The subject of this sketch, although his name is now a household word amongst Doggy People, was by no means always devoted to the industry with which he was afterwards associated, as he lived for many years in America, where he was engaged as an electrician, lightning conductors being his great speciality, for which he had taken out several patents in this and other countries during his life. He was also a great traveller.
But it was only in the comparatively declining years of an active life that he took up the making of biscuits, especially those suitable for the feeding of dogs and other live stock, game, and poultry.
He commenced in quite a small way of business in Old Middle Row, Holborn, London. The actual premises, which were very limited in extent, have long since been demolished in the improvements effected in that district.
The original show-cards, with a Pointer in a field of turnips, may be remembered by some of my readers; and the " X," so long adopted by "Spratt's" as a trade-mark on their biscuits, was the idea of Mr. Charles Cruft, who was one of the first employees of Mr. James Spratt, and greatly assisted him in developing the trade he had embarked in. From there, with his right-hand man, Mr. Charles Cruft, he removed to No. 28, High Holborn (a curious old place, which at one time was a farmhouse, where Queen Elizabeth rested before entering the city of London), and it was at this establishment that the business became best known, as under the guidance of young Mr. Charles Cruft it grew into popularity by leaps and bounds. Mr. James Spratt, finding imitations of his goods coming into the market, resolved to issue a show-card and have a trade-mark. The Pointer in the field of turnips, chosen for the former, was from one of the pictures by the late Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., of which Mr. James Spratt bought up the whole issue of engravings and used them as show-cards. The "X" so long used as a trade-mark was the primitive distinction used by the ledger clerk, Mr Charles Cruft, to mark the trade customers as distinguished from the private customers. The original place of business, 28, Middle Row, was decorated outside with pictures of the chase, representing hunting wild cattle on the prairies.
Mr. James Spratt came of a good old English family, as his uncle, Admiral Spratt, held a high position in the Hydrographer's Department of the Royal Navy. The business was sold to a Mr. Edward Wylan; he transferred the offices and works to Bermondsey, appointed Mr. Charles Cruft chief traveller, opened up the trade throughout the country and who later became Manager. Eventually Mr. Wylan turned the concern into a Limited Company, and from such small beginnings has arisen the factory, which, I am told, turns out hundreds of tons of feeding stuffs for dogs, game, and poultry, and which has since developed into colossal proportions.
Mr. James Spratt always kept it a secret as to the meat used in the manufacture of the dog biscuits, and even after he had disposed of his business to the com pany, now known as "Spratt's Patent, Ltd.," he kept in his own hands the contract for supplying the meat, and I believe this continued to the time of his death, in 1878.
I am indebted to the courtesy of a friend (one of Mr. James Spratt's first customers) for the materials of this slight sketch of one who, if not actually numbered amongst Doggy People, was intimately connected with very many of them; and from the same source I am able to give a portrait of Mr. James Spratt, which I believe has never before been made public, and I think may be interesting to some of my readers in the ranks of Doggy People.
THE LATE MR. JAMES SPRATT.