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 162,842 pages of information and 245,375 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.

Frederick Richard Simms

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1896. F. R. Simms and Mr Harrington Moore of the Motor Car Club in the Daimler Carriage.
Demonstrating his Motor Scout in 1899.
January 1903.
1902. Simms War Car with Drawbridge Ladder.
1903. Simms War Car with Drawbridge Ladder.
1909. Simms exhibited the Voisin aeroplane.

Frederick Richard Simms, (1863-1944), mechanical engineer and businessman

1863 August 12th. Born in Hamburg (where his grandfather, originally from Birmingham, had established a business), the son of Frederick Louis Simms and his wife, Antonia, née Herman.

Simms was educated in Germany and London and also attended the Polytechnisches Verein in Berlin after serving his apprenticeship with the AG für Automatischen Verkauf in Hamburg and Berlin.

His first business was marketing an overhead passenger cableway with a partner from Blackpool called Stansfield. They did manage to install one at the Crystal Palace in 1891.

1889 A key event was his meeting with Gottlieb Daimler (then aged 54) when Simms was superintending the erection of an aerial cableway of his own design at the Bremen Exhibition.

1890 Formed Simms and Co

1891 In February he writes to his lawyer Alfred Hendriks that he has decided to start a department for petrol motor boats and cars. Later in the month he was appointed the sole English agent for the Daimler patents. Daimler consigned him engine No 164, a 1 hp type.

1891 In mid-May he sent his mechanic Johann van Toll to England to look after his first motor boat called 'Cannstatt' fitted with a 2 hp motor.

1891 In June he secured a base for the Daimler agency in London at Billiter Buildings in 49 Leadenhall Street, London and set up Simms and Co consulting engineers with Hendriks.

1892 In August Evelyn Ellis had a trial in the motor launch and soon after ordered one. This was delivered late in October and fitted with 10 hp marine engine No 471.

1893 Simms discovered that his partner Hendriks has defrauded his business of sizable sums of money and he severed his connection with him. Later it was discovered that Hendriks had a series of court judgements against him.

1893 Simms negotiated a new contract for the patent rights for Daimler engines in 'England and the colonies' and founded the Daimler Motor Syndicate.

1895 He sold to the financier Harry Lawson. This proved to be Lawson's most significant acquisition and led to the foundation of the British motor industry, in the shape of the Daimler works at Coventry Motor Mills. Their subsequent collaboration made Simms a wealthy man as he advised Lawson on the purchase of other patents and acquired a stake in the ventures.

1895 May Accompanied Evelyn Ellis in a journey in the first car imported in to England.

1895 July 11th. Letter to the 'Saturday Review' concerning a recent 56-mile road trip with Evelyn Ellis in his Daimler.[1]

1895 November. He drove the first Cannstatt Daimler at Crystal Palace. Image.[2]

1895 October With Sir David Salomons he organised the first British Motor Show, the 1895 Horseless Carriage Exhibition, in Tunbridge Wells.[3]

December 1895 Salomons founded the Self-Propelled Traffic Association (SPTA), the idea for which he disputed with Simms.

1896 January. He founded the Motor Car Club with Lawson in January 1896. Together the two men also organised the "Emancipation Run" on 14 November 1896 to celebrate the new Locomotives on Highways Act (the repealing of the "Red Flag Act"). Around the same time Simms decided to part with Lawson as the Motor Car Club collapsed.

July 1897 Simms formed the Automobile Club of Great Britain with Evelyn Ellis as Chairman and Charles Harrington Moore as Secretary.

August 1897 Salomons registered another Automobile Club of Great Britain. Simms took out an injunction to prevent Salomons from carrying out business under that name and eventually in October 1897 Salomons admitted he had no case and relinquished any rights to the name.

Simms was a leading figure in the launch of the Automobile Club in 1897.

Between 1898 and 1900 Simms operated the Motor Carriage Supply Co

1898 August. Letter concerning 'Military Autocars' and a contract with Vickers, Sons and Maxim.[4]

1900 Director of Taxameter Syndicate[5]

1900 Details of mounting a Maxim gun on a vehicle.[6]

1900 Simms became a vehicle manufacturer, with the establishment of the Simms Manufacturing Co. This produced cars and commercial vehicles in small quantities at the Welbeck Works, Kilburn, from 1904 to 1907–8, as well as engines for other manufacturers.

