Sunday, October 31, 2010

W & A Gilbey Ltd.

In 1857, two brothers by the name of Walter and Albert Gilbey, established a company as retail wine merchants. Their premises was a basement in London's Oxford Street. The brothers began by importing and selling wine from South Africa as it attracted less import duty than European wines.

In the 19th Century wine merchants typically supplied wine in cases of a dozen bottles. Their customers tended to be the aristocracy as only they could afford it. W & A Gilbey revolutionised the way wine was sold. They sold wine by the bottle to the general public, and within months had over 20,000 customers.

As the company continued to prosper, it moved to larger premises in Camden Town in 1869, where a gin distillery was also built. The Gilbeys also branched out into whiskey, taking over two distilleries in Scotland in the 1880s.

In 1893 the firm became a limited company with the trading name of W & A Gilbey Ltd. Two years later the company began to market its own gin. “Gilbey's Gin“ soon became a household name.

1953 Advertisement

In 1963 W & A Gilbey Ltd. moved to Harlow in Essex where a large distillery was built, producing the now world famous gin. However the company went into financial decline from the mid 1960s and it was taken over by Grand Metropolitan in 1972. Grand Metropolitan merged with Guiness plc in 1997 to form Diageo, which is currently the world's largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine.

By Mark Matlach

Gilbey used commercial overprints on revenue and postage stamps until at least the 1940s. The range of issues and variety of patterns make for an interesting collection.

Stewart & McDonald Limited

In 1826 two close friends, R.B. Stewart and John McDonald, opened a wholesale and retail drapery warehouse in Buchannon Street, Glasgow.

By the late 1830s the company was supplying retailers from Glasgow and surrounding districts with drapery of every description. In 1847 Stewart and McDonald acquired new premises at 152 Argyle Street and 4 Mitchell Street. In 1866 an Italian style retail warehouse was erected north of the original site at 21 Buchannon Street. The 1880s saw a factory established in Dunlop Street. The factory made costumes and ready-made shirts.

Dunlop Street Factory

Factories were also established in Leeds for ready-made clothing and in Strabane, Northern Ireland for shirts, collars, and ladies' underwear.

By the 1890s Stewart & McDonald had branches in several British cities as well as in Montreal and Toronto (Canada) and Melbourne and Sydney (Australia). The company employed 500 warehouse staff and 70 salesmen.

In 1900 the firm went public with the trading name of Stewart & McDonald Limited.

In 1913 the retail section of the business became a separate company called McDonalds Limited, which was eventually purchased by the House of Fraser in 1951.

In 1922 Stewart & McDonald Limited merged with another large drapery business in Glasgow called J. & W. Campbell to become Campbells and Stewart & McDonalds Ltd.

By Mark Matlach

Campbell and Co. have at least three overprints in the Victorian Era that differ in small ways in terms of the fonts and font size. The early Stewart and McDonald patterns differ in more obvious ways.

The Campbells and Stewart & McDonalds overprint (at the top of this article) are found at least as late as SG 573.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

S. Maw, Son & Sons Ltd.

In 1814 George Maw, a former Lincolnshire farmer, purchased a surgical plaster factory at Whitecross Street in London. The factory soon began to manufacture surgical instruments and later expanded to produce a variety of medical and pharmaceutical products.

George Maw's son, John, was made partner in the business in 1826 and the company took the name George Maw and Son. George retired in 1828 and his second son, Solomon, joined his brother in partnership.

Ill health forced John to retire in 1835, but under the stewardship of Solomon the business flourished and expanded rapidly.

The company moved to larger premises at Aldersgate Street, although the factory had to be completely rebuilt following a fire in 1856. In 1860 Solomon Maw's son, Charles, was taken into partnership and the firm was renamed S. Maw & Son. In 1901 the firm was incorporated as a limited liability company with the name S. Maw, Son & Sons Ltd.

Due to lack of space for further expansion, the company purchased a 22 acre estate in Barnet in 1920, and moved a large part of its manufacturing operations there. In 1973 S. Maw, Son & Sons Ltd. was acquired by the American company, International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation Inc. despite this company having no links at all with the pharmaceutical industry.

