With the nights drawing in and Christmas and New Year celebrations fast approaching, whisky seemed the obvious choice on which to theme an exhibition. What better way to celebrate the Working Archives held in the University of Glasgow Archive Services’ collection?
My name is Edith Bourne and I’m a post-graduate student studying Information Management and Preservation at the University of Glasgow. I was thrilled when my application for the Exhibition Assistant internship at Archives Services was successful. Having not done many archival displays previously I knew it would be a challenge, but I didn’t realise how enjoyable it would be.
I realised whisky was a good starting point for an exhibition when I saw the extent of the distilleries series within the Archive’s holdings. However, due to the wide range of materials and artefacts available, the Teacher & Sons Ltd collection quickly became my focus. My initial ideas for the whisky story were related to Christmas and next year’s 100th anniversary of the First World War but when I started looking at the material, I knew I wanted to tell a bigger story: the role of Teacher & Sons Ltd in Glasgow…
William Teacher took the opportunity to set up a whisky business following the 1823 Excise Act which made good whisky more freely available. This legislation sanctioned distilling in return for a licence fee which limited the amount of smuggled whisky and doubled the number of licensed distilleries which produced whisky of a certain standard.
From his first shop in Anderston, Teacher established a series of shops in Glasgow in the 1830s and 1840s selling a blend of carefully chosen whiskies from these now legal distilleries. Teacher & Sons has been a staple in the city ever since. The company expanded further with the opening of Ardmore, their first single malt distillery, in 1899. This was built to ensure a guaranteed supply of the fully peated single malt whisky that is distinctive of the Teacher & Sons blend.
The story of Teacher & Sons Ltd is one of growth and innovation. From their Glasgow base, the company was one of the first Scottish whisky producers to export internationally to markets in Europe, New Zealand and the USA. They launched the ‘Self-opening bottle’ in 1913 which attracted a great deal of press attention due to its innovative nature. This was a simple invention which tapered the cork from bottom to top, rather than top to bottom, which allowed it to be easily twisted out of the bottle and easily replaced. As the traditional corks often broke in the bottle, this invention set Teacher & Sons ahead of their competition as it meant that bottles could be purchased with the view to them lasting several sittings. (Right: UGD306/2/1/21/23)
The records I chose for display are a small sample of what the archive holds within this collection. Advertising material is obviously important to any commercial company and Teacher & Sons have a great array of advertising styles that it was difficult to choose what to use from all the posters, beer mats and newspaper clippings. I was really pleased when I came across a collection of photo albums showing the shops , the staff and the customers. These images really brought the collection to life for me so it’s unsurprising they feature prominently within the final exhibition.
The finished Teacher & Sons Ltd exhibition is now on display in the reception area of the University of Glasgow Archive Services Thurso Street Building. All items on display are from the William Teacher & Sons Ltd collection (collection reference UGD306/2).
Categories: Archive Services