Department store buttons

Department stores often had there origins in drapers, grocers and merchant stores. Some started as early as the 1840s to 1850s.

Anthony Hordern & Sons:  Sydney

metal button

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vegetable ivory

Anthony Hordern & Sons evolved from a store established by Anthony Hordern junior in 1842. With 52 acres of retail space,  it was at one stage the largest retail store in the world.  The company set up factories across Sydney to manufacture a wide range of goods including clothing.  The company continued until 1969.

The Palace Emporium, opened in 1905 in Sydney.

The Palace Emporium, opened in 1905 in Sydney.

Buckley and Nunn: Bourke Street, Melbourne

Mars Buckley c1825-1905.

In 1851 a draper store was opened in Bourke Street by Mars Buckley (c.1825–1905) and his partner, Crumpton John Nunn (1828–1891), selling goods imported from England.  Nunn would return to England to run that end of the business.  Buckley was successful in expanding the business, but sold it after the death of his partner.  It was now know as “Buckley and Nunn Pty Ltd”.  After the company was listed publically the two buildings that survive today were built. In 1982 they were taken over by Davis Jones.

The western building (next to Myers) was built in 1911-12.

The eastern building was built in 1933-34 as a menswear store.

David Jones:  Sydney

David Jones (1838-1887) was a Welsh immigrant merchant who opened his first store in 1838.  It continues today as the oldest department store in the world that still operates under its original name.Rundle Street Mall store, 1920

Rundle Street Mall store, 1920.

David Jones

David Jones

Back of a NSW Military Forces uniform button.

Back of a NSW Military Forces uniform button.

Farmer & Company:  Sydney

Sir William Farmer (1814-1908) set up a draper shop in Sydney in 1840  which went on to become a significant retail company.  It was the first company to close at 1pm on Saturday for employees to have a half day holiday.  They acquired the first commercial radio broadcasting license in Australia in 1923 and broadcast as 2FC (Farmer & Co).  Farmer’s lasted until 1960.

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Farmer's store

The Imperial price has been crossed out and 10cents written o the card; so this must date from around 1966.

 Carded buttons for Farmer’s, circa 1966.

Similar card without the Farmer’s branding. In Helen’s collection.











Foy & Gibson Pty Ltd:  Collingwood

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This was the first department stores in Victoria.  Mark Foy,  a draper from Ireland,  established a drapers store in 1870 in Smith Street,  Collingwood.  His son Francis formed a partnership with William Gibson in 1883,  before selling out to Gibson.  They produced soft furnishings,  manchester,  clothing,  hats,  hardware,  leather goods,  furniture and food,  all in Collingwood.  Up to 2000 people were employed there.  They were pioneers in the use of steam and electrical power.  Branches were opened around the country.  The company was sold to Cox Brothers then progressively split up and sold to David Jones,  Woolworths and Harris Scarfe.

"Designed in Melbourne for Foy and Gibson's" 7th October 1930 the Argus

“Designed in Melbourne for Foy and Gibson Pty. Ltd.” 7th October 1930 The Argus (Melbourne).

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The factories and warehouses in Collingwood supplied the company’s department stores.

Gowing Brothers Limited: Sydney

John Ellis Gowing was born in 1835 in Suffolk.  He emmigrated to Sydney in 1857 and died in 1908.

John Ellis Gowing opened a drapery business in Sydney in 1863.  In 1868 he was joined by his brother Preston,  and Gowing Brothers was born.  It was a department store specialising in novelties,  camping gear and men’s wear,  and had trademarked lines of clothing.  Although an investment arm of the business survives today,  the last department store closed in 2006.

“Gowings perfect gentleman”.  The company boasted of pioneering affordable ready made suits made from Australian wool.

J. Miller Anderson & Co: Adelaide

This button reaches back to the early days of Adelaide. 

James Miller Anderson was a draper and merchant from 1857,  when the partnership of  ‘Miller, Anderson and Company’  was dissolved,  which in turn sprang from ‘Miller, Anderson and Hawkes’ (before the death of Robert Hawkes  in 1856.)   This in turn sprang from the former ‘Miller and Lucking’ in 1848,  and before that  ‘Miller and Bryden’s’  in 1843.  This  was preceeded by  ‘Sanders and Miller’  in 1841 which came about from the amalgamation of two drapers,  ‘Sanders and Whyte’  (from 1839) and ‘Miller and Gale’  (from 1840),  both situated in Hindley Street, Adelaide.  Whew!

A new store was built in 1863 which was used for the next century.  Around 1927 the Sydney company  ‘Marcus Clark & Co’  accquired the business.  Waltons bought  ‘Marcus Clark’  in 1966 then Venture bought Waltons in 1987.   Unfortunately,  Miller Anderson went into receivership the following year,  after 148 years of trading as the state’s oldest department store.

The Advertiser, 28th December 1936.

Illustration in the Advertiser, 12th July 1933.

Solomons Pty Ltd; Geelong

Solomon button: rather worn and hard to read, sorry.

In 1944 Solomon’s department store printed a pictorial history of the Geelong area as a fund raiser.  It included its own story:

The Mutual Store,  Melbourne

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The Mutual Store Limited was Melbourne’s first department store,  established in 1872.  A fire destroyed the original building in 1891,  but was successfully rebuilt.

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The second building.

The department store traded until 1965.  It was used for the Council of Adult Education for many years,  and then converted into apartments.