By Mark Matlach

Maw used a variety of perfin patterns during the 20th Century, but I am not aware of any use on stamps from the Victorian Era.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Peek Frean & Co. Limited

Peek Frean and Co. was the first mass producer of biscuits. The company was established by James Peek and George Frean in Dockhead, London in 1857. A new factory was built in nearby Bermondsey nine years later. It provided Bermondsey with a major source of employment and gave the area the nickname "Biscuit Town".

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 brought Peek Frean and Co to prominence, when 10 million fine navy biscuits were ordered for the troops. Around this time the old factory in Dockhead burned down. The sight was so spectacular that the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) went there on a fire engine to see it.

The most famous biscuits to be invented By Peek Frean were the Garibaldi (1861), the Bourbon (1910), and the first-ever chocolate coated biscuit called Chocolate Table.

In 1901 Peek Frean and Co. became a limited company and decided to expand the confectionery side of their business. In 1913 a new factory was built in Bedford which became Meltis Limited, operating as a subsidiary of Peek Freans. Meltis produced peppermints, crystallized fruits and chocolate liqueurs. Meltis also formed an alliance with Suchard Chocolate Limited which was to last for more than 50 years.

In 1921 Peek Frean and Co. Ltd. merged with rival firm Huntley and Palmers to form Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd, though both companies retained their own brands and premises. The new company was acquired by Nabisco in 1982, who closed down the Bermondsey factory in 1989.

By Mark Matlach

W. H. & F. J. Horniman & Co. Ltd.

John Horniman was a grocer who established a family business as a tea merchant in 1826. Horniman & Co started in a small way, initially trading from humble premises in Newport, Isle of Wight, for several years, while Horniman concentrated on his grocery business.

This state of affairs changed dramatically in the 1840's when Horniman initiated the production of pre-packaged tea. Horniman & Co was the first company of its type to begin selling tea in sealed packets. Pre-packaged tea was revolutionary, as prior to this time tea had been sold only loose.

By 1860 trade was booming and the company established a warehouse in London. Horniman, a Quaker, used to ride to the warehouse on a black horse in full Quaker costume.

As John Horniman approached retirement he decided to pass the business on to his sons, William Henry and Frederick John. Subsequently in 1889, the company name was changed to W.H. & F.J. Horniman & Co Ltd., although only Frederick was to have an active future role in the firm. In 1891 Hornimans was said to be the biggest tea company in the world.

Advertisement from 1890

In 1918 W.H. & F.J. Horniman & Co Ltd. was bought out by J. Lyons & Co., who were best known for their chain of tea shops which began in 1894 and finally closed in 1981.

By Mark Matlach

With the firm taking its new name in 1889 and being sold in 1918, the Horniman pattern appears on relatively few issues. Oddly, J. Lyons had a long period of use but I am aware of their overprint only on Queen Elizabeth Wilding issues.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Devas, Routledge & Co., Limited

The following comments were sourced from Modern London, The World's Metropolis c. 1887

"The old-established and important house Messrs. Devas, Routledge & Co., Limited, stands among the foremost concerns in the London wholesale trade, and has held its position as a commercial undertaking of the first magnitude ever since the date of its foundation in 1801. The business has steadily and continuously progressed and developed in the nearly ninety years of its active existence, and in its present condition it presents many noteworthy features arising from the comprehensive nature of its dealings in the wholesale and export textile trade, and in the manufacture of men's clothing, shirts, &c.

In these branches Messrs. Devas, Routledge & Co. control an immense home and shipping trade, and to them they devote the whole of one of the largest and best organised warehouses in Cannon Street, as well as a large factory in Burdett Road, E. The staff of clerks, buyers, warehouse assistants, and workpeople employed in the various departments of the business is exceedingly numerous; and altogether the firm afford a direct means of livelihood to between seven and eight hundred persons.

