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Middlemass Biscuits

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdommap
Surname/tag: Middlemass
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Robert Middlemass and Middlemass Biscuits

Throughout Victorian times the house built on lot 184, was known as 25 Findhorn Place, but later it was renumbered as 12 Dalrymple Crescent. It was feued by Robert Middlemass, and he and his family lived there throughout the period.

Middlemass’ Biscuit Factory was started in 1835 by Robert Middlemass on a site on the northeast corner of West Preston Street. The factory later moved to Causewayside. Prior to Middlemass’ enterprise, biscuit making in the area had originated in Leith where substantial ‘ship’s biscuits’ were produced. By 1897, the distinctive building extended to Upper Gray Street and fronted on to Salisbury Place. At first, Middlemass’ biscuits were made and packaged by hand, but by 1896, machinery had been introduced. The factory produced their famous ‘Albert Biscuit’ during Queen Victoria’s reign, but their proudest achievement was the ‘invention’ of the ‘Digestive’ biscuit, destined to become a household name. However in 1869, Robert was engaged in an exchange of letters to The Scotsman with ‘Mackenzie and Mackenzie, purveyors of biscuits to Her Majesty’. The issue concerned whether Robert had copied the label that Mackenzie and Mackenzie used for their Albert biscuits. Robert refuted the claim in some detail. In a column in The Scotsman he says:

I may add that any one who cares to examine the two labels will see that they are dissimilar in all essential particulars; while the ‘Trade Marks’ which stamp publicly the manufacture of each party, are as unlike each other as any two Trade marks can possibly be. No one, having the use of his eyes, can mistake my ‘Spread Eagle’ for my assailants’ ‘Star of Denmark’,
In proof of the dissimilarity of the Labels and of the unfounded statement that I sought to imitate Messrs Mackenzie’s, I refer to the following letter from the eminent firm by which my London label was designed and executed: -
Atlas Paper Works Borough Road
London 24th May 1869
Having recently furnished Mr Middlemass of Edinburgh with a very large quantity of labels for his ‘Albert Biscuit’ Tins, and seeing the same referred to in an unpleasant manner in ‘Mackenzie & Mackenzie’s’ Advertisement. We beg to state we were not instructed to follow or imitate any label; and on our attention being again called to the label, we find that in every detail it is totally distinct, and could not possibly be mistaken for that of the opposing firm. – We are &c
Their views are fully corroborated by Messrs Banks & Co. of Edinburgh, who state the result of their examination of the labels in these terms:-
10 North St David Street.
Edinburgh, May 26 1869
We have examined the labels used by Mr Middlemass and Messrs Mackenzie & Mackenzie for Albert Biscuit Canisters and find, although there may be some trifling resemblance in a few unimportant details, that the Trade Mark is so distinct in character, and the name of the maker so boldly printed on each, that no one could possibly mistake the one for the other.
(Signed) BANKS & Co
Engravers & Steam Printers

Robert died in 1904. The West Blacket Association’s newsletterii reports that he and his family did much for the social welfare of the factory’s neighbourhood. The factory closed in 1974 and when plans were drawn up for the extension of the National Library of Scotland in 1983, the biscuit factory was demolished.


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