Our Heritage

De La Rue has a long distinguished and fascinating history
 stretching back nearly 200 years.
  

From the 19th century to today

From humble origins as printer and stationer, De La Rue has expanded into the world’s largest commercial banknote printer with a global presence and customers who include governments, central banks and leading brands.

Find out more about our incredible story by looking at some key dates in our history - from playing card production to the world’s first ATMs.

1800s
1900s
2000s
1813

Thomas de la Rue launched his first commercial venture, the newspaper Le Miroir Politique on Guernsey. A print business was founded.

1821

Thomas de la Rue set up in London, originally creating straw hats! Soon he moved into printing properly, experimenting with fancy stationery.

1831

The playing card was transformed when Thomas de la Rue registered a patent for 'certain improvements', including early colour printing! In 1832 he was granted a Royal Letters Patent from William IV.

1838

To celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria, Thomas de la Rue printed a special golden edition of a newspaper called The Sun, which sold out extremely fast.

1841
1841

De La Rue received their first order for railway tickets. By 1846 they were producing a million and a half tickets weekly, enough for nearly all the trains in the country.

1844
1844

Thomas de la Rue hires Owen Jones, architect and artist, to design the backs of his previously plain playing cards. His distinctive style becomes incredibly influential both in De La Rue and wider card design.

1851
1851

De La Rue had a stall in the central aisle of the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, London. They exhibited 289 items, Thomas and Warren were jurors, and the envelope folding machine drew enormous crowds!

1853
1853

De La Rue was awarded its first stamp contract, for the 1853 Board of Inland Revenue receipt stamps. It used its new typographical process - creating the world's first surface printed stamp!

1855
1855

De La Rue won its first postage stamp contract, for the Fourpenny Carmine. It is still renowned by philatelists for its beautiful engraving by Jean Joubert de la Ferté. This led to contracts to print stamps all around the world, and the beginning of a security print business.

1860
1860

De La Rue printed its first ever paper money for the Government of Mauritius. The £5, £1, and 10 shilling banknotes were printed with colour and micro-lettering, representing a milestone in both design and security.

1862
1862

De La Rue supplied, to the Confederate States, the only American stamp ever to be produced abroad: the Five Cents Blue, adorned with the head of Jefferson Davis.

1872
1872

De La Rue printed its first Christmas card, and became renowned for beautiful artist-designed greetings. In 1881 they printed a popular reproduction of the first ever Christmas card.

1874
1874

De La Rue opened its new London factory in Bunhill Row, the Star Works. Soon to follow were the Crown Works and the George Works.

1881
1881

De La Rue entered the pen market with its popular Anti-Stylograph pen. This was followed by the Swift, which was the first pen to feature a shut-off valve, the Pelican, and others.

1898
1898

The family partnership structure changed to a private company. In 1921, the de la Rue family left the business and the company became publically owned.

 
 
 
 
1905
1905

The Onoto pen was launched, which was the world's first plunger-filling pen that used the vacuum principle. It became a heavily marketed, extremely successful line, used Field Marshal Earl Haig, Edgar Wallace, and Winston Churchill.

1914
1914

The UK Government commissioned De La Rue to print 10 shilling notes on the outbreak of war, which went into overdrive to deliver 2.5 million notes during the first five weeks of the war.

1930
1934

De La Rue received its first currency order from China, whose continued orders would make it a vital customer for the next 15 years.

1939 War II France Note RESIZE
1939

During World War II, De La Rue worked with a number of occupied countries to print currency, which was hidden in a quarry until the war was over, when it could be delivered or picked up.

1940
1940

On September 11th, the company's factories and offices at Bunhill Row were destroyed in the Blitz. With the help of other firms, De La Rue was able to deliver on all its critical orders.

1947
1947

De La Rue was listed on the London Stock Exchange on 27 March 1947.

1951 Festival of Britain RESIZE
1951

100 years after their success at the Great Exhibition, De La Rue had a large display at the Festival of Britain, and organised a company outing to enjoy it.

