GEC History, 1886-1999, an introduction
1886 General Electric Apparatus CompanyG.Binswanger and Company, an electrical goods wholesaler established in London during the 1880s by a German immigrant named Gustav Binswanger (later Byng), was the building block for GEC.
In 1886 Byng was joined by another German immigrant, Hugo Hirst, (later Lord Hirst) the 'Father of GEC' and the company changed its name to The General Electric Apparatus Company (G.Binswanger). This date is regarded as the real start of GEC.
|Hugo Hirst||Gustav Byng|
The following year, the company produced the first electrical catalogue of its kind. In 1888 the firm
acquired its first factory in Manchester for the manufacture of telephones, electric bells, ceiling roses and switches.
In 1889 The General Electric Co. Ltd. was formed as a private limited company, also known as G.E.C., with its head office in Queen Victoria Street, London. The company developed the use of china as an insulating material in switches and manufactured light bulbs from 1893. In 1900, GEC was incorporated as a public limited company, The General Electric Company (1900) Ltd. And from 1903 it was styled 'The General Electric Co. Ltd.'
Rapidly growing private and commercial use of electricity, especially in lamps and lighting equipment, ensured buoyant demand and the company expanded both at home and overseas with the establishment of branches in Europe, Japan, Australia, South Africa and India and substantial export trade to South America.
Hugo Hirst had become Managing Director in 1906 and when Gustav Byng died in 1910 he also
became Chairman until his death in 1943.
- During 1920, Hugo Hirst gave a series of lectures to the GEC Debating Society, of which he was Chairman at that time. During these talks he described the events that took place during the five years leading up to the formation of the General Electric Company in 1886, through to the year 1900. Transcripts of these lectures, in two parts, are available here: Part 1, Part 2
- The Annual Dinner of GEC in 1904 saw the first performance of "The GEC March", compose by Louis Hillier and commissioned by the Company. It incorporated a musical part written for electric bells, still new technology at the time. You can read more and play The GEC March here.
1919 Britainâ€™s First Industrial Research Laboratories
During World War I the Company was heavily involved in the war effort with products such as radios, signalling lamps and arc lamp carbons.
In 1919, GEC established Britain's first separate industrial research laboratories at Wembley and
moved its head office to new premises in Kingsway, London two years later. From the 1920s the
Company was involved in the creation of the National Grid.
GEC continued to acquire companies and embark on joint ventures, as well as expanding its
manufacturing operations overseas and its domestic branch network.
During World War II, GEC was a major supplier to the military of electrical and engineering products.
Significant contributions to the war effort included the development of the cavity magnetron for radar, with advances in communications and the mass production of electric lighting.