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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 CLC/B/123-51
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1870-1965
Level of description: Collection
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Extent: 70 production units.
Name of creator(s): Smith, MacKenzie and Co Ltd | general merchants and agents in East Africa


Administrative/Biographical history:

The firm was established as a partnership in Zanzibar in 1875, to manage the East African mail contract granted to the British India Steam Navigation Company in 1872. Archibald Smith had earlier worked for W. MacKinnon and Company (CLC/B/123-57) in Glasgow; Edmund N. MacKenzie had had experience in London of the operations of Gray, Dawes and Company (CLC/B/123-30). From the first, Gray, Dawes and Company enjoyed strong links with the firm, having invested heavily in its launch.

As agents of the British India Steam Navigation Company, Smith, MacKenzie and Company were soon involved in the import and export of goods carried alongside the mail. BI ships brought in British and British Indian goods, rice and cotton among them.

Locally produced exports included cloves, chillies, coconuts, copra and ivory. Agency work extended to include the representation of the Union Steam Navigation Company, Lloyd's, Reuters and several British insurance companies. The firm also furnished the expeditionary and military needs of the Imperial British East Africa Company, and, from its formation in 1895, the East Africa Protectorate (covering the territory of modern Kenya and Tanzania, excluding Zanzibar). It was further responsible for supplying coal to British and German naval vessels in the area; an activity which proved especially significant during World War One. WJW Nicol joined the staff in Zanzibar as an assistant in 1887, and became a partner in 1890.

Between 1916 and 1923, new offices were opened in Nairobi, Kisumu, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Tanga and Lindi. Also at this time, the firm's shipping activity was hived off into a subsidiary, the African Wharfage Company Limited. This company soon established its own subsidiaries, including a branch in Tanganyika; the African Marine and General Engineering Company Limited; and the Kenya Landing and Shipping Company Limited.

In 1936, the firm became Smith, MacKenzie and Company Limited, registered in Nairobi with its main East African office in Mombasa. However, it was not until 1950 that the direction of operations moved wholesale to Kenya.

In the preparations for the launching of the Inchcape group in 1958 (see Inchcape Group introductory note), Gray, Dawes and Company Limited increased its shareholding in the firm to 53.03%. A further 29% holding was purchased by the group in 1964.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Smith, MacKenzie and Company Limited, general merchants and agents in East Africa, including: memorandum and articles of association, 1936-50 (Ms 28118); agreements, 1891-1945 (Ms 28119, Ms 36444-6); directors' meetings minutes and related papers, 1934-50 (Ms 28120-5); accounts, 1936-64 (Ms 28126-33); operational records, 1886-1950 (Ms 28134-7, Ms 36447-55); list of records, 1870-1945 (Ms 28138); property records, 1890-ca. 1950 (Ms 28139-42, Ms 36458-62); papers relating to staff, 1892-1937 (Ms 36456-7); photographs, c 1871-99 and c 1920 (Ms 28143, Ms 36463); records relating to subsidiaries, 1917-57 (Ms 28144-53, Ms 36464); and miscellaneous items, 1893-1965 (Ms 36465-71).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English, French and Arabic.

System of arrangement:

Records arranged by MS number, assigned during cataloguing at the Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section.

Conditions governing access:

Access by appointment only. Please contact staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright to this collection rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Mss 28118-53 were deposited in the Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library by Inchcape Plc in 1987-88. They were catalogued in 1988-9. Mss 36444-71 were deposited in 1994 by a private individual and were catalogued in 2005. The Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section merged with the London Metropolitan Archives in 2009.

Allied Materials

Related material:

This collection is a sub-fond within the Inchcape Group fonds. See CLC/B/123 for a list of all the companies represented in this collection and a history of the Inchcape Group.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
January to May 2011.

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