1957
1957

In 1957 De La Rue first marketed a banknote counting machine. De La Rue Instruments was later formed to run this line.

1959 Security Express RESIZE
1959

De La Rue set up Security Express Ltd with Wells Fargo, to offer secure delivery to those handling money and other secure items.

2010
1959

De La Rue formed the new Formica International with American Cynamid to market Formica worldwide.

1961
1961

Waterlow & Sons, a banknote, stamp, and general security printer, which had been founded in 1810, was acquired.

2010
1965

De La Rue Giori formed, becoming the contemporary sole supplier of banknote printing equipment.

1967
1967

De La Rue jointly developed and installed the world’s first through-the-wall ATM at Barclay’s Bank in Enfield, UK. Photo used with kind permission of Barclay’s Bank PLC.

1969
1969

De La Rue sold its playing card business to John Waddington.

1986
1986

De La Rue acquired Bradbury Wilkinson & Co., a banknote, stamp, and share printer. A year later Amblehurst Ltd was acquired, which became De La Rue Holographics.

1990
1990

De La Rue House in Basingstoke officially opened as the company's UK headquarters.

1993
1993

The Camelot Group plc consortium was established with De La Rue as the security experts, which a year later won the licence to operate the UK National Lottery.

1995
1995

De La Rue acquired Portals Group plc, the manufacturer of banknote paper which had worked with the Bank of England since 1724.

1997
1997

De La Rue acquired Harrison & Sons, the stamp and other security printer, and Ohukuos Cartes et Systemes, which produced smart cards.

 
 
 
 
2003

In 2003 De La Rue signed a seven year contract to print and supply sterling for the Bank of England, taking over the bank’s manufacturing operation

2007

De La Rue won the Queen’s Award for Innovation for its StarChrome® banknote thread feature

2009

De La Rue won a 10 year contract to produce the UK passport and the Bank of England renewed the contract to print sterling.

2010

De La Rue sold its interest in Camelot.

2012

The first banknote using De La Rue’s Safeguard polymer substrate, the Fiji $5, was unveiled and entered circulation in January 2013

2013

De La Rue celebrated its 200th anniversary.

2013

De La Rue won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation for its super wide Optiks banknote security thread with a clear window in the banknote, and the associated paper making process.

2015

De La Rue launches DLR Identify™, a new citizen centric web based software solution for the secure management, personalisation and storage of citizen identity data.

May 2016

De La Rue sells Cash Processing Solutions Limited.

Aug 2016

De La Rue launches DLR Identify™ for CRVS (Civil Registration and Vital Statistics), a new solution that will help governments to tackle the challenge of citizen identity management and its foundation.

Sep 2016

Sir Winston Churchill Fiver, the first polymer banknote in the UK and printed by De La Rue, is issued into circulation today by the Bank of England.

Sep 2016

The Central Bank of the Bahamas launches first denomination of new family with De La Rue’s Active™ security thread.

Dec 2016

De La Rue acquires DuPont Authentication, a leading global producer of photopolymer holographic films, 3D holograms and associated software.

2017

De La Rue launches DLR Analytics™, a software solution for Central Banks to give data led insight of their Cash Cycle.

2017

De La Rue announces that it has signed up to the United Nations Global Compact sustainability programme.

2018

De La Rue announces that it has entered into a strategic agreement for the Group’s paper business, to be named Portals De La Rue Limited.

Archivist's Blogs

Thomas De La Rue:
Early Days

An inconspicuous beginning for the founder of De La Rue

Playing Cards: Certain Improvements (1831-1855)

The series continues with Thomas'
new venture

Warren De La Rue:
The Great Exhibition (1851)

The son of Thomas De La Rue makes
his mark

Stamps: A Triumph of Science
(1853-1861)

Security features and gaining a foothold around the world

The First Banknote: A golden era
(1859-1898)

Our most successful and best-known product, for which we are still renowned today

The Onoto: The Pen
(1881-1958)

One of De La Rue's most famous stationery products was not paper-based at all