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British Industrial History

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Edison Swan Electric Co

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Advertising sign.
1881. Exhibited at The 1881 Paris Electrical Exhibition.
March 1919.
June 1924.
May 1931. Ediswan.
October 1931.
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December 1936.
5th March 1937.
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of 36-7 Queen Street, London (1908)

of 155 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. (1936)

of Ponders End, Middlesex (1936)

1875 Joseph Swan experimented with incandescent lamps but lacked an adequate vacuum pump. He heard about a newly invented air pump known as a Sprengel pump and applied this to his experiments. He demonstrated a carbon filament light bulb in Newcastle. Swan received a British patent for the light bulb in 1878.

Thomas Edison turned his attentions to electric lighting towards the end of 1877. He believed that commercially successful lighting needed to have similar characteristics to the existing gas lighting. His early experiments using carbonized paper and carbon were failures. The lamp usually cited as his first success was made on 19th October 1879 but the carbonized cotton used as the conductor was still very fragile. He later found that a particular type of Japanese bamboo was the most satisfactory.

Edison was not the first to patent the modern design of the light bulb - Swan's patent predated his. Edison lost in the British courts for infringement of Swan's patent. As part of the settlement, Edison was forced to take Swan in as a partner in his British electric works. The company was called the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Co. Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company. In 1882 it seemed the obvious choice to merge their British companies and join forces in developing the electric filament light.

1883 In the United States, Edison didn't have the chance to put up a fight. The U.S. Patent Office had ruled on October 8, 1883 that Edison's patents were based on the prior art of a man named William Sawyer and were invalid. In addition, Swan had already sold his U.S. patent rights to the Brush Electric Company in June of 1882. The Edison and Swan United Electric Light Co Ltd was registered on 26th October, manufacturers of electric lamps and fittings. [1]

1883 The Swan catalogue from 1883 displays the number and types of lamps available. The catalogue lists more than 100 houses and other buildings and 25 ships all lit by Swan's lamps.

1889 Engines and dynamos for the electric light installation at the Adelphi Theatre. [2]

1889 Electrical lamp for optical lanterns. [3]

1892 The company was merged into the General Electric Co.

1893-4 Patents expired. Market opened up to domestic and foreign competition.

1896 Absorbed the Manchester Edison and Swan Co Ltd in November.

1904 Professor Sir Ambrose Fleming's original diode valve was made in the Edison Swan (later Mazda) factory at Ponders End near London. Professor Fleming was Technical Consultant to the Edison Swan Company at the time. It was this close co-operation between University and Factory which resulted in the first radio valve in the world.

1905 British Carbon Lamp Association formed with membership including: Ediswan, BTH, GEC, Siemens, Cryselco, Pope's Electric Lamp Co, Stearn Electric Lamp Co[4].

After this time the company seems to have been known mostly as Edison Swan Electric Co

1909 Tungsten filaments had largely replaced carbon filaments in lamps made by all manufacturers for most purposes.

1914 Manufacturers of drawn wire (tungsten) and carbon filament lamps, general electric light apparatus and fittings. [5]

1916 Ediswan set up Britain's first radio thermionic valve factory at Ponders End. This area, with nearby Brimsdown, subsequently developed as a centre for the manufacture of valves, cathode ray tubes etc and nearby parts of Enfield became an important centre of the electronics industry for much of the 20th century.

WWI: Edison and Swan Electric Light works (Ponder's End, Middlesex) doubled production of bulbs and tubing; special glasses developed for 0.5W lamps, signalling lamps and wireless valves[6]. Edison Swan and Cossor began quantity production of thermionic valves for the armed forces[7].

1920s Ediswan became part of British Thomson-Houston Co (BTH) and subsequently AEI.

1920 Jan. Physical and Optical Societies Exhibition. Exhibited wireless telegraphy. [8]

1922 Mr H. A. Mumford was appointed district manager at Leeds for the Company succeeding Mr J. D. Chisholm who resigned.[9]

1925 Ediswan Crystal Set was designed for personal listening through a single pair of headphones. It used a mineral crystal, commonly galena, as a detector. Ediswan is a trademark name conflated from the name of the Edison and Swan United Electric Light Co Limited, the company formed between Joseph Swan and Thomas Alva Edison as a result of the major court battle they fought over who was the original inventor of the electric light bulb.

1928 As part of the formation of AEI, the new company bought Edison Swan Electric Co (Ediswan) which then took on valve production for the whole company.

1928 As part of the rationalization involved in forming AEI, Metropolitan-Vickers's merchandising businesses, including Cosmos, were transferred to Edison Swan Electric Co. The domestic appliance work was mainly transferred to Harcourts and the Cosmos works concentrated on the manufacture of lamps and valves.

1936 Started production of cathode ray tubes for the new BBC television service.

1937 Radio valves, accumulators, electric lamps and cable manufacturers. "Ediswan" Electrical Products. [10]

1949 The Edison Swan Electric company absorbed Edison Swan Cables Ltd of Lydbrook and Cosmos Manufacturing Co manufacturing valves at Brimsdown and Sunderland and it was expected later that year to absorb Harcourts Ltd, another subsidiary of AEI and maker of electrical light fittings[11].

1952 The Edison Swan Co purchased British Mechanical Productions Ltd and its subsidiary General Accessories Co Ltd, which made electrical accessories under the Clix brand and radio and television components, thereby filling a gap in parent AEI's range of products[12].

c.1956 Siemens and Edison Swan Electric Co were amalgamated as Siemens Edison Swan[13]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  2. The Engineer of 23rd Jan 1889 p73
  3. The Engineer of 29th March 1889 p262
  4. Competition Commission report: [[1]]
  5. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  6. Glass-Making in England, by H. J. Powell
  7. Competition Commission report [2]
  8. The Engineer of 16th Jan 1920 p62
  9. The Engineer 1922/07/14.
  10. 1937 The Aeroplane Directory of the Aviation and Allied Industries
  11. The Times, 14 June 1949
  12. The Times, 2 April 1952
  13. The Times, Jun 12, 1958