A large 1930s cocktail shaker with an orange compression moulded urea formaldehyde flask and a screw top lid with a metal cover and pouring spout.
Chosen for 10 Most Wanted because it is a stunning object about which there was significant information known which would hopefully help players to find the information wanted.
Ian Holdsworth & David Harman Powell
What we wanted to know & what we found out
- Designer: Lawson and Raphael Clarke
- Retailer: Wilson and Gill
- Date of manufacture: 1934
We also found out that the cocktail shaker has the title 'Incolor', that it was made in six colours, and that inferior copies come not infrequently on the market. We obtained images of its original marketing material and learnt about the company that retailed it and the people who designed it.
Additionally we found that you cannot always believe what you read. This case has thrown up two pieces of mis-information in print.
- British Plastics and Moulded Products Trader, December 1934 states the shaker was designed by Messrs Lawson's of Regent Street, London. No such firm existed.
- Cook, P., Slessor, C., Sassower, G., Bakelite, An illustrated Guide to Collectable Bakelite Objects, Quintet Publishing Ltd, London, 1992, page 101, states that the shaker was retailed by William and Gill which should read Wilson and Gill.
- Company website
- Trade magazine
- Web publication
- History website
- Personal testimony
- Marketing material
- More personal testmony
The case was kicked off by HQ staff member, technical officer Blume, who found a patent for it dated 29 June 1934 taken out by a Frederick Edwin Lawson Clarke of 137 Regent Street, London.
The hunt was then taken up by Agent Holdsworth who posted an image of a blue version of the cocktail shaker with its original box bearing the title, 'Incolor'. He also told us thaat P. Cook, C. Slessor, C. & G. Sassower, Bakelite, An illustrated Guide to Collectable Bakelite Objects, Quintet Publishing Ltd, London, 1992, page 101,states, as it turned out incorrectly, that the retailers were William and Gill.
Agent Holdsworth then made a major breakthrough. He traced a company called Wilson (not William, the latter is probably a typographical error) and Gill through the Hester Clarke Company, where a Lawson Clarke worked from 1924.
Agent Holdsworth also found one of the cocktail shakers featured in British Plastics and Moulded Products Trader, December 1934, captioned as 'designed by Messrs Lawson's of Regent Street, London'. The question was what was the relationship between Frederick Edwin Lawson Clarke and Messrs Lawson? Could the recurring name of Lawson be a coincidence?
The irrefutable evidence provided by this publication was that the product, for which we already knew a patent had been applied in June 1934, was in production by December of that year. We had a firm year for the product's launch: 1934.
Agent Holdsworth then found a reference to a Lawson and Raphael Clarke in Graces Guide, a source of information about industry and manufatcuring in Britain since the Industrial Revolution. It described them as manufacturers at Goldsmiths House, 131-1412 Regent Street, London, numbers including that of 137, the address registered by the patentee, Frederick Edwin Lawson Clarke. This made a firm link between Lawson and Frederick Lawson Clarke but they still could be different people.
Agent Holdsworth had already encountered a Lawson Clarke on the Hester Clarke website. He therefore telephoned the company and made contact with Christopher Clarke, the son of Lawson Clarke, who confirmed that Lawson and Frederick Edwin Lawson Clarke were the same person. Through his personal testimony supplemented with information already gleaned from the Hester Clarke website we have gained the following background information to cocktailshaker.
Wilson & Gill were established at 139 - 141 Regent Street in 1892. Victor Clarke joined the company in 1913 and by 1924 was the sole proprietor. His sons, Raphael and Lawson, joined the company also in 1924. Wilson and Gill was a shop retailing jewellery and a range of other domestic products including clocks, watches and dressing table sets.
Lawson and Raphael established a separate company called Lawson and Raphael (not Lawson’s) to market the products that they designed – as they were not paid very well by Wilson & Gill. It was they that designed the cocktail shaker. Lawson went to the trouble of patenting it as he was more proactive than Raphael.
Subsequently Christopher Clarke wrote to Agent Holdsworth as follows: 'Lawson Clarke (my father) was the prime mover in Lawson & Raphael the brother being just there as they worked together in the retail jewellery business of Wilson & Gill... owned by their father Victor W Clarke. Lawson born 28/5/1901 died 15/8/1989. Raphael died sometime in the late 60's to early 70's. The Incolor was the greatest success of the inventions... Similarly successful was the Jumbo lighter (the USP of that was it was the first lighter that did not need the thumb to operate the flint wheel and get dirty). There was also the Bureaugram... a book case with the upper portion being a sloping opening flap... behind which was a quality record turntable... the wireless set then stood on the top of the bookcase (waist high) to provide the listening output.' He also contributed advertising material realting to the cocktail shaker.
This marketing flyer provides full information for the documentation of the cocktail shaker.
More personal testimony
Agent Harman Powell provided this image of the cocktail shaker made of melamine that he knows through his work with BIP dates from between 1953 and 1956.
Christopher Clarke says that there were no reissues of Incolor and of this example:
'Definitely inferior... a dead give away is the plastic cap... the original is metal and engraved around the inside with 7 rings acting as measures for a good cocktail.'