George Stewart & Co Ltd, Manufacturing Stationers (1879-2011)

11:26 AM

The George Stewart & Co Ltd, Manufacturing Stationers Collection, has now been catalogued and will be sent to the Edinburgh City Archives (Reference number SL247).

Business records
George Stewart & Co Ltd were founded in 1879 by George Stewart, but it was his youngest son, Alastair M. Stewart (b. 1905), who steered the company through the 20th century. This collection represents all that has survived from the long history of this Edinburgh Company. The reasons for this are numerous, but possibly the serious fire in August of 1950 destroyed much of their corporate and historical records; but in the surviving material are still important archival and historical records. The business records include two minute books, two finance books, share information and profit and loss reports. There are are notebooks detailing costs of materials and basic job work.

Additional to the business records, the Collection also has material relating to the social activities of the workforce, identifying a camaraderie that was evident in many family-owned firms of the time. Minute and record books of the Company bowling, golf and rambling clubs demonstrate highly active groups and provide an important contribution to local sports history. 

Stewart Rambling Club 1889-1905
For example, The Bowling Club was a member of the Edinburgh and Leith Printing Establishments Bowling Club Association, and it competed in both League and Single-hand competitions, winning several. The Rambling Club book contains information on local excursions, including various events such as local Burns dinners with 
accompanying ephemera. 
Stewart Golf Club 1902-1903 (SL247/3/3/1

Though Stewart & Co. were manufacturing stationers, they were closely involved with the printing industry. The Chairman, Alastair M. Stewart, was an important figure within the printing trade and served in a number of important positions, including Vice-President (from 1965) and then as President of the Federation of Master Printers (1966-67). 

Printers’ Association Events 1965-66
The archive has interesting ephemera from this period from a number of British and international printing associations and newspapers, related to conferences and dinners, including photographs, that Alastair M. Stewart and his wife attended.
Printers’ Association Events 1967
In connection with Edinburgh, Alastair M. Stewart was also a Director of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and an Assistant of the Company of Merchants of the City of Edinburgh.
Unfortunately the firm fell victim to a final salary pension scheme, that, like so many others, had created an "impossible to fund" arrears. The directors had tried to restructure the business and its funding and had been making good progress, but were unable to find a solution for their major creditors. The company went into administration on 6 December 2011.

The Company celebrated its 100 years in 1979, and there are documents connected with the event in the Collection, unfortunately no souvenirs seem to have survived: the Parker Pen, photographs, nor their “First Hundred Years” publication which was produced specially for the event. If any of these items exist, or even other papers or materials related to the firm, Edinburgh City Archives or the Ballast Trust, would appreciate being able to add these to this important Collection for future generations.

Stephen Hall

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  1. My Paternal Grandfather worked as a printer for this company, I presume in the 30's. I have a pamphlet advertising their printing capabilities that features a Miehle letterpress printing press with my Grandfather John McLean operating the machine. On the other side of the flyer he is attending to a machine that prints lines for school exercise books.

  2. I was employed by Geo Stewart @ Co. Ltd as an apprentice stationer from 15 March 1954. Conscripted to National Service in the RASC as a clerk in March 1957. Served with the 7th Armoured Division HQ Squadron as a trained corporal clerk in the office of Maj General Shan Hacket. Returned to Stewarts, works office, after National Service of two Years in April 1979. I retired in 2003 as the Production Director.

  3. Alastair Stewart was my maternal grandpa. It's great to see the old pictures of him and my Granny Mary (who was an absolute stalwart) in your blog - I think my mum has some similar photos back at home, but I'd love to see what's in the archives.
    I remember I completed a week's work experience at Geo. Stewart as a teenager in 1987 (I think) when the firm was run by David Henderson, and I'm glad to have spent time there.