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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Caught in the Act: Gorringe's

(More research for Caught in the Act... this is part of my research into how American magazines were distributed in the UK.)

Gorringe's Travel and News Agency boasted in 1919 that they carried the largest selection of American periodicals in London.

Frank Joshua Gorringe was born on September 5 1880 and baptized a year later, on 11 September 1871, in Chelsea, London. He was the son of Joshua Frank Gorringe, a licensed victualler, and Emma Eliza Gorringe (nee Hollot), of 617 King's Road, Fulham. Because his father was known as Frank, his son was called Joshua, and it was as Joshua F. Gorringe he is to found in the 1891 census, as a boarder at school in Little Ilford, Essex, run by Cecile Barbier and Florence Benington.

By 1911, Frank was a shipping agent, living with his brother in Chiswick, although he shortly after moved to 24 Nightingale Road, Carshalton, where he was listed in the 1913-15 telephone directories.

At the age of 38, Gorringe was married on 29 September 1918 to 23-year-old Dora Green. At that time his residence was given as Rusford Road, Streatham. In later electoral roll records the two could be found at 27 Charing Cross Mansions [fl. 1921/25], and then at 4 Acanthus Road, Battersea [fl.1927/33]. [Dora Gorringe was living in Kingston-upon-Thames in the 1960s and is believed to have died there in 1976, aged 83.]

During this period—and at least as early as 1910—Gorringe was associated with Robert Whitfield Beaumont Daw (1869-1942), running the business of Daw's Steamship Agency—general freight insurance, railway, shipping, forwarding and general bullion and money changers—of 17 Green Street, Charing Cross Road. The partnership was dissolved by mutual consent in May 1918, with Gorringe taking on the business which, from November 1918, became known as Gorringe's Shipping and American News Agency. [Daw's Shipping Agency was struck off the company register in 1934.]

Gorringe's was like a number of firms and brought in American periodicals as part of their general business, which boasted of being the principal agency for makubg travel arrangements for theatrical artistes journeying between America and Europe; Gorringe's adverts appeared prominently in Variety.

On 27 August 1925, an Extraordinary Resolution was passed during a meeting of the company that Gorringe's should be voluntarily wound up and that a liquidator should be appointed.

What happened to Frank Gorringe in later life is a bit of a mystery. I have found one family tree which claims that he died on 12 December 1962, aged 83. However, a little investigation proves that this date relates to Frank Gorringe of 135 Sevenoaks Way, St. Paul's Cray, Kent, who left his estate to his spinster sister, Ivy. Earlier records reveal that he was born in St. Mary Cray, Orpington, in 1880, and was a gardener in St. Paul's Cray at the time of the 1911 census.

His company, however, seems to have survived the liquidation and I believe it continued in business but under different hands. At some point, the company was taken over by an American comedian by the name of Fred Duprez (photo above) who found a great deal of success touring the British music halls with his act and with his comedy play My Wife's Family, which went on to be filmed many times. (Below you'll find a couple of recordings by Duprez... something to listen to while you read the rest of this post!)

Duprez was born in Detroit on 6 September 1884 and had first appeared on the stage in 1899. After spending five years in stock and repertory companies, he began appearing on the variety stage. He first appeared in England in 1909 at the Bedford Music Hall, Camden Town.

He toured extensively in Mr Manhattan in 1920, 1921 and 1924 and in a number of reviews over the years. He also acted in a number of films in the 1930s.

Duprez was certainly a director of the company, although how active he was in the day-to-day running I have no idea, as he had a busy career on the stage. I have only been able to discover two other names associated with the company around that period: C. J. Vidler and B. A. Sheppard. The former, I believe, was also a comic actor associated with Duprez. The latter has eluded me completely. Vidler was chairman of a company by name of Milton Gorringe, which was almost certainly related and which went into liquidation in 1936. [I believe he might be Cyril John Vidler, 1903?-1965, who is described as a "director" on passenger lists as Vidler travelled between the UK and America in the 1930s. Whether this is a company director or a stage director isn't revealed.]

Fred Duprez died suddenly. He had been in America for a week with his wife, Florence, and was travelling home on board a liner on 27 October 1938 when he had a heart attack. The news was sent by cable to Gorringe's, who noted him as a former director. Duprez was survived by his wife and daughter, June Duprez, who was an actress.

Gorringe's Shipping and American News Agency was eventually struck from the company register in March 1957.

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