Buttons inscribed with the name of tailoring firms and department stores, as Robyn Caddy (of Victorian Button Collector’s fame) has noted, are often overlooked but really interesting. They are found commonly by metal detectors in old gold-rush areas and whilst of historical interest, are rarely valuable. Many are made of vegetable ivory (Tagua Nut), horn or metal. In the book ‘The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archaeologies of the Nineteenth Century’ edited by Alasdair Brooks it states that “Birmingham button makers stamped buttons for local tailors, outfitters, and department stores.” The article below explains that these buttons also came from Italy.
They each have a story to tell, a story of the many tailoring families, as well as tailoring departments within larger stores, that were an important part of our history. These stores supported not only city and town folk, but through their mail-ordering services, farming and remote communities.
Alfred Bowley & Company, Melbourne:
As a naval and military uniform outfitter in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, they were importing items such as buttons from London from before federation. The company continued to at least 1945, when Alfred Bowley died.
The above button of the Commonwealth Cadet Corps is from Carol’s collection. It dates from 1901-1910 (Edward VII) but is not marked as to where it was made. The infantry button (also from Carol’s collection) is marked BOWLEY & CO MELBOURNE.
From an auction advert.
above: Carol tells me this style button was for nurses uniforms.
A.S. Austen: Melbourne
Australian Knitting Mills Limited: Richmond
Burkby and Waggen: Sale
Frederick James Burby and his son-in-law, Vincent St.Clair Wagglen, took over a tailoring business in Sale in 1923.
Less than 18 months later they dissolved the partnership, with Mr Wagglen continuing alone. There must be a sad tale underlying this, as he only kept the business going for another two years before starting again in Sunshine. This business in turn only lasted for around 3 years. In the following years he was separated from his wife then in 1941 he died at the young age of 50 years.
Charles Anderson and Co. Ltd , Sydney:
Charles Anderson was born in 1838. He came to Australia from Scotland about 1880 with his wife Mary-Jane. He established a large hat factory on the corner of Nicholls and Albion Streets, Surry Hills, next to his home, Durham Hall. The business had it’s beginning a decade pre- federation importing hats and was initially called the ‘New Federal Hat Mills of Sydney’. From as early as 1895 he was described as a “military tailor”. The company was registered as ‘Charles Anderson and Company Limited’ in 1903 and was called ‘Anderson’s Industries Limited’, by the time of his death in 1924. They supplied uniforms, trimming and buttons for the armed forces and police. Examples, like the above one, are found in the Powerhouse Museum and Australian War Memorial collections. Here is an exert from N.S.W. tenders showing orders for buttons from the company in 1910.
Charles Kelso Moore (1834-1894) was an Irishman and merchant who lived in Sydney from 1859 onwards. His business supplied tenders for the public service and Post Office. He was very involved in public life, running as Major for Waverley, as well as being involved in the New South Wales Rifle Brigade and the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron.
Clayton and Croucher: South Melbourne
All I can find is that these gentlemen were tailors/clothing manufacturers operating from the corner of Docas and Clarendon Streets, South Melbourne, in about 1925-27.
C. R. Martin, Melbourne:
Charles Roper Martin (1833-1910) arrived in Melbourne in 1852 on the same ship as my husband’s great-grandfather. In 1885 he established an importing business in Flinders Lane, particularly gold and silver lace. He was a pioneer of the Melbourne Cavalry Troop, and rose to the rank of Commanding officer, retiring with the rank of Major. His interest in military matters extended to importing/manufacturing of military trappings. The button above shows a Queen Victoria crown and was produced for the Queensland Railways.
Davies & Leon: Melbourne
Dunlop Weatherproofs Australia Pty. Ltd.: Wagga Wagga
I’m including Dunlop as this button is like a tailor’s button, even though they were clothing manufacturers.
In 1944 the Dunlop rubber Co. Ltd took over a munitions factory in Wagga Wagga and registered a garment division of the company, to make uniforms for the military. After the war they continued as the largest single employer in the region, only closing in 1977.
Edward Hughes: Sydney
This establishment operated from Erkine Street, Sydney, from around 1902 to 1913.
