Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When the Prince came to Ballarat in 1920

The rain fell in torrents on the cold June day, but excitement swept through the crowd.  The handsome Prince of Wales would arrive soon! The Lucas girls* massed on each side were especially delighted.  The Prince was going to formally open the Avenue of Trees and the impressive Arch of Victory, and the Lucas girls had waited a long time for this day.

The girls were famous for their fund-raising efforts during the First World War, but this was the highlight.  They sold dolls made from scraps of the clothing made in the factories, and they also gladly sacrificed some of their pay, so that this tribute to the fallen soldiers could be built.  When the time for the Prince's arrival drew near, the Lucas girls even armed trucks with bricks so that the Arch could be completed in time!

The avenue of beautiful trees, including elms, oaks and poplars, named the Avenue of Honour, was almost 14 miles long. Bronze plates with the names and battalions of each of the fallen soldiers from Ballarat were attached to every tree. The girls and other volunteers planted the trees lovingly during cold, wet and windy weather.

The huge crowd cheered when Prince Edward arrived.  He was presented with a pair of gold scissors, so that he could cut the greenery across the arch.  The girls giggled when one of the heads of the firm also gave the Prince a pair of silk pyjamas which he accepted with a blush.  The pyjamas had a picture of his crest on one side and a picture of Victory on the other.  I somehow doubt that he wore these pyjamas when he was with the Duchess of Windsor!

* The Lucas girls worked for the Lucas clothing factory in Ballarat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Enterprising Widow: Eleanor Lucas

My mother gave me an exquisite pink slip one day, and I noticed that it was made in Australia by Eleanor Lucas.  I had never heard of her, but when I looked her up I was quite amazed.  This enterprising widow lived a tragic life - she lost two husbands and two children.  However, she found the strength to start a clothing business that eventually employed hundreds of girls and she also devoted much time to charity work.

Eleanor's family immigrated to Australia from Yorkshire with their parents. The children were left in the care of friends when their mother died, and Eleanor only went to school until she was 14.  She married John Prittard Price when she was 18, but the marriage ended tragically when her husband died in a fall at the soap factory where he worked.  Eleanor was penniless at 30 with four children. The youngest was a baby of only seven months.  Funds were raised for the family, enabling them to live in a cottage.

Eleanor decided to make money herself, so she bought a sewing machine.  She made underwear and shirts, even sewing in bed! She also married again to a William Lucas, but he was killed in a mining accident two years later in 1888. Eleanor continued to work at her sewing.

She formed her business into a company called E.Lucas and Co., and it became the first mechanised factory in Ballarat.  Her employees, the 'Lucas Girls', made beautiful lingerie with eyelet embroidery, blouses, children's wear and dresses.  The factory had a showroom to display their items.  This impressed Sydney Myer (the founder of the famous Australian store Myers) who became one of the first large customers.

The Lucas girls became famous for their fundraising during the First World War.  They planted an avenue of trees to honour the enlisted men of Ballarat and raised enough funds to build an Arch of Victory that was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1920.  (More about this next time).

Mrs Lucas died in 1923 but her son took over the business which lasted until the early 1960s.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Anna Pavlova at the Music Hall

When Bronislava-Nijinska saw the great Anna Pavlova dance at the famous music hall, the Palace Theatre, in London, tears came to her eyes.  She thought that appearing on the same bill as musicians, clowns and acrobats had ruined Pavlova's dancing.  (Our Albert Whelan, the 'great Australian entertainer', was sometimes on the same stage, so he might have been included in this indictment!) Some of the papers also looked down on Pavlova's appearing at a music hall.  One critic wrote that Pavlova had been 'rescued from the music-hall' when she joined Diaghilev's company again.

However, most ballet stars such as Adeline Genee did perform on the music-hall stages in the Edwardian era, and they helped ballet to become popular. It was part of Pavlova's mission to make ballet accessible to the ordinary people, so she saw nothing wrong with moving to the Palace. She would probably have been foolish to refuse the attractive salary that she was offered.  This started at 400 pounds a week, and it eventually rose to 1200 pounds - an enormous amount in the early 1900s.

Pavlova's most popular dance was probably the 'Bacchanal' from Autumn, which she performed with Michael Mordkin.  Mordkin looked like a 'Greek God', and, according to Kerensky, his strong and manly physique provided a dramatic contrast to Pavlova's ethereal fragillity and grace.  In this abandoned dance, Pavlova wore flimsy chiffon and danced wildly with her long dark hair tied in a scarlet ribbon. * ( Mordkin actually flung her onto the stage at the end of the dance.  Once he dropped her rather too hard, and she created a sensation by slapping him! (There were rumours of an affair, but Mordkin's widow didn't believe it). Perhaps he did it because he was jealous of her popularity - Pavlova performed more solos.  Once he complained that there were no dishes named after him, but some were named after her!

* Years later, some of the audience in Sydney complained that this dance was unpleasant.

(Anna Pavlova in The Dragonfly)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Website of the Week: Flutissimo

Are you a fan of Edwardian parlour songs? Do you live near Perth in Western Australia? If you can answer "Yes" to these questions, please go to concerts by The Weatherly Club. These feature the lyrical and heartwarming songs by Frederic E. Weatherly, such as "Danny Boy" and my favourite, "Roses of Picardy". John Hardy hosts the events and sings, accompanied by Emily Gunson's beautiful flute.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Allan & Stark, Brisbane

(Allan & Clark American Tableaux on Peace Celebration Day)

Fashionable people often shopped at Allan & Stark in Brisbane.  This large department store, originally a drapery, was founded by James Allan, a Scottish man , who came to Brisbane in 1879. After starting in a commercial venture in his native Glasgow as a packing boy, he rose to the top, and he established the firm in 1882 with Robert Stark, even though they had less than 500 pounds to invest in the store.

