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The Case of Eichengruen-Edwards and Continental Tyres

Commendation, Victorian Community History Awards 2020

What started as an interest in the officer-drivers of the Australian Volunteer Automobile Corps, formed in 1908, led historian Andrew Kilsby to one in particular – Captain Edward Edwards. This is the story of Edwards, a German-born Jew originally Eduard Eichengruen. He was a ‘tall poppy’, who disrupted the nascent automobile tyre industry with his energetic promotion of the Continental brand from 1904 and threatened the British company Dunlop’s assumed market leadership.

When World War One began in 1914, the Government put Continental on trial, setting up Edwards for condemnation and internment and the wholesale dismantling of his business. Arrested and interned for nearly five years without charges, trial or court martial, or right to a defence, Edwards was secretly de-naturalised and forcibly deported to Germany in 1919, along with his two Victorian-born children. Why was Edwards such a threat?

In this story of love and despair, triumph and failure, success and chicanery, Andrew Kilsby has also written the first history of the establishment of Continental Tyres in Australasia 1904-1919 as backdrop to a fascinating business and social history centred on Edward Edwards.   It explores how this self-made man and his young family, determined to make their mark in their new country and strive for supremacy in the automobile tyre industry, was brought down by the home front anti-German hysteria of World War One. His business was destroyed, to Dunlop’s benefit; his young wife died ‘from a broken heart’. Edwards lived to survive not just the Australian government but also the Nazis two decades later.

The Case of Eichengruen-Edwards and Continental Tyres, Indie Print 2019. ISBN 978064680484-2.

Copyright @ Andrew Kilsby