Here we showcase tailoring buttons, from the individual to large emporiums such as The Leviathan. The buttons are listed alphabetically as the names were printed onto the buttons.
Brothers Isaac (1819-1892) and Joseph (1827-1894) Roff started the firm of I. and J. Roff in 1854. As ‘Tailors and Colonial Manufacturers’. Under Joseph’s management, they claimed to be the oldest tailoring firm in Ballarat. The brothers also had a ‘bill posting’ and advertising contracting business with offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Ballarat. Isaac was the director of the Melbourne office in Little Flinders Street. His son (also called Joseph) would join the tailoring firm, which was still going in 1928.
Ince Bros., Melbourne:
Richard Ince and his brother Arthur owned this tailoring firm. Richard was born in Collingwood in 1863. Soon after the family moved to Ballarat were his father, Richard senior, was a cutter for L. S. Christie & Co, before going into partnership as ‘Young and Ince’. The sons also worked with this firm. Around 1887 Arthur moved to Geelong and Richard moved to Melbourne. They operated as Ince Bothers, with Richard located in Swanston Street. They would travel to country towns such as Camperdown, Kyneton and Yackandanda to take fittings for suits.
In 1901 their mother died in Ballarat. Richard senior re-married in 1903, at the age of 71 years, to a 25 year old woman in Melbourne. Having married in the afternoon they booked into a hotel. Twenty minutes after retiring, the new bride ran to the manager for help; her husband lying dead in his bed. Oh dear!
Jack Meyer, Adelaide:
Johann (Jack) Meyer operated from 36 Grote Street, Adelaide, from 1917. He seems to have been quite the character, judging from this story published in The Mail, 19th June 1948:
Jas Marshall and Co; Adelaide
In 1879 James Wadell Marshall (1845-1925) along with William Taylor and James Porter bought out the business of retiring John Hodgkins in Rundle street, and set up as James Marshall & Co, drapers and importers. They grew to be a large department store, until they were taken over by Myers in 1928.
J. Dorance, Naracoorte:
James was quite the gypsy. In 1896 he moved from Albury to Bunbury, West Australia. He sold his tailoring business in 1903 “due to ill health” and traveled to England to recuperate. In 1910 he was back in West Australia, tailoring in Narrogin. In 1919 he moved to Dimboola Road, Horsham, then to Narracorte about 1924 for 5 years. In 1929 he moved to Kadina in South Australia as he wished to set up a massage clinic (?He had studied this whilst overseas.) Ind until his death in 1951, aged 86 years. At least we can date this button to a 5 year period, from 1924-1929!!
J. E. Buchan, Bendgio:
John Edward Buchan was born in Melbourne, but moved to Ballarat as a child. He was a tailor situated at “Bath Corner”. In 1885 he partnered with Mr Jackson to form the “Gold Mines Clothing Company”. Several year later Jackson had to retire due to ill health and John continued alone. Unfortunately John contracted pneumonia and died in December of 1897, aged only forty-one years.
J. H. Cutler, Sydney:
Joseph Handle Cutler opened a tailoring shop in Sydney in 1884. It became the tailor to Sydney’s elite, and continues today as a 4th generation family firm of bespoke tailors.
J. J. Scotchmer, Lismore:
John James Scotchmer was born in England in 1854. He moved to New South Wales and started tailoring, first in Milton in 1880, then in Nowra from 1883, and then at Woodlark Street, Lismore from 1907. From 1922 his son Randolph Charles Scotchmer (who had worked with Hooper and Harrison) joined him, so the business became J. J. Scotchmer and Son.
Joe Taylor, Melbourne:
Known as ‘Joe Taylor, The Tailor’ operated from at least 1906 at 109 Bourke Street and 69 Swanston Street. They were successful enough to open branches in Footscray, Richmond, North Melbourne, Brunswick and Sydney. He was a master of self-promotion, and claimed ancestry to a line of notable English tailors who had dress royalty and Prime Ministers.
He made a big deal of selling bargain price (5 pound) suits of quality tweed post war, and this was part of his undoing. The price was not sustainable, and he used cheaper quality material, passing it off as the brand name product. This resulted in him being found guilty of breach of contract and fined. He was insolvent from 1922 to 1924.
J. P. Jorgenson, Marysborough:
Julius Peter Jorgenson was the son of a Danish born tailor. He set up as a tailor in Maryborough, Queensland.
