Stratton Compact Mirrors & History Of Jarrett Rainsford & Laughton & Laughton & Sons Ltd.
The company that was to go on to make the wonderful Stratton brand powder compacts which are so highly collectible today was formed in 1860. This firm was one of the great British companies which manufactured world class products. These ranged from elegant accessories to marine radios. The business employed a highly skilled and dedicated workforce from 1860 until 1997. The firm's manufacturing base was located in the midlands of England at Birmingham. The company had branches in London, Manchester and Glasgow. We have included an illustrated timeline.
In this year Stephen Jarrett partnered with a travelling salesman known as Charles Rainsford. Jarrett was a manufacturer of pins and costume jewellery. The business premises was located at 7 Broad Street, Islington, Birmingham. James Jarrett (Stephen's nephew) joined the firm around this time. He became the manager of the Pin Manufacturing Department. He would work for the company for fifty two years.
48 BROAD STREET BIRMINGHAM
Larger premises were required and the business moved down the road to number 48 Broad Street.
Charles Rainsford purchased Jarrett's interest in the business.
Stephen Jarrett left the partnership.
Charles' sons followed their father into business.
Charles Rainsford Jr entered the business.
Edgar Rainsford joined the firm.
Charles Rainsford senior retired shortly before his death.
The company became a private limited company.
George A. Laughton began working at the firm as an office boy.
STRATTON & CO. 1929 BRITISH INDUSTRIES FAIR CATALOGUE LISTING
A large factory sited on Kent Street was purchased. This premises was known as the Alexandra Works.
George A. Laughton was now running a small department of Jarrett & Rainsford. The department specialised in selling coronation badges and flags which it procured from another company just prior to the coronation of George V.
The supplier was unwell and sometimes the supplies were not forthcoming and so George A. Laughton decided to make an offer of £50 to purchase the supply company. In return for this payment he gained two experienced workers and four hand presses. He named this new firm Stratton & Company.
The number of products Stratton & Co. produced steadily increased.
As we can see from this entry in the 1929 British Industries Fair:
Expanda Cuff Links. Manufacturers of Gilt Jewellery (All Classes). "Stratnoid" Photo Frames and Novelties, Knitting Pins, Thimbles, etc., Gent's Jewellery, Collar Pins, "Expanda" Cuff Links. "Eddystone" Short Wave Wireless Receivers and Component Parts. (Fancy Goods Section - Stand No. J.80)
Stratton & Company was converted into a limited company.
George A. Laughton was named as director.
During World War I Stratton & Co. made parts for the famous SE5 British fighter plane. Duralumin washers which were fitted on to the SE5 plane, parts for shells and plane fittings were made by Stratton & Co.
It is likely that during The Great War most if not all of the company's premises were given over to war work, as they were in WWII.
Duralumin was a hard aluminium alloy.
The business also fashioned knitting needles from it.
In 1925 Stratton & Co. filed their first radio-related patent.
Harold Cox and Arthur Edwards were the major characters involved in the Stratton & Co. telecommunications business.
Their hard work and dedication saw Harold promoted to the role of Technical Director and Arthur advanced to the position of Sales Director.
George's son, George Stratton Laughton, joined the firm and it is said that he suggested the company should diversify into the world of telecommunications.
This decision was as a result of the considerable downturn in the sales of hair grips owing to ladies wishing to look like Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and their fellow stars.
Sleek bobs were in!
There was no need to pin the hair back or up.
FLAPPER ICON LOUISE BROOKS
Stratton & Co. produced exceptionally good marine radios named Eddystone.
1949 EDDYSTONE 680 COMMUNICATIONS RECEIVER ADVERTISEMENT
Stratton & Co. would become renowned for their world class marine radios.
Eddystone Radio was later purchased by Marconi in 1965.
The link at the bottom of this post goes into more detail about the marine radio business.
Jarrett, Rainsford Ltd. became Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd.
Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. acquired Stratton & Co.
Stratton & Co. was still focused on the manufacturing of men's jewellery and also pin making.
