It was way back in 1881 when brothers Max and Albert Holzapfel began their journey into the world of marine coatings.
Partnering with Charles Petrie, the trio established Holzapfel Ltd in a shipyard shed in Newcastle, UK. They produced marine anti-fouling coatings for iron-clad ships, which they made by hand in wooden casks. The aim was to ride the tide of the booming marine industry.
Max and Albert were young, ambitious and confident of success. But even they could hardly have foreseen the growth that would eventually push their business into worldwide expansion.
The business quickly expanded and by 1889 they’d opened their first overseas factory in Russia. A year later, the company became known as International, and the distinctive red propellor logo was born.
The name caught on, customer demand grew, and the company moved to larger premises, where it introduced iron mixing tanks and a mechanized process
By 1901, the company had ventured into the US, then in 1904, UK production was moved to a landmark factory in Felling (where International products are still made today). By 1914, the enterprising trio has opened their ninth plant over in Japan – their first in Asia. Production later expanded to Sweden, France, Spain, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
International has only changed hands twice since it was first established all those years ago. First in 1968, when it was sold to Courtaulds, and then in 1998, when AkzoNobel acquired the Courtaulds business.
The original barrel used by the Holzapfel Brothers to make varnishes still exists and is on display at the Felling site.