 factories in 25 countries, employing 10,000 people.

Lewis Berger & Sons Ltd. factory and offices at Homerton in 1880

by Mark Matlach

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