Messrs. Devas, Routledge & Co. hold enormous stocks in their Cannon Street warehouse, the following departments being represented by the best classes of goods in their several lines--prints and cretonnes, linens, flannels, blankets, shirts and collars, shawls, oil, baizes, carpets, calicoes, cords, beaverteens, stays, ready-made clothing, woolen cloths and trouserings, Scotch and Manchester muslins, stuffs and merinos, crapes, fancy dresses, mantles, skirts and costumes, mantle clothes and seals, silks and velvets, haberdashery in all its branches, trimmings, umbrellas, hosiery, velveteens, and fancy goods. The last named is one of the most notable of all its departments, and its stock comprises a remarkable variety of fine leather goods, ladies' and gents' bags, jewel cases, dressing and writing cases, traveling trunks and hat boxes, albums, music cases, photo frames, watches and jewelery, japanned goods, fans, cutlery, perfumery--in short, every article known in the fancy trade. The arrangement of these departments in the spacious warehouse of the firm leave nothing to be desired, and makes the establishment most convenient in all parts. By the sound quality of their goods, Messrs. Devas, Routledge & Co. have won the respect and confidence of all their customers at home and abroad, and they enjoy the commercial prosperity due to their honourable reputation in the trade. Their business is conducted with conspicuous care and ability, and valuable connections are maintained in all the British and export markets, an especially large Australian and general colonial trade being transacted."

by Paul Green

Devas, Routledge & Co. used several different patterns over a period of about 60 years. The pattern on the George VI issue above was used at least as late as the second QE definitive issue (SG 543b).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jones & Higgins Ltd.

In 1867, Jones and Higgins opened a furniture shop at 3 Rye Lane, Peckham in south-east London. Rye Lane was one of the most important shopping streets in the area at that time.

Jones and Higgins expanded in the later years of the 19th Century, becoming the best known and most prestigious department store in South London for many years, although they continued to specialize in selling furniture.

The distinctive premises with its central tower dates from the 1930s. The store closed down in 1980 but the building remains.

Jones and Higgins, Rye Lane, Peckham, 1963

By Mark Matlach

Jones and Higgins overprints appear on a wide range of issues and with a variety of wording.

Orme, Evans & Co Ltd.

In 1864, brothers Alfred and Thomas Orme established a japanning and enameling company in Wolverhampton, trading under the name of Orme Brothers. At this time japanning was a very popular lacquering technique which was meant to imitate the lacquer traditionally produced in Japan.

Orme Brothers initially specialized in producing japanned tea-trays, but they quickly moved on to enameled hollow-ware including kitchen utensils, dinner services, trunks, iron sinks, and bicycle gear cases.

In 1878 Bernard Evans joined the company and the name changed to Orme, Evans & Co. The business became a limited company in 1899. At the turn of the century, Orme, Evans & Co. Ltd was well-established and making a wide range of goods in a wide range of materials and finishes. By 1914 the firm was also producing radiators and motor parts and had a total workforce of 800.
Orme, Evans & Co. Ltd. was acquired by the Brockhouse Group sometime during the Second World War. It seems that the company continued, with its own identity maintained, within the organization. Exactly why and when Orme, Evans & Co. Ltd. stopped trading or, at least, lost its separate identity, is not known.

By Mark Matlach

Schweppes Ltd.

In 1783, a young Swiss watchmaker and keen amateur scientist, Jacob Schweppe, became the first person to perfect an economical process for making carbonated water. Jacob Schweppe founded his company in Geneva the same year, but within seven years had expanded to England with a factory in Drury Lane, London.

In those days, carbonated water was believed to have medicinal value, and Schweppe's brand became popular because it contained a higher degree or carbonation than its competitors.

Jacob Schweppe

The company began to introduce new products in the second half of the 19th Century. Ginger Ale was introduced in the 1870s. Tonic Water also appeared at this time in response to a demand from Britons returning from India who had developed a taste for the solution of quinine, sugar, and water that they had drunk there as a preventative for malaria.

Growing success led to Schweppes going public in 1897, and the company became Schweppes Limited.

In 1969 Schweppes Limited merged with Cadbury to create Cadbury Schweppes. Cadbury Schweppes continued to add to its range of soft drink products by buying up rival companies, most notably Mott's apple juice, Canada Dry, and Sunkist.

In February 2010 Cadbury Schweppes was controversially bought out by Kraft Foods, the largest confectionery, food, and beverage, corporation in the United States.

By Mark Matlach

The Schweppe company starting using commercial overprints in the Victorian Era, but despite a long period of use, the various patterns are difficult to find.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Waters & Son

Waters and Son was a London company best known for making quinine wine.