Stratton & Co. Ltd. launched Eddystone Electronic Manufacture.
George A. Laughton placed an order with an American manufacturer for cosmetic boxes during one of his trips to the U.S.A.
These compact mirrors were imported into England and decorated at the firm's Birmingham factories.
The finished vanities were branded Stratnoid.
C.Webb Ltd. a retail radio division is set up.
George Abe Laughton's patent no. 212989 was published on May 22 1924.
This invention was for -
Improvements in and relating to Cruet Frames or Stands and the like
GEORGE ABE LAUGHTON PATENT NO. 215189
This is one of many inventions patented by this maker and shows just how diverse their product line was.
1925 - 1926
The Manchester showroom & office was opened in Piccadilly.
The Glasgow office was opened.
The regional and London based offices helped to keep fast moving lines restocked quickly.
Lady Jayne brand compacts, hair grips, curlers and clips were so popular that more factory space was needed.
1934 STRATNOID KNITTING PINS & CROCHET HOOK ADVERTISEMENT
Many Stratnoid accessories were made from duralumin which was 90% aluminium & the alloy (copper, manganese & magnesium).
Duralumin was first used in WWI to manufacture lightweight washers in aircraft assembly.
Although all the Stratnoid compacts we have seen have been gold or silver tone, this material could also be coloured green & blue, as can be seen in the range of Stratnoid thimbles.
Stratton & Co were the most inventive company.
This can be seen with the variety of their compacts but also other accessories that they produced.
This Stratnoid compact has an attractive Celluloid & enamel lid showing the magnificent M V INNISFALLEN at sea.
The inner lid is signed -
REG. DESIGN. No 767198 STRATNOID MADE IN ENGLAND
NAUTICAL THEMED STRATNOID LOOSE POWDER COMPACT
Before the end of WWII, British foil was made from tin and so vanities adorned with foil are often sought after as tin wedding anniversary gifts.
The nautical-themed Stratnoid shown above is decorated with two cutter-rigged sailing vessels.
The image above shows a typical Stratnoid interior case. The fan-shaped inner lid rotates to allow access to powder. This example has a sprung thumb catch.
The compact is signed -
REG. DESIGN. No 767198 STRATNOID MADE IN ENGLAND
1934 STRATTON & CO. CROCHET HOOK ADVERTISEMENT
The British government imposed a 10% tariff on imported goods not already subject to duties. As a result of the Import Duties Act the company decided that it would be wise to commence manufacturing vanities in England.
The previous decade had shown that there was a huge demand for the beautiful powder compacts which the firm had been finishing and then marketing worldwide.
The powder compacts were given the brand name of Stratton.
The rebrand was a great success and by the mid 1930s Stratton produced over half of all the powder compacts used in Britain .
Jerome Laughton began working in the Men's Jewellery section.
Tie slides, now known as tie clips, were becoming increasingly popular.
This product along with Expanda Cuff Links ensured the profits necessary for this division to keep growing up to the destruction of the four out of the five Stratton factories in the Birmingham Blitz.
After WWII the hard work of Jerome Laughton and Frank Stonehouse ensured that Expanda Cuff Links sold very well in Canada.
The smart presentation cases and quality products appealed to customers looking for gift ideas all over the world.
1947 ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE TWINCO & LADY JAYNE LINES
Twinco Ltd. Plastic Division is launched.
George Abe Laughton and his American contacts Abe and Jack Goodman formed a limited company.
Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. and the Goodmans set up an injection moulding business on a 50/50 basis.
George's son, Malcom, travelled to Leominster, Massachusetts to learn about injection moulding.
By the end of this year the Twinco division was up and running.
Twinco combs, sunglasses and hair slides were much in demand.
It is believed that this firm was the first British company to manufacture vinyl-acetate accessories using injection moulding.
Prior to this combs and hair accessories had been made from Celluloid and then later using Vulcanite, also known as Ebonite, which was a hard rubber.
Eventually, the Goodmans were persuaded to sell their share in Twinco.
