Monday, 18 August 2008

Thomas De La Rue (A Bit of History)

I was trawling the web yesterday and came across this, Although it does not mention the printing of Postage stamps (documented elsewhere) it does give some interesting facts on the History of De La Rue.

Thomas De La Rue was the founder of the original company, born in Guernsey in 1793. After a 7-year printing apprenticeship Thomas moved to London and developed a straw bonnet millinery firm in which he experimented using Macintosh’s patent "for rendering substances impervious to water" and examined substitute leather invented by Hancock.

In 1833 Thomas in partnership rented 110, Bunhill Row, Finsbury,(left) which remained the business home until it was destroyed in 1940 during the Blitz.

William IV granted a Royal Letter Patent in 1832 for improved playing cards. These were of outstanding paper and registered print quality. Many other patents followed. Thomas de la Rue died in 1856, leaving a well established family business which had developed several diverse industries.

The ethos of the Thomas de la Rue Company has always been to seek scientific and technological leadership in its many fields, coupled with commercial acumen. Warren de la Rue, Thomas’ eldest son born in 1815, became an eminent scientist much involved with the new business world of envelopes and stamps.

Sir Evelyn Andros de la Rue held many patents on fountain pens. The Onoto pen, using a filling plunger, was launched in 1905 and established a great market presence.

In the plastics field Thomas de la Rue acquired interests in Telenduron products in 1914 whereby battery boxes and electrical insulators were moulded from bituminous compounds. Endura-ware tableware products were subsequently produced from thermosetting plastics. Major business growth by 1937 led to the Walthamstowe Avenue Works enjoying large investments in 1000 to 1500 ton presses moulding novolak phenolic resins, the number of hydraulic compression presses growing to 70.

Phenolic cloth laminate ‘Delaron’ sheeting was produced for electrical and mechanical use. In collaboration with the British Post Office De La Rue Plastics Ltd. produced components and coloured telephone housings over many years. Moulded phenolic radio cabinets were also major production.

The Avenue Works and ancillaries at one stage were the largest moulding group in Europe and their value was proved in World War II. During this time many items were produced for the armed services, including Bakelite phenolic grenades, communications equipment and large items for Wellington bombers. Joint work with groups such as Plessey, using for example high dielectric Bakelite materials and producing plastic replacements for metal car components, provided essential support to the war effort.

Plastic non-metal toilet seats for minesweepers provided a novel approach. Injection moulding developed with use of new polythene resins for radio and radar, as well as high numbers of cellulose acetate combs.

By 1945 the Avenue Works and related groups employed 3000 people working in three shifts, producing items such as thermoset car components. Other products emerged using new polymers such as polypropylene, nylon and high impact polystyrene .

Major changes took place in 1946/47 when the moulding interests were sold to National Plastics Ltd., with the insulation, industrial and decorative laminates moving to North Shields in the north east of England. In 1959 National Plastics was acquired by Courtaulds Limited, whilst Formica Limited became the laminate group in North Shields, manufacturing and marketing decorative and industrial laminates from 1946 (reference 5). Formica Ltd. became part of Formica International Ltd., with De La Rue holding a major interest in collaboration with US Cyanamid Corporation, which had established the US Formica Corporation in 1914.

By 1968 De La Rue was manufacturing large volumes of metallic, decorative and electrical laminates in fourteen countries, with huge press capacity in North Shields and in France. Investment in research and development at the Maidenhead Research Centre (left) provided many innovations in the above business alongside the continuing Thomas De La Rue security printing businesses. Formica International was sold to American Cyanamid in 1977.

The De La Rue group continues to use and develop plastics materials in its many varied business interests including banknote threads, holograms, security documents and printing components. It remains the world’s largest security printer.

Recent History

1986 Bradbury Wilkinson acquired.

1987 Fortronic acquired. Amblehurst acquired (later to become De La Rue Holographics).
1989 De La Rue acquires controlling interest in Garny AG.

Sale of Crosfield Electronics Norton Opax plc makes a bid for De La Rue. Defeated when they were acquired by Bowater.

1990 Robert Maxwell's 21.7% shareholding dispersed among institutional investors.
De La Rue House in Basingstoke officially opens.1991 The De La Rue Company plc becomes De La Rue plc.

1992 Inter Innovation acquired (including LeFebure in USA).

1993 MB-Clarke acquired.

1994 Camelot is awarded licence to operate UK National Lottery. Nairobi banknote factory opens.

1995 Portals Group plc acquired. Brandt Inc acquired. McCorquodale Security Cards Inc acquired. Applied Systems Institute Inc acquired. Associated Cash Handling in South Africa acquired (now De La Rue Cash Systems South Africa Ltd). De La Rue buys Ensec's banking automation division and Ensec buys back De La Rue's 44.7% shareholding in Ensec.

1996 Hong Kong banknote factory sold to Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

1997 De La Rue acquires Harrison & Sons. De La Rue acquires Philips Cartes et Systèmes in France Brandon Gough takes over as Chairman from Lord Limerick. De La Rue launches major rebranding programme.

1998 Jeremy Marshall retires as chief executive. De La Rue sells Garny, LeFebure and Lerchundi exiting the physical security business. De La Rue acquires Cellograf Simp in Italy. Ian Much appointed as chief executive on 1 September. Haydn Abbott resigns as managing director Cash Systems. De La Rue closes Bensalem manufacturing plant in USA.

1999 De La Rue completes sale of terminals business to Ingenico SA. Launch of joint venture between Bank of Portugal and De La Rue. Sale of Card business to F C Oberthur of France for £200m.

2000 Appointment of Jon Marx as managing director of Security Products. Launch of new Global Services division. Michael Jeffries and Keith Hodgkinson appointed as non-executive directors of the Board following the retirement from the Board of Lord Wright of Richmond GCMG and Brian Birkenhead. Acquisition of Ascom Banking Automation cash handling business by Cash Systems.

2001 Acquisition of US based Currency Systems International Inc. wholesale cash processing business by Cash Systems. Acquisition of ATS Money Systems Inc., the US based provider of cash handling systems and software by Cash Systems. Disposal of 50:50 joint venture company De La Rue Giori, (banknote printing press manufacturer) to German printing press manufacturer Koenig and Bauer. Security Products and Global Services operations merged.

2002 Camelot awarded second seven year licence to operate national lottery. Acquisition of Papelaco, Portuguese self service cash handling machine manufacturer by Cash Systems.


larry said...

So we can trace our current Machins back to nineteenth century playing cards. Deal me in!


Machin Man said...


Ironic that De La rue purchased Questa, they had ties with this company back in the days after the war and also in the early 1960s

After the war, the printing of De La Roue's playing cards was undertaken by Waddingtons in Leeds. (another famous stamp printers who were eventually taken over by Questa)

In 1963 the two companies joined forces and became The Amalgamated Playing Card Co. on a 50-50 basis,

IN in 1969 De La Rue sold all their shares to Waddington's, who then became Britain's leading playing card manufacturers.

On Monday, 30th November, 1970, the entire De La Rue collection of playing cards was sold at auction by Sotheby's for £12,000 to the Fournier collection, Spain.

Anonymous said...

Great write up. I have worked for De La Rue for over 20 years now