Papers of Sir Louis Sterling

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

SL V 100 is a typewritten alphabetical list of books in Sterling's library. SL V 101 consists of scrapbooks with letters, press cuttings and cables commemorating Sir Louis Sterling's fiftieth birthday on 16 May 1929. SL V 102 includes scrapbooks containing letters, cables, and photographs congratulating Sterling for receiving his knighthood in 1937. SL V 103 contains file boxes containing assorted photographs and programmes from the latter part of Sterling's life.

Administrative / Biographical History

Louis Saul Sterling was born in New York on 16 May 1879. In 1903 he left the United States for London, where he began working as a travelling representative for Gramophone and Typewriter Ltd. The following year, Sterling became manager of the British Zonophone Company, which produced playing machines and disc records. In 1905 Sterling established the Sterling Record Company, which was bought, within a few months, by the Russell Hunting Record Company. Sterling became the managing director of the firm. By 1908 Sterling had formed the Rena Manufacturing Company which produced playing machines and records.

In 1909 the Columbia Phonograph Company bought Rena and Sterling was appointed Columbia's British Sales Manager. At Columbia during the First World War, 1914-1918, Sterling introduced the production of patriotic war songs and original cast recordings of songs from London shows. By the end of the war Sterling was the managing director of the Columbia Graphophone Company Ltd. When Columbia bought out its American parent company in 1927, Sterling was made chairman of its New York board. During the early 1930s Sterling became the managing director of Electrical and Musical Industries Ltd, (EMI), which had merged with Columbia. Sterling also served on the board of the merchant bank, S G Warburg. On leaving EMI he served as a director of the music publishers Chapell and Co and later became the managing director and then chairman of the electrical engineers, AC Cosser Ltd.

Sterling established a number of charitable organisations including the Sterling Club in 1937 and the Sir Louis Sterling Charitable Trust in 1938. Later he became involved in Jewish charitable work and was President of the British Committee for Technical Development in Israel.

Sterling's main interest outside business was collecting books. Although he started collecting books in 1917, the majority of the items in his collection were purchased in the 1920s and 1930s. By 1956 the collection had grown to over 5000 books and manuscripts.

In 1945 Sterling approached the University of London about donating his collection to the library. Under the direction of John Hayward a team from the University Library catalogued the collection at the Sterling home. On 30 October 1956 the Sterling collection was in place in the University of London Library and formally opened.

Sterling was knighted in 1937 and he received an honorary D. Litt from the University of London in 1947. Sterling died in London on 2 June 1958.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room

Archivist's Note

1999-08-12 Simon McKeon