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British Industrial History

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Beatl Sales

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1929. British Industries Fair catalogue.

of 48 Wellington Street, Strand, London, WC2. Telephone: Temple bar 7811

Beatl Sales and the Beetle Products Co were subsidiaries of the British Cyanides Co.

By the mid-1920s, British Cyanides (BC) was in financial trouble. It was tableware and other domestic products which eventually led the company to profitability, and an established future in the nascent plastics industry (plus a change of company name) with its Beetle resins and moulding materials.

1925 Because the company had no funds to develop its new products, Kenneth Chance (MD of BC) persuaded two personal friends to finance formation, in 1925, of the Beetle Products Co to purchase resin from British Cyanides and process it into Beetle moulding powder.

Why Beetle? The company had for some time stencilled a stylised beetle on cases containing its cyanide products. One, possibly apocryphal, explanation was that it was intended to warn illiterate labour in the South African goldfields, where cyanide was used in great quantity, that the product was dangerous. Another, more likely, explanation was that the beetle was used to symbolise activity and industry. Whatever the reason, resin samples at the 1925 Wembley Exhibition of were given out in bottles carrying a beetle logo and so the product was referred to as "that Beetle resin of yours".

A Midlands firm, Brookes and Adams, which moulded phenolic tableware called Banda Ware had started producing an extremely attractive mottled range from Beetle powder.

Harrods was persuaded to give space in its Knightsbridge store for a display of this tableware together with other mouldings by the Streetly Manufacturing Co and Thomas De La Rue and Co.

1926 Opening towards the end of November, the display attracted so much interest that after ten days Harrods asked Beetle Products to install an additional stand on the ground floor followed soon after by a third in the stationery department. By now, it was such as integral - and important - part of the UK plastics scene that its name was changed to British Industrial Plastics.

1927 This success led to a two-week demonstration of Beetle products as part of Selfridges birthday celebrations in Spring 1927 which was followed by displays in all the major London stores. Success bred success. British Cyanides formed a further subsidiary, Beatl Sales, to act as agent for home and export sales of tableware and domestic products produced in Beetle material by a number of moulders. It also operated a retail shop in Regent Street which did much to stimulate acceptance by consumers of this new material. The reason for the slightly eccentric spelling of Beatl was that tableware buyers in some stores objected to products associated with an insect. Beatl was coined as a (tortured) contraction of "beat all" which sounded very similar to Beetle.

1929 British Industries Fair Advert for Beatlware - translucent and non-fragile ware. Decorative and Utility Articles moulded from "Beetle" Synthetic Resins, Articles for the Toilet and Cosmetic Trades, Table Lamps, Tumblers, etc. (Chemicals etc., Section - Stand Nos. K.83 and K.84) [1]

1930s A few years later when the Streetly Manufacturing Co was moulding tableware for sale in Woolworth stores, no objection was voiced to that being branded Beetleware. With its fortunes improved, British Cyanides was able to repay the two original shareholders whose trust had facilitated launching the Beetle Products Co and it became a wholly owned subsidiary. In 1929 The Streetly Manufacturing Co was purchased when its owner died, and despite the economic slump of the early 1930s, British Cyanides continued to grow.

See also


Sources of Information

  1. 1929 British Industries Fair Advert facing 7A; and p17