Early Biscuits Manufacturers

Bakers Limited

The Fire and consequent Name Change

The sinking of the Lusitania by the Germans in World War I in 1915 resulted in rioting in Durban.  Amongst those who suffered were merchants, hotel owners and a variety of other undertakings.  All businesses - there must have been about 15 of them - with German names were set alight.  My grandfather’s bread bakery at the corner of West Street and Brickhill Road was burnt to the ground.   In the block adjacent, just across Palmers Street, the biscuit factory was unharmed.  The next day the government deployed soldiers to protect it as it was making army biscuits for our South African troops in East and West Africa.

Although my grandfather had been naturalised many years back and was a British citizen with two sons fighting against the Germans in East Africa, the name Baumann was obviously targetted as being a German name.   It was recommended to my grandfather that he change the name of the company, at that time known as L Baumann and Company Ltd to some other name.  My Uncle Albert, in his memoirs, records the following:

“During the May 1915 riots, when L Baumann & Company was burned down, a Mr S Welsford telephoned Mr Albert Baumann, offering to come on the Board of the new company.  He suggested that it be called ‘Bakers Ltd’ because when a woman wants to buy a loaf of bread she automatically thinks of a baker and this is the first word that arises in her mind.  The name could therefore be easily remembered and so easily called to mind.

Mr Welsford was a friend of Miss Grace Baumann (J M L Baumann’s only daughter)."

Some years later Mr Philip Russell (a friend of mine who eventually became Archbishop of Cape Town) asked me if I knew how the name Bakers Ltd originated.  It was obvious that the story had been passed down in his family too.

The name ‘Bakers Ltd’ is interesting.  It was commonly referred to as just ‘Bakers’.   The Ltd part had to be added under the Company’s Act because it was a limited liability company.  Although it was a private company and not a public company, in those days it was not necessary to add the word (Pty) into the company’s name.  Also it was quite acceptable to use a generic word such as “baker” in the name.  Later the laws changed and all new private companies which were family owned had to use (Pty) in their names.  An exception was made that companies that had been registered before that law was passed could continue without the insert.   And so the company continued as Bakers Ltd and sometimes just Bakers for the rest of its life.

L Baumann and Company Ltd was put into liquidation.  The trading part of the company was transferred to the new company named Bakers Ltd.   My grandfather retained the ground and buildings in his own name and these were leased to Bakers Ltd.  The shares in the company itself were distributed equally to his five sons and one daughter.  The oldest son who was not working in the company - Fred - told his father that he did not wish to have shares in the company as it was paying such a poor dividend, and it was agreed therefore that his shares should be split amongst the remaining five members of the family in return from them of an annuity of £70 per month for the rest of his life.  Each member therefore had a 20% holding.  Mr William  Baumann was appointed as the Managing Director with JML Baumann as Chairman.

When the Articles of Association of the company were drawn up they stated that the Chairman of the company should have a casting vote.   It was intended that my grandfather, JML Baumann, should be Chairman but at the last moment he thought it would be better to divorce his name from the company for the time being and he appointed a Mr Emblin who was the Accountant.   This was an unfortunate change because Mr Emblin became very difficult using his casting vote sometimes to the detriment of the company.   This arrangement lasted until the next Annual General Meeting of the company, when Mr Emblin was removed as a Director.

J F Bauman

"Old Uncle"

Arrived 1851 aged 27

J M L Baumann


Arrived 1880 aged 24

William Baumann

"Uncle Will"

Born in Durban 1883

Albert Baumann

"Uncle Albert"

Born in Durban 1885

When William Baumann left Bakers Ltd to start his own company in Cape Town, Albert Baumann was made Managing Director with JML Baumann as Chairman.   My Uncle Albert and my grandfather took an interest in my future well-being and they decided that I should spend one year as an apprentice in the biscuit and bread industry.  That was 1940.    I thereafter proceeded to Johannesburg to study as a Chartered Accountant - a five year course.  I returned to Bakers Ltd as a clerk in 1946 but was gradually given more and more responsibilities for the operation of various parts of the business.