A Potted History
(The following account is drawn from a list of registered NSW revenue stamp perforation codes)
The founder of Gibbs Bright and Co was Antony Gibbs, born in Exeter in 1756. After schooling at Exeter Grammar School he took a position in 1774 as a woollen cloth trader with a firm trading mainly in Spain. He had a series of ventures in cloth trading and milling in his own right as well as in conjunction with his brother Abraham and with financial support from his father. By 1808 he had ceased milling and decided to start his own cloth trading business as Antony Gibbs and Son. He did this with some support from his brother George who had a shipping business.
Anthony died in 1815 but the company continued to grow under his sons Henry and William and cousin Charles Crawley who expanded into the new markets of the independent countries that had been Spanish South America. The Company evolved into a more general trading company trading in resources such as fertilisers and this in turn lead to expansion into the allied businesses such as banking, financing, insurance, exporting, marketing, and shipping.
In 1843 Henry's eldest son Henry (jnr) joined the company and he remained its head until his death in 1907. This period was one of considerable prosperity for the company and it saw it expand into Australia in 1881 through the acquisition the firm of Gibbs, Bright and Company, (also known as Bright Brothers and Co) a company that Antony's brother George had helped to develop between 1789 and 1818. It had originally been located in Bristol, its main office had been transferred to Liverpool in 1805 but in 1887 the administration was centred in London.
Gibbs, Bright and Company had principally been involved in shipping and trading, mainly in the West Indies, but following the discovery of gold in Victoria they established an office in Melbourne and soon became one of the leading shipping agents and merchants in the Colony. They expanded into passenger shipping and soon established offices in Brisbane, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Perth as well as launching passenger services between England, Mauritius and New Zealand.
Gibbs, Bright also held a number of financial agencies from British mortgage, finance and investment companies as well as representing several British insurance companies in Australia. In addition they conducted a growing import business as well as an export business that included livestock, dairy produce, wool and flour. Also the company played a substantial part in the development of Australia's mineral resources, starting with lead in 1895, and later venturing into tin, gold, copper, cement and super phosphates.
In Australia, after WWI, many of the larger companies were managing their own import and export so Gibbs, Bright and Company tended to focus its Agency business on smaller companies while expanding their interest into other markets such as timber, wire netting, zinc, stevedoring, road transport, marine salvage, gold mining as well as mechanical, structural, electrical and marine engineering. The Company's shipping interests continued to grow as well and still formed a major part of its business.
In 1948 the parent company in England took the major step from tradition when they changed the business from a partnership into a private limited company. The name was the same, Antony Gibbs and Sons Limited, and in practice the effect of the change was very little. Some of the firm's branches and departments had already become limited companies and the formation of a parent company simplified the structure. The Australian operation was in time changed to Gibbs Bright & Co Pty Ltd in 1963.