Sydney used to have heaps of amazing kit from back in the early to mid 1900s:
Demolition Reveals 1911 Garage Wall Ad, King Street Newtown
That’s right, photos. Instead of a Video of the Week, I’m posting some exciting archeological photos I took for you just a few hours ago.
There was a fire near me recently. A dry cleaners burnt to the ground. The building has been demolished. And behind a demolished wall a well-preserved painted advertisement has been revealed
I guessed by the artwork and fonts that the ad was from 1911. A quick look at the Sands Directory tells me I’m about right. The Sands Directory was an annual listing of everyone who lived in Sydney with their addresses and occupations. The last Sands was published in 1932
In 1910, according to Sands, the site of the demolished dry cleaners was the Newtown Carriage Works — Arthur Dunn, proprietor. In 1911, it became H. Phippen’s motor garage. He was a motor engineer. By 1912, Phippen had left and Arthur Dunn’s Coachbuilding business had returned. Or, perhaps, between 1911 – 1914, the site was shared between the coach building and garage businesses – new technology piggybacking on the old. By 1915 the site was occupied by an upholsterer
Because of a locked wire gate I couldn’t get a full shot of this huge, vibrant ad from the street. So below is a series of shots covering the entire wall I took from the footpath. In this first photo, note ‘Cars for Hire’ and ‘Waratah Motor Spirit’. What would have been the demand for Car hire in 1911? Was H. Phippen ahead of his time? Did low demand beat his business? It’s not listed in the Sands Directory for 1912
Waratah Motor Spirit appears to have still been around in 1925 when you could buy it from twelve outlets around Sydney, according to an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald dated 28 Jan 1925. As you can see in the bottom of the wall ad, Waratah, was a product of the Neptune Oil Company. Neptune Oil began in Australia in 1905. A motoring website says Neptune’s Waratah brand was introduced in 1917. This ad proves the motoring historian wrong. The site became an upholsterers in 1915. An upholsterer wouldn’t be putting up an all-weather sign visible to passing motorists for Motor Spirit
Perdriau Tyres? Henry Perdriau entered the rubber importing business in Sydney in 1888. His Perdriau Rubber Co. Ltd. started manufacturing rubber parts in 1904 and finally merged with Dunlop in 1929 to form Dunlop Perdriau Rubber Co. Ltd. Could this be the earliest Perdriau wall sign extant? A Perdriau glass lantern slide ad from 1924 – 29 exists in the ANU Digital Collection in Canberra
It’s hard to see in the photo below, but on site I could just make out the phone number L1905. L stood for 5 and was the area prefix for Newtown and surrounding Inner West Sydney suburbs. Sydney phone numbers used one and two letter prefixes until the mid-1960s. The code was: A = 1, B = 2, F = 3, J = 4, L = 5, M = 6, U = 7, W = 8, X = 9, Y = 0
Some more pics. The sign-writing is of an extremely high standard. The Waratah is a beautiful piece of commercial art. The amount of effort involved in sign writing such a huge space by hand is quite extraordinary, especially if they used, as my grandfather did about the same time as a house painter, individually mixed paints. My grandfather would crush blocks of pigment with a mortar & pestle and mix the powder with linseed oil and I guess some kind of fixer. I particularly like the blue used in the top band of the sign. It’s a colour you don’t see now. The uneven durability of hand-made paint is revealed in the preservation of the different colours. The green lettering for the phone number and the red fill for the Waratah are the most deteriorated
Having been protected by the sun and weather for almost a hundred years by a brick wall, this is a most amazingly intact piece of commercial pre-WWI art
A new building will be erected on the site. Will the sign survive another 100 years? After the photos you’ll see the play list for this week’s Phantom Dancer on 2SER
Unfortunately some fucking idiot.....