By 1938 the firm was so busy manufacturing compacts for other companies that it hardly had the chance to concentrate on their own brand of powder compacts. They needed an expert who could be left in charge of this trade whilst they worked to satisfy their many contracts.
It was during this year that a major German manufacturer came to England to escape the Nazis.
Sali Lorch was one of their strongest competitors in Germany.
When he emigrated to Great Britain he was without employment and fortunately for all concerned he approached this maker with a view to gaining work.
George Abe Laughton knew that putting Sali Lorch in charge of the compact and Fancy Metal Goods department would be an excellent idea.
If you have seen little labels which come with Stratton accessories with the inspection dockets marked F.M. these initials represent the Fancy Metal Goods section.
Work carried on to make super Stratton vanities and fancy goods until the bombing of their factories.
Director of the company Charles Rainsford Jr. died in May.
He continued working for the firm until just before he passed away.
ALEXANDRA WORKS KENT STREET BEFORE THE BLITZ
ALEXANDRA WORKS AFTER THE BLITZ
The image above shows the destruction of the Alexandra Works in the Birmingham Blitz.
In the background the ruins of Globe Works are visible.
On May 9 1940 the Nazi German Luftwaffe began a campaign of heavy bombing, aiming at destroying the manufacturing base in Birmingham. Birmingham was the third most bombed British city during WWII.
As you can imagine the employees and directors were very distressed to see the factories in ruins.
Edgar Rainsford retired after the destruction of four of the five Stratton factories. Only the Stanley Works remained intact after the Blitz. Production was forced to a standstill. Manufacture resumed after the war, but shortages in Britain meant that particularly metals as raw materials, were in short supply.
Compacts of this time can even be found made from aircraft alloy.
The Stratton Lightweight Star is one such compact made from aircraft alloy.
The end of World War II saw the rebuilding and refitting programme where manufacturing premises were returned to the work that was undertaken before they were given over to war work. Or in the case of this firm complete rebuilding was necessary.
At first, temporary buildings on the sites of the destroyed premises were erected and what machinery that could be salvaged was restored.
This was a very difficult time for Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd.
However, it was also a time of great variation and creativity.
At this time we see different presentation boxes used.
Some of these are checked blue and white. Some are pink.
Some are signed and some are not.
The presentation box is interesting. We see this style of gift box housing Stratton accessories made in the 1930s, 1940s and early 1950s. The presentation box has the brands owned by Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. stamped on the pale blue pearlized exterior.
If you look closely you will see the words Lady Jayne, Gilda, Expanda, Stratnoid, Velva, Stratton and Studiette impressed on the exterior presentation box.
This wonderful accessory is presented with the adorable little booklet giving details about the Old China range.
The compact lid is adorned with beautiful and vibrant enamel.
This design was taken from a Worcester Plate in the British Museum which came from the Lady Mary Wortley Montague Service 1770-1780.
A wide variety of highly colourful puffs can be found fitted in Stratton Muffin powder compacts.
The known years of availability for this model are 1948, 1952 & 1953.
1953 WOMAN & HOME ADVERTISEMENT
Another model of compact which had many different designs of puffs was the Stratton Scone without Inner Lid.
At the end of the 1940s one of the most exciting models of Stratton powder compacts was produced.
This is known as the Stratton Scone without Inner Lid.
This model was superseded by the Stratton Scone which had a long production run.
Not only did the Stratton Scone without Inner Lid model have a very short production run, some of them were adorned with pictorial inlays which have the appearance of oil paintings.
This model is highly collectible. So far we have seen romantic, equestrian and still life themed lid decorations in this textured finish which has the appearance of a painterly oil on canvas scene.
The advertisement below shows some of the lines Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. offered.
The advertisement reads as follows:
JARRETT RAINSFORD & LAUGHTON LTD
and associated companies
STAND No. K94 (OLYMPIA)
Manufacturers of HARD HABERDASHERY. SLUMBER HELMETS. GLIDA BAGS. MENS JEWELLERY. FANCY METAL GOODS. PLASTICS.
