Historic Letterheads Uncovered

Before electronic communications, paper letters reigned supreme. Now perceived as ‘just that space where the company’s address is written’, letterheads were once so much more – an influential device businesses used in convincing people they were the best.

Letter from H.T. Seymour Ltd to Town Clerk Municipality of Marrickville, 22 April 1922

As one of the earliest examples of direct marketing, letterheads offered a quick outline about a business. But – like the company logo that sits silently in the footer of today’s emails – letterheads are more than mere adornments; they offer revealing insights into the history of the visual and commercial arts in Australia.

Australia’s growing population and an expanding economy fuelled a thriving art scene, with creative industry embracing marketing strategies to gain an advantage over competitors.

The interwar period saw increasing stylisation in commercial arts, particularly in the Art Deco style. Advertisers incorporated such designs into their promotional material to imbue themselves and their goods with an aura of sophisticated modernity. This visual aesthetic would subsequently give rise to the graphic design field.

Letter from The Austral Brick Limited to Town Clerk Municipality of Council St Peters, 9 September 1930

By examining the humble letterhead as a historical document, we can see the changing way that businesses sold themselves, as well as the evolution of Australia’s commercial and visual arts industries.

Letter from Laws Limited Bread Manufacturers to the Mayor of Marrickville, 27 May 1936

For us, the letterhead is a reflection of a bygone era. Although the companies, products and buildings depicted may no longer exist, they are survived on the letterhead.

Letterheads Uncovered delves into this paper world, using correspondence received between 1921 and 1960 by some of the former Municipalities that make up the current Inner West Council area.


All images are sourced from Inner West Council Archives collection for further informaiton regarding this collection email: history@innerwest.nsw.gov.au

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