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Alexander Cowan & Sons In 1779 Charles Cowan bought a paper mill at Penicuik in the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh, that had been established by Mr Andrew Anderson. He converted this, the Valleyfield Mill, into one making white paper. The firm also ran Kate's Mill in Colinton in 1832, although it was destroyed in a fire in 1890. In 1826 his son Alexander opened another mill nearby, the Bank Mill to make paper for bank notes. In 1815 the Low Mill was purchased and was used until 1892 when production was concentrated at the Valleyfield mill. Indeed by 1851 Valleyfield had 21 beating engines, making it the largest in Scotland. Charles Cowan, member of the UK parliament from 1847 to 1859 worked to remove the duties on paper which passed in 1861. It was at the same time that Thomas Routledge instructed the firm on the use of Esparto. However in 1867 the firm had to establish a separate esparto treatment plant due to the pollution caused, however by 1880 technology had improved enough to return the esparto treatment to Valleyfield. In their 1944 advertising it is mentioned that after opening their Australasian office in 1868 in Barrack St. Sydney the firm used the Cutty Sark as the fastest way to replenish their stock. Indeed their sales into Australasia were so strong that by 1928 they had 43 sales representatives in Australia and New Zealand. In the 1871 Paper Mills Directory of the United Kingdom two mills are listed as being run by Alexander Cowan & Sons, Mill Number 33, Bank Mill making Fine and Super-fine Printing, and mill number 60 at Valleyfield making Writing, Drawing, and Printing Papers. In 1889 the concentration of production to Valleyfield began, and resulted in the installation of a 92 inch machine that allowed production to increase to 100 tons per week. The papers of Cowan & Sons were widely sought after and recognized by their scallop shell watermark. In 1965 the firm was sold to Reed Paper Group, and in 1980 the Valleyfield Mill complex was demolished.
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2020