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British Industrial History

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Emile Garcke

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Emile Garcke (1856-1930), Industrialist, author, philosopher and bee-keeper. President of the British Electrical Federation

1856 Born in Saxony

1880 Became a naturalised British subject

Initially involved in mining and banking.

1882 Garcke married Alice, daughter of John Withers, a brush manufacturer; the couple had a son Sidney Emile Garcke‎.

1883 Joined the Anglo-American Brush Electric Light Corporation (established in 1880) as Secretary in 1883; rose to Manager in 1887 and became Managing Director of its successor company, Brush Electrical Engineering Co, four years later.

1891 Established the Electric and General Investment Trust for the promotion and financing of electrical undertakings.

1893 As result of reconstruction of the Electric Construction Corporation as the Electric Construction Co, Emile Garcke accepted position as managing director, leading the reorganisation of the company[1].

1895 Garcke was a strong supporter of electric traction and set up another company with the help of his fellow directors British Electric Traction Pioneer Co[2]

1896 The new company became British Electric Traction Co, (BET), with Garcke as Managing Director.

1896 He was a keen publisher of electrical books and pamphlets throughout his life, which is how the “Manuals of Electrical Undertakings” came to be published and continued long after his death.

1904 By this time BET was a vast group of 66 companies, mostly associated with tramways and distribution supply. Emile Garcke was the mastermind behind the enterprise, which by 1906 operated 15% of all British Tramways. In one way or another he was involved with more than 80 companies in electricity supply and electric traction in the Midlands and was Chairman of Metropolitan Electric Tramways.

1929 Retired from executive work with British Electric Traction Co[3].

1930 November: died[4].

1930 Obituary[5]


The death of Mr. Emile Garcke, which occurred at Pinkneys Green, Berkshire, on November 14, at the age of 74, deprives the British electrical industry of well-known figure. In his early days he was recognised as an especially able and far-sighted organiser and as a whole-hearted believer in private enterprise, even when that enterprise was hampered by, what he was not alone in thinking, misconceived legislation. His views, no less than his methods, often brought him into conflict with authority and vested interests with the usual results, but with the passing of years he was able to develop a retrospective philosophy, and to regard his early struggles with a detachment from which he tried to extract what he called a broad view of existence. He often developed this theme at great length, but it may be summarised by saying that as a thinker he felt a little uncomfortable that so many millions of money and so many thousands of persons were employed in dealing with a “thing” or “activity,” like electricity, which could not be accurately defined. In his opinion, the electrical engineer ought to develop exceptionally large views and to discover for himself how fundamental not only to physics and chemistry, but to biology and psychology, electricity was, difficult as that task might be in the midst of his other and varied activities. This plea for a larger outlook he emphasised by pointing out that on the more everyday side of electricity, and, indeed, of industry generally, there was an all-round lack of co-ordination, notwithstanding the efficiency of British methods in attaining practical ends. It was probably with this end in view that he took a leading part in the formation of the British Institute of Philosophical Studies, of which he became Honorary Treasurer, but it may be doubted whether, for obvious reasons, his views have yet received the close examination they deserve.

Emile Garcke was born in Germany in 1856, but he came to this country at an early age and was naturalised as a British subject when he was only twenty-four. After being engaged in banking and on the business side of mining for some years, he began his! first connection with the electrical industry in 1883, when he was appointed secretary of the British Electrical Engineering Co. He maintained a life-long; connection with this concern, and was its chairman at the time of his death. In 1893, he became managing-director of the Electric Construction Co, of Wolverhampton, and two years later formed the British Electric Traction Pioneer Co, which subsequently! developed into the British Electric Traction Co. This concern, with Mr. Garcke at its head, played an active part in the establishment of electric tramways; in this country and in the attempts, mainly abortive,; which were made to rid that form of traction from! the burden of the municipal veto. The company was; also concerned with the development of public electricity, supply both by provisional order and by means of' power companies. The finance and promotion of these undertakings was controlled by the Electric and General Investment Co, which was formed, for this purpose.

Mr. Garcke’s activities in these fields were largely confined to the Midlands, but, as showing their scope, it may be mentioned that he was associated with over 80 companies, including the Shropshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire Electric Power Company, and the North Metropolitan Electric Power Supply Co, of the former of which he was chairman. He was also president of the British Electrical Federation and deputy chairman of the British Electric Traction Co. His interest in electrical legislation is indicated by the number of committees on which he served. These included Lord Thurlow’s Electric Light Act Committee, of which he was secretary. He was also instrumental in founding the electrical section of the London Chamber of Commerce, of which he became chairman ; was a member of the Executive Committee of the Federation of British Industries, and a vice-president of the Tramways and Light Railways Association. He was elected a member of the Institution of Electrical Engineers in 1889. He was also the founder of that useful reference hook TAe Manual of Electrical Undertakings, with which all those concerned in the industry are closely familiar."

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, 15 November 1930
  2. The Times, 15 November 1930
  3. The Times, 15 November 1930
  4. The Times, Saturday, Nov 15, 1930
  5. Engineering 1930/11/21
  • [1] South Western Electricity Historical Society.
  • [2] DNB