1900 Simms produced an odd tricycle known as the Motor Wheel, which differed from the norm as the two front wheels were driven and the rear wheel did the steering. It ran in the 1,000-mile trial that year, but the whole contraption was highly unstable. Although it ran on for a few years, the Motor Wheel was not a success and the tricycle production was very limited.

1902 The problem of trade shows, exacerbated by cycle manufacturers' attempts to include cars in their shows, was met by Simms's foundation in 1902 of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which elected him as its first president.

1902 Patented the Simms Ploughing Tractor with chain-link tracks.

Simms was interested in the military application of the motor vehicle, mounting a Maxim machine gun and an armoured shield on a De Dion quadricycle as the Simms Motor Scout and designing a heavier Motor War Car.

1902 August. Details of the rail inspection vehicle.[7]

1904 SIMMS, Frederick R., 55, Southwark Street, London, S.E. As head of the firm of consulting engineers (Messrs. Simms and Co.) introduced into this country the Daimler motor in 1890. Besides acting as consulting engineer to many important firms, including the leading motor-car manufacturers, he was a personal friend of the late Mr. Gottlieb Daimler and Mr. Levassor. Was for some years a director of the Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, of Cannstatt, the makers of the famous "Mercedes" car. It is perhaps not generally known that Mr. Simms has initiated, and is responsible for, many an improvement in those celebrated cars. Perhaps the greatest service Mr. Simms has rendered this country was when he founded the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland, a Club that has done such important work for motoring in this country. For three years Mr. Simms was vice-chairman of the Club, in which capacity he did untiring work, bearing for a long time the entire financial burden of the Club unselfishly. Mr. Simms' technical achievements are many. He is the owner of some sixty patents, many of which are in connection with motoring, and is the inventor of the well-known Simms-Bosch magneto-electric ignition. Is chairman of the Simms' Manufacturing Company, Ltd. [8]

1907 The Simms Magneto Co was established in 1907, after he had obtained UK manufacturing rights from Bosch, but the small production runs could not compete with the foreign product and the company closed early in 1913.

1909 Biographical information and image at Automotor Journal 1909/02/06

1909 Exhibited the Voisin Brothers aeroplane at the Olympia Show.

1913 Simms started another business, Simms Motor Units initially as a sales and repair organisation for motor components, especially dynamos and magnetos. Manufacture was initially undertaken by others on behalf of the firm, an important source in the First World War being the Simms Magneto Co of New Jersey, established by Simms in 1910. The English workforce, however, grew from twelve in 1913 to more than 300 by early 1919 and a subsidiary, the Standard Insulator Co, was established in 1915.

To build on his wartime success, Simms established Simms Motor Units in extensive premises in East Finchley. The virtual destruction by fire of the Kilburn works in 1920 and the slump of 1920–21 in the engineering industry brought about the cessation of manufacture until 1926.

1935 Frederick Simms resigned from Simms Motor Units.

1937 Frederick Simms was still operating as a consulting engineer at his offices in Pall Mall[9]

Simms was twice married. His first wife was Austrian, but nothing else is known about her; there were two daughters of his second marriage, in 1910, to Mabel Louise, daughter of Joseph Worsley, a cotton merchant.

1944 Simms's wife predeceased him, and his own death occurred on 22 April 1944 at Dunbarty, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire. He was cremated at Streatham Vale, London, and his ashes were placed in the Annunciation churchyard beside those of his wife.

Throughout his life Frederick Simms was also a prolific inventor. He worked with Robert Bosch on magneto ignition for cars, he made Simms-Welbeck cars, lorries and marine engines, invented the first rubber bumper and a prototype indicator (a "traffic warner"), agricultural vehicles, military vehicles and guns, and aeronautical devices.

