The General Electric Company (GEC) was a major British company involved in consumer and defence electronics, communications and engineering.
GEC traces its origins to G. Binswanger & Co., an electrical goods wholesaler established in London during the 1880s by a German immigrant named Gustav Binswanger. In 1886 Binswanger was joined by fellow immigrant Hugo Hirst and the company name was changed to the General Electric Apparatus Co.
The firm established a factory in Salford and began manufacturing telephones, electric bells, ceiling roses and switches.
In 1889 the business became General Electric Co. Ltd.
The firm was expanding rapidly, opening new branches and factories and trading in “everything electrical”, a phrase that was to become synonymous with GEC. In 1893 GEC decided to invest in lamp manufcture. The company led the way in lamp design and the burgeoning demand for electric lighting was to make GEC’s fortune. In 1902 GEC’s first purpose built factory, the Witton Engineering Works, was opened near Birmingham.
The outbreak of the First World War transformed GEC into a major player in the electronics industry. The company was heavily involved in the war effort, with products such as radios and signal lamps.
During the Second World War, GEC was a major supplier to the military of electrical and engineering products.
GEC continued to expand after the War and by 1983 the company had become Britain’s largest private employer, with about 250,000 employees.