J. Pullar & Sons

Client

J. Pullar & Sons was founded in 1824 by John Pullar (later Lord Provost of Perth) to dye yarn for gingham manufacture. By the time of their centenary in 1924, 'Pullars of Perth' had become synonymous with dry-cleaning. 1 His sons, Sir Robert Pullar, MP (1828–1912) and James Ferguson Pullar (1836–1912), became partners in 1848 and 1865 respectively, while another three sons managed dyeworks at Keirfield and Ashfield, Bridge of Allan, near Stirling. 2

As a result of their displays at the 1851 Great Exhibition, they were advertising as 'Dyers to the Queen' in 1852–3. 3 Robert encouraged chemist W. H. Perkin, inventor of aniline ('mauve') dye in 1856, which was 'first practically applied in Perth'. 4 In 1867, James married the daughter of J. J. Wilhelm Spindler, a German who was an innovator of stain removal with benzene, but without water, hence 'dry' clean). 5

Inspired by Spindler's technology and industrial paternalism, the Pullars expanded their works, also providing schools and social facilities. 6 They visited architectural exhibitions to select appropriate worker's house-types, the provision of which, with pension schemes and sickpay, helped regulate workplace conduct. 7 The enterprise was renowned for employee loyalty: of around 2100 staff in 1924, '1100 had been with the firm 15 years or more', despite some industrial unrest during the First World War. 8

The estate of Tulloch was purchased in 1874, to distance their flammable dry-cleaning chemicals from the town. 9 By 1898 their various works had '100,000 yards of floorage ... 1200 dye vessels, 22 steam presses', and consumed 17,000 tons of coal annually. 10 A nationwide network of agents dispatched clothes, which by 1924 comprised 'three-fourths of Perth's parcel-post work'. 11

The Pullars were arts patrons and among the family's commission was John Everett Millais's portrait of Sir Robert (1896). 12 His son, Rufus (1861–1917), commissioned Arts and Crafts-style 'Brahan', (built by Bedford & Kitson, 1898–9), 13 and great-nephew William L. Pullar (c. 1872–1954) owned Uplands, Bridge of Allan (William Leiper, 1907). 14

Notes:

1: 'Pullar, Sir Robert', Who Was Who, online edition, www.ukwhoswho.com [accessed 19 June 2013]; Scotsman, 10 September 1912, p. 4.

2: A. W. Harding, 'Sir Robert Pullar', A. Slaven and S. Checkland, eds,Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986, p. 393–4; Edinburgh Gazette, 4 January 1879, p. 207; Scotsman, 10 May 1926, p. 4; 24 December 1926, p. 9.

3: A. W. Harding, 'Sir Robert Pullar', A. Slaven and S. Checkland, eds, Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986, p. 393; Dundee Courier, 16 March 1853, p. 4.

4: C. A. Russell, 'The Organic Chemicals Industry to the First World War', in C. A. Russell, ed., Chemistry, Society and Environment: A New History of the British Chemical Industry, Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2000, pp. 224–5; Scotsman, 10 September 1912, p. 4.

5: 'The Progress of Dry Cleaning', Textile Colorist, 40, 1918, p. 70; A. W. Harding, 'Sir Robert Pullar', A. Slaven and S. Checkland, eds, Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1, Aberdeen: aberdeen University Press, 1986, p. 393; Digital Cosmonaut Blog, 'Veb Rexwater', Berlin, Blogging, Urban Exploring, http://digitalcosmonaut.com [accessed 19 June 2013].

6: J. McG. Davies, 'Social and Labour Relations at Pullars of Perth 1882–1924', Scottish Economic and Social History, 13, 1993, pp. 28–29, 32, 39–40 .

7: J. McG. Davies, 'Social and Labour Relations at Pullars of Perth 1882–1924', Scottish Economic and Social History, 13, 1993, pp. 29–32.

8: Scotsman, 25 September 1917, p. 6; 24 November 1927, p. 7; Aberdeen Journal, 27 March 1924, p. 8; Dundee Courier, 27 March 1924, p. 4.

9: Dundee Courier, 7 January 1898, p. 4; A. W. Harding, 'Sir Robert Pullar', A. Slaven and S. Checkland, eds, Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography, 1, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1986, p. 393; J. McG. Davies, 'Social and Labour Relations at Pullars of Perth 1882–1924', Scottish Economic and Social History, 13, 1993, pp. 27–8.

10: Dundee Courier, 7 January 1898, p. 4.

11: Dundee Courier, 28 March 1924, p. 4.

12: Scotsman, 10 September 1912, p. 4.

13: 'Brahan, Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk; 'Pullar, Rufus D.', Who Was Who, online edition, www.ukwhoswho.com [both accessed 19 June 2013]; Scotsman, 24 September 1917, p. 4.

14: Census and death data, www.ancestry.co.uk; 'Perth, Crieff Road, Perth College', http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk; 'Uplands, Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [all accessed 19 June 2013]; J. Gifford and F. A. Walker, Stirling and Central Scotland, London: Yale University Press, 2002, p. 285.