What on Earth was Plummer Brothers and Company Pvt. Ltd?
We have probably walked past this run down house on Fancy Lane a thousand times. Today, we wanted to dig up some information about it. Street Directory of 1935 tells us that №5 (& 6) Fancy Lane belonged to a certain Plummer Brothers and Company. Getting this information was the easy part.
But what did this company do?
That needed some more in-depth farming of archival information. The first thing we found was a short list of contributors published in an internal gazette of the Government in 1935. Here we found that along with Calcutta Tramways, Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation and some other businesses, Plummer Brothers and Company contributed 500 Rupees for a private relief fund of the Viceroy of India (Lord Willingdon). Then we kept on finding passing mentions of Plummer Brothers in the documents of the Royal Exchange, of which its proprietor R W Plummer, was a representative. We even found that on 1st of July 1959, Registrar of Companies declare Plummer Brother’s “dissolved” and delisted from the register.
But none of these explained what the firm did!
Then we struck a gem of an information hidden inside the British Government’s balance sheet of expenses in 1941. Here, along with Dunlop, Martin and Co and a few other companies, Plummer Brothers appeared as a “supplier” to the British Indian Railways. The document said that the government owed 532 Rupees (and 8 annas) to the Plummer Brothers that year. This narrowed the field down considerably.
Then, in a final stroke of luck, we were able to find a copy of the Minutes of the Council of State Debates of 1927. Turns out on 30th of August 1927, the name of Plummer Brothers crops up. The debate was about allegedly illegal purchase of zinc based paint for the Eastern Bengal Railway earlier that year. Plummer Brothers and Company was one of the five companies who the Railways had allegedly “illegally” favoured to supply 1680 cwts (85.34 tons) of paint and 485 gallons of enamel of a total value of Rs 78,000.
And you ask what we do when we don’t have walks to lead!
After I had put this blog on my twitter (@archaeonomad), a friend on the platform, Mr Hemant Sarin (@hemantsarin), unearthed some more details. Turns out they were supplying a lot of different types of hardware to various companies along with the Government. He found a Court Order for example on a lawsuit filed by the Plummer Brothers against Madan Theatres Ltd. of whom they were the suppliers.
Next Hemant found a list of contracts in 1930 executed by the Engineering Section of the Government’s Stores Department. Here, Plummer Brothers appear as contractors supplying wires (from Perrin Manufacturing) and files to the government. Hemant also found an advertisement by Plummer Brothers selling Rubberoid Roofings for “every roof and every pocket”. The advertisement also indicate that the company had branches in Bombay, Secunderabad and Lahore.
Twitter can indeed be a valuable space for shared research and knowledge creation if used meaningfully!
P.S. If you have any more information on Plummer Brothers and Company Pvt. Ltd, and their business network in India and England, please do not hesitate to comment!