RT Tanner & Co Ltd
R.T. Tanner & Co, the partnership 1877 to 1908
On the 5th September 1877 the dissolved partnership was listed under
business changes in the The Stationers Fancy Trades Register and the
following advertisement appeared in the issue.
(late HUNT & TANNER)
WHOLESALE & EXPORT STATIONERS
8, DORSET BUILDINGS, SALISBURY SQUARE
By the time of his death on 6th September 1880 Richard Tanner had built up a strong business merchanting paper to printers and publishers in London which had become significant enough to endure after his death in 1880 until his eldest son, William, could take control when he came of age. In his will drawn up on 31 May and proved 21 September 1880, he appointed as his executors his wife Mary Ann Scotney Tanner, James Rogers of 21 Great St Helens in the City London, wine merchant, and John Macnab of 4 Harrington Gardens South Kensington Middlesex accountant. He left his eldest son William Anthony, born in 1866, the goodwill ‘of his business as wholesale stationer’, but he was not to be entitled to any accrued profits of the business before he was twenty-one.
The City Press states that the Will of Mr Richard Tuppen Tanner late of
8 Dorset Street, Salisbury Square, Wholesale Stationer and of 48
Belsize-avenue Hampstead, who died on the 6th September was proved on 21st
of that month by Mrs Mary Ann Scotney Tanner, the widow, Mr James Rogers
& Mr John Macnab the executors, the personnel estate being sworn under
£20,000. The testator leaves to his wife absolutely £200 and all his
furniture, plate & household effects; and for life an annuity of £800
to be reduced to £200 per annum in the event of her marrying again; to his
son, William Anthony Tanner, the Goodwill of his business; to his
executors Mr James Rogers and Mr John Macnab £50 each and the residue of
his property upon trust for all his children.
Several obituaries appeared following his death.“We regret to have to record, in our obituary notices for the past fortnight, the name of the late Mr R.T. Tanner, wholesale stationer of Dorset-buildings, Salisbury Square. His geniality and true kindness made him popular with everyone with whom he came in contact. The business will be carried on as hitherto”.
[The British and Colonial Printer & Stationer 16 September 1880 p.561 St Brides Printing Library] “On the 6th September, aged 55 Mr Richard Tuppen Tanner, Wholesale Stationer, Salisbury Square, Fleet Street. Mr Tanner was formerly assistant to Messrs Spalding & Hodge, and was well known to a large circle of the Trade, by whom his death will be sincerely regretted”.
[Stationery Trades Journal 20 September 1880 St Brides Printing Library] “I am sorry to have to chronicle the death of Mr Tanner, formerly known as the member of an Upper Thames-street firm in the Trade. The deceased gentleman had not been in business on his own account very long, but had gathered together a very nice circle of clients, by whom he will be much regretted. The late Mr Tanner was in all senses a gentleman – in business and out of business and his place will be hard to fill. I understand his business will be carried on as usual by the capable staff in Dorset-buildings.”
[The British and Colonial Printer & Stationer p.601 St Brides Printing Library]
John Macnab, James Rogers and Mary Ann Scotney Tanner entered
signatures on behalf of R T Tanner & Co in the signature book of the
Union Bank of London on 10th September
Due to fire and the passage of time the earliest surviving records are a ledger dating from 1887, and the minute books dating from 1908 when the partnership became a Limited Company. However what is known is that Charles Green, Frank Garrett and Henry Still Pearsall were certainly involved with the business by 1881 and almost certainly from it’s beginning in 1877 and it seems likely that the business was carried on by them, and the executors during this period.
Charles Green was listed as a wholesale stationer aged 25 in the 1881 census lodging with Henry Rogers and living next door to James. Charles married James’s daughter Kate in August 1882. When reporting the deaths of Frank Garrett and Henry Still Pearsall in the minute book of July 1926, it stated they were with the Company all their lives. Frank Garrett, then aged 22, appears as a Commercial Clerk in the 1881 census, and Henry Pearsall is listed as a traveller (stationers).
In September 1881 having left Tottenham School at St.Leonards,
Hastings, William Tanner went to Cheltenham College. Aged sixteen he left
in December 1882 to join the business. On 20 September 1887 he reached the
age of 21 and on the 22nd he and Charles Thorpe Green appear as
signatories for R T Tanner & Co in the signature book of the Union
Bank of London
From this entry at the bank and the surviving ledgers, it appears that it was at this point that Charles Green became a partner in the business with William, who in turn became the driving force in the business. Exactly when Frank Garrett was included in the partnership is not clear, he appears in the wages list in 1889, where there is no mention of either William or Charles, and in the 1891 census aged 32 as a manager wholesale stationers.
