The real star of the Office gets a blue plaque


Three generations of the Gestetner family gathered this week at the former home of the man who revolutionised office equipment, to see the unveiling of an English Heritage blue plaque at the house he lived at for 40 years.

Hungarian-born David Gestetner, who died in 1939, aged 84, invented the cyclostyle in 1881, a duplicating machine which became known as "'the Gestetner", which used a pen, stencils and a rotating wheel to make paper copies.

The devoutly Jewish Gestetner family left Hungary in the 1870s and lived in New York and Vienna before coming to London in 1879.

Unveiling the plaque at 124 Highbury New Park in Islington were Mr Gestetner's great-great-grandchildren, Harry Gestetner, 10 and Hettie Hodgson, 12, with English Heritage historian Howard Spencer.

Arnold House pupil Harry said he had recently completed a school project on his great-great-grandfather, but had never actually used a Gestetner himself. "I feel very lucky to be related to him."

Mr Spencer said that Mr Gestetner, known to the family as DG, was an "outstanding example of a London immigrant success story." He added: "It was not something I knew much about before I started the research but he really revolutionised the city, which was previously dominated by clerks copying out in longhand. Although there were other copying inventors, he was first among equals. He was one of those inventors who become a noun and a verb like Hoover. Instead of hoovering, you were 'gestetnering.' And he made enormous commercial success. He lived at this house for 40 years, which is a long time by English Heritage standards."

Among Mr Gestetner's "dozens of patents" was one for what has become standard nail clippers.

DG's grandson Jonathan Gestetner first asked English Heritage to look into the possibility of a plaque almost five years ago. "They do very thorough research into exactly what a person has done to deserve a blue plaque."

Only a few of the family who attended the unveiling remember their famous relative. His great-niece, Eve Newgass, said: "He was a little man, very jovial, I remember him visiting us when we lived in Vienna, but I was very small."

Grandson Donald Rau was five when he ran away from DG, at Kenwood House. "I made it all the way to Highgate village. My grandfather was very worried, but he had about 23 grandchildren by then, so to lose one wasn't many in the scheme of things."

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