“Regent of London“
David Strasburger Limited, Leamington Spa
This paper is a very brief history of David Strasburger Limited, a small manufacturing company that once operated in Leamington Spa. Its range of products, marketed under the “Regent of London” trademark, included Dressing Table Vanity Sets, Hair Brushes, Hand Mirrors, Powder Compacts, Trinket Boxes, Photograph Frames, Smoking Requisites, Decorative Small Clocks, etc. In the 1940s and 50s these were quite desirable items to have.
David Strasburger was born in Germany, on 24th May 1901, to Moses Strasburger and Rosa Rosenthal. He was of the Orthodox Jewish faith. Some documents state his place of birth as being Hohebach, now currently in Baden-Wurttemburg. However, a document for post-war reparations, lodged with the American authorities at Frankfurt AM under the “Registration of Foreigners and German Persecutees Act 1939-1947”, contradicts this and states his place of birth as Hohenbach, in upper Bavaria. Clearly there are discrepancies here that have yet to be fully resolved. Just to confuse matters a little more, there are several places in Germany named Hohebach.
With the rise of the NSDAP (Fascist Party) under Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, Germany became progressively a more dangerous country in which to reside for members of the Jewish community. Therefore David, possibly together with other members of his family, sought to leave Germany for a safer haven elsewhere.
David probably arrived in Great Britain in 1934 or 1935. After making several transatlantic trips to the United States in the subsequent years, he seems to have gravitated to London, where in 1939 he is recorded as living at 17 Cropthorne Court, Marylebone. Together with perhaps a brother or cousin named Lionel Strasburger (who later changed his name), he set up a number of businesses with a registered office at Kent House, 87 Regent Street, W1. These were purely merchandising enterprises, no manufacturing appears to have been undertaken at this time. The products traded were luxury or fancy goods. Lionel appears to have been the more dominant or active partner in these ventures. Eventually this partnership was dissolved.
It is not absolutely clear when David Strasburger’s associations with Leamington Spa first began, but the local “Courier” newspaper reported during the 1940s on several acts of his generosity and munificence within the town. He donated to the Mayor’s fund for the years 1943, 1944, 1947 and 1948; the Service Fund/ Leamington Appeal in 1943 and the Peace Memorial Fund in 1947.
If manufacturing of some description was actually taking place in Leamington Spa during the war years, one surmises that surely it cannot have involved fancy goods? So just what was David Strasburger making? Something for the war effort? Well possibly, we just don’t know. A Kelly’s Directory for 1945 places him at Beaconsfield Street West, Leamington Spa, but he could have been at his location well before this date.
Grace’s Guide informs us that David Strasburger Limited exhibited at the British Industries Fair (BIF) at Olympia in 1947, (Ground Floor, Stand No D1655b and 1st Floor, Stand G.2026) where the company was listed as a manufacturer of, “Auto Lighters and Tobacconists Sundries”. Additionally, David Strasburger is known to have held at least two patents appertaining to his manufactured products; one in relation to the retention of bristles in hairbrushes and the other concerning improvements to powder compacts. A patent relating to hairbrushes seems to have been filed in 1958, as Australian Patent AU 1958034788.
The company’s factory in Leamington Spa was located in Beaconsfield Street West, situated in a triangle of land formed by the intersection with Lower Leam Street. For anyone unfamiliar with Leamington Spa, these are two streets running very roughly parallel with Willes Road, on its north side, generally towards the intersection with the Radford Road. The former factory building is now named “The Cloisters”, a rather tranquil sounding name belying its previous, albeit fairly light, industrial activity! It is currently used for non-industrial business purposes.
Left – The former factory building as it is today – a physiotherapy centre
A significant proportion of the work involved in the manufacture of “Regent of London” products unquestionably entailed light press-work, or metal manipulation of some kind or another. These operations would perhaps have included, crimping, cropping, drawing, embossing, forming, marking, notching, piercing, riveting, swaging and vee-bending, to mention a few. All these operations can be easily performed on suitably tooled small to medium sized fly-presses. This was fairly light work for nimble, dextrous fingers, and therefore ideally suited to female labour. Much of the labour force employed at Strasburger’s undoubtedly comprised women, recruited from the surrounding area. As a boy the author remembers several women who worked at company.
The fancy embossed metal edging strip, for say dressing table sets, would probably have been bought in for final forming and shaping. Similarly, clock movements would have sourced from specialist outside suppliers and then assembled into suitably made up cases. The author of this paper suggests that the movements used were not of a particularly high quality. A “Regent” clock owned by the author’s parents failed to run after a very short period of use. Rather a pity, as “Regent” clock cases could be quite stylishly decorative. Unfortunately, a clock that “won’t go” is invariably disposed of fairly quickly!
“Regent” dressing table sets, vanity sets and clocks were often embellished using an attractive range of decorative printed or woven patterned fabrics (perhaps satins or equivalents) set behind transparent panels for the hand mirrors and hair brushes and the spandrels for clock faces. The metalwork could be silver plated, “antiqued gold” or of a chromed finish. The silver plating would have been only a few microns (thousands of a millimetre) in thickness.
David Strasburger died on 27th November 1975 at the age of 74, but the business continued to operate for a number of years after his death. Whether this was under family control or by some other designated person or persons is not known. In 1979 the company was taken over by Sari Fabrics, another well known Leamington company. It would probably be true to say that by this time the “Regent” line of products was becoming somewhat unfashionable, and hardly de rigueur. In 1982 the company was finally wound up and an auction sale of the assets was arranged. The author of this paper attended the sale of equipment and tools at the factory and managed to procure one of the several Neilson No 2 fly-presses on offer. This tool has proved to be a sound investment, although now only used for very occasional tasks.
David Strasburger Limited was definitely a company of its time, that operated in Leamington Spa for more than four decades. Quite apart from providing an original line of luxury goods for both the British market and Export Trade, the company gave stable employment for a significant number of local working people for a considerable time. It should also be remembered that the products Strasburger manufactured and marketed satisfied a demand for previously unattainable items, offered to a general public aching for change after wartime privations, post-war austerity and years of having to “make do and mend”.
“Regent” products can still be found occasionally on street markets or at car boot sales, and with the present trend for “retro” style décor they are perhaps making something of a minor comeback! Genuine David Strasburger manufactured items are usually marked “Regent of London” or with the initials “DS” and “England” or “Made in England” also added.
The author is particularly indebted to Janet and Peter Coulls for their detailed research and kind assistance in the preparation of this paper. As usual, thanks also go to our peerless WIAS webmaster.
Copyright © J F Willock September 2021
- Registration Document of Foreigners and German Persecutees 1939-1947- Frankfurt AM
- Leamington Spa “Courier”
- Grace’s Guide
- Kelly’s Directory for 1945