E.J. & D. Curran: Bathurst
Edward J. Curran (originally Curren) was originally a cutter for W.G. Ward in Bathurst. He set up his own business, Curran and Taylor, in 1892, then E.J. & D. Curran (with his brother Daniel) in 1895, which was very successful.
This remarkable man went back to school, studying science and law, and worked as a Barrister in Sydney. He then studied medicine, and went on to establish the Opthamologly Department at Kansas University, USA, becoming known as “the miracle man of Kansas”, and was a pioneer in the area of glaucoma. He was also the Professor of Human Anatomy and Physiology at the Kansas University. Not bad for a tailor! He died in 1962.
E.THOMAS Pty.Ltd: St Kilda
Mr Elijah Thomas, tailor and outfitter of Grey Street, St Kilda. According to the information found in http://www.historyaustralia.org.au/ifhaa/bios/elijah.htm , he came from England around 1900. Three generations of his family operated “E.Thomas Pty. Ltd. Mercers and Men’s Ware” from then until 1980.
F. A. Johnson, Richmond:
Frederick Adolph Johnson was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1888. From 1930 he lived in Richmond, moving to Morwell around 1939.
Fletcher Jones: Warrnambool
David Fletcher Jones, clothing manufacturer and retailer, was born in Bendigo in 1895. He purchased a tailoring and menswear business in Warrnambool in 1924. He moved his business into making quality fitted trousers, including for the army. In 1948 constructed a new factory on the site of a former rubbish dump, with extensive gardens that became, and remain, a tourist attraction. In the late 1940s he changed the business into a co-operative with his employees, renaming it Fletcher Jones and Staff Pty Ltd. In the mid 1950s they extended into women’s clothes. Mr Jones died in 1977. The business was sold in 1998. Many of the stores, including the Warrnambool factory, were sold 2011.
Gilbert A. Parker: Melbourne
Gilbert Alexander Parker was born in 1897 in Bunbury, West Australia. His family moved to Melbourne after the death of his father. He started work as a tailor’s cutter, progressed to tailor and then manager. In 1929 to 1931 he advertised for sewers and machinists to work at 152 Elizabeth Street, 4th Floor.
Guest & Glover: Melbourne
Guest and Glover were tailors from around 1930-1952, at first on the second floor, The Block, then later at 234 Collins Street.
Haigh Brothers: Melbourne
Haigh Brothers were tailors and outfitters in Collins Street from 1853 through until at least 1926.
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!
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.
John Thomson & Company: Hamilton
Around 1866 the Thomson family, Scots who moved to Hamilton in 1852, opened an iron store in Gray Street. This was replaced with a stone structure in 1875. The success of the store necessitated several expansions in the following decades. In 1936 the company was listed on the stock exchange. It was the first department store in Western Victoria and supplied ” every requisite for household, farm or station.”
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.P.Jorgenson: Marysborough (Queensland)
Julius Peter Jorgenson was the son of a Danish born tailor. He set up as a tailor in Maryborough, Queensland.
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 1970’s. The firm had a link with another Victorian icon, Fletcher Jones, as Mr David Fletcher Jones was a director of Leviathan Ltd in the 1950’s.
Lincoln Mills: Coburg
Since around 1801, when convicts started making woollen blankets in Parramatta, mills have been a part of Australia’s industrial landscape. Lincoln Mills were built in Coburg in 1909.
Lincoln Stuart & Co. Pty Ltd.: 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 (c 1900) and Museum Victoria has a straw boater hat from the company. The company was taken over by John Snow & Co. Ltd in 1926. 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 & Company: 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: 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 Pty. Limited: 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.
Mather Brothers: 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’Brien & Earle: Melbourne
Frederick Davidson Earle (1888-1947) and Lorne Alfred O’Brien were tailors in the Manchester Unity Buildings around 1929 to 1956.
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 (for more, see the tailor’s button page) although stores continued to trade under the name ‘Pikes Brothers’, then later ‘Pikes’.
Richard Charles Hagen (1855-1944) worked as a tailor for Farmer’s (see above) before starting his own business in 1880.
R. C. Norman: Melbourne
Richard Charles Norman was born in Middlesex in 1874. He was a tailor in Melbourne from at least 1903 and died in 1943.
