Tung Mow Hides & Leather Factory(同茂皮廠) – pioneer of the HK leather industry
York Lo: Tung Mow Hides & Leather Factory(同茂皮廠) – pioneer of the HK leather industry
Left: registration of the Elephant trademark by Tung Mow in 1933 (HK Government Reports); Right: Ho Chung-king speaking at the opening of the Tung Mow plant in Peng Chau in 1955 (WKYP, 1955-5-17)
Founded in 1872, Tung Mow Hides & Leather Factory was a pioneer of the HK leather industry and one of the earliest Chinese-owned industrial concerns in HK. According to a speech delivered by its post-War proprietor Ho Chung-king in 1956 about the history of the HK leather industry, the industry began in the 1870s. Production methods were rather primitive in the beginning but by 1910, foreign competition forced the local players to hire Japanese technical experts to upgrade production. The business, like everything else, was negatively impacted by the Canton-HK Strike of 1925. Majority of its sales were to mainland cities such as Shanghai and Tientsin and annual sales at its peak was over $300,000-400,000 but due to the Great Depression at the time had reduced to $200,000 and as a result the workforce was cut down to 30 from 100 by 1934 according to Ho Chik-sang (何植生) who was managing the firm at the time. (HK Chinese Factory Survey, 1934) By the late 1930s however, business was booming with annual production of 300,000 hides which were exported to Southeast Asia and Africa. In 1933, Tung Mow registered its “Elephant” brand (象牌) of cow hides with the HK government. In the 1930s, Tung Mow’s head office was located at 120 Hollywood Road with branch office at 38 Upper Lascar Row, first factory at 43 Ma Tau Wei Road in Hunghom and second factory at 4 Sha Po Village in Kowloon. (see ad below)
Tung Mow ad from the 1930s
According to the HK Factory Survey in 1947, Tung Mow was authorized by the military administration to continue production during the Japanese occupation from 1941-1945 although the industry as a whole suffered heavy loss during the War.
After the War, Ho Chung-king (何松涇) became the proprietor of the firm. A native of Nam Hoi and born in 1909, Ho graduated from King’s College in HK and started his career at an import/export firm by the name of Shun Sang Yuen in HK and later left for Shanghai where he established the Yee Yuen Rubber Factory at the age of 24 in 1933. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, he returned to HK in 1938 where he returned to the import/export business. During the Japanese occupation, he acquired a 3 story shophouse in 18 Nullah Street (built in 1929) in Mongkok from the widow of a deceased merchant Kan Lun-hing for Y110,000 in military notes. The transaction was executed by the prominent lawyer and politician Lo Man-kam and the building still stands today. At Tung Mow, he was supported by Lo Hung-chan (老洪燦) who was a senior manager of the firm.
A letter under Tung Mow’s letterhead addressed to Ho Chung-king and Lo Hung-chan in Canton in 1945
By the 1950s, Tung Mow’s office was located at 4 Hing Lung Lane East. It also decided to sell its factory at 43 Ma Tau Wai Road in Hunghom (Tung Mow had operated in the area as early as 1881) in 1954 to the property developers Cheong K and Kwan Kai-ming (both to be covered) which re-developed the site into three rows of roughly 40 tenement buildings (唐樓) with a new street named Chun Tin Street (春田街). This area is being re-developed once again by the Urban Renewal Authority starting in 2010 when one of the tenement building collapsed with expected completion by 2019. After a year of suspension of production, Tung Mow managed to lease a site from Choi Foon-kuen at 21 Wing On Street on Peng Chau island and the new factory was opened by Ho with hundreds of guests at a big ceremony in May 1955.
In 1955, Ho was elected chairman of the HK & Kowloon Hides & Leather Traders Association (皮業商會, founded in 1946) with Yeung Ngok-fai (楊萼輝) of Kwong Fat Yuen (to be covered) as vice chairman (大公報, 1955-12-29). By that time, there were 15-16 leather manufacturers and over 2000 firms involved in the leather business (retailers, importers, exporters) in HK with annual sales over HK$80-90 million.
Nam Hoi Traders Association golden jubilee in 1962. Left to right: Lee Shu-fan (李樹繁), import export merchant Chan Yik-din (陳益典), chairman and fellow leather industry veteran Yeung Ngok-fai, Chinese medicine merchant Fung Chak-wan (馮澤寰), Ho Chung-king (WKYP, 1962-9-29)
Aside from leather industry events, Ho Chung-king was very active in community affairs in the 1950s and 1960s with involvement in affinity groups such as Nam Hoi Traders Association (南海商會) and Ho’s Clansmen Association (何氏宗親會). In 1956, he was elected chairman of the Kennedy Town Kaifong Welfare Association (西區街坊福利會) and was an active participant in the many community events organized by the group. (大公報, 1956-07-04) He also advocated further reclamation in the Western district to promote development in the area as head of the group. (香港工商日報, 1957-04-22). By the 1970s, there were no records of Tung Mow or Ho Chung-king and the century old firm and its dynamic proprietor had faded into history.
Left: Ho Chung-king (left) in 1963 with the three winners of the shot-put competition at the Kennedy Town Kaifong Welfare Association youth track meet (WKYP, 1963-4-1); Right: Ho Chung-king talking about the leather industry at a Rotary Club of HK West luncheon (WKYP, 1956-7-28)
Four leaders of the Kennedy Town Kaifong Welfare Association participating in a relay race during the Association’s youth track meet in 1964 who jokingly referred to themselves as the “Old Men’s team” as their combined age exceeded 220 years. Left to right: chairman Wong Sau-san (黃秀山), supervisor Chow Leung-sing (周亮星), Ho Chung-king, Lam Chi-shat (林子實). (WKYP, 1964-3-21)
Gang Ao wen renlu, Hong Kong Associated Press, 1957, p 103
Telephone Directory for Hong Kong & Kowloon, HK Telephone Co, 1948
This article was first posted on 30th November 2018.
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