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...CARSON  COLLECTION

 
Carsons Limited was founded in Glasgow around 1887 by Zaver Marb and Julius Bechtie, two confectionery workers and specialised in hand-made confectionery and marzipan goods. The business was a success and by the 1890s Marb and Bechtie were looking to expand but lacked the capital for further investment. In 1895 this was provided by Bailie Carson, a well-to-do Irishman, who happened to be looking for a business venture for his two sons, James and William. When they were boys, Carson and Sir Thomas Lipton had struck up a friendship when they had both worked in the shops of Mr. Donaldson of Crown Street

Carson became the majority shareholder but neither Marb not Bechtie could get along with the sons, who were also shareholders and both left within the year. By then the firm was doing well, specialising in penny-an-ounce lines with small profit margins. In 1896 its name had changed to Carsons Ltd.

When Carson senior died, his sons expressed no interested in the business and so it passed into the hands of two former employees, A. E. Hillard and F. E. Callum. Despite a number of setbacks, the firm flourished and in October 1906 it became a public company with Hillard and Callum as joint Managing Directors. Although the original flotation was not a great success, the shares recovered and in 1910 the Glasgow stock exchange began quoting them on the official share listing.

Hillard then realised that the real profits were to be made in producing the kind of high class chocolates made by continental manufacturers.  He abandoned the ‘penny lines’ and travelled to Europe forming links with manufacturers, while Callum became an expert on German production techniques. Carsons then set up a team of worldwide export agents and produced a magnificent range of fancy chocolates retailing at the then astronomically high figure of 28/6d a box.  
In December 1911, the Managing Directors announced they were selling their interests to H.J. Packer & Co. Ltd. and advised other shareholders to do the same. This news created a storm of controversy but control of Carsons did indeed pass to Packer’s. In 1913 the company moved production to new premises in England, as Packer’s board had decided that the Glasgow site was too small and would be difficult to extend. They took the decision to build a new factory for Carson’s chocolates on land they had previously bought in 1899 and still owned at Shortwood, just outside Bristol.

The Mitchell Library has a small collection of early 20th century manuscript recipe books for confectionery and desserts from Carsons. There are a few books on sugar and refrigeration techniques, a privately printed company history of Carsons and published texts relevant to the study of cookery such as A Handbook of Sugar Analysis. The recipe notebooks contain a list of ingredients but no method.

Ref. No. 1,000, 528

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