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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s

Industry and Technology

Consumer Goods

By W Hamish Fraser

Macfarlane, Lang & Co Although efforts were made by various small firms to produce bicycles and motor cars, none succeeded in firmly establishing themselves, although through to the 1930s there were coachbuilders who specialised in the bodywork of cars. Demand for new electrical consumer goods such as radios, washing machines and lamps tended to be met by firms nearer the areas of growing population in the Midlands and south-east of England. The difficult times of the inter-war years in a city so dependent on heavy industry kept demand for what were still luxury goods low. It proved difficult to diversify. There were too many barriers to growth, such as lack of requisite skills, costs of raw materials and components, expensive electricity and distance from markets. There was little experience of marketing for mass consumption and a number of firms, for example in furniture, failed to establish a national identity even if the quality of what they produced was excellent. Even large firms such as the steel makers, Colvilles, when they tried to develop a new line in razor blades for example, found it impossible to penetrate the market. On the other hand there was still a sweet tooth to satisfy and MacFarlane Lang and Gray Dunn continued to expand their output. They were joined in 1928 by William MacDonald at Cardonald, and then at Hillington, who in the 1940s gave the world the 'Penguin' biscuit and the 'Munchmallow'.

Advertisement An increasingly literate market was met by printers, and later publishers such as William Collins who had started his company in 1861, and Blackie & Sons who moved from Stanhope Street to Bishopbriggs in 1930. Neither grew as fast as many of their competitors elsewhere and the paper they were using was increasingly coming from mills outside Glasgow.

Advertisement The story is one of a continued dependence on old heavy industries where profits and income was falling, with a failure to get the new industries such as car manufacture, electrical engineering or new textile materials established.

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