China, Kam Moon, Morlite and Standard – Manufacturers of Metal Windows in the 1950s and 60s
York Lo: China, Kam Moon, Morlite and Standard – Manufacturers of Metal Windows in the 1950s and 60s
Earlier in the group we have covered metal window manufacturers such as S.Y. Tang and his Canton Metal Window, Chow Mud-wai and his Cheung Fat Metal Windows and Ho Tak-fai and his HK Metal Windows (see article on Sing Fat Construction). Below are the profiles of four more metal window manufacturers from the 1950s and 1960s
ChinaSteel Works (中國鋼鐵工廠)
Left: Paul Lee at about 40 years old; Center: the Yao window logo of China Steel Works; Right: Paul Lee and his car in HK (Lee Family of Northern River Bank)
China Steel Works traced its roots to China Material Works (中國銅鐵廠), one of the first metal window manufacturers in Shanghai which was founded in 1921 by Paul Lee I Yao (李賢堯, 1900-1979).
Born in Shanghai in 1900, Paul Lee started working at the age of 18 when his father died. One of his first entrepreneurial ventures was a soda business but he later became a salesman for the British window manufacturer Crittall Manufacturing which had opened a subsidiary in Shanghai to import steel windows from Europe. As these windows were relatively expensive because of the huge shipping costs, Lee teamed up with his brother in laws (one of whom had access to capital as head of a large dry goods dealer, another had worked in a furniture factory) and the head foreman at Crittallto start China Material Works, making high quality metal windows using raw materials imported from Belgium. The original plant was located at Haiphong Road with Lee’s wife cooking meals for its workers and later a branch factory was added on Liu Ying Road, employing a total of 160 workers.
Lee led the sales effort of China Material Works and opened sales offices in Hankow and Nanking, where he managed to secure many government contracts including the Executive Yuan building and Ministry of Communications building in Nanking and the residences of high-ranking officials H.H. Kung and Chen Kung-po. During the Sino-Japanese War, China Material Works continued to operate out of Shanghai but suffered losses when shipload of machinery and materials was hit by bombs. Lee supplied food and clothes to a former British colleague at Crittall who was detained in the internment camp by the Japanese and after the War hired this colleague who helped secure relationship with an important Belgian supplier and worked for him until retirement.
Left: views of China Steel Works’ factory at 34 Tam Kum Road, Kowloon in 1948; Right: wedding picture of Albert Lee
After the War, Lee bought land in Nanking to build six rows of houses for his staff but as the Civil War situation deteriorated, he moved to Hong Kong with his third wife and incorporated China Steel Works in 1948. Meanwhile his relatives continued the operations of China Material Works in Shanghai which became a public private enterprise in 1956 and later the fifth plant of the First Mechanical Factory of Shanghai which supplied steel windows for the PLA History Museum, the Chinese History Museum and the Beijing Train Station in Beijing and the private residences and summer homes of Chairman Mao.
In HK, China Steel Works built a one-story factory at 34 Tam Kum Road in Kowloon staffed by several key factory employees from Shanghai while its sales office was located at the Exchange Building in Central. In 1962, Paul retired when his son Albert Lee Ming-piao (李銘標), a graduate of St John’s University, was able to join him in HK from Shanghai. In 1966, the firm’s factory in Kowloon closed its doors.
Baptized at the age of 18, Paul Lee was a devout Christian throughout his life and was very involved with the Anglican Church during his time in HK. After he died in 1979, his son established the Lee I Yao Fund which donated $1.6 million towards the establishment of the CNEC Lee I Yao Memorial Secondary School (中華傳道會李賢堯紀念中學) which was opened in Kwai Chung in 1981.
As a firm, China Steel Works wasdissolved in 1989.