Samuel Holden: North Fitzroy
Samuel Holden (1869-1935), then later his son Samuel Garth Holden (1894-1958), were tailors with a shop in Brunswick Street, North Fitzroy. Samuel senior was listed in local directories as a tailor from 1888. It seems he had some employment issues;
Shierlaw & Co., Adelaide:
The Shierlaw’s were tailors, outfitters and merchants from 1860 who had a large mail order business. They supplied uniforms for South Australian Military Forces from around 1877 through to 1901. They also supplied uniforms for station masters, the Cadet Corps and the police. In 1906 when they opened a new store of “excellent design” in Gisbourne, New Zealand. The business continued in family hands until approximately 1920.
Sinclair’s Pty. Limited: Melbourne
Arthur James Sinclair started a tailors and costumers around 1910. It must have been a bit posh as it was known as ‘Sinclair’s of Collins Street’. The business went into liquidation in 1938.
Snow’s : Melbourne
As early as 1892 John Snow and Co. “the increasingly popular and premium drapery emporium of inland Victoria” were operating in Ballarat.
Around 1915 they opened in Flinders Street opposite the station. In 1926 they purchased the business of Lincoln, Stuart Pty Ltd. The men’s wear department was sold to be run as a separate business, “Snow’s Men’s Wear Ltd.” in 1937 with the parent company continuing in Hawthorn. They moved from their premises to next door in Flinders Street, with Tatersalls moving in, and later on Yooralla. This Art Deco building, although much renovated, still stands today but it’s days may be numbered as developers wish to demolish and rebuild.
Waldrop Pty. Limited: Melbourne
George Waldrop started his tailoring and mercers business around 1885. It was taken over by Roger David Pty. Ltd. in 1977.
William Chorley, tailor, came to Australia from England in 1883. ‘Chorley & Co. Tailor and Robe Maker’ in George Street, Sydney, became renowned and specialised in formal court dress and service uniforms. The firm continued until 1980. See also http://www.bchg.org.au/index.php/en/people/individuals/a-f/56-chorley-w-xxxx
Published in The Sun (Sydney) 29th January 1950.
W.D. Fetherston: Sydney
William Daniel Fetherston, tailor, advertised from 1919.
W. Gribbles & Co; Ballarat.
W. Gribbles and Co. , tailors, were located at 27 Sturt Street, Ballarat. They used material from the Ballarat Woollen Mills for their expertly cut suits. They bought out an existing business in 1887 and were still trading in 1954.
W. G. Scates: Swanston St. Melbourne
William Gardiner Scates was born in Ballarat East in 1892. He became a tailor with outlets in Swanston Street and also Footscray. He died in 1973.
W. H. Bladwell: Goulburn
William Henry Bladwell, from Bath, Somerset, opened a tailoring establishment in Goulburn in 1882 in conjunction with his father. This firm ran until around 1950.
William Henderson, Sydney:
William Henderson was a warehouseman/merchant whose company, William Henderson & Co., Pitt Street, Sydney, supplied military and government uniforms and buttons by tender in the 1880s to 1890s.
Wiseman Bros., Melbourne:
In the 1880s Albert and Walter ran a business in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, as soft-goods warehousemen. Along with their brother Arthur, they were well regarded as philanthropists.
W. Monckton (a.k.a. Mockton or Moncton), Fitzroy, Melbourne:
Walter was born in Fitzroy in 1856. Around 1870 he was apprenticed as a tailor, and with his brother John continued in this trade until retirement. He first traded from Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, and later in Flinders Street, Melbourne. He emmigrated to Surrey, England some time after 1919 and lived out his years there.
This reference came from a 1913 street directory;
There is a picture of a ‘W. Moncton’ uniform available via Trove:
W. Morrow; Port Pirie
William Morrow was born in Bairnsdale, Victoria in 1872. He became a tailor in Port Pirie
from 1891-1915, when he became a member of the South Australian Parliament until his
death in 1934. He had been a local councillor and mayor in Port Pirie, and was prominent
in the South Australian Churches of Christ.
Woulfe & Son: Brisbane
Patrick Woulfe (1888-1948) set up his tailors establishment in Adelaide Street, Brisbane, in 1913. He was a successful businessman; by 1939 he employed 400 people with outlets in other Queensland cities. The family continued with the business after his untimely death, with it finally being wound up in 1972.