Sunday, December 18, 2011

Elder Dempster & Co. Ltd.

Elder Dempster & Co. Ltd. was one of the largest shipping companies in the UK, and during its 150 year history it operated more than 500 ships.

The company traces its origins to 1852, when the African Steam Ship Co. Ltd. was formed, with a contract to carry mail from London via Plymouth to Madeira, Tenerife, and the West Coast of Africa. In 1868, two shipping agents, John Dempster and Alexander Elder, established a company in Liverpool to act as agents for the British & African Steam Navigation Co. In 1887 Elder Dempster & Co. started to purchase its own ships, and by 1890 there were eleven vessels in its fleet. In 1891, Elder Dempster took control of the day-to-day operations of both the African Steam Ship Co. and the British & African Steam Navigation Co. In 1894 the Liverpool to Canada service was added. Elder Dempster & Co. became a limited company in 1910.

The Aureol

Elder Dempster & Co. Ltd. reached its heyday in the 1960s. As well as operating many cargo ships, the company operated three liners (the Aureol, the Accra, and the Apapa) on scheduled services from Liverpool to Ghana and Nigeria. Elder Dempster fell into decline in the 1970s. In 1974, the passenger service to West Africa was discontinued. In 1989 the company was acquired by Delmas-Vieljeux Group of France and passed into history. Elder Dempster was formally wound up on 8th May 2000.

by Mark Matlach

Copestake & Co.

Copestake & Co. was a lace manufacturer and wholesaler established in London in 1825 by two young men named Groucock and Copestake. The original premises of the business was a small room over a trunk shop at 7 Cheapside. In 1830, George Moore was made a partner in the firm , which became Groucock, Copestake & Moore. As the popularity of lace goods increased, the company was able to grow and, in 1845, new headquarters were established at 5 Bow Churchyard. By now the company also had factories in Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Paris and New York.

In addition to manufacturing various types and qualities of lace, the company made lace edgings and curtains as well as silk and cotton nets. The firm also marketed sewing and needlework accoutrements such as needlework cases. According to the 1865 Commercial Directory, Copestakes were also warehousemen for "lace and sewed muslins, crapes, gossamers, velvets, artificial flowers, millinery, baby linen, shawl and haberdashery, umbrellas and parasols."

Copestake Warehouse at 5 Bow Churchyard

The original partners, Groucock and Copestake, died in 1853 and 1874 respectively. In 1877 the company became known as Copestake, Crampton & Hughes, and later it was called Copestake, Lindsay, Crampton & Co.

The first security endorsements used by Copestakes were the official Post Office underprints, which were used from 1867 until about 1880. These official underprints were in the colour of the stamp and always appear under the gum. In the same time period, unofficial underprints were also in use. These are always over the gum and are found in various colors not related to the color of the stamp.

In 1868, Copestakes commissioned what may well be the first perfin on postage stamps. This is the very rare "S C". Copestakes was among the first companies to use security overprints, following the Customs & Inland Revenue Act 1881 that allowed for the overprinting of stamps used for fiscal purposes. I am not aware of any overprints used beyond the George V 1d Downey Head issue.

Copestakes stayed in the forefront of security endorsements as from about 1912 to 1950 the company used a POKO automatic stamp affixing machine that applied the perfin "CC / L" before affixing the stamp.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, December 11, 2011

R.S. Murray & Company Limited

R.S. Murray & Co. Ltd. was a confectionery manufacturer based at Fleet Works, Clerkenwell Road in London. The company's main lines of production were in fudge, caramel, and mints, including the hugely popular "Murray Mints".

During the 1920s, R.S. Murray established large manufacturing operations in Ireland and Australia. In 1936 the company was taken over by C. & E. Morton Ltd., which was later acquired by Clarnico, which was ultimately taken over by Rowntree. Rowntree was acquired by Nestlé in 1988.

