British Dyes Ltd./British Dyestuffs Corporation Ltd.

Scope and Content

The archive is reasonably comprehensive and includes the Board of Directors minutes for 1915 to 1923, and shareholders' meetings minutes for 1915-1922. There are also a series of files relating to the company's operations, particularly concerning trading and marketing arrangements in the post-1918 period, when the company lobbied for tariffs against the revived German dyestuffs industry.

Administrative / Biographical History

British Dyes Ltd. was formed in 1915 following concerns about the supply of dyestuffs during wartime. Chemicals used in dyestuff manufacture were also needed for explosives and poison gases, and the government was keen to ensure these were efficiently produced and distributed. The weakness appeared to follow inevitably from the pre-war dominance of German dyes in the British market, the subject of much criticism by industrialists like Ivan Levinstein.

Government officials therefore supported concentration of the dyestuffs industry through a merger of the two major firms, Read Holliday and Levinsteins. Read's chairman, Joseph Turner, enthusiastically supported the proposal, in part because he believed that the government would back his plans for a major new dyestuffs plant at Dalton, near Huddersfield (which proved to be the case). Levinsteins were however opposed, again in part because of their concerns about the Dalton scheme. As a result when British Dyes Ltd. was created in 1915, it comprised only the former Read Holliday company. Turner became the company's first managing director.

In 1919, Levinsteins dropped their opposition, and joined the firm, which was then renamed the British Dyestuffs Corporation Ltd. and was the country's largest dyemaker. Herbert Levinstein, who became joint managing director of the new company with Turner, believed that the merger would be a useful means of persuading the government to support a protected British market in the aftermath of the War. The marriage however proved to be a difficult one; Levinstein fell out with Turner, feeling that the Dalton site was being unduly favoured. British Dyestuffs also failed to secure market-sharing agreements with German companies (although a deal was agreed with the US firm DuPont). Levinstein left the firm in 1923. By 1926, the company's fortunes were challenged by the establishment of I G Farbenindustrie, which threatened to dominate the European market. To counteract this, BDC became one of the founding firms in ICI in 1926.