24th March 1793

Famed printer Thomas de la Rue born

Thomas de la Rue

The world owes a debt of gratitude to Thomas de la Rue. Born in La Bourg, Forest, he was one of nine children. When he became an apprentice printer in St Peter Port, aged just 10, the course of the rest of his life was set.

Newspaper publisher

De La Rue founded a newspaper, Le Publiciste, with Tom Greenslade, but the two fell out. De La Rue left and set up his rival, Le Miroir Politique, in February 1813. It published once a week, at 7am every Saturday, from offices at 184 Lower Pollet, and delivered throughout Town.

Within five years, following the death of his father, his marriage, and the birth of his first son, Warren, he had moved his family to London. There, he set up a shop manufacturing and selling straw hats, but his love of print and paper soon took over. He first started binding books, then making paper and, finally, printing playing cards.

De la Rue introduced several new printing methods, and was granted a patent for “certain improvements in making or manufacturing and ornamenting playing cards”. So great were these advanced that he became known as the father of the English playing card. Production increased almost three-fold over ten years to reach more than quarter of a million packs a year, all printed at speed on a steam-driven press.

Hard times

It all came crashing down in the depression of the late 1830s. De la Rue was arrested as a debtor and had to be bailed out by his creditors who, in return, received one of his patents.

Nonetheless, de la Rue’s firm was recognised as an expert printing operation, so it’s perhaps no surprise that it won contracts to print stamps (in 1855) and, eventually, bank notes (initially, in 1859, for Mauritius). It’s with this latter realm that the name remains closely associated. The firm still prints bank notes and cheque books, and its marque can also be found on some bank cards.

Thomas de la Rue died in 1866, with much of the company’s activity carried on by his sons.

Picture of Thomas de la Rue memorial by Unukorno (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


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Other events that occured in March

Debut of Guernsey-set comedy This is Jinsy 1st
Channel 4 broadcasts Sark-based Mr Pye 2nd
First ever broadcast of Puffin’s Pla(i)ce 3rd
Dead man appointed to run Guernsey Airport 4th
Guernsey’s entire police force is arrested 5th
Isle of Guernsey delivered to its new owners 6th
Guernsey players set darts record
Guernsey heads call for an end to the Eleven-plus 7th
Guernsey’s first governor, Edmund Weston, is appointed 8th
Occupying forces mount a desperate raid on Granville 9th
Guernsey emergency services prepare for a disaster 10th
Birth of Baron James de Saumarez 11th
First publication of Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea 12th
Building work starts on Guernsey Airport 13th
Guernsey’s island-wide police force is established 14th
Guernsey exchange student goes missing in Virginia 15th
The Book of Ebenezer Le Page is published 16th
BBC Radio Guernsey takes to the air
Guernsey clears up after heaviest snow in years 17th
Torrey Canyon spills oil on Guernsey’s beaches 18th
Guernsey issues banknotes featuring famous locals 19th
Guernsey guidebook pioneer Henry Inglis dies 20th
Soldiers staged a mutiny at Fort George 21st
Alderney arrest sparks a “riot” 22nd
Guernsey nurse Elizabeth Lincoln elected to the States 23rd
Famed printer Thomas de la Rue born 24th
Guernsey votes for equal age of consent 25th
Guernsey to UK telephone connection inaugurated 26th
Condor Liberation enters service 27th
Guernsey Post Office is established 28th
Enemy at the Door comes to the end of its run 29th
Guernsey adopts Sterling currency 30th
Guernsey and France tackle the Amoco Cadiz oil spill 31st