The stamp on the receipt (SG 488) is the only stamp issue I have seen overprinted by Murrays.

by Mark Matlach

Foster & Braithwaite

Foster & Braithwaite is a stockbroking and investment management firm, founded in London in 1825 as Foster & Janson by James Foster and Richard Janson. Janson died in 1830 and James Foster was joined by Issac Braithwaite; the company was renamed Foster & Braithwaite in 1833. James Foster retired in 1855 and died in 1861. Issac Braithwaite became head of the company and, in 1867, a new deed of partnership was established that required that all equity partners had to be blood relatives of the founder. This ensured the family dominance of the firm for the next century; only in 1968 was a partner nominated from outside the Braithwaite family.

In 1989, Foster & Braithwaite was taken over by the French bank, Credit Commercial de France. In 1996 the company was merged with another stockbroking firm called Quilter Goodison & Co., and is now part of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

by Mark Matlach

Crowden & Garrod

Crowden & Garrod were hardware manufacturers and wholesalers based at Falcon House, Southwark Street in southeast London from 1881. By 1930 the company was well known as a brush manufacturer. A Crowden & Garrod trade catalogue from 1930 contained an immense variety of household and garden items and every kind of brush immaginable, even a brush specifically for cleaning straw hats. Crowden & Garrod also had a patent for a knife polishing machine.

Knife polishing machine by Crowden & Garrod and a Wellington knife sharpening board

Crowden & Garrod also sold Mancur spring scales, which were used for rough weighing on farms, in kitchens, and on hunting trips for animals or hides. The scales are listed in the Crowden & Garrod catalogue of 1895 for kitchen use. Presumably they were intended for large country houses and restaurants, where large carcasses of meat were handled. They were also used by farmers for weighing pigs, sheep, and bales of hay.

Crowden & Garrod traded until at least 1952.

by Mark Matlach

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Michelin Tyre Co. Ltd.

The Michelin Tyre Co. Ltd. was formed in 1888 by the Michelin brothers Édouard and André. Cycle tyres had been solid; they gave a hard ride and when they became unglued from the rim of the wheel they took a long time to repair. It was these two problems that the Michelin brothers set out to solve and by 1891 they had taken out a patent for the first detachable pneumatic tyre.

Bibendum arrived as the company's trade mark in 1898 after the brothers had seen a stack of different sized tyres that resembled the body of a man without arms. French cartoonist Marius Rossillon was approached, he had a design which had been rejected by a German brewery of a large figure holding a glass of beer who was quoting 'Nunc est bibendum' (Now is the time to drink). This design was re-worked into a large figure made of tyres, the quotation was kept, and Bibendum was born. He has since become one of the world's most recognised advertising figures having represented the company for over 100 years, and in over 150 countries.

Michelin had an arrangement with the North British Rubber Company to market a range of tyres in the United Kingdom as 'Clincher - Michelin Tyres'. In 1903 the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Company took exception to these tyres claiming an infringement of their own Patent which they had previously bought from the North British Rubber Company in 1897. History has shown though that the legal arguments of Dunlop were to be unsuccessful in their attempts to stop the progress of the Michelin Tyre C.o and their pneumatic tyre.

Michelin Tyre Co. Ltd. had offices situated at 45 - 50 Sussex Place, South Kensington, London SW but by 1909 designs for new headquarters had been drawn up and these were to be situated at 81 Fulham Road, Chelsea. The new building which was completed in 1911 was an 'architectural wonder' of its day outclassing a similar Michelin headquarters in Paris. The building was an advertisement in itself and remains to this day an iconic statement in its own right.

Michelin was at the forefront of tyre technology and gained valuable goodwill by supporting race events and endurance tests. The company took every opportunity of self promotion such as that to be found at the company's headquarters in the Fulham Road which were decorated with tiled panels showing the achievements of the company through all the forms of road and air transport.