Lady Jayne Hair Beauty Aids
Stratnoid Knitting Pins Stratnoid Crochet Hooks
London Showrooms:- 100 Dean Street W.1. (Gerrard 3473)
TWINCO PLASTIC PRODUCTS
Cables: RAINSFORD BIRMINGHAM
1949 BRITISH INDUSTRIES FAIR ADVERTISEMENT
1951 BRITISH INDUSTRIES FAIR ADVERTISEMENT
The models we can identify from the images and item codes shown in advertisement above are bottom right a Stratton Star with a jewel..... plus engraved pattern 556/MD and bottom right a Stratton Muffin 594/132.
It is interesting to note the puff fitted in the Muffin compact.
At this time highly colourful fabric puffs were included with some the compacts.
For example the Muffin and Scone without Inner Lid.
1953 Coronation Year
This was the year in which Princess Elizabeth was crowned.
British makers of vanities & silverware would honour monarchs with special hallmarks to mark notable events in history, such as coronations, silver jubilees and weddings.
Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. (later known as Laughton & Sons Ltd.) were without doubt the most successful specialist company manufacturing non-precious metal vanities in Britain.
There are many reasons for this success - the quality & reliability of the brand is still noted today.
The compacts shown on the advertisement above are middle top probably a Camera and top right a Stratton Muffin.
The pad shown on the left is a Fonopad, a telephone and address book which will flip to the letter of the alphabet chosen and on the left a Flashpad.
Expanda cufflinks, tie clips and stock pins are also shown.
Musical powder boxes made by Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. in the 1950s still play well in the 21st century.
The company was keen regarding sales opportunities & royal occasions certainly helped the sales of British brands.
The Stratton Princess model was launched in 1953 to celebrate the coronation of Princess Elizabeth.
Whilst we have never seen this model of Stratton compact with the image of Princess or Queen Elizabeth II on the lid, there are other models which do have the Head of State featured as a lid decoration.
One model was named the Stratton Queen.
This model is pictured below. It is considered to be rare.
This Stratton Queen with complete inner lid is embellished with a French monarch, King Louis Henri III is depicted with his wife.
In 1953 Stratton of London, Inc. U.S. Sales Co. was formed.
The golden era of Hollywood lasted from 1929 to the 1960s. The stars and starlet's powdered and polished appearances influenced generations of women who wished to look like their favourite screen idols.
This year also saw Max Factor launch their Creme Puff range.
This excellent pressed foundation powder has a metal powder pan which measures 57 mm diameter. It is still the same size as it was in 1953 and so it fits all Stratton convertible powder compacts.
1954 BRITISH INDUSTRIES FAIR ADVERTISEMENT
By the 1950s the cosmetic and cosmetic case industries were booming.
The industry giants vied with each other to produce the most inventive designs.
Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton Ltd. were market leaders who dominated the British vanities trade.
Their patented automatic opening inner lid made their compacts even more saleable.
Francis Joseph Curry invented a device which would open the inner lids of powder compacts automatically when the mirror lid is tilted back. This mechanism can be found fitted into Stratton brand loose foundation compacts. This invention makes the powder well easier to access if the person has arthritis or long nails.
The publication date was April 27 1955. Although we do feel as though it was in use before this date, as the patent was pending for some time.
INNER LID STAMPED WITH STRATTON COMPACT-IN-HAND LOGO
The Compact-in-Hand logo was designed to advertise this patented mechanism.
This logo can be seen on powder compacts and also puffs.
Sometimes the logo is stamped onto compacts which do not have this mechanism and on to puffs which belong to compacts which do not even have inner lids.
We think in these instances that this logo serves as an advertisement for this invention.
PATENT DRAWINGS FOR SELF-OPENING INNER LID
The diagrams above show the device fitted in the round base of a Stratton compact. For example - the Scone, Piccadilly, Rondette, Contessa, Marquise, Muffin or Large Flapjack.
