Products: Trade and Brand Names

Designing new products and equipment and making patterns for them was an expensive process.  This could be short-circuited by “borrowing” other foundries ideas and duplicating the designs.

The shortest and cheapest route into production was to use another foundry’s products as patterns.  This had two drawbacks.  Firstly, it meant a slight diminution in quality as the product was always a poorer copy of the original and the original gradually got more and more worn.  Secondly it meant a slight reduction in the size of the product due to shrinkage as the metal cooled.  Perhaps the most famous local example of this method was that employed by Smith & Wellstood.  The company acquired heating stoves, ranges and laundry stoves from America and secretly shipped them to Scotland.  It then dismantled them and sent them to the Falkirk Ironworks and the Union Foundry for use as patterns.  When the originals became too worn for further use the firm simply renewed them from America.  However, by 1862 the American Civil War had disrupted such supplies and so, having just acquired its own foundry, Smith & Wellstood had to resort to the conventional method of making patterns.

Illus: Advert from the Falkirk Herald, December 1881.

It is said that all the foundries along the Forth and Clyde Canal were in the habit of watching the laden barges pass by.  If the barge had a successful design of stove, then it would be stopped, the bargee spoken to and an agreement reached.  A sample would then be removed, copied, and returned.  Ironically, Robert Dobbie was dismissed from Smith & Wellstood in 1869 because it was discovered that he was collecting its stoves in preparation to setting up his own foundry – a case of the kettle calling the pot black.  He won compensation for unfair dismissal.

It was not just local foundries who employed this method.  In 1881 the Britannia Foundry of West Bromwich in the English Midlands had to issue a written apology to the Falkirk Iron Co for having made and sold castings from their Number 9 trivet, which was a registered design.  They broke the patterns and all remaining castings in front of a representative from the Falkirk firm.  The law was slowly beginning to catch up with the trade.

Illus: “ESSE” Premier, 1955.

The two leading products for Smith and Wellstood in the early years were the Enchantress and the Empress.  The names were the same as the American models and it was not long before they too were being pirated by other firms.  By 1862 there had been several improvements made to the Empress.  George Ure had made an inside lining for the oven door, which provided extra insulation and reflected the heat onto the food.  The changes were cosmetic but enabled the powerful word ‘patent’ to be used in the advertising.  The name was changed from Empress to Plantress and it was marketed as being of ‘registered design, improved and patented.’  This set the pattern of future names for the company, becoming known as the “esses.”  Some distance down the line the large ranges evolved into the famous ESSE model, the equivalent of the AGA range (both also being palindromic).

Another American cooking stove was introduced by Smith & Wellstood in 1863 and patterns made for it.  The same modifications were incorporated and the stove was registered under the new name of Trafford (the pen-name of the wife of the firm’s London agent).  By 1870 the name was well-known and the company advertised it widely.  It was selling in markets abroad, through agents at Calcutta, Ceylon, Shanghai, South America, South Africa, New Zealand, and several towns in Australia.  It was so well known that Dobbie & Rennie had it reproduced at the Union Foundry (sic).  They copied not only the design, taking care to omit the decoration, but also the name.  In a court case in 1874 the sheriff found the firm, now Dobbie Forbes & Co of Larbert, guilty of stealing the name, but not the design, of the stove, which was from America.  Smith & Wellstood were awarded costs, but not damages, and in the next catalogue produced by Dobbie and Forbes it appeared appropriately as the Colonist.  Each model was supplied in a number of sizes, adding yet further to the setting up costs.  In 1885 Smith and Wellstood produced the Hostess in 16 different sizes.

To advertise their products many companies put their name and sometimes their address on them.  People seeing the items in use would then know where to order them from.  However, this did not suit the middlemen, whether they were engineers or ironmongers, who made their money by finding products and selling them on.  Some ironmongers had their own names put on the goods at the foundry.  David Draper, a Falkirk plumber, had his name and address moulded into the fittings he got for use on the wells around the town.  Cooking ranges and clothes mangles commonly sported the names of the commissioning bodies and James Syme of Cow Wynd in Falkirk had his name embossed on the “Bairn” lawnmower.  Larger items such as ranges, stoves, garden seats, gates, lamp-posts, grave monuments, street tobies, portable boilers, and the like, were still marked with the producer’s name.  Some of the mid-nineteenth century marks that we know of include:

Abbots Foundry“P M Burr & Co., Falkirk”
“Abbots, Falkirk”
“Abbots Foundry, Falkirk”
Burnbank Foundry“Burnbank Foundry, Falkirk”(before 1868)
Camelon Foundry“C.I.Co., Falkirk”
“Camelon Foundry, Falkirk”
“Smith, Fullarton & Co., Camelon Foundry, Falkirk” 
“Walker, Hunter & Co., Falkirk”
(before 1854)
(in 1858)
(in 1858)
Garrison Foundry“Blackadder Bros, Garrison Foundry, Falkirk”
Gowanbank Foundry“Gowanbank Iron Co., Falkirk”
“Gowanbank Foundry Co., Falkirk”          
“M.Cockburn & Co., Falkirk”     

(before 1875)
(after 1872)
Grahamston Foundry“Grahamston Iron Co., Falkirk”
“G.I.Co., Falkirk”
(first used on skylights in 1871)
 (only used in 1872-3 as it was realised it could be confused with Gael or Gowanbank)
Falkirk Foundry“Falkirk Iron Co., Falkirk”
“Falkirk Iron Works, Falkirk”
“R & W Kennard & Coy., London and Falkirk, N.B.”
Union Foundry“Crosthwaite, Falkirk”
“R.W.Crosthwaite, Falkirk”
“Union Foundry, Falkirk”  
“Crosthwaite, Ure & Co., Union Foundry, Falkirk”

(soon after 1854)
(ship hearths before 1864)

All these foundries were using the same raw materials and skills base and so their general products were, by and large, of a similar quality. Consequently, the term “Falkirk castings” came to mean the products of any foundry in the Falkirk area and took on a technical meaning in the building and ironmongery trade. Falkirk castings usually received a higher premium than those from elsewhere due to their perceived quality.

In 1877 the Falkirk Iron Co registered the name “Falkirk” under the Registration of Trade Marks Act, 1875. The name “Falkirk” on its own was synonymous with that foundry. However, in 1886 the Grahamston Iron Co tried to register the name “G.I.Co., Falkirk” and the Falkirk Iron Co objected to the inclusion of the word “Falkirk”. They claimed it was an attempt to deceive the public into thinking that the goods were made at their foundry. The registration was dropped, but later that year the company provided 50 lamp-posts for the Burgh of Falkirk with it on. Falkirk Iron Co took them to court. It was pointed out that Grahamston Foundry was nearer the town centre than Falkirk Foundry, and in any case many firms had been in the habit of putting the name on their products as an address. As there was another Grahamston Foundry, near Barrhead in Glasgow, it was essential for the Falkirk foundry to provide an address as well as the company name. In the end it was agreed that the Grahamston Iron Co would not use the abbreviated version on any of their goods and would not use the name “Falkirk” in any combination of letters on pots, camp ovens, tinned ware, general hollow ware, bushes, furnace pans, rainwater goods, frying pans, sugar boilers or pans. A short while later they came up with the trade mark “G” set within a lozenge – hardly distinctive.

The next section under the “Products” heading is Solid Fuel Fireplaces and Cookers. Click here to read.

G.B. Bailey, 2021