Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Edward Ernest Lehwess

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January 1902. 'The Candid Friend'. Candid Friend was the sponsor of Lehwess's attempt to drive round the world.[1]
1906. Launch of the prototype electrobus on 18th April 1906. Edward Ernest Lehwess, the "moving spirit" behind the electrobus enterprise is sitting inside the bus behind the driver.

Edward Ernest Lehwess (1872-1941). Sometimes initials as E.E.' and also (incorrectly) 'E.C.'. Recognised as a rogue and fraudster.

Dr. Edward Ernest Lehwess, director of the Motor Car Emporium, the Automobile Association, the Electric Vehicle Co and Mechanical and General Inventions.

c.1872 Born in Sophienthal, Germany, to a wealthy land-owning family. His father died when he was an infant and he was brought up by his mother Jenny.

Schooled in France and Germany and became fluent in French, German and English.

1893 June 25th. Awarded doctorate in law by University of Zurich.[2]

1896 Arrives in England.

1897 Lehwess registered the Motor Car Emporium in November 1897 and the Automobile Association in July 1898. He was also elected to the Automobile Club in July 1898.

1899 Announces a plan to drive from Pekin to London through China, Russia and Germany.[3]

1899 December. Edward Ernest Lehwess, a director of the Automobile Association was summoned for driving at an unreasonable speed. [4] He clocked up a number of other speeding offences.

1901 January 1st. Chairman of the Automobile Association when it was resolved to wind the business up.[5]

1902 Leaves London. Dr. E. E. Lehwess, Max Cudell and H. Morgan-Browne.[6][7]

The first motorised caravan was built in 1902, at a cost of £3,000, in Paris for Dr Lehwess, a German who intended to drive around the world. He left London on 29 April 1902, and travelled across Europe to Russia. After reaching St Petersburg, the vehicle broke down, due to cracked cylinders, and it was abandoned in a snowdrift near Nijni Novgorod. Lehwess sold the car, or caravan, to Charlie Friswell, a London motor dealer (later knighted), who went to Russia, dug the car out of the snow and brought it back to England.[8] The car was last spotted in 1905 taking shooting parties around the New Forest.[9]

1903 July 31 Dr. Lehwess, 119 Piccadilly, London. Z/PS/34/7. Prosecution re charge against defendant of driving dangerously. Verdict: Fined £5 plus costs.

May 1904. Lehwess, Frederick Frentzel, the manager of the Motor Car Emporium and an American, Leonard K. Clark, become the first motorists to be charged with carrying a false number plate. The 1903 Motor Car Act, which came into force at the beginning of 1904, had made it compulsory to display a number plate. Lehwess was also charged with offering a police sergeant a sovereign to "forget about it all".

22 June 1904 Convicted of attempting to bribe a police sergeant at the Old Bailey. Fined £50.[10]

December 1905. Expelled from the RAC following his bribery conviction.[11]

1906 Travelled to the USA partly to sell French taximeters to the superintendent of the New York Transportation Company, who was Leonard K. Clark, and partly to find a source of reliable batteries for the electrobuses of the London Electrobus Company.[12] Before he sailed back to England, he persuaded Charles Gould, of the Gould Storage Battery Corporation of Depew to ship 15 sets of batteries to London.[13]

1907 Became a director of Electric Van, Wagon and Omnibus Co; drew £420 in expenses in connection with changing the name of the company.

9 September 1907 Lehwess and Captain Edward Locock, a business associate, have dinner at a restaurant in the Edgware Road. They become involved in a spectacular brawl with the staff after a dispute over the bill.[14]

13 April 1908 A court hearing reveals that Lehwess was the unacknowledged promoter of the failed National Motor Mail Coach Co, set up to run parcels vans between London and post offices in the Home Counties.[15]

July 1908 Lehwess and Jack Darwen, another director of the Electric Vehicle Co, take an electrobus on a tour of England, demonstrating it in Cheltenham, Loughborough, York and Oxford. [16]

18 September 1908 Lehwess becomes a director of the London Electrobus Co for two months.[17]

May 1909. Charles Gould successfully sues Lehwess after he fails to pay for the electrobus batteries.[18]

18 February 1910 In league with Edward Beall, a convicted fraudster, Lehwess sets up a shell company called the Lee Syndicate to float the Victoria (Malaya) Rubber Estates on the stock market.[19]

9 April 1910. Lehwess sets up another shell company, the Commercial and Financial Agency, to float the South Sumatra Rubber Estates on the stock market. The company failed to produce a pound of rubber.[20] The Commercial and Financial Agency also later promoted the Asia Caoutchouc Trust.

