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.
HOSTED BY THE MARRICKVILLE HERITAGE SOCIETY
Cycling Communities: Cycling clubs in Sydney, 1860s-2000s’
Date: Sat 24 Nov at the Herb Greedy Hall, Petersham Road.
Time: 10:30am -12:00pm
Speaker: Dr Marc Rerceretnam, Cyclo-historian
The formation and popularity of bicycle clubs in Australia closely reflects the costs of purchasing a bicycle. In the 1860s it was largely a pastime for the rich and affluent, and by the 1890s it widened to include the middle classes. However by the turn of the twentieth century, with the rich and middle classes smitten with new motorized transportation like automobiles and motorcycles, opportunities to own a bicycle opened up for the first time to the working classes. As a result bicycle clubs flourished throughout the Australian social landscape. The decades following the Second World War saw growth in wealth and the growing affordability of personal motorized transportation. By the 1960s and especially in the 1970s, bicycle users turned away from the low tech bicycle towards the now affordable automobile. However by the 1990s and 2000s the bicycle acquired new meanings, practicalities and charm of bicycles were discovered yet again by new affluent professional classes.
Waratah Rovers Club 1 – Frank Walker glass slide collection, RAHS
Remember all those nuts and bolts General Motors used on Carrington Road Marrickville? These could have come straight from the Duly & Hansford factory two doors down.
Duly and Hansford opened its factory on 1 February 1927, when Mr Duly boasted the firm was “now in a position to supply the wants of the whole of Australia with bright nuts and bolts.” This impressed Federal Minister for Trade and Customs, Mr Herbert Pratten, who officially opened the factory. Pratten was a supporter of local industry and Australian-made products. He said, “if you buy the home-made article you keep both your goods and your money. If you buy outside all you get is the goods.”
Duly & Hansford soon expanded to springs and shock absorbers including Duofor and Personne-Reed brands. These were used by racing hero Wizard Smith in an attempt to break the land speed record according to an ad taken out by Duly & Hansford in the Sunday Times on 3 November 1929.
The Mystery Car (also known as ANZAC) was a 18.7 litre aircraft engine made by Rolls Royce mounted on a Cadillac limousine chassis with a streamlined racing car body (Eric North, 2004). Wizard Smith set the Australasian record at 90 Mile Beach near Auckland with a speed of 239 km per hour in January 1930. For more on Wizard Smith, see Clinton Walker (2012) Speed, Modernism and the Last Ride of Wizard Smith.
Duly & Hansford continued manufacturing automotive parts on Carrington Road Marrickville until 1968 when taken over by US automotive firm, TWR Inc, which operated the factory for another three decades. Duly & Hansford’s factory buildings are still used by the automotive industry today through repair and body shops.
NSW Manager for General Motors in the 1920s, Mr JF Potter, must have been looking for a site to establish General Motors as an industrial showpiece. He chose Carrington Road Marrickville. But why? How did this and other parts of Marrickville become a powerhouse of Australian manufacturing?
One thing you might know is that Carrington Road floods every now and again. There’s a reason for this. It’s built over the former Gumbramorra Swamp. The swamp drained south to the Cooks River, and in the early 1800s was a wild and dangerous place where escaped convicts and bushrangers hid. Later, some parts were turned into brickworks and farms, including dairy farms and market gardens around Carrington Road.
Pontiac Six, Motor Progress, No. 1, October 1926
So General Motors actually made cars in Marrickville? Yes! When you think about the car industry in Australia, you probably think Victoria and South Australia but cars were made across Australia for most of the Twentieth Century. The General Motors Australia assembly plant on Carrington Road Marrickville supplied cars to all of New South Wales.
On opening of the plant in November 1926, a car could be completed in just 30 minutes. Then by May 1927, a car was rolling off the assembly line every ten minutes. On 23 August 1927, the plant celebrated its 10,000th car in just the first nine months. It was a Pontiac Six.
Convertibles, family cars and commercial trucks were all made at the Marrickville plant. We’ve put together a list of the vehicles from trade publications and newspaper articles (below). General Motors cars from the 1920s like Chevrolet, Cadillac and Vauxhall are still well known to this day.
General Motors’ extensive range was the part of corporate strategy by American millionaire William C Durant. Mr Durant started General Motors in 1908. You can read about how he did this here. General Motors maintained its brands’ identities and this continued when General Motors purchased one of its major Australian suppliers, Holden in 1931. But more about that another time!
General Motors – Opening Day 30 October 1926. Source: General Motors Australia
In our first post, we introduced the General Motors-Holden factory on Carrington Road Marrickville. It’s still here today but we thought we’d share more about this historic building on its opening day on 30 October 1926.
The building was opened in front of enthusiastic well-wishers. Staff, dealers and suppliers celebrated the future of Australia’s motor trade. Buicks, Cadillacs, Chevrolets and Olds mobiles lined Carrington road.
Lang is welcomed by Innes Randolph, Managing Director of General Motors in Australia, and JT Potter, Manager of the Sydney Branch. Source: General Motors Australia
The crowd watched NSW Premier Jack Lang shake hands with the General Manager, Innes Randolph. Lang was not known for being cheerful, but photos from the day show him grinning with pride at the opening of the new factory. JT Potter is behind them – he chose the Marrickville site and oversaw construction.
Inside, Jack Lang officially opened the new plant. In his rasping voice, the Premier announced, “Factories are the milestones along the road Australia must travel to become a self-contained nation.” He continued, “There is no market like that created by the employment of local labour…the entire operation will all go to stimulate associated industries, and it will be a striking advertisement to the world of this country of ours.”
General Motors-Holden kept an album of photos from the day for nearly 100 years. Discover the 1926 Album for yourself.
Next time we’ll look at the factory in production.
Have you heard about the old General Motors-Holden factory in Marrickville? It’s right here at No. 10 Carrington Road. You can still see it for yourself. But why Marrickville? What did it mean for Australia and our industry?
Well, we’re excited to bring you the story of how a thin strip of land played a big role in the Twentieth Century. We’re unearthing new information all the time, so join us as we reveal a fascinating history, full of people, their stories and hopes for the future. So let’s go!
Our story starts in 1926. The American motor vehicle company General Motors wanted to expand. Australia seemed perfect – a wide-open land to explore, a wealthy and adventurous people and a prosperous economy.
Their key rival Ford had just fitted out an old wool store in Geelong. But General Motors had bigger ideas. It planned five modern assembly plants: Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney (yep you guessed it – on Carrington Road, Marrickville).
In Sydney, General Motors hired well-known commercial architects Ross and Rowe to build the new factory, and they built fast. The Sydney Morning Herald marvelled at the “speedy construction” (the design was completed in just 10 days) but the feat was impressive: reinforced concrete floor, shadowless light, 1000 electrical points and a fancy office building and staff dining hall.
Discover the Herald’s article from 1926 for yourself.
And what happened to the other General Motors assembly plants across Australia? Gone. This is the last standing.
Butchers of 205 Victoria Road Marrickville
There has been a butcher shop at 205 Victoria Road, Marrickville from 1911 up until the mid-1970s. The original building, a cottage and shop was demolished in 1936. The current flats and shops were rebuilt in its place.
Between the 1920s to the 1970s there were about 30 butchers in the suburb of Marrickville. Today there are about 16 butchers.
Join Us for History Week 2016, come and explore the historic collections of our neighbors in a colorful Exhibition. Explore the History of Annandale at the Tetch Gallery, or take a walk down memory lane on one of the walking tours.