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British Industrial History

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Gustav Byng

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Gustav Byng (1855-1910) of G. Binswanger and Co and first chairman of GEC.

1855 September 5th. Born Gustav Binswanger, in Osterberg, Bavaria; his brother Max was born on 26 December 1860. He was the son of Isaac Binswanger (1824-1863) and his wife Mina Hanauer (1829-1895)

Gustav emigrated to England in 1873 and Max followed in 1882[1].

1880 Formed G. Binswanger and Co

1884 Partnership formed between Gustav Binswanger and James Boyd to continue the Electric Appliance Co established by Binswanger at Charing Cross[2]. Sold equipment supplied by General Electric Apparatus Co also run by Binswanger.

1884 Another German immigrant, Hugo Hirst, joined Binswanger at the Electric Apparatus Co as manager[3].

1886 April 5th. Became a naturalised British subject.[4]

1886 July 21st. Married at Marylebone to Ida Laura Rosenheim

1886 Binswanger and Hirst left Electric Apparatus Co.[5].

1886 Binswanger and Hirst established the General Electric Apparatus Co, to import and wholesale electrical equipment[6], which company was later to become GEC; the Binswanger brothers provided the finance.

1887 G. Binswanger wrote a letter to The Times indicating the value of electrical thermometers in detecting fires on ships for activating fire suppression system[7].

1887 May 7th. Birth of son Ernest Gustav Binswanger

Name of General Electric Apparatus Co changed to The General Electric Company.

1889 GEC became a limited company

1889 Binswanger was a member of the electrical trades section of the London Chamber of Commerce, chaired by R. E. Crompton[8].

1891 Living at 14 Belsize Park, Hampstead: Gustav Binswanger (age 35 born Germany - British subject), Electrical Engineer - Employer. With his wife Ida L. Binswanger (age 23 born London) and their three children Ernest Binswanger (age 3 born London); Leonard Binswanger (age 2 born London); and Henry Binswanger (age 1 born London). Also one visitor. Four servants.[9]

1893 Developed an electricity meter with A. Reckenzaun which was marketed by GEC[10]

1893 Wrote article in Electrical Review explaining how the problems of electric cooking, especially insulation, were being overcome[11].

1896 Binswanger changed his name to Byng[12]

1910 23rd November. As chairman of GEC, died aged 55 years at 39 Fitzjohn's Avenue, Hampstead. [13]. 'The death is announced in London, at the age fifty-five, of Mr. Gustav Byng, a great captain of industry, a prolific inventor, and one the founders of the Tariff Reform League. He was chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Great Britain, a member of the Institute of Engineers, and many other scientific and learned bodies.'[14]

1915 His son Harry Gustav Byng, formerly on the engineering staff of GEC, was killed in France in 1915. [15]

1936 His wife Ida Laura died aged 69 years [16]


1910 Obituary [17]

We regret to have to announce the death of Mr. Gustav Byng, which occurred at his home in London on the 23rd ult.

As an electrical engineer Mr. Byng had been associated with the development of the industry in this country from its commencement commercially twenty-five years ago.

He was born in Bavaria in 1855, and after a sound German education at the Augsburg Polytechnic, he came to this country at the age of eighteen in 1873.

In 1879 he became a naturalised Englishman, and about this time commenced business on his own account as an electrical engineer and manufacturer of electrical apparatus. With great energy and foresight be set himself to work. He found in Mr. Hirst an ardent co-worker, and by their joint labours they laid in 1883 the foundations of what is now the General Electric Company, Limited.

The works, originally at Manchester, were some years ago moved to Wilton, near Birmingham, where to-day a site of 106 acres is occupied by workshops turning out every class of electrical goods.

For many years past Mr. Byng's health had not been good, and a few years ago be had to give up his share in the administration of the company which be had helped to found. Still, as chairman of the firm, his advice and genius for finance wore of the greatest value to the company and its subsidiary organisations.

In his early days he was an enthusiastic inventor, and in every branch of the electrical industry which came under his notice he sought the improvement of details. With the introduction and development of telephony his name will always be remembered. In electrical signalling and electric lighting, heating, and cooking, he introduced many new ideas, while to electric meters, and almost every electrical device now in common use, he paid close attention.

Outside his immediate business relations Mr. Byng's activities were by no means less. He was a member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers and many other technical and public bodies. He was a strong advocate of Tariff Reform, and was a member of the council of the Tariff Reform League. Mr. Byng always laid stress on the value of combination and co-operation in industrial affairs, and as chairman of the Manufacturers' Association of Great Britain, he did much valuable work dealing with industrial legislation and securing modifications in foreign and colonial tariffs in favour of British manufacturers.


1911 Obituary [18]

GUSTAV BINSWANGER-BYNG was born in 1855, and educated at Augsburg.

At the age of 18 he came to London, and six years later commenced business at Peel Works, Manchester, as an electrical engineer.

Later he became associated with Mr. Hugo Hirst in the General Electric Company, Manchester.

He was chairman of the Manufacturers' Association of Great Britain, and a member of many other technical and public bodies. He was an advocate of Tariff Reform, and wrote a book on the subject which was frequently quoted by the leaders of the movement.

He died on November 23, 1910, at Hampstead, at the age of 55.

He became an Associate of the Institution in 1888, and was transferred to full Membership


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. http://gechistory.org/
  2. History of GEC http://gechistory.org/index.php/companies/the-pre-1900-gec
  3. History of GEC http://gechistory.org/index.php/companies/the-pre-1900-gec
  4. Certificate of Naturalisation
  5. History of GEC http://gechistory.org/index.php/companies/the-pre-1900-gec
  6. History of GEC http://gechistory.org/index.php/companies/the-pre-1900-gec
  7. The Times, 27 August 1887
  8. The Times, 12 November 1889
  9. 1891 Census
  10. The Engineer 1893/05/12
  11. Wrexham Advertiser, 21 October 1893
  12. The Times, Saturday, Jun 13, 1896
  13. The Times, Friday, Nov 25, 1910
  14. Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Monday 28 November 1910
  15. The Times, Monday, May 31, 1915
  16. The Times, Tuesday, Oct 27, 1936
  17. The Engineer 1910/12/02
  18. 1911 Institution of Electrical Engineers: Obituaries