Kewley & Millsom, Melbourne:
William David Kewley and Henry Alfred Thomas Millsom were high class tailors, ladies costume and habit makers in the Empire Arcade, 266 Flinders Street, next to the Mutal Store, from around 1906 until their partnership was dissolved in 1914. Mr Millsom moved to Queensland and later Numurak Victoria, with Kewley continuing in Flinders Street.
Kitchener & Co. Ltd., Sydney:
From 1910 the first version of this company, owned by William Charles Chorley (see also the entry further down page) was named Kitchener Tailoring Co, becoming Kitchener Ltd in 1911. It was a naval and military outfitters in George St, then Hunter Street, Sydney. It existed under this name until at least the 1990s. (Some items are labelled as Sandhurst. Kitchener & Co. Pty. Ltd. )
Leviathan Limited, Melbourne:
The Leviathan Limited was a tailoring/retail firm from 1865 until 1972. They built the Leviathan Building on the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth Streets in 1912-13, the ground floor of which has been separated into smaller stores since the late 1970s. The firm had a link with another Victorian icon, Fletcher Jones, as Mr David Fletcher Jones was a director of Leviathan Ltd in the 1950s.
Lincoln Stuart & Co., Melbourne:
Francis (Frank) Stuart lived 1844 -1910. He was apprenticed to a draper in Sydney, but as he eloped with his bosses’ daughter, he high-tailed it to Melbourne in 1866. He worked for McIvor & Lincoln, and on the death of McIvor in 1889 the company was registered as Lincoln Stuart & Co. ltd. In 1885 they were contracted to supply uniforms for the NSW Sudan regiment. The Australian War Memorial has a doublet from a uniform of the Victorian Scottish Regiment (circa 1900) and Museum Victoria has a straw boater hat from the company. The company was taken over by John Snow & Co. Ltd in 1926, but traded under this name until at least 1951. See more in his biography; http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stuart-francis-frank-8704
London Stores Limited, Melbourne:
Frank Samuel Meyers (1869 -1931) established this tailoring firm in Adelaide in 1896. He expanded to Melbourne, Launceston, Hobert, Colac and Castlemaine and publicly listed the company in 1911. Franks’s son Valleck continued the business after his father’s death. They made uniforms during WW2.
Louis Epstein Pty Ltd, Melbourne:
Louis Aaron Valentine Epstein was born in England in 1879. His family emigrated to Melbourne in 1889. Of his ten children three sons, Keith, Phillip and Garth, joined his tailoring business which was located in Epstein House, 133 Flinders Street, Melbourne. They maintained the firm until retiring, gaining a reputation as bespoke tailors as well as uniform and equestrian clothing manufacturers (they supplied Victorian police uniforms). The firm was the first importers and retailers of Levi Strauss jeans in Australia.
Lowes Ltd, Sydney and Newcastle:
Founded in 1898 as W. Lowe and Company, tailors and outfitters, and still trading as a chain of men’s, boys’ and school wear stores. In 1911 it was formed into Lowes. It existed as a single store until expanding in 1948.
L. Sullivan, Euroa:
In 1919-1920 Laurence Sullivan advertised his tailoring shop in the former E.T. Stammers (also country tailors) store.
Lunn & Holmes, Shepparton:
In 1922 Arthur Lunn and Tom Holmes, who had previously worked for John Zimmerman’s tailoring concern in Maryborough, established their own business in Shepparton at 170 Wyndham Street. They prospered and listed the company in 1929. Tragically, Mr Lunn died suddenly of a seizure whilst driving his car. He was only 47 years at the time. The company continued until 1958.
Mark & Philip, Ballarat:
These tailors operated from bridge Street, Ballarat in the 1930-1950s.
Marks & Kent, Melbourne:
Marks & Kent first advertised in Melbourne newspapers in 1884. Their tailoring and outfitting business was in the “The Little Monster” store, 107 Swanston Street (current site of the Manchester United Building). In 1886 Henry Morris Marks and Albert Samuel Kent ended their partnership with Kent continuing alone, possibly until 1891. He left for West Australia before 1903 and died there in 1916.
Henry (Harry) Morris Marks (Zvi Ben Moshe) became a sharebroker and lived in Albert Park. He died in 1909.
