Giddings & Lewis-Fraser Ltd

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Giddings & Lewis-Fraser Ltd

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In 1832, Douglas Fraser of Arbroath established a business which specialised in the manufacture of flax and canvas. As the century progressed the company of Douglas Fraser & Son continued to supply jute goods and canvas to the Admiralty and in 1857 they received a bronze medal for their products at the Crystal Palace exhibition. By the 1870s steam was becoming the predominant means of propelling ships at sea and Douglas Fraser & Sons, as the firm was now known, found their business in serious decline. Douglas Fraser died in 1868, and control of the company passed to his oldest son, Henry Fraser. In about 1870 Henry purchased Friockheim bleachfield, which was to be a heavy financial burden on the company for many years. Henry Fraser's management was not ultimately beneficial to the company, and the rest of the century saw Douglas Fraser & Sons heavily indebted to a variety of creditors. Included in this number were Henry Fraser's wife and son who claimed much of whatever profits accrued to the company under the terms of trust funds set up by both Douglas Fraser and later Henry Fraser. In 1881 Norman Fraser designed and patented a braiding machine which proved to be an advance on what was currently available in the textile industry. The development of this machine led to greater concentration on machine manufacturing, a step which ultimately was to be the salvation of the company: an engineering works was established during the 1890s. During the latter decades of the nineteenth century Douglas Fraser & Sons began business in Argentina, manufacturing jute-soled shoes called alpargatas or espadrilles. This part of the company's manufacturing interests soon became its most profitable and led to other factories being established in Uruguay and Brazil and Europe. One result of this was a significant level of migration of people from Arbroath to South America for work. Many of the parts for the machinery required were made and supplied by Frasers in Arbroath, where small-scale production of shoes was also undertaken. Over the first half of the twentieth century Douglas Fraser & Sons become major partners in a number of Indian enterprises, mainly concerned with processing jute. For long a family-run business, Douglas Fraser & Sons was incorporated as a private company in 1905 and by the 1950s was almost exclusively an engineering firm. In 1959 Frasers was taken over by Giddings & Lewis, a machine tool company from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, USA. The new company was named Giddings & Lewis-Fraser, with its head office at Wellgate Works, Arbroath. In 1968 Giddings & Lewis-Fraser became a public company, but reverted to being a private company in 1981. In 1982 a controlling share interest was bought by AMCA Netherland BV, which meant that the parent company of Giddings & Lewis-Fraser became AMCA Holdings (UK) Ltd, itself a subsidiary of AMCA International Ltd, incorporated in Canada. Giddings & Lewis-Fraser maintained a major interest in Douglas Fraser (India) Ltd and Galfra-Habib Ltd of Pakistan, and as well as their continuing production of machine tools in Arbroath, are were involved in production of textiles at Friockheim. The business is no longer in existence. The factory bell from Wellgate Works was moved to the entrance of the original Douglas Fraser & Sons factory in Buenos Aires and as of 2019 was displayed in a luxury apartment block in that city.


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