|Administrative / biographical background:
Lewis Steingenberger is said to have come to London from Frankfurt in Germany in 1760 as a 19 year old colour chemist to manufacture Prussian Blue, using the name of Lewis Berger. Lewis Berger's business expanded rapidly and in 1780 he moved from Shadwell, East London, to new premises at Homerton. He was at that time offering about twelve dry pigment colours and within ten years had seven more and was also selling such goods as black lead, sulphur, sealing wax and mustard. A City office was established in Well Court in about 1785.
Three of Lewis Berger's four sons who reached adulthood, Lewis, John and Samuel, entered the business. Lewis ran the Well Court office until his death in 1800 when its management was taken over by John Berger. Lewis Berger Snr died in 1814 and his two remaining sons ran the expanding business. Samuel acquired a starch factory in Bow in 1827 which was carried on by his sons when he died in 1855, his shares in Berger being taken over by John who died in about 1860. Capel Burrow Berger and Lewis Curwood Berger, John's two sons, then jointly ran the business, undertaking considerable extensions at Homerton.
In 1879 when Capel B. Berger was 70 years old and Lewis C. Berger 65, it was decided to turn the firm into a limited company as Lewis Berger and Sons Ltd. Among the four other directors was Arthur John Berger, the latter's third surviving son, who became managing director. The new board of directors and Arthur J. Berger in particular do not appear to have been astute businessmen. A new lead works was acquired in Sheffield which was not successful and a new Canadian operation was launched which only lasted a year. In 1881 the whole board resigned and a new one was elected with Arthur J. Berger appointed as Manager but over the next 20 years the shareholders continually complained about mismanagement of the company's financial affairs. Improvements and expansions, however, were made at Homerton during this period and trade with India, Australia and America was begun. Eventually in 1905 the Company was sold to a Mr Cottingham, Vice President of Sherwin Wiliams Co. of America, paint manufacturers, with whom earlier discussions of amalgamation had taken place. All the new directors of Lewis Berger and Sons Ltd. were Americans except John W. Garson, ex Manager of the Company who became its managing director.
Several subsidiary companies were formed over the years: in Australia in 1916; New Zealand in 1923; Peintures Berger S.A. in France in 1926; in Ireland in 1935; and in Jamaica in 1956. The Company merged with Jenson and Nicholson Ltd in 1960 to form Berger, Jenson and Nicholson Ltd. Jenson and Nicholson were established in 1821 as coach paint manufacturers although the company did not bear that name until 1861. They had several overseas subsidiaries and had acquired John Hall & Son Ltd, paint, glass and varnish manufacturers in Bristol, established 1788, in 1948. The Company had opened new premises at Chadwell Heath in the late 1940's and moved their headquarters to Berkeley Square in 1951 Operations at the Homerton premises were run down and the works had closed by 1960. The site was later cleared.
Berger, Jenson and Nicholson Ltd formed Berger Traffic Markings Ltd, to market traffic paints for roads and airfields in 1960, and companies in the South Pacific in 1967 and Barbados and Trinidad in 1968. They acquired MacGregor Wallcoverings Ltd in 1966 and British Paints Ltd in 1969. British Paints, who had several overseas companies, was formed in 1930 with the merging of J. Dampney and Co. Ltd, paint specialists of Cardiff, established 1867, and British Antifouling Co. Ltd, established at Barking, Essex, in the late 1890's.
In 1970 Berger, Jenson and Nicholson Ltd were taken over by Hoechst AG, the world's largest chemical company, of Frankfurt, West Germany. Berger's, it could be argued, had returned home. The Company continued to form companies overseas and in the United Kingdom, in Bangladesh in 1970; in Angola in 1971; and acquired a company in South Africa in 1973 and in 1975 Arthur Johnson (Paper) Ltd., established in 1926 as wallpaper and bread wrapping paper manufacturers.
Berger, Jenson and Nicholson Ltd in 1981 was the holding company for the whole Berger group which manufactured and distributed paint, resins, wood preservatives, industrial sealants, household chemicals and wallcoverings and in 1977 had 35 companies and divisions running 46 factories in 25 countries employing 10,000 people. In the United Kingdom the Group had 5 factories at Chadwell Health, Dagenham, Essex; Statford, East London; Hengrove, Bristol; East Kilbride, Strathclyde; and Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear; 4 research centres at all the aforementioned except East Kilbride; 3 main warehouses at Chadwell Heath, Hengrove and Middleton, Manchester, and employed in 1970, 4348 people.
Lewis Berger and Sons Ltd was converted into a private company on 19th August 1908 and into a public company on 21st January 1926. Berger, Jenson and Nicholson was sold by Hoechst AG to Williams Holdings in 1988. Jenson and Nicholson was re-established as a private company based at Dagenham.