There is no list of employees until 1889, when the salaries total was
£432.12s 10d. This was most likely for office staff, stockmen,
warehousemen etc as the following names are listed showing their salaries
which make an overall total of £1466.8.0d.
On the 17 June 1890 “William Anthony Tanner, son of Richard Tuppen Tanner of Salisbury Square deceased, occupying premises at 8 Dorset Buildings, Salisbury Square, and carrying on the business of a Stationer”, was admitted to the Freedom of the City of London by Redemption in the company of Horners. In December he became free and on the Livery of the Stationers Company, at which time he was shown at Salisbury Square and Albemarle, Beckenham. As yet it is not clear why he became Free of two City Livery Companies, but from the Horners’ records he appeared to take an active part in their proceedings, attending Meetings of the Court from 1892 to 1905 and being elected Renter Warden in 1899, Upper Warden in 1901 and Master in 1902. The Clerk reported his death at a meeting on the 21 October 1908.
From entries in The Times in April and June 1891 R T Tanner instigated
the winding up of two companies who owed them money.
In the matter of the Companies Acts 1862-1890 and in the Matter of
the Publishing Company Ltd. Notice is hereby given for the winding-up of
the above named company by the High Court of Justice was on 20th April
1891 presented to the said court by Charles Thorpe Green and William
Anthony Tanner trading together in co-partnership under the style or firm
of R T Tanner & Co of Dorset Buildings, Salisbury Square, Wholesale
Stationers creditors of the company
The Times 9 June Tuesday 9 June p914 issue 33346 col.A
In 1893 R T Tanner & Co appear giving £5.5.0d in a list of
contributors to the London Orphan Asylum Watford for the maintenance &
education of homeless children of either sex which the Mangers gratefully
business had increased to such an extent that it was found impossible to
cope within the limited accommodation at 16 Dorset Street, so a plot of
ground, one-hundred yards from the office at the corner of Primrose Hill
and Hutton Street, was leased and a five-storey warehouse was
On the 1st October that year William Tanner’s younger brother Arthur joined the company commencing a career to last over 60 years. Arthur was born 6 September 1879 and was educated at Cheltenham College from Easter 1894 until July 1896. A family legend has it that as their father had died on his first birthday that the event was not celebrated until he was twenty one. For the first three months he received no salary, after which he received £4 3s. 4d. per month, not exactly a princely sum even for those days. What he was doing in the three years between school and starting work has not yet been identified. It is believed this gap may have been due to the fact the business could not support him.
In January 1900 the following appeared in the London
The trade was then informed of the dissolution of the partnership from
two entries in the February edition of the Stationery Trades
Fires in the premises of companies within the paper industry were very
common and the following report appeared in the news section of The Times
on Saturday 5th December 1903
Followed by a Fire Inquest on the 16 December
On the 3 August 1905 R T Tanner & Co were in the news
The Company had a range of product lines other than paper and card for jobbing printers. Shortly after the turn of the century, having installed special machinery for making "fancy" cards, they were able to supply correspondence cards and special cards to suit the wallet of the customer. These were produced in a variety of styles and designs, hand and machine made.
A point best demonstrated by photos taken from the roof tops of the factory in 1906, show that the business was sited at the traditional centre of the newspaper printing industry just off Fleet Street.
A most important part of the archive is the three series of surviving issues of the Tanners Trade Circular, 1906-14, 1922-24 and 1952-1980. The volume of information contained there is too vast to include in this history and in due course it is hoped copies of the entire catalogue will be available on this site.
In 1906 the Trade Circulars mention the Adhesive Dry Mounting Company Ltd in which Tanners held an interest. The essence of the process, invented by this Company, was to use a patented adhesive film, which by the means of a heated press fixed a print to its support. The advantage this process held over that used by printers previously is that it did not distort the picture when mounted as was common with the moisture from the adhesive.
In March 1906 the editor wrote: "Naturally we have seen many changes, but it is most satisfactory, in looking over the pages of our first journal to find the names of very many customers with whom we are still on the most friendly terms. To know that we have been doing business with so many firsts for close upon thirty years, and still have their entire confidence and support, is a matter for which we can be justly proud. It is also interesting in looking over early records to note the difference in prices that exists today to what was general in 1877. Paper which was then sold at 5½d.per lb. and thought cheap, now sells at 2¼d. per lb., and from what we can see there is absolutely no difference in the quality. All along the line there has been marked reductions, showing the effects of competition, and, incidentally, its value to the members of the craft".
