Chinese Type Foundries – Universal, Wing Shing, Kin Kwok, Tak Hing and Others
York Lo: Chinese Type Foundries – Universal, Wing Shing, Kin Kwok, Tak Hing and Others
The 1950s to the 1980s was the golden age of Chinese newspapers and periodicals in Hong Kong and abroad and at its peak in the 1970s there were over 70 Chinese newspapers in HK alone. During this time and before the rise of offset and digital printing, there were four major foundries which manufactured movable types for letterpress printing – Universal, Wing Shing, Kin Kwok and Tak Hing which were all located in Central, the center of the HK publishing industry at the time.
Universal Type Founders (博文鑄字)
1950s Universal Type Founders letter and price list (eBay)
Founded in 1922 and incorporated in 1938, Universal was probably the most famous of the Chinese type foundries in Hong Kong thanks to its proprietor SackinChan(陳錫乾, 1908-1980), a native of Sun Wui prefecture. The firm operated out of 37-39 Pottinger Street throughout most of its history and according to the 1948 HK Telephone Directory also had a factory at 425 King’s Road.
In the 1940 Chinese Yearbook edited by C.S. Kwei, Universal’s ad stated that “in manufacturing all of our printing types, most up – to – date casters and high quality type metals are being used so as to give accuracy and durability. These types will not only resist wear, but they will help all printers to create new business”
Aside from local printing press, Universal also received many orders from abroad. In 1952, Universal received a large order fromthe Dominion Federation of New Zealand Chinese Commercial Growers (新西蘭華僑農業會), which has established the New Zealand Chinese Growers’ Publishing Co. Ltd. The group spent years raising funds and finally purchased 500kg Chinese movable type from Universal in Hong Kong for nearly HK$6,000, to typeset and print the New Zealand Chinese Growers’ Monthly Journal (僑農月刊).
Sackin Chan was active in the HK Printers Association and in 1953 he worked with chairman Lee Yat-ngok (see article) and others on securing group insurance for printing industry workers. In October 1957, Sackin Chan and fellow members of the HK Printers Association including John Yuen (see article on China Can) and S.H. Zau (邵忻湖) visited Tokyo for the Asian 9 Countries Printing Expo to learn about the latest technology in the printing industry. (WKYP, 1957-10-9)
In the 1960s and 1970s, Universal also manufactured types in other languages aside from Chinese and English such as Russian, Japanese and Malay. (CMA Membership Directory, 1965; Hongkong $ Directory, 1968 and 1974)
Sackin Chan (right) with Cheung Yuk-luen (center) and Tang Shu-chun (left) swearing in as leaders of the Five Districts Business Welfare Association in 1961 (WKYP, 1961-4-19)
Outside of the printing business, Sackin Chan was active in community affairs, having served on the board of Po Leung Kuk and Pok Oi Hospital in the early 1960s. He was also on the board of the Central Kaifong Welfare Association and the Chinese Manufacturers Association and was vice chairman of the Five Districts Business Welfare Association.(WKYP, 1960-3-26)
Sackin Chan (first from the left) with his son Yat-wing (second from right) as the winner of an essay contest in 1954 with Shum Wai-yau (Wah KiuYat Po publisher, center) and Gertrude Kwok (first from right). (WKYP, 1954-10-2)
As a firm, Universal Type Founders wasdissolved in 1977 but its business appeared to have continued under the name of Universal Type & Accessory (博文活字印刷用品公司) until the 1980s. Aside from Universal, Sackin Chan also operated Sackin Ltd (錫乾有限公司) which was incorporated in 1957 and Wing Cheong Co Ltd which was incorporated in 1940 and dissolved in 1973. In 1956, he formed Sackin & Chow Ltd (錫豪行) which became T.C. Chow & Co (蔚豪行) in 1960.
