Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

James Keith

From Graces Guide

James Keith (1849-1921) of the Blackman Ventilating Co


1922 Obituary[1]

By the death of Mr Jas. Keith, which took place yesterday morning at his London residence, Dunnotter, Hampstead, there has passed away one who by his enterprise and activities did much towards the development of his native town of Arbroath as an industrial centre.

From very modest beginnings some fifty years ago he rose to eminence in the engineering world. He was the chief partner of one of the most widely known engineering firms, that of James Keith & Blackman Co., Ltd., whose chief works are at Arbroath, and now cover nearly three acres of ground either side of High Street, the main thoroughfare of the burgh.

A fortnight ago Mr Keith was seized with illness, which developed pneumonia. He was the eldest son of the late Provost Geo. Keith, and was 72 years of age. At the age of fourteen he entered upon his apprenticeship as a plumber under his father, who carried on a small business in the High Street.

His apprenticeship finished, he emigrated Canada, and entered the service of who an uncle who was engaged in similar business. Returning to this country in the early '70's, he took over his father's business, his father retiring owing to advancing years.

A man strong physique, exceptional energy, and imbued with the spirit of enterprise, Mr Keith began to develop the comparatively humble concern. Amongst his first ventures in water engineering was the formulating of a scheme for the village Auchmithie, by which the people were saved the trouble of carrying water up an awkward and steep gradient, the water by means a hydraulic arrangement being thrown to the street at the top. He was one of the pioneers of the system of high pressure gas-lighting, and in addition to his foundry in Arbroath the firm had works at Holloway, London, with offices at Farringdon Avenue.

About twenty years ago the business was amalgamated with that known originally as the Blackman Ventilating Co., Ltd. Fully ten years ago Mr Keith conceived a distinctly new departure in the design of fans used in ventilating and humidifying ocean liners, and naval vessels, and also in all branches of the engineering and textile industries.

Mr. Keith took intelligent and keen interest in national affairs, and was a frequent contributor to the press on questions pertaining to engineering, the patent laws, and kindred subjects. As a member of the National Liberal Club, London, he was an enthusiastic politician. He evinced a warm interest in the welfare of Arbroath, and it was mainly owing to his instrumentality, along with Lord Morley, then M.P. for the Montrose Burghs, and his successor the representation of the constituency. Mr V. Harcourt, that pressure was brought to bear upon the railway companies which culminated in the reconstruction the antiquated and dangerous railway station into one the finest passenger stations in the North of Scotland Mr Keith serviced widow, two sons, and one daughter


1922 Obituary [2]

JAMES KEITH was born at Arbroath in 1849, being the eldest son of ex-Provost George Keith, at whose works his apprenticeship was served.

After visiting Canada and the United States for the purpose of gaining further engineering experience, he started in business in 1868 in his native town.

He was the inventor of numerous hydraulic, heating, ventilating, and other appliances, and was the originator of the modern type of sectional boiler for hot-water heating.

In 1900 his business was amalgamated with that of the Blackman Ventilating Co., Ltd., and he became managing director of the combined firms, a position which he occupied to the time of his death.

He was the pioneer in Scotland in the Engineering Trade of the 51-hour — and later the 48-hour — working week.

His death took place in London on 23rd February 1921, at the age of seventy-two.

He became a Member of this Institution in 1904.


1921 Obituary [3]

JAMES KEITH died on February 23, 1921, at his residence in London, at the age of seventy-two. He was the managing director of James Keith & Blackman Co., Ltd., engineers, of Arbroath and London. He served his apprenticeship in his father's works, and after visiting Canada and the United States he started in business on his own account, this business being subsequently amalgamated with that of the Blackman Ventilating Co., Ltd., in 1900.

He was the inventor of numerous hydraulic heating, ventilating, and other appliances, and amongst the earliest of these inventions was the apparatus for the manufacture of mineral oil gas. He was also the originator of the modern type of sectional boiler for hot-water heating.

He was an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was elected a member of the Iron and Steel Institute in 1903.


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