Quinine wine was made by adding quinine hydrochloride to orange wine, which was prepared by fermenting a sugary solution containing fresh bitter orange peel.

In Victorian Britain it was popular to drink quinine wine as a remedy for indigestion, nervous disorders and appetite loss. A glassful a day was recommended by manufacturers as a "restorative to the weak".

Waters and Son exported much of their product to British colonies where it was drunk as a preventative for malaria.

By Mark Matlach

There are at least two major Waters overprints: one with an italic font and another with a normal font. In overprints of the latter style there can be small differences in the shape of the ampersand.

J. W. Campbell & Co.

J.W. Campbell & Co. was a drapery business established in 1817 by brothers James and William Campbell at 5 Saltmarket in Glasgow. The brothers were initially financed by their previous employers, McLachlan and McKeand, who advanced the capital that enabled the new firm to begin business. McLachlan and McKeand remained as partners for the next few years. The company originally seems to have traded with hawkers, but soon branched out into general wholesale and retail drapery business.

In 1823 J.W. Campbell & Co. moved to 34 Candleriggs Street. The wholesale department was on the ground floor, the retail department occupied the first floor, and the manufacturing departments were on the upper floors. The company continued to grow rapidly and moved to even bigger premises at Ingram Street in 1856. J.W. Campbell and Co. was by now a well established manufacturer and wholesaler of textiles in Britain with valuable connections in Canada, the West Indies, Australia, and New Zealand.

By Mark Matlach
There are several minor variations in the Campbell overprints, all having to do with the size and placement of the letters in "Co".

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Parker, Winder & Achurch Ltd.

In 1836, William Parker opened a small ironmongers shop in Broad Street, Birmingham. As business in the ironmongery trade increased, Parker recruited Alfred Winder in 1873 and John Achurch in 1890. Now operating as Parker, Winder & Achurch, the company sold a wide range of hardware and metal-based products such as fireplaces, pumps, fencing, and sanitary ware. By the end of the 19th century, Parker, Winder & Achurch had become a limited company, with showrooms in New Street and workshops and warehouses in nearby Brasshouse Passage and St. Peters' Place.

In 1936 Parker, Winder & Achurch Ltd. moved to larger premises on the opposite side of Broad Street.
This photograph, taken sometime during The Second World War, shows an air-raid shelter for sale at Parker, Winder & Achurch Ltd. in Broad Street. It cost £4.00 to buy.

In 1972 Parker, Winder & Achurch Ltd. relocated to the Kings Norton district of Birmingham, where they remained until 1992 when the company was acquired by Frederick Cooper Ltd., the UK's foremost paint spraying and powder coating company.

By Mark Matlach

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Colonial Bank

By the middle of the 1830s there was a desperate need for a banking system in the West Indies. All necessary banking transactions had to be conducted in Britain. Following pressure from sugar planters and merchants, the Colonial Bank was established by Royal Charter on the 15th May 1837, in the British colonies of Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, British Guiana, and St. Thomas. The headquarters of the bank was in London. By the end of the year, thirteen branches and agencies had been established.

The Colonial Bank issued the first ever Jamaican banknotes in 1837. These banknotes were unique as they were denominated in three currencies: British Pounds, Spanish Dollars, and local currency. The Bank had a virtual monopoly on banking in the West Indies for the rest of the century. In 1916 the Colonial Bank had its Charter extended to British West Africa, and then worldwide a year later.

In 1925, the Colonial Bank together with the Anglo Egyptian Bank and the National Bank of South Africa, were acquired by Barclays Bank of London. The new organisation was incorporated as Barclays Bank (Dominion Colonial and Overseas), which later became Barclays Bank D.C.O. In 1972 Barclays D.C.O became Barclays Bank International Limited.

By Mark Matlach

Colonial Bank overprints are found on Foreign Bill stamps. There are several different styles:
  • "COLONIAL BANK" printed vertically
  • "COLONIAL/BANK" printed vertically
  • "COLONIAL/BANK" printed vertically, in a rounder font (as on the stamp at the top of this article)
  • "COLONIAL/BANK" printed horizontally (as on the cheque above)