5th January 2024

Merchant Marine Uniform Button

Australasian United Steam Navigation Company (A.U.S.N.Co.)

State Library Victoria ID 1711831. Dates between 1887-1904.

This passenger, mail and cargo carrier was formed in 1887 from the merger of the Australasian Steam Navigation Company, (see  http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/uniform-buttons-2/companies-and-clubs-including-merchantile-marine/#Australasian_Steam_Navigation_Company) and the Queensland Steam Shipping Company and lasted until 1961. They provided services to the Australian coast and Pacific islands, especially Fiji. The Australiasian S.N.Co.  had run from 1851-1887, and had itself evolved from the Hunter River Steam Navigation Co., 1839-1851. During the gold rush period, it had provided services to Victoria. The Queensland S.S.Co had run from 1881- 1887.

The firm was vital to the training of merchant marine officers “being for most of its existance the only company which engaged apprentices.” (Fitchett 1976:45) Ships were requisitioned during both World Wars by the Government, for use as troop ships, hospital ships and for defense duties.

Buttons from the shipping line include those backmarked:

C. Hemsley, Sydney : Supplied uniforms from 1871-1895.

W. Johns, Brisbane : A large drapers that supplied costumes, operating from 1906-1930.

Stokes & Sons: Unlike the others listed here, this firm were button manufacturers, not uniform suppliers.

E. E. Kersey, Sydney : A hatter & mercer from 1900-1909, whereafter he traded as Kersey & Crawford. I have only seen his backmarks on shipping line buttons.

H. F. Axon, Brisbane : A tailor from 1888 until retiring in 1933. he was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron in Sydney, which would explain his link with shipping.

Backmark: Stokes & Sons.

These are both backmarked H.F. Axon, but are finished differently, so probably were supplied from 2 sources. The large variety of backmarks presumably is due to the long period of trading, and the large number of ships associated with the firm. Buttons were also supplied by Firmin and E. Stillwell & Sons.

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