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George Waterston and Sons Limited, printers, stationers and sealing wax manufacturers



The Company was established in 1752 by an East Lothian schoolmaster turned merchant, William Waterston (1729-80) who had taken over the business of a dealer in flambeaux (wax torches). In 1753 he expanded into the production of sealing wax and wafers, and later in the century the firm began the production of ink. In 1828, the family opened a retail stationery shop. Trading from 1786 to 1831 as Ferrier and Waterston (Catherine, widow of the founder, had married Robert Ferrier in the former year), the firm became George Waterston and Son from 1831.

At the Great Exhibition of 1851 the firm won a prize medal for the sealing wax, and, in addition to stationery, entered into specialist printing in 1864 with the securing of a contract to print banknotes, an activity that was sustained until 1970. The Company continued to have a major presence in the more general field of security printing. The second half of the 19th century, and the succeeding century, saw a great expansion of the printing side of the business, especially the production of commercial and retail paper products, including social and domestic stationery which carried Waterstons’ well-known “Terston” brand name. Other innovations included the introduction of a lithographic printing shop (1865) and letterpress printing, which aided the production of security printing as well as producing a series of fine art books.

A London office was opened in 1876, and the firm opened new manufacturing premises in Warriston Road, Edinburgh, in 1902, a site they occupied until 2003. Waterstons became a limited company in 1914. In 2003 the Company moved (with the exception of their sealing wax factory at Peffermill, Edinburgh) to a new suburban custom-fitted factory premises at Newbridge.

For the 200th and 250th anniversary histories of the Company, see George Waterston and Sons Limited, 1752-1952 (Edinburgh, 1952), and Nigel Watson, Seal of Success: the story of a Scottish family business, George Waterston and Sons, Ltd, 1752-2002 (Edinburgh, 2002).

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Business records of George Waterston and Sons, Ltd.

 Record Group
Identifier: Acc.12235/1-522
Scope and Contents The business records, 1768-2002, of George Waterston and Sons, Ltd, Edinburgh, specialist printers, manufacturing and retail stationers, and sealing wax manufacturers. The papers also include material relating more particularly to the Waterston family.In addition to business records, the collection includes papers relating to the Waterston family or to the history of the business collected by various family directors, series of family and business photographs, sample specimens of...
Dates: 1752-2002, undated.

Additional filters:

Accounts. 1
Articles. 1
Business records. 1
Correspondence. 1
Diaries. 1