Obituary of Sackin Chan in 1980 (WKYP, 1980-11-28)
Sackin Chan died of a heart attack in November 1980 at the age of 72 and he was predeceased by his wife Ng Yuen-lung (吳婉儂) who died in December 1979 at the age of 69. (WKYP, 1979-12-24). The couple was survived by their son Dr. Chan Yat-wing (陳溢榮), a graduate of HKU medical school who pursued a medical career together with his wife and classmate Lui Wai-ying instead of taking over the family business. Sackin’s second daughter Chan Hei-lee (陳希莉) went to the UK to further her studies in 1960 while other daughters settled in the US and Canada. (WKYP, 1960-6-14)
Wedding notice of Chan Yat-wing in 1965 (KSDN, 1965-7-15)
Wing Shing Type Foundry (永成鑄字所)
Left: A poster of Wing Shing types; right: Wing Shing type with its name carved inside (Courtesy of Kwong Wah Printing)
Wing Shing operated out of 96 Wellington Street and its manager was Fung Wai-tak (馮維德). One of Wing Shing’s clients in the early 1960s was the Chinese newspaper Ching Po (晶報), which operated in Hong Kong from 1956 to 1991. According to Sam Yam (任偉生), the proprietor of Kwong Wah Printing (光華印務, founded in 1954), the last surviving letterpress printer in Hong Kong, the types of Wing Shing stood out from the other three type foundries as it was lighter (to save on metal) and had its name carved inside. (As of 2017, Kwong Wah still kept 100,000 types, which was one tenth of its collection at its peak) Wing Shing went out of business in the mid-late 1970s.
Kin Kwok Type Foundry (建國鑄字)
Left: Ad for Kin Kwok (right), Tak Hing and Lee Kwan Kee in a 1956 issue of the Teachers Monthly magazine. Right: from left to right, size 1 to 6 types manufactured by Kin Kwok. Size 2 was the most popular for names on letter heads and business cards while size 6 the smallest type was used for newspaper printing and addresses in business cards and letters.
Kin Kwok operated out of 43Gage Street and its manager was Y.S. Ng (吳玉成). (HK Chinese Business Directory, 1950) The firm went out of business in the late 1980s.
Tak Hing Matrix Type Founders (達興鑄字) and Others
Ad for Tak Hing Matrix Type Founders Co.
Tak Hing Matrix Type Founders Co operated out of 15 Peel Street. It went out of business in 1995, the last of the big four type foundries to do so. Most of the type stock, together with bronze moulds, were sadly discarded.
Aside from the big four foundries listed above, other Chinese type foundries included:
Him Shun (謙信機器鑄字鋼模廠)managed by F.S. Tsui (徐復生) which operated out of 146 Portland Street in Kowloon (HK Chinese Business Yearbook, 1954)
Lee Kwan Kee (李均記) which operated out of 49 Lee Tung Street and Swatow Street in Wanchai.
Man Chee Type (民智鑄字銅模公司) which operated out of 9 Wing Lee Street in Sheung Wan and was managed by Poon Fung-chick. (HK Industrial Handbook, 1958)
YauLuen Type Foundry (友聯鑄字廠) which operated out of Spring Garden Lane in Wanchai and was allegedly the last local Chinese type foundry when it closed in 2002.
A-B-C Type Founders (中英美鑄字) was another major player in the type foundry business which operated out of 6 Electric Street in Wanchai (Red Book, 1969) but it focused on English types, making over 100 different fonts. As a firm it was incorporated in 1962 and dissolved in 1999.
Sources (other than those cited above):
This article was first posted on 5th February 2021.
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- Kwong Wah Printing Company – traditional letterpress printing – vanishing HK trades
- A Study of the Hongkong Printing Press, Part 1
- A Study of the Hongkong Printing Press, Part 2
- Star Envelopes & Printing Co. (福星信封印刷)
- The Rise and Fall of Letterpress printing in Hong Kong
- Lee Yat-Ngok, the Local Printing Press Company and the Development of the Hong Kong Printing Industry
- The Hong Kong Printing Press – Pedro D’Alcantara Xavier (1886-1952)
- Thomas De La Rue plc, – HK banknote printing plant, Tai Po 1984 to 1996
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