Other models of Stratton compacts which have indented edges, like the Queen and Princess are also fitted with this mechanism.
Oblong and square models, like the Star and the Royale, as well as fancy shapes like the Regency also have self-opening inner lids.
As you tilt the mirror lid back it touches a small protrusion (39) at the back of the compact which triggers a lever to push on the button of the powder well lid and hey presto it opens.
COMPACTS & ACCESSORIES by Stratton 1959 Catalogue
The makers described this set as -
The popularity of the newly formulated pressed foundation by companies like Max Factor increased the desire for powder compacts which could hold pressed powder refills.
The makers named this design -
FM. 363/20 Another example in the Stratton range of pleasant bird scene decoration.
Super-impossed (sic) on an intense translucent blue background
In the same year the patent was granted for the automatic opening inner lid Jarrett, Rainsford & Laughton manufactured a convertible powder compact. We think that this could have been their first convertible compact.
The firm named the compact the Convertible.
In terms of vanities convertible means one that is suitable for both loose and pressed foundation powder.
We have included links at the bottom of this article which include a video about how to identify and date your Stratton compact and also information about which foundation is suitable for your vintage compact.
The Queen Convertible superseded the rare Queen model which was only available in 1957 and 1958.
The image above shows a 1970s Queen Convertible and matching lipstick holder set in the original hard case.
In this year George Abe Laughton's celebrated his Diamond Jubilee with the firm.
From humble beginnings as an office boy he was now responsible for a business concern which employed 1300 people in Birmingham and 300 in Australia.
By 1958 almost 40% of this company's merchandise was exported.
Sali Lorch proved to be a great asset to the firm.
Not only did he have the expertise and creativity needed to propel the Fancy Goods Department to greater heights, he also established markets in almost all of the European countries.
The company was now styled as Laughton & Sons Ltd.
George Abe Laughton is listed as the inventor of the lipstick holder which was granted the patent number 859838. The application date was May 17 1958.
The extract below has been taken from the patent application -
...it has been proposed to hinge a mirror and container together so that one may be cased to fold against the other when not required for use.....When the holder or mirror is required for use, the frictional retaining pressure can be overcome by finger pressure and the container swung aside where upon the end of the lipstick holder pops out.......
COMPACTS & ACCESSORIES BY STRATTON 1959 CATALOGUE
A large slender compact named the Slim Convertible was launched. As the name suggests this model is suitable for both types of foundation.
The Stratton Cachette was launched. This compact like the Glamorizer models was only suitable for pressed foundation.
The Stratton Mini-Convertible superseded the Cachette which ended its production run in 1969.
The direction of the company was clear.
Compact mirrors for loose and pressed powder were the products that would supply the demand for portable handbag mirrors which could hold both types of foundation.
1970S STRATTON BRAND READER'S DIGEST ADVERTISEMENT
Laughton & Sons Ltd. sold out to Cork International.
Some time after this Stratton accessories ceased to be British made.
Stratton brand accessories are famed for the quality of their enamel and reliability. Stratton ceased trading in 1997. Now modern 21st Century Stratton compacts are made but they are not British made & collectors consider them inferior to the vintage Stratton compacts.
Sometimes modern 21st Century compact mirrors are passed off as being vintage.
However, if you buy from a collector or specialist compact dealer such as ourselves they know how to date vintage Stratton compacts by the design on the base.
Sometimes you can cross-reference this with the model type & date a particular compact to within two years.
We only stock authenticated vintage and antique accessories and jewellery.
The original article by Eleanor Bennett was updated by Danielle Boyd in February 2022.
If you would like to date your Stratton compact we made a video to help you.
We are happy to work with film, television / theatre companies, museum curators & journalists who wish to feature vanities & collectibles. We study the history of antique & vintage collectibles and so we have access to many archives. This means that we can guide you in your search for authentic film props and accessories.
We do not offer a dating, valuation or authentication service for members of the public.
A Century Of Achievement
The Stratton Identification Key Juliette Edwards