31st December 2023

Department of Commerce of USA, Special Consular report


In 1916 this report was released for the benefit of American manufacturers, giving them information about potential markets around the world. It included a list of Australian dealers and importers, “dry goods” stores and clothing factories. One of these was the Phoenix Clothing Co, King Street, West Melbourne.

Phoenix Clothing Co, King Street, West Melbourne

The Phoenix Clothing Factory, run by Mr Albion Walkley was operating from around 1860, producing men’s and boys clothing. Their lease expiring, they moved to Queens Street in 1890. In 1893 Walkley testfied at a hearing into “sweating”. His claims show that issues regarding tariffs and wage awards were as much an issue then as now.

The Argus (Mebourne), 22nd June 1893 page 7.

“Sweating” is the system of subcontracting work, particularly in the garment trade. To win a contract the middlemen, the “sweaters”, had to be very competitive, which meant their workers were poorly paid. It is from this term that “sweat-shop” derives.

In 1895 they opened a new branch in Williamstown.

Williamstown Chronicle, 20th April 1895 page 3.

Unfortunately that year, after “drinking rather freely”, he was found drowned, floating in the Yarra River, aged only 45 years. He left a wife and three children. M Edward Pleasance took over the firm. They were amongst successful tenderers for uniforms for the Department of Defence in 1904, in 1907 for producing waterproof khaki greatcoats, and in 1911 for shirt tunics for the cadet corps. They also made tramways uniforms from 1913-1916. They were still in business in 1931.

Department Enviroment & Energy, photo rt16040. The former Phoenix Clothing Co was located in the corner building.

Weekly Times (Melbourne), 1st September 1928 page 54.

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