The company promoted itself through a series of maps and guide books, and of course, through Bibendum. Bibendum has changed over the years he has become slimmer and has lost his cigar and glasses. The saying 'spare tyre' relating to a podgy tummy was derived from the Bibendum figure whose body was made up of tyres of different sizes. Bibendum had a slogan 'Nunc est bibendum' which translates to 'Now is the time for drinking' this was followed by 'C'est à dire: À votre santé. Le pneu Michelin boit l'obstacle' ~ 'that is to say, to your health - the Michelin tyre drinks up all obstacles.' The Michelin building in the Fulham Road has a large stained glass window depicting Bibendum drinking from a cocktail shaped glass with the slogan above him. The glass is not full of drink but of road hazards.

Amid much competition the company remains one of the top tyre companies in the world. In its continued involvement with race and endurance it has supported motorsport at virtually every level. Sadly though it last participated in Formula 1 in 2006 when Fernando Alonso won the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix on Michelin tyres.

by Paul Green

British Oxygen Company Ltd.

The BOC Group plc was the official name of the multinational industrial gas and British based company more commonly known as BOC, and now a part of The Linde Group. In September 2004, BOC had over 30,000 employees on six continents, with sales of over £4.6 billion. BOC was a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index and the FT 30. On 5 September 2006 The BOC Group became part of the Linde Group of Germany and is no longer traded as a separate company.

Brin's Oxygen Company, Ltd. was formed in 1886 by Arthur and Leon Brin. In the early days they manufactured oxygen using a high temperature barium oxide process developed from work by French scientist Jean Baptiste Boussin-Green. The main application for gaseous oxygen at this time was in connection with the limelight light sources used in magic lanterns and theatre lighting. A major new market emerged around 1903 with the development of the oxyacetylene welding process. Around the same time, new cryogenic air separation processes based on work by Carl von Linde and others replaced the barium oxide process, paving the way for larger scale and more efficient production. The company became the British Oxygen Company in 1906 and grew nationally and internationally through the following decades. In 1975 the company officially became BOC International Ltd, reflecting its success in developing business outside of Britain, and in products beyond oxygen.

In June 1999 following rumors of merger discussions between Praxair and BOC, Air Products and Chemicals Inc and L'Air Liquide S.A. made a series of cash offers to acquire BOC. On 13 July 1999 the BOC board approved a pre-conditional cash offer of £14.60 per share. Preconditions included obtaining regulatory approval in jurisdictions including the European Union and the USA. On 12 May 2000 the bid was allowed to lapse, following failure to reach a satisfactory agreement with the United States Federal Trade Commission. Following the collapse of the bid, BOC developed a new strategy to stimulate business growth in new products and markets, and to reshape its existing portfolio of businesses to improve Group performance.

In January 2006 the German industrial group Linde made a preliminary proposal to acquire BOC based on a £15 per share all-cash offer. This proposal was rejected by the BOC board of directors. In March 2006 Linde made a second proposal based on a £16 per share all-cash offer, valuing the company at £8.2bn (US$14.4bn; €12bn). This offer was recommended to shareholders by the BOC Board. This takeover was completed on 5 September 2006.

by Paul Green

Fremlins Ltd.

The Pale Ale Brewery in Earl Street, Maidstone, dominated the riverside until 1981, when the fermenting block--the remaining sizable building--was demolished. The brewhouse had been pulled down in 1976, 4 years after the cessation of brewing at Maidstone. Fremlins was the largest of the breweries in Kent; not only had it acquired several businesses in the County, but it had also cast its net further afield, taking over Adams' Brewery in Halstead, Essex in 1939 and Harris, Browne's Hadley Brewery at Barnet a year earlier.

Ralph Fremlin had established his brewery in 1861, when he acquired an almost derelict brewery from the executors of Mr John Heathorn. His beers were produced for the family trade only; he was a deeply religious man and his principles ruled out the purchase of public houses. To facilitate the sale of Fremlins ales and stouts, branch offices were opened in London and other towns in the South-east of England.

Ralph Fremlin was a pioneer in the supply of beers in bottles and gallon jars, and the brewery's range of products was remarkable. The Fremlins elephant lost its freedom in 1967, when Whitbread bought the business with its 800 or so licensed properties. At the time of the brewery's takeover, no less than nine bottled beers alone were produced.

by Paul Green