History of Lucas In Birmingham
The man who was to become know as "The King of the Road"
after one of his most famous products, and who founded an empire
which he ruled like a strict but benevolent father, came from humble
beginnings which he never forgot
It is thought that Joseph Lucas received only a part-time education
at the Sunday school for boys and girls opened by George Dawson,
the great teacher and clergyman, in Helena Street ,round the corner
from his Church of the Saviour in Edward Street
The school opened when Joseph was aged about 13,by which time he
was already an apprentice with the firm of silversmiths,H.& G.R. Elkington.
For this reason he would only have had time to attend classes on a Sunday.
Throughout his life he was embarrassed by his erratic spelling
a subject on which his son Harry used to rebuke him and disliked
having to write letters. Even so, he was not short on drive and
natural buiness acumen.
After completing his Apprenticeship and becoming an electro-plater
journeyman, Joe did not stay with the firm.
He is believed by some to have worked for a carriage lamp-maker
and also to have been out of work for a time after he married Emily Stevens.
Joseph Lucas and Emily Steven, Emily was his first wife.
Pictured in daguerreotype after their wedding in 1854
During that period of unemployment he and his wife, like many others
of the time, sought refuge in drink until one day he vowed he would never
drink again. It was a vow which he kept and which, ironically, led to his death.
Joseph bought a basket skip on wheels and a cask of paraffin and set off
round the streets of Hockley selling the oil. Later, in 1860 he also started
selling Buckets, shovels, scoops,and galvanised chamber pots.
For 12 years he recorded his sales in a notebook, which still servives.
Gradudually he increased the range of wares he trundled around.
By 1869 he had moved to 67 Carver Street, and appeared in White's
"Birmingham Directory" as a lamp and oil Dealer.
An entry in the notebook that year is the first mention of lamps,
the things which were to turn Lucas from a small-time trader to a major
industrialist and a man of substance. At this stage, however, he was buying
lamps from the makers and selling them wholesale.