|Holophane and the Davidson Company|
Their Holophanous globe had vertical internal flutings and horizontal external flutings, the forms of which were calculated such that each part of the globe sends some light to all parts of the space surrounding the light source. They were also designed to reduce the loss of light caused by absorption and internal reflections in the glass itself.
Holophane were not manufacturers, they designed and sold prismatic glassware. All of their production was made locally by established glass manufacturers. A high degree of skill was required to make the moulds for prismatic shades, as the prisms were very small and had to be shaped to a very high degree of precision. In the UK they turned to the George Davidson Company to make their shades. Davidson's own records state that the first moulds for Holophane was made on 23rd July 1896 and that they had been making shades for Holophane for a short while before hand. The relationship with Holophane was to last well over 60 years.
Davidson were not the only company to supply prismatic glassware to Holophane. Chance Brothers also had a contract with Holophane. Holophane were keen to ensure there was no undue price cutting in the prismatic glass world. The contract with Chance Brothers was implemented such that Chance would not bid for other prismatic business providing Holophane gave them an agreed amount of business each year. In 1937 the General Electric Company approached Chance to make prismatic glassware for them. The agreement with Holophane prevented them, although Holophane had not supplied the agreed amount of business to Chance. As Davidson also made glassware for GEC, Holophane were concerned that price cutting would occur.
An agreement was reached whereby Chance were released from their Holophane contract as far as GEC were concerned, providing that they would not quote a lower price for the work than Davidson. Davidson, Chance and Holophane agreed to this proposal, regarding it as a means of preventing dangerous competition between both manufacturers and distributor and ensuring profits were not reduced.
The following year Holophane attempted to apply pressure to Davidson. P English of the Holophane company approached W Balmer, works manager at Davidson, with a request that Holophane should take a financial interest in Davidson, and should Davidson not agree, then Holophane suggested that they would start their own factory to make prismatic glassware in 'Diaha' or other plastic material. This annoyed Claude Fraser, not only the suggestion itself, but the fact it had been made to the Davidson works manager and not to the Davidson Board. Also Balmer had failed to report this approach to the Davidson Board for 3 weeks!
This approach seemed to have soured business relationships between Holophane and Davidson, so much so that in 1939 Claude Fraser had a meeting with W Guy Campbell and other members of the Holophane Board to discuss the business relationship between the two companies. Holophane had proposed that they should be the ones to decide whether Davidson bid for any article of prismatic glassware. Holophane also suggested that they be paid a commission for any work that Davidson did for the GEC. Both of these proposals were rejected by Davidson. Davidson did agree to do everything they could to protect Holophane interests without unduly impacting Davidson's business or relationship with other distributors of prismatic glassware.
Holophane's business practices bought it into conflict with the US Government. In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled that Holophane's tight network of agreements with other manufacturers of prismatic glassware, which allocated different worldwide territories to different companies, was anticompetitive.
As the Davidson company changed its direction in the 1960s, it stopped making glass for Holophane. Unlike Davidson the Holophane company is still going, and is part of the Acuity Brand of Companies (www.holophane.com). In the past 100 years some of its most notable achievements in the UK have been the design and installation of lighting for the massive Battersea Power Station in London, installation of lighting inside and outside Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King George VI and providing additional lighting in Westminster Abbey for the coronation of our present Queen in 1953.
Holophane Registered Designs
The following table lists the Holophane designs registered in the UK from 1895 to 1940.