The Office Appliance Co. and Scientific Service Co. – distributors of office equipment

York Lo: The Office Appliance Co. and Scientific Service Co. – distributors of office equipment

The Office Appliance Co (hereafter referred to as OAC) and Scientific Service Co were two major distributors of office equipment and other products in HK and beyond but has since faded into history like the typewriters it represented. Below are their profiles:  

The Office Appliance Co (文儀洋行, OAC)  

The Office Appliance Co. Image 1 York Lo

Left: Ad for Mita copiers by The Office Appliance Co in 1979 (WKYP, 1979-1-12); Right: P.S. Chow of OAC (first from the left) with executives from Litton, Westinghouse and Gilman at the opening of the Litton’s office equipment exhibition at the HK Hilton in 1966 (KSEN, 1966-11-2) 

The Office Appliance Co. was founded in 1910 as an importer of office equipment in Shanghai by American business directory publisher E. William Bauckham (). Born in New York in 1880, Bauckham arrived in Manila with the US Army in 1900 and joined Rosenstock Publishing, the publishing firm of C.W. Rosenstock who co-founded Manila Daily Bulletin and the Rosenstock Business Directory. In 1906, Bauckham opened the HK and Shanghai offices for Rosenstock and started the Rosenstock’s Gazetteer and Commercial Directory of China, which he acquired the sole rights of in 1912. (China Who’s Who, 1924, 1925, 1927) In the 1920s, Bauckham operated OAC and Rosenstock out of 22 Nanking Road with Y.T. Lee as head of Chinese staff for the earlier and chief interpreter for the latter, H.B. Joseph as manager, C.M. Cottrell as sub-manager and C.C. Chow (周振家) as bookkeeper and a branch in Tientsin. (Comacrib Directory, 1925) 

The original Chinese name of OAC was 庚洋行 (which translates to Bauckham & Co) after Bauckham’s Chinese name but in 1928 its Chinese name was changed to the direct translation of, likely due to a shareholding change. By the 1930s, OAC was led by P.S. Widdup, who started his career as a salesman for Underwood typewriters in Liverpool before arriving in China in 1922 to become the manager of the typewriter department of Dodwell & Co, Underwood’s agent in northern China. (International Office Equipment Magazine, 1922). In May 1932, OAC opened a branch in Hong Kong headed by H. Herman. By that time, the firm was the representative of NCR, Royal typewriters, Monroe high speed adding calculators, Victor Adding Machines and General Fireproofing Co’s line of steel office furniture and equipment, Todd Check-writer and Elliot Addressing Machine, Edi-phone dictating machines and Kores brand of pens, pencils, ink and typewriter ribbons from Austria. (Commercial and Industrial Hong Kong, 1935) In 1935, the firm suffered significant loss when American Oriental Banking Corporation (founded by C.V. Starr’s mentor F. J. Raven) collapsed. By the late 1930s, directors of the firm included the British taipan G.E. Marden (see articles), Miss B.G. Coyle and solicitor M. Reader Harris while C.G. Copley was manager and secretary. Its head office was located at 150 Nanking Road while its HK branch was located at 12A Des Voeux Road Central head by J.V. Roberts. (Directory and Chronicle for China…., 1938) The firm also acquired H. Aronson & Co in the Philippines, which became its Manila branch. 

When the Japanese occupied Shanghai in 1941, Widdup like other Americans was thrown into internment camp and was ultimately released along with other prisoners of war on S. S. Grispholm back to the US in 1944. (The Office, 1944) After the War, OAC resumed its business in HK through The Office Appliance Co Ltd (incorporated in 1946) which was operating out of York Building on Chater Road with Widdup and Coyle as directors and R.E. Lee as manager. 

The Office Appliance Co. Image 2 York LoTraining class for repair of Royal typewriters at OAC supervised by Litton’s representative W. Martin (standing right) in September 1966 (WKYP, 1966-10-12) 

In 1955, longtime Chinese staff member C.C. Chow became the new owner of the firm and incorporated The Office Appliance (1955) Ltd to take over the business. Born in 1897, Chow attended St Francis Xavier School in Shanghai. Under the leadership of Chow and his son P.S. Chow (周邦鑫) and other managers such as K.P. Fok (霍錦波), OAC continued to grow in the 1960s, adding other office equipment such Simplex time recorders, Toshiba calculators and 3M printers to its longtime agency of products such as Royal typewriters which was acquired by Litton Industries in 1964 (In 1969 Litton also acquired Triumph-Adler which was represented in HK by Scientific Service and was accused by the US government of creating a monopoly).  

In late 1959 and early 1960, P.S. Chow and OAC were charged by the US Department of Commerce of violating the Foreign Export Control Act of 1949 which prohibited the sale of American products to Communist China. Allegedly in June 1957 through August 1958, OAC imported 16 calculating machines from the US which it sold to Commercial Appliance Co. operated by W.W. Sung who delivered them to a semi-official purchasing agent of Communist China for re-shipment into the mainland. As a result of these charges, OAC suffered substantial financial losses due to adverse publicity and loss of several American agencies and Chow and OAC had their US export privileges revoked for 12 months and 6 months respectively. (Federal Register, July 1960) 

The Office Appliance Co. Image 3 York Lo

Left: Ho Yiu-kwan and Wong Kam-loi of OAC’s repair department before their flight to Japan in 1969 to  study repair of typewriters and copiers. (WKYP, 1969-9-15); Right: article about and picture of OAC director K.P. Fok and his trip to Australia to attend the Far East sales conference for Simplex time recorders in 1970 (WKYP, 1970-3-9) 