Mather Bros, Ballarat:
James Walter Oliphant Mather, a Scot by birth, was a tailor in Armstrong Street, Ballarat. In 1918, two years before he died, he handed over his business to his sons, Walter Percival, James Lewis and Francis Richard to run as Mather Brothers. James died in 1931 and ‘Perce” retired in 1946. I don’t know if the business continued after this.
Miller’s the Clothiers was an early Ballarat institution. It must have predated 1863, as it issued trade tokens that were banned in Victoria from that year.
Established by Sir James Anderson Murdoch (1867-1939) in 1893, it was claimed to be “the world’s largest store for men and boy’s ware” in 1928. James had previously worked for Hordern’s (see story above). The store still existed after WW2, when was sold to Walton’s.
Newbury & Son, Melbourne:
Charles Hyatt Newbury junior, son of Charles Hyatt Newbury senior, grocer, and later his son, Charles Robert Newbury, were mercers and drapers in City Road, Emerald Hill (now South Melbourne) from before 1890 until at least 1922. The next Charles (Renton) Newbury let down the family by becoming an orthodontist.
O. A. Plunkett, Parade Norwood:
Oliver Ambrose Plunkett (1870-1941) advertised his tailoring from 1894 to 1914 in the Parade, Norwood. Olly was a cricketer, footballer, athlete, and member of the Druid’s Lodge.
O’Brien & Earle, Melbourne:
Frederick Davidson Earle (1888-1947) and Lorne Alfred O’Brien were tailors in the Manchester Unity Buildings around 1929 to 1956.
O’Neill & Co., Sydney:
Michael O’Neill was a master tailor in Sydney. In 1843 he moved to King Street then in 1844 to Bridge Street. In 1847 he was planning to leave Sydney due to ill health, but if so, he soon returned as he advertised as he recommenced business in 1848. He advertised as “M. O’Neill & Co., Outfitters and Tailors” at 555 George Street (opposite Bridge Street) until 1855, and died in 1856.
Merchant shipping company uniform button: Edward Smith
From 1853 there was advertised the tailors “O’Neill & Ross” then later “O’Neill & Co” in Lower George Street. This was James O’Neill, possibly a relative (?son). There is a connection with the O’Neill’s of Maitland, New South wales, where another James O’Neill ran a draper’s store in the 1860s.
According to the Australian National Maritime Museum:
“Howard Smith Limited was established in 1854 by Captain William Howard Smith, who began transporting both people and supplies to the goldfields. Originally founded as William Howard Smith and Sons Pty Ltd, the company became Howard Smith Company Ltd in 1901 and in 1914 changed to Howard Smith Limited. The company has interests in distribution of hardware, towage and safety. According to deListed Howard Smith Ltd. was delisted from the Australian Stock Exchange on 17 October 2001 because it was taken over (compulsory) by Wesfarmers Retail Pty Ltd.”
It is therefore likely that the button came from the business belonging to James, but possibly Michael.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 29th May 1931
Palmers (F. J. Palmers and Son’s Ltd) was a menswear department store selling “Everything for Mankind and The Boy”. The photo below, from the 1930s in the NSW State Library collection, shows the store close to Murdoch’s.
Frederick John Palmer was born in 1854 in Bristol, England. He started as a hat manufacturer in Sydney in 1880, then expanded into tailoring and mercery. His son Ernest Albert Palmer would run the Haymarket branch of their business. He died suddenly after a short illness in 1920, at the age of 63 years.
Pike Brothers, Brisbane:
Two English brothers, Edwin and Walter Pike, came to Brisbane in 1883. They established their business, Pike Brothers, in 1885.
They were successful, and opened branches around Queensland, as well as an office in London. In 1956 the firm was bought by the Melbourne outfitters, Leviathan although stores continued to trade under the name ‘Pikes Brothers’, then later ‘Pikes’.
“Price & Co”, Sydney:
Price and Co were tailors from 1878 at 114 King Street, Sydney, then from 1915 at 329 George Street. The article below shows they did military work.
The company was started as woollen importers and merchant tailors by Richard Atkinson Price and his brother Thomas Atkinson Price. The brothers were both involved in mining and politics. Richard died in 1936, aged 71 years. Tom died of pneumonia in 1922 at the age of 60 years.
In 1906 the company was bankrupt, but it must have survived because in 1917 they were proud to be flicking the switch of their new, Australian invented air-gas lighting plant at the store. The company may have closed upon Thomas’s death.