Friday 13 November 2009

Odams enamelled advertising sign, 1930s

This firm was started by James Odams in 1855 and was based in the Silvertown area of the east London docklands. It was one of many springing up at the time on a rising agricultural market for manufactured fertiliser. In particular, the production of superphosphate was accelerating as the science of the day demonstrated the beneficial effects on crop yields. It involved mixing animal bones, subsequently replaced largely by imported mineral phosphate, with sulphuric acid in a process that was both acrid and hazardous. Dockside locations were common because here the raw materials were readily available - the slaughterhouses for imported cattle for example. By the outbreak of the First World War, the industry in this country was producing getting on for 2 million tons of superphospahte annually.

There were other forms of manufactured fertiliser that Odams were involved with and made connections between urban life, manufacturing industry and the countryside. Sulphate of ammonia, a source of nitrogen for farmers when turned into granular form, was made from the waste products of town gasworks. Basic slag, a residue from steelworks, was high in phosphate and when ground into a powder was recommended for use on grassland.

This sign dates from the 1930s and was made by Wildman & Meguyer (1933) Ltd of Birmingham. Odams were take over by Fisons in 1937 during a period of consolidation of the industry into the hands of a few major conglomerates.

An advertisement from 1935.

Permanent pasture near Scarborough, Yorks, being treated with 3 cwts per acre of Fisons No.1 Granulated Fertiliser in 1953.

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