Lee, Venna Chee-wan, The Lee Family of Northern River Bank, 2015
Kam Moon Metal Windows (金門鋼窗)
Kam Moon Metal Windows was incorporated in 1949 and its original factory was located at 39 Public Square Street in Yaumati. By the 1950s, its premise had moved to 1 Fukien Street (100 years of the HK construction industry, 1958; A Handbook of HK Industry, 1958)
Tsang To-piu, one of the sons of the taxi king Tsan Yung of Blue Taxicab Co (see article) was a director of Kam Moon in the 1960s. (HK Album, 1967)
Ad for Kam Moon Metal Windows in 1950 (HKBCA yearbook, 1950)
By the early 1970s, Kam Moon’s office was located at 466 Shanghai Street in Mongkok while its factory was located at 29-35 Sha Tsui Road in Tsuen Wan. (XianggangShikuang, 1970; Hong Kong Yearbook, 1975)
In 1975, Stephen W.K. Fok, who was director and manager of the firm, was the deputy leader of a study mission led by Handel D.H. Leung of Shui On Rolling Mill to study the steel industry in Japan. (HK Productivity News, 1975)
As a firm, Kam Moon was dissolved in 1991.
Standard Metal Window Works (三達鋼窗)
Standard Metal Window Works was one of the leading metal window manufacturers in HK but there is not much info available. Its offices in the late 1940s through 1960s were located on the 2nd floor of 32 Des Voeux Road Central. (Jing Ji Niao Bao, 1949; World yearbook, 1951; HK Chinese Business Directory, 1954; HK $ Directory, 1963)
According to the Business Directory of HK and Macao, the directors of Standard included Kailo Chu, C. Fung, H.I. Yum, W.K. So and V.Y. Wong who was secretary and manager of the firm.
As a firm, Standard Metal Window Works was incorporated in 1947 and dissolved in 1994.
Morlite Steel Windows (豐明鋼窗廠)
Ad for Morlite Steel Windows in 1950 (HKBCA yearbook, 1950)
Morlie Steel Windows was a leading manufacturer of steel windows in HK which also made Venetian blinds. As shown in the ad above, the firm’s offices were located at 44 Hankow Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and 4th floor of the Kayamally Building at 20 Queen’s Road Central.
By the 1960s, its premises were located at 778-782 Cheung Sha Wan Road (HK Economics Yearbook, 1965) One of its directors was Wilkie Lum, a senior executive at Wing On who was director of various Wing On affiliates including Hing Ah (see article on preserved fruits and Singnam Choy) and was managing director of Wing Hing Hong. (Hongkong $ Directory, 1970)
By the 1970s, the firm’s office was located at Tak House at 9 Stanley Street in Central and its factory was located at 40 Hung To Road in Kwun Tong. The firm by then was affiliated with Hutchison International and its board was comprised of Eddie Lamb, Harry Way, R. Wickins, Edmund Y.M. Sun (孫翼民), Jack C.F. Lau (Davie Boag director), Wong Bak-joe and O. Bakhoven (export manager of Davie Boag) with Lamb as managing director. (HK $ Directory, 1974 and Business Directory of HK, 1977)
As a firm, Morlite was incorporated in 1947 and dissolved in 1989.
This article was first posted on 30th October 2020.
Related Indhhk articles:
- Shing Y. Tang (鄧典初) – Pioneer of the HK Nail and Metal Windows Industry
- Chow Mud-wai (周沕桅, 1905-1978) – Maker of Steel Windows, Owner of Theaters and Philanthropist
- Sing Fat Construction (成發建築)
- Peter Kingson Kwok (郭幼庭,1883-1953): Metal Trader and Founding Director of Bank of East Asia and his Family
- Kwoon Kwen Metal Ware (冠群金屬製品廠)
- The Four Taxi Kings – Blue, Central, New and Star
- Makers of Preserved Fruits – Wong Wing Kee, Lee Wah Mui, Hing Ah, Lee Sin Kee, Heung Fat Wai Kee, Yam Hop Hing and Koon Wah
- From Bicycles to Lamps and Stoves: Union Metal Works (合衆五金廠) and the two illustrious families behind the firm