The Office Appliance Co. Image 4 York Lo

OAC and Toshiba giving out prizes for top sales of Toshiba calculators in 1971. P.S. Chow was fifth from the right (KSEN, 1971-7-30) 

In 1977, OAC moved its showroom to the Alliance Building at 130-136 Connaught Road Central, occupying the ground floor, the 1st floor and 4th floor with total space of 15000 sq ft and carrying several thousand items ranging from calculators, shredders, copiers etc. The firm also had its own factory to manufacture steel and wood office furniture and recently installed new computers to help process customer orders. (WKYP, 1977-12-3) 

The Office Appliance Co. Image 5 York Lo

OAC signing contract with 3M for distribution of its copiers in 1972. P.S. Chow who was signing on behalf of OAC was second from the right. (WKYP, 1972-5-27) 

In 1988, First Pacific, the conglomerate controlled by the Indonesian tycoon Liem Sioe-liong, acquired OAC. (TKP, 1988-5-31) At the time, OAC was operating out of Tai Yau Building in Wanchai and its directors included K.C. Eddie Wu, Stephen Wu, Anna Chow, Yvonne Ho, Stella Wong and I. Wolfensberger. As a firm, The Office Appliance (1955) was dissolved in 2002. 

Scientific Service Co (科學事務公司)

The Office Appliance Co. Image 6 York Lo

Article about Scientific Service’s reception for representative from Pelikan at the City Hall restaurant in 1968. Right to left: S.D. Ning, representative from Pelikan, Henry Tseng, Lau Ka-wai (manager of Scientific’s stationary department). (KSEN, 1968-7-11) 

Scientific Service was founded in 1929 in Shanghai to import radio and scientific instruments (hence the name) by Henry Tseng Chiu-hin (曾昭憲, 1907-2019), who was born in Yokohoma, Japan and attended St John’s University in Shanghai and the University of Chicago. (HK Album, 1966) 

In the 1930s and 1940s, the firm was already the sole agent for Zenith radios (founded in Chicago in 1918) in HK, Shanghai and Singapore and acted as the agent for Bell & Howell movie projectors and cameras. Its HK office was located at National Bank Building in Central (National Bank being an affiliate of Sincere) while its Shanghai head office was located at 142 Museum Road (Huchiu Road). In 1934, Tseng married Annie Ma (1913-2013), the second daughter of Ma Wing-chan (馬永), co-founder of the department stores giant Sincere, which as shown in the ad below sold the Zenith radios represented by Scientific. (環球中國名人傳, 1944) Tseng’s brother in law W.K. Ma (馬惠) was listed as manager of the firm in the late 1930s (Directory and Chronicle of China…., 1938)  

The Office Appliance Co. Image 7 York LoLeft: Ad for Zenith radios in Singapore in 1939 listing Scientific Service Co as its distributor in Singapore, HK and Shanghai (Malaya Tribune, 1939-7-7); Ad for Zenith radios in Shanghai in 1947 listing Scientific Service Co as sole agents and list of dealers including the Big Four department stores and Wah Mei Electric. (Shanghai Telephone Directory)  

After the War, Scientific Service went big into the distribution of office and boating equipment. In 1955, Scientific Service Co Ltd was incorporated with HK$1 million in capital with Henry and Annie Tseng as shareholders and in the 1950s and 1960s, it was operating out of 447-450 Alexandra House in Central. (FEER, 1956)   

Two of Scientific’s most prominent agencies in the 1960s were the German typewriter brand Olympia (founded in Berlin in 1903) and stationary brand Pelikan(founded in 1838 in Hanover, Germany). In the early 1960s, Scientific formed Olympia Office Machines (HK) Ltd as distributor of Olympia products in HK, led by Ng Ching-chak (吳澄澤). 

In the boating area, Scientific only distributed equipment such as outboard marine engines but custom-built pleasure boats in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In 1961, Henry Tseng went to the Bahamas for a sales conference organized by one of its boating equipment partners. (WKYP, 1961-11-6)

The Office Appliance Co. Image 8 York Lo

Henry Tseng (second from left) and C.C. Ng (second from right) of Scientific Service with Olympia executives in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-2-20) 

In August 1968, Scientific Service opened a showroom on the ground floor of Tak Shing House in Central. At the time, products represented by the firm include Adler and Triumph typewriters, Pelikan, Zenith radios, 3M cassette tapes, Technicolor movie projectors and Rols dictation machines and boating equipment. (KSEN, 1968-8-8) 

The Office Appliance Co. Image 9 York Lo

Left: Henry Tseng (second from right) with Sir S.N. Chau (second from left) and representative of Olympia at the opening of Olympia Business Machines in 1960 (WKYP, 1960-11-2); Right: Henry Tseng exercising at the YMCA in LA at the age of 111. 

In 1970, the directors of Scientific Service were Henry Tseng and his wife Annie, Yee Shiu-kee of United Chinese Bank and Shiu-Dock Ning and the firm was organized by four departments: electrical, boating, office equipment and Pelikan with the first two managed by C.K. Lam, office equipment by Wong Lo and Pelikan by Lau Ka-wai and its offices was located at Prince’s Building. (Hong Kong $ Directory) 

Outside of business, Tseng was a lifelong Rotarian, having served as Rotary Club of HK president in 1969. In 1975, he retired and moved to Los Angeles where he joined the Rotary Club of Westwood Village and exercised at the YMCA which he was a board member of until a week before his death at the age of 111 in 2019. He was the oldest man in America for two months before his death.  

Sources (other than those cited above):

This article was first posted on 9th October 2020.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. Dodwell & Company Ltd, 天祥洋行
  2. George Ernest Marden & John Louis Marden

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