The founding of The China Paint Manufacturing Company and the background of the founders and second-generation heir

The founder of The China Paint Manufacturing Company, Lam Kwan, native of Taishan, had good academic performance in his early age. He had studied in the United States. While Lam was studying in the U.S., he not only worked in farms picking up fruits but also taught Chinese classes for Chinese-American. He graduated from Brooklyn Institute, New York, while the U.S. was hit by the Great Depression. He recommended himself to a paint manufacturing company and got accepted. Another founder of The China Paint Manufacturing Company, Lam On, the father of Paul Lam and the brother of Lam Kwan, had studied in Guangzhou Lingnan Secondary School and Pui Ching Middle School.

After Lam Kwan returned to Hong Kong from the United States, he founded a small paint factory (The China Paint Manufacturing Company) with his brother, Lam On. Since Lam Kwan had received education on chemical engineering, he brought related skills and knowledge to the factory. At the beginning, the factory produced metal paint and wood paint. The National Lacquer and Paint Products Company were separately founded in the same year (1931).
The China Paint Manufacturing Company had a limited capital to start with; the founders collected the capital from their family while there were only 6 employees. During the Japanese Occupation, the production of The China Manufacturing Company stopped. Lam Kwan turned to produce and sell peanut candy in Liuzhou, Guangxi to sustain his living. In 1946, The China Paint Manufacturing Company was re-registered and the founders raised more fund by selling shares. However, the company scale remained relatively small.

The paint production technology was not advanced in the past. The government did not have strict safety requirements on either paint factories or paint products. The workshop of China Paint had limited facilities, it used cooking pot to boil oil and rarely maintained the machinery. The China Paint Manufacturing Company built a 3 level factory at Arran Street, Mong Kok. The ground level was the production shopfloor, the second level was office and store room for raw materials and solvents, the third floor was the living place for the Lam’s family. Paul Lam had lived in the third floor after Lam Kwan had moved out. Since the paint production process required boiling oil, which is a relatively dangerous procedure, the company rented an open area at Tai Kok Tsui to conduct the process. There were a public playground and a men’s dormitory near the factory at Arran Street. The China Paint Manufacturing Company had established the workshop at Arran Street at the time when Paul Lam was in kindergarten. Male workers were responsible for production processes while female workers were responsible for packaging. Accommodation was provided for male workers only.

Other than Paul Lam, Lam Mo Bill (The son of Lam Kwan), was also the second-generation successor of The China Paint Manufacturing Company. Paul Lam graduated from the University of California, Berlekey with Chemistry major. Lam Mo Bill graduated from Stanford University with Chemistry major too. Since there was no specialized discipline on paint technology in the universities, the only way for people to learn about paint was to study chemistry and to take courses that had contents of paint, such as polymer chemistry. Usually, paint companies would obtain knowledge of paint technology by setting up licensing arrangements with foreign companies. In 1965, The China Paint Manufacturing Company employed the first chemist.

Company China Paint Mfg. Co. (1932) Ltd.
Subject Industry
Duration 16m32s
Language Cantonese
Material Type
Source Hong Kong Memory Project Oral History Interview
Repository Hong Kong Memory Project
Note to Copyright Copyright owned by Hong Kong Memory Project
Accession No. JL-PL-LIFE-001
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