Department stores, who often sold branded merchandise, commonly had their origins as drapers, grocers or merchant stores. Some started as early as the 1840s to 1850s. Other stores that had there own branded buttons were haberdashery/sewing stores. These were sometimes single stores, but sometimes a successful chain of stores across the nation.
Jas Marshall and Co., Adelaide
James Wadell Marshall (1845-1925) was born in Scotland and moved to Adelaide in 1867. 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 in 1879, and became a limited liability company in late 1901. They grew to be a large department store, until they were taken over by Myers in 1928.
J. Miller Anderson & Co., Adelaide
These buttons reach back to the early days of Adelaide.
James Miller Anderson (1828-1923) 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’ acquired 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.
From: The Advertiser, 28th December 1936 page 1.
John Martin & Co. Ltd., Adelaide
In 1866 Otto Peters and John Martin founded ‘Peters & Martin’ as a single fronted drapery store in Rundle Street. After Peters left in 1871 Martin continued on his own, successfully expanding into adjoining properties. By 1880 the company directors now included john Martin, Edward W. Hayward, of the prominent South Australian pioneering family, Richard Martin and W. Charles. The Hayward family would continue to be involved until it was sold to David Jones in 1985.
The business became a limited liability company in 1889. That year John Martin died, a victim of his own success, according to a newspaper story …
‘John Martin’s’, also known as ‘Johnnies’, developed a national chain store in 1990 (Venture). In the 1990s store were sold to Harris Scarfe, re-badged as David Jones stores, and closed .The last store under the John Martin name to close was the flagship store in the Rundle Mall on 18th March 1998.
John Thomson & Co., 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.”
Jones Bros., Port Adelaide
In 1864 Mr Vickery Young Jones (1845-1928) joined a drapery firm with his bother Zechariah Herbert (1847 -1923) joining around 1867. When the owner sold out in 1877 the brothers bought the firm. They were successful, expanding the business to 70 employees by 1898, with branches in Commercial Road, Port Adelaide, and also in Semaphore.
In 1908 the St Vincent Street, Port Adelaide branch of John Martin’s was sold to the Jones Brothers. By the time Zachariah retired, the business was described as having drapers, gentlemen’s outfitters, carpet, linoleum, furniture and millinery departments. Vickery and two sons, William Henry and Sydney Herbert Jones, bought out his share and continued under the same name. Arthur, the eldest son of Zechariah, worked for the firm. Cottle & Lovegrove bought the firm in 1923.
Kmart Australia Ltd.
These company was a joint venture between G. J. Coles and the owners of the American Kmart, S. S. Kresge Co from 1968. The first of their variety stores opened in Burwood East, Victoria, in 1969. Since 1994 Coles, now owned by Wesfarmers, has had full ownership.
Lincraft, a haberdashery/sewing store chain, was formerly Suzanne Silks from 1938 until around 1982, when the name changed to Suzannes Silks-Lincraft, then to Lincraft from 1985.
In 2005 it became Lincraft Australia Pty. Ltd. under new owners. The elephant design was originally a Beauclaire design, then used by Beutron, indicating that at least some of its buttons were sourced from Beutron.
Thomas Hodges Mate, born in Kent in 1810, came to Australia in 1833. Whilst grazing in the district, in 1850 he opened a general store at the corner of Hume and Townsend Streets, Albury, to supply the village (of approximately 100 people) and surrounding district.
Mate was a fair boss, and ahead of the times in granting his staff a half day holiday each week as well as 2 weeks paid holidays each year. He served as a councillor, mayor and member of Parliament. He retired in 1886 and died in Sydney in 1894.
In 1946 the firm was sold to Burns, Philp & Co, and continued to trade under the Mate’s name. Mate’s closed in 1976 when Burn’s Philp sold to Walton’s.
Mutual Store, Melbourne
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.
The department store traded until 1965. It was used for the Council of Adult Education for many years, and then converted into apartments.
Myers Emporium, Melbourne
Russian brothers, Sidney and Elcon Myer, started their department store empire with a single store in Bendigo in 1900, expanding to Melbourne in 1911. In 1928 they opened an Adelaide store.
Myers did not manufacture, but they did purchase and import directly from manufacturers. Sidney died in 1934, then in February of 1938 Elcon Boevski Myer( an elder brother of Sidney) died. He had preceded Sidney to Australia, and been involved with the business from its very start in Bendigo. A nephew, Norman Myer, would take over as the new head of the business. In September that year they held an exhibition of marble statues within the store.
Nock & Kirby, Sydney
Nock & Kirby was a retail store trading in hardware and house hold goods in Sydney from 1894 until 1983. The original partners were Thomas Nock and Herbert Kirby (1870-1954). The company was acquired by Burns Philip and renamed BBC Hardware.
Robertson and Moffat, Melbourne
What we now know as Bourke St was originally known as Great Bourke Street from the 1840s until around 1900, and the section of Little Bourke street between Queen and Elizabeth Streets was known as Post Office Place. (This was never official, but was widely used from 1866.) William Robertson and William Turner Moffat came to Melbourne during the gold rush to start a drapery store in Great Bourke Street, to take advantage of those who found gold and wished to spend up big!
As early as 1892 John Snow and Co. “the increasingly popular and premium drapery emporium of inland Victoria” were operating in Ballarat. They grew into a department store.
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.
Solomons Pty. Ltd., Geelong
In 1944 Solomon’s department store printed a pictorial history of the Geelong area as a fund raiser. It included its own story:
From the State Library of Victoria.
They were formerly, from 1926-1968, Lindsay’s, and later after acquisition by Myer Emporium, renamed Lindsay’s Target. They started opening ‘Target Stores’ from 1970. In 1973 they were renamed Target Australia. Today they are a chain of variety stores owned by the Wesfarmers group.
The price of the buttons would indicate an early-late 1970s dating. Some, if not all, were supplied by Beutron. There are 3 variations of cards; the earliest with 2 rectangular holes at the top, and pricing 12-24 cents. Then there are cards with 3 holes are priced 15-89 cents. Lastly, there are “Target by Beutron” cards priced 31-90 cents.
Below is a branded staff uniform button.
The Venture chain of department stores existed from 1970 to 1994, starting from Geelong, Victoria to spread over South Australia, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. It’s story overlaps with that of many other famous department stores and businessmen.
The business was started by three former Target Store employees, Robert Lee, Robert Morris and Bernie Buckley. In 1973 South Australian ‘John Martins’ bought into the company and eventually owned 100%. John Martins was then bought by Solomon Lew in 1981 then later to the Melbourne based Cooke family. When John Martins was sold to David Jones, the Venture portion remained with the Cooke family. In 1987 Venture bought Waltons department stores.
Unfortunately, with increasing competition from larger competitors, Venture’s profitability suffered in the late 1980s, and despite being sold to new owners on two occasions, closed in 1994.
Wills & Co, Adelaide
G. & R Wills & Co were a major softgoods wholesaler in South Australia started by brothers George (1824-1906) and Richard Wills ( 1829-1862). Richard arrived in Adelaide in 1849 with some drapery, and set up a store. They moved to Rundle Street in 1853.
George returned to England in 1859 to manage the purchasing for the company, leaving the Australian end of the business under the care of other partners. Unfortunately, Richard died in 1862 of typhoid. His son Kenneth would join the firm after discharge from the army in 1919. He would restructure the company, leading it through the Great depression years. By 1922 the company had branches in Melbourne, Perth, Fremantle, Kalgoorie, Broken Hill as well as agencies in Brisbane and Sydney. In 1946 the firm was listed publicly and are still trading as wholesalers.