1911 Described (wrongly) as physician when he left USA for Canada with relatives[21]

April 1913 Lehwess’s main operating company the Electric Vehicle Co. becomes Mechanical and General Inventions.

26 June 1913 Married Cecile Ginsbourge at Westminster[22]

1914 Claims to be a creditor of the Commercial and Financial Agency in a successful move to prevent the company being struck off.[23]

15 June 1915 Interned as an enemy alien (along with thousands of other Germans).

February 1918 Repatriated to Germany, via Holland, as part of a general release of internees.

April 1918 The Board of Trade’s Official Receiver moves to wind up Mechanical and General Inventions, under the Trading with the Enemy Act. He says all the company’s operations were completely controlled by Lehwess.[24]

After the war Lehwess moves to Paris. He becomes a French citizen, backdated to Armistice Day (11 November 1918) and starts spelling his first name Edouard, in the French manner. He successfully prevents Mechanical and General Inventions being struck off, because he is now French and no longer German.[25] His main business is now promoting the Controlograph, an early tachograph, that he claims deters drivers from speeding and prevents fraudulent mileage claims.

1927 Patent. '..."Improvements in and relating to Doors and Operating Mechanism therefor,"...'[26]

1928 Lehwess is in the course of patenting a new invention: a sunshine roof for motor cars. He visits England to discuss the idea with Sir Herbert Austin. The two men have known each other since the days when they were members of the Automobile Club. Austin subsequently patented his own sunshine roof.

October 1933 Lehwess sued Austin for stealing his idea. The sunshine roof case, as it was known was one of the most costly cases of the 1930s. In the High Court the jury sided with Lehwess and awarded him £98,550. [27]

March 1934 Austin appealed and the Appeal Court overturned the verdict, awarding Lehwess just £2 on a technicality.[28]

March 1935 The case went all the way to the House of Lords, which partially restored the original judgment, awarding Lehwess £35,000.[29]

1936 Deed of mutual release between Mechanical and General Inventions Co. Ltd & E. E. Lehwess and Austin Co. and H. Austin re. disputes over Austin patents 80/84/21/76-AUS-21

1939 Edward Lehwess, of 10 Charles St, London, an engineer, sailed from Southampton to New York[30]

1941 February 7th. Died at 19 Rue Oudinot, Paris.

1947 Probate. Edouard Ernest Lehwess of 159 Avenue Malakoff, Paris.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Mick Hamer
  2. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 26
  3. Croydon Guardian and Surrey County Gazette - Saturday 16 September 1899
  4. The Times, Thursday, Dec 14, 1899
  5. [1] [2] Gazette Issue 27262 published on the 1 January 1901. Page 46 of 78
  6. London Evening Standard - Tuesday 29 April 1902
  7. The Autocar 1902/03/29
  8. Herbert O Duncan, The World on Wheels, privately published in Paris, 1923, pp. 1060-63
  9. The Autocar 1905/05/27 p. 725
  10. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 43
  11. Piers Brandon, The Motoring Century – The Story of the RAC. Published 1997. ISBN 0 7475 3034 3
  12. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957
  13. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 77
  14. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, pp. 95-104
  15. Commercial Motor, 23 April 1908, p. 214
  16. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 129
  17. The National Archives, BT 31/17731/88381
  18. Financial Times, 19 May 1909, p. 7; 20 May, p. 3; 21 May, p. 8; 26 May, p. 8
  19. The National Archives, BT 31/19238/107610; Financial Times, 6 June 1912, p. 10
  20. Financial Times, 7 November 1911, p. 3
  21. US Border crossings
  22. FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915
  23. [3] Gazette Issue 28918 published on the 29 September 1914. Page 75 of 98
  24. The National Archives, J 13/8025
  25. Mick Hamer, A Most Deliberate Swindle, RedDoor, 2017, p. 247
  26. [4] Gazette Issue 36052 published on the 11 June 1943. Page 15 of 32
  27. Daily Mirror, 8 November 1933, p. 1
  28. Daily Mirror, 28 March 1934, p. 1
  29. Daily Mirror, 15 March 1935, p. 15
  30. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960
  • A Most Deliberate Swindle by Mick Hamer. 2017. ISBN: 978-1910453-42-1