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British Industrial History

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Peter Oscar Serck

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Peter Oscar Serck (1882-1924) of Motor Radiator Manufacturing Co and Serck Radiators

1882 October 30th. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia. His parents were Norwegian, and his grandfather, Hans Smith, was Norwegian Consul-General in St. Petersburg. He was also a ship owner with an extensive export and import trade. He had moved from Norway to St. Petersburg when he was young, with his close friend, Peter Serck, Peter Oscar’s other grandfather. Peter Oscar Serck’s father, Oscar Serck, was born in St. Petersburg and worked first as a stockbroker and then for Hans Smith. Peter had a brother Herman Oscar Serck and sister Alice

Under Russian law, foreigners retain their nationality and Peter Oscar Serck remained a Norwegian. He was independent, and a great adventurer. After leaving school, he worked for two years for a large wire and nail manufacturing firm, first in St. Petersburg and then in Moscow.

1902 When he was 20 years old, he went to America. His mother cabled him money as soon as she knew his address, but Peter Oscar Serck soon moved and from then on only sent her postcards without an address. Whilst in America, he was often short of money, had to live rough and had many adventures.

1903 Formed the Motor Radiator Manufacturing Co

1909 To get nearer to the centre of the motor industry, he moved to Parkside, Coventry.

1911 Living at 49 Park Road, Coventry: Peter Serck (age 28 born St. Petersburg), a Manufacturer, Tinsmith Factory and Employer. With his sister Alice Serck (age 31 born St. Petersburg). One servant.[1]

1911 He moved to Greet, Birmingham, where the main works still stand.

1913 The partnership he had with a German was dissolved, the German partner retained the business in Germany, and Peter Serck became the sole owner of the business in England. It was at about this time that he forced a subsidiary, The Speciality Supply Co, to enable him to buy in an extensive amount of various material parts, accessories and other goods at the keenest of prices. In 1913 he opened a branch, Serck Brothers, with his elder brother, Hans, in St. Petersburg.

1914 When world War I began, he obtained an agency for certain British motor cars and accessories and shipped them to Russia, doing a large amount of business with the Russian Government.

1917 When the revolution broke out, he escaped at the last moment and went via Siberia and Japan to California. In order to enforce the last order he gave in his Russian works, he had to walk up and down the shop, a revolver in each hand, covering the workmen, who were in a dangerous state of revolt.

In California, he bought a ranch which he ran on scientific lines, as a fruit and cattle farm. This ranch was called “The Beauty Spot of Somona Country”, and is described in Jack London’s Book Valley of the Moon.

1919 After the Armistice, the factory at Greet was offered back to him and he formed Serck Radiators, as a public company with £200,000 capital of which he personally held more than half the shares, and was the Managing Director.

1924 Died in Torquay, Devon.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. 1911 Census