10 June 2015

Guest Post - Lefax – The Early Years By gmax

Newer readers of this blog may not appreciate that Filofax owes its origins to Lefax, which was founded by John Clinton Parker in Philadelphia in 1910. Norman and Hill (which would go on to become Filofax) began in 1921 as the UK importer of Lefax, and Lefax Inc. was eventually bought by Filofax in 1992.

In a post last year I showed a mail order form from 1914, when Lefax was basically a subscription service, distributing engineering data on loose leaves for $2 per year. Philofaxy reader Gemma had commented on the unexpected Standard Corporation publisher. This set me wondering further about those early years – what was the Standard Corporation, and how did it relate to Lefax?

The organisation then was a privately owned business, focused on serving engineers and scientists.

This audience also provided the material being published as the data leaves.



Checking through other old leaves I have from the time, it seems the switch from Standard Corporation to Lefax as publisher happened between February and March 1915. I’ve not been able to determine exactly why this was. Perhaps someone out there can help?

My suspicion is that shares in Lefax Inc. may have been offered as stock, while Standard Corporation took on the guise of more of a co-operative enterprise that conducted research, and perhaps served as a regulating corporation for industry.

For example, this first issue of Lefax Pocket Magazine from Sep/Oct 1924 describes the Standard Corporation as offering a service to protect the ideas of inventors who wanted to develop them further before seeking patents (at which point they would have had to make those ideas public).


Thank you Max for your guest post, it would indeed be interesting to know more information on the history of the original company. 

11 comments:

  1. I have a Lefax Boston, which is quite old, but I have no idea how old it is

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    1. I reckon it was among the last of the breed John - a model called Boston was in the range for 1993/1994. At the takeover, Filofax had positioned Lefax to be their "luxury" brand, but then quietly killed it off afterwards.

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  2. Thanks for the fascinating post, Max. I am very interested in this period of planner development and its links to Filofax.

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  3. I have a couple of Lefax from the early 1990s, and I also have a Lefax Mathematical tables binder on its way:

    www.ebay.com/itm/261915017311

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  4. A great post! I have one from the 30's on construction methods and materials, also I bought one as a present for a friend who is an amateur radio enthusiast and had a huge amount of information on vacuum tubes. Both illustrates how much each industry has changed.

    Thanks for the info gmax!

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  5. Was Lefax considered in the name Filofax?

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    1. The "leaf + facts" expansion can be seen at the top of the first image here, and it's a fairly small step from there to "file of facts", which inspired Grace Scurr's Filofax name. So yes I think so @Be.

      Both names can be seen co-existing within the 1937 catalogue (available on Philofaxy's catalogues page). Lefax was still used there for the original system built on the 6 ring format we now call personal, while Filofax was referring to a varied selection of ring binders.

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    2. Hi gmax. Thank you for the reply. I see now the words in the first photo. It is great to read more on the history of the company.

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    3. Funny how much there is to see in theses old pages.
      I've just noticed that the 1924 page has it as "Leaves of Facts".
      Grace Scurr is meant to have invented the name "Filofax" in 1925, but it seems that name may have been a fairly natural evolution.

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  6. My great-grandfather was an engineer for Carborundum in the 1930s-1960s. My grandmother used one of his old LeFax binders as a commonplace book - she typed up quotes, phrases and pasted clippings from newspapers in it. It was a reinforced paper brown cover, not leather, and it just disintegrated about 15 years ago.

    My current employer used to have a few old radio LeFaxes around in the engineering maintenance area, although I haven't seen them recently. I suspect they were trashed during one of our annual clean ups.

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  7. Thanks to all for your comments - glad you enjoy the historical side of Lefax and Filofax.
    I have some other old leaves that are also interesting, so will share them too later.

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