1903 Bio Note [10]

SIMMS, FREDERICK R.- Intimately bound up with the history of automobilism in this country he was the founder and first Vice-chairman of this Club. Mr. Simms introduced the Daimler motor into this country in 1890, and up to 1902 was a director of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, of Canstatt. He was a personal friend of the late Mr. Gottlieb Daimler and Mr. Levassor. Before the passing of the Act in July, 1895, he, with the Hon. Evelyn Elliss, drove on a Panhard-Levassor car from Micheldever, near Southampton, to Datchet. He organised the demonstrations at the Imperial Institute to both Houses of Parliament in February, 1896, on behalf of the Motor Car Club, of which he was the Vice-chairman and Founder. Mr. Simms is the head of the firm of Simms and Co., consulting engineers, and is the owner of some sixty patents. Mr. Simms is also the chairman of the Simms Manufacturing Company, Limited, and Compagnie des Magnetos, Simms-Bosch, Limited. Mr. Simms is President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, of which he is the Founder, and had the honour to demonstrate the first Daimler car before his Majesty the King (then Prince of Wales) at the Imperial Institute in 1896.

1943/44 Obituary [11]

Frederick Richard Simms was born in 1863 in Hamburg and educated in that city.

From 1885 to 1888 he served an apprenticeship in the shops of A.G. fur Automatischen Virkauf, Hamburg and Berlin. He remained with this Company until 1894, eventually occupying the position of Engineer and Manager, but divided his time between Germany and London, where, in 1890, with a partner, he had established the firm of Simms and Co., engineering consultants.

From 1894 he remained in England as sole proprietor of Simms and Co.

In 1893 he formed the Daimler Motor Syndicate, Ltd., in order to operate the Daimler internal-combustion engine patents in Great Britain. He disposed of these to a new organization in 1893, but in 1896 he was appointed Consulting Engineer on the formation of the Daimler Motor Company. He was also Director of Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, of Cannstadt, from 1892 to 1902.

He was the inventor of the Simms magneto, and established the Simms Manufacturing Company in London and La Compagnie des Magnetos Simms-Bosch in Paris to exploit it.

Mr. Simms was the founder and first Vice-Chairman of the Automobile Club of Great Britain (now the Royal Automobile Club) and founder and first President of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. He was one of the pioneers of the industry, and exercised an extensive influence on its development. He also presented and endowed the Simms Gold Medal of the I.A.E.

He died on 22nd April, 1944, at the age of 80.

He was elected a Member of the Institution in 1907.

1945 Obituary [12]

FREDERICK RICHARD SIMMS was one of the pioneers of the motor industry, with which he was closely associated during the whole of his long career. After receiving his general education in Germany and London he served his apprenticeship with the Actien Gesellschaft fur Automatrochen Verkauf in Hamburg and Berlin, and later attended the Polytechnische Verein in the latter city.

In 1890 he established the firm of Simms and Company, consulting engineers, in London, and continued to practice until his death which occurred at Stoke Park, on 22nd April 1944 in his eighty-first year. He formed the Daimler Motor Syndicate, Ltd., in 1893, which was virtually the first motor company established in this country, and three years later, on the establishment of the Daimler Motor Company, Ltd., he was appointed its first consulting engineer. Other of his activities included the formation of the Simms Manufacturing Company, of which he was for many years the chairman and chief engineer; and chairman and chief engineer of the Simms Bosch Magneto Works of London and Paris.

In 1913 he became chairman and managing director of Simms Motor Units, Ltd., the successors of the Simms Magneto Company, and supplied his magnetos during the war of 1914-18 for mechanical road transport and aero-engines not only to the British, but to most of the Allied armies as well. He later visited South Africa in connection with a mission for the British motor car industry, and also established branches of his firm in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Mr. Simms was elected a Member of the Institution in 1906. He was the founder and first vice-chairman of the Royal Automobile Club, in 1907; and one of the happiest recollections of his later life was that of its twenty-fifth anniversary, on 8th December 1922, when at a banquet at Covent Garden, attended by 1,600 guests, he was presented by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales with an illuminated Scroll of Honour, as founder of the Club. At a complimentary luncheon of the Club, he was presented, by the chairman, Sir Arthur Stanley, with his portrait, painted by Mark Milne. Mr. Simms was also the founder and first president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. In addition, he was, at the time of his death, chairman and managing director of Compound Electro-Metals, Ltd., London.

1944 Obituary [13]

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] RAC Web Site
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • [2] DNB