About the office building the editor wrote: "At 16 Dorset Street, the order and sample departments are on the ground floor. Here also is the invoice department, whilst the general and private offices are on the first floor. The remainder of the building is devoted to warehousing large stocks of paper, each floor as far as possible being set apart for one particular class of goods. In 1899 the 5-floor warehouse at Primrose Hill was built but this was partially destroyed by fire on December 4th 1903 and had to be rebuilt. The whole of the space in the building is utilised, the paper being stored in large racks that extend from floor to ceiling. We find this method of storage possesses many advantages, not the least being that the system prevents the outer wrappings from becoming broken. The machines for cutting, scoring, round cornering and deckling cards are on the ground floor, and are run by electric power. In this department also, there is a large power guillotine, as well as the special machines for making our patented Pleated Postal Wrapper. We have branches at Paris and Buenos Aires. At the latter address we not only trade as paper merchants, but we also supply machinery and sundries of any description for the printer and stationer. Mr. H.J.Osborne, our South American represetative is at present paying a visit to the Mother Country after an absence of six years".
The business was represented by ten travellers who called regularly on printers and stationers in London and Suburbs. In addition, there were several reps in the Provinces as well as a resident representative in Cardiff who devoted his time to the West of England trade. Several of these employees joined the firm at its commencement. At this time the partners runnning the business were recorded in a photo in Highlight. It is likely the main driving force was William Tanner as was borne out in 1908 when he acquired the majority shareholding upon incorporation.
In May 1906 the representatives were listed as C Wakefield, E.Loder, W.H.Pocklington , F Bayes, R.B.Scruby, H.S.Pearsall, M Smith, G.F.Maisey, H.J.Oxborne, C Stacy and D.O.Evans. Frank Garrett visited Newfoundland, where he was able to correct the supposed date of an old document in the Museum at St.John’s by five years by using his knowledge of water marks, and also during the month he made a hurried visit to Paris, where he found business considerably dislocated through the Printers’ strike, which commenced on March 19th.
The 7th July 1906 found the premises closed, the men taking their annual holiday on that day - an outing being arranged for them by brakes to Knockholt Beeches, where dinner was provided at the Horse-shoe Hotel. In the same month the trade circular included a tongue in cheek advice for the customers of the business and updated onto the level of service on delivery that was available. The editor commented "we are now making a feature of exceptionally prompt deliveries of small orders, and have put on extra light vans which will be used exclusively for this purpose. Printers, therefore, who require but a small quantity of paper for an urgent job, can feel assured that it will be supplied without delay, upon receipt of order by wire, letter or telephone. We always keep on hand large stocks of papers of every description, so that hardly any order will either be too small or too large to execute immediately." Many printers lacked the storage capacity or were unable to finance the holding of large stocks.
Despite the invention of the telephone business remained based on frequent face to face contact between customer and company representatives. The earliest listings in the London telephone directories for R T Tanner & Co appear in 1903, their number as wholesale stationers at16 Dorset Street being Holborn 17, and as paper merchants at Primrose Hill E.C. Holborn 17a. The editorial note for the customers was as follows in September 1906: "Travellers are like other mortals in so far as they require holidays. For this reason, together with our continually increasing business, it has been impossible for our reps to call two or three times a week on our customers. We might mention, however, that any orders sent to us will receive the same personal and careful attention as they could if delayed, awaiting a visit from our traveller".
In October in order to encourage the use of the trunk telephone wires at night, the Postmaster General decided that, "from the 1st October the charge for three minutes trunk wire conversation between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am is to be half the day rate, except in the case of calls for which the ordinary day charge for three minutes conversation is 3d. 6d. or 9d. In the case of those calls, however, a double period of time will be allowed".
In November due to the increase in business in the export department it was transferred from Dorset Street to 39 and 40 Hutton Street. Also Frank Garrett went to Paris for over a week primarily to accompany his son, Frank Anthony, half way on his journey to Spain, where he was to join, for a time, a large mill "in order that he might become efficient both in the Spanish language and in the manufacture of paper".
It would appear that the business was performing well and growing at this time. Although there were concerns apparent in 1907 from the shortage of supply of wood pulp. A five to ten shillings increase per tonne was creating anxiety in the industry generally and R T Tanner & Co whom were dependent on paper mills for its supply. This was an issue that was to always be an ongoing one for the Company, and a feature of a main commentary in Jan 1908.
In 1907 The Limited Partnership Act became law which was possibly what prompted Tanners to form the new Limited Company