In 1903, Harry Gibson managed to obtain an unsecured loan of £500 from the Royal Bank of Scotland which enabled him to start a business supplying card games and postcards, which at that time was called The International Card Co. in Aldersgate St, London. The International Card arm of the business was sold to the De La Rue Company and H. P. Gibson & Sons Limited was formed. However, the “International Series” brand continued to be used by Gibson right up to the early 1980s, which accounts for the title on their Mahjong sets.
H. P. Gibson & Sons Ltd made its name with the ‘HPG’ brand of indoor games, such as L’Attaque and Dover Patrol. Sadly the company’s premises, along with all its manufacturing equipment were destroyed during the blitz in 1940 and when the war ended, it was almost a case of starting from scratch.
Robert & Harry Gibson, sons of the founder, re-established trading from Barrett Street in London’s West End. The company continued to sell its own family games and pastimes, alongside ranges from other established names, including Waddingtons and Chad Valley.
According to the advertising leaflet, they produced several kinds of sets between the wars, from Bamboo housed in yellow Cardboard boxes, to 5 thicknesses ofBone & Bamboo in austere ash or oak varnished boxes, with a 15-fold price difference.The top of the range set cost the equivalent of £800 in today’s money!
The early Mahjong sets, introduced in the 1920s, are recognised by their distinctive sinogram logo, either solid red, or ‘silver’ and shadowed. The logo can be easily confused with those of the Mahjongg Sales Company of America / Parker Bros or Jaques, but there are subtle differences in the formation of the characters.
Gibson also produced the famous ‘East Wind’ rulebook, which became the standard for Mahjong play in Britain, at least(Fig. 6) and also the ubiquitous ‘Jackpot’ rulebook which appears in many unrelated sets.
Post WWII, they produced polystyrene sets in card boxes; melamine, urea, and Chinese bakelite sets in zipper& popper cases; as well as cheaper painted wooden sets. They also imported quality bamboo-backed urea tiles with deeply impressed designs from Japan, housed in faux leather briefcases, but their only current offering is a two-tone melamine? set with impressed designs in a faux leather case.
In the late 70s H. P. Gibson & Sons shortened its name to ‘Gibsons’. The company is still a family business.