The Stanley Street store soon became extremely popular.  Large numbers of migrants, a ten million pound loan to the state and a real estate boom helped the business to thrive.  It ran on a credit-by-bills system, and extended credit was often given.  The shop did extensive trade with the settlers in the Albert, Logan and Coomera Valleys.

Unfortunately, banks and commercial enterprises took many risks in the 1880s, leading to a crash.  The terrible floods of 1893 worsened the situation.  The first floor of the store was flooded, and the business went through tough times.

They moved to Queen Street to a neo-classical building designed by Andrea Stambuco.  The firm now operated on a cash basis, and business practices were generally much sounder.  The company went from strength to strength.  Their magnificent showrooms, gorgeous fashion catalogues and fashion parades were extremely popular. The country people especially liked receiving the free catalogues, so that they could choose their orders for their seasonal wardrobes. Even in 1933, there was no sign of depression as far as Allan & Stark was concerned, and there were no empty shops nearby.

After the Second World War, people started using their cars to go shopping, and they weren't happy with the lack of parking in the city.  Allan & Stark learned that drive-in shopping centres were becoming popular in America, so they bought a large parcel of land at Chermside for a new shopping centre.  There was great opposition to the project, especially from competitors.  However, Allan & Stark went ahead  and built the first drive-in shopping centre in Australia in Brisbane with 700 car spaces.  To everyone's amazement, the centre was a huge success, and a few years later more car spaces had to be provided!

Myers soon bought out the famous Brisbane store.

There are several photos of the original Allan & Stark buildings, but I can't find any photos of the interiors of the early stores.  This is somewhat upsetting.  I hope that the John Oxley library may have some.

Here are some photos of early Brisbane department stores.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

An Innovative Brisbane Department Store: Allan and Stark

Imagine that you are a young fashion-conscious lady in Edwardian Brisbane with some money.  You want to purchase some new clothes and hats.  Surprisingly, there is a wide choice of large stores, including Allan and Stark, Finneys of the Isles and Bayards.  Trading hours are also long - most shops stay open quite late.There is even Sunday trading in the suburbs.

You look through the new fashion catalogue from Allan and Stark, and see delightful illustrations of models from the great design centres of Europe.  There are pretty blouses, lace goods, silk underskirts and several different types of hats.

It is a good idea to go to the showroom before buying anything, and you are especially anxious to see the hats.  The millinery showroom is magnificent.  Decorated with cool green carpets and curtains, the room features long mirrors surrounded by masses of foliage, emerald velvet stands and Japanese baskets filled with  colourful flowers, including forget-me-nots, poppies and cornflowers.  There is also a famous 'crimson' table with roses, poppies and crimson hats.

You love the new hats. You can choose between the Gainsborough, the Leghorn and the Bow hat.  The bow hat in the showroom is made of black crinoline with a cluster of roses and large black bows. Another one is made of blue crinoline and has blue roses and bows with a Japanese buckle.

After looking at the dresses, you decide to buy a blue dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves and a rich applique trimming to match your new Bow hat.

Next time, I will write about the history of this wonderful store.  If only I could go time-travelling and see these beautiful fashions!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Amazing Flying Arrow

The audience gripped their seats in fear and excitement as the slight young girl was shot through the air by a giant crossbow through a paper target.  They felt a collective sense of relief when she was caught by her sister who was swinging from a trapeze.  The 'Flying Arrow' then performed further amazing feats as she swung from the trapeze, sometimes hanging by her teeth.

Pansy Chinery was born in 1879 as Frances Murphy. She and her sisters formed an acrobatic group called 'The Flying Zedoras' when she was only 16 after having private lessons in singing and dancing.  They became famous in the U.K. and toured America with Barnum and Barnum.

This dangerous act rightly caused controversy because of Pansy's young age. Questions were raised in the House of Commons and a campaign began to ban junior performers. The Children's Dangerous Performances Act which was designed to prevent performances by children that could endanger their 'lives or limbs' only covered children under fourteen years old.  Many people thought that this age should be raised.

Their fears were justified.  Pansy only just avoided death or serious injury one night in Madison Square Garden in 1896.  She was doing an act fifty feet above the ground and knocked unconscious on a narrow platform.  Luckily her brother caught her before she fell, and she didn't sustain any serious injury.  The Dangerous Performances Act was passed in 1897, so that dangerous performances would not be performed by females under eighteen and males under sixteen.

Pansy had a long career and married twice.  She married Horace Osborne, a hosier, in 1904 when she was 25 and Hugh Chinery when she was 66.  She died at the great age of ninety.

You can find a newspaper illustration of Pansy's accident.here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Magnificent Moore Sisters

May and Mina Moore photographed many famous Edwardians, including Thea Proctor, Lily Brayton and Adeline Genee.  The ambitious sisters were noted for their dramatic portraits and their use of the Rembrandt effect - this was photographing portraits with a pencil of light on one side and the rest in shadow.

Born in New Zealand, the sisters were the daughters of a farmer and sawyer and his wife.  May always wanted to study art, and she attended the Elam School of Art and Design in Auckland.  She began selling pencil sketches, but she eventually set up a photography studio in Wellington.

Mina became a schoolteacher, but she started to like photography during a trip to Australia.  She helped May in her studio in Wellington, and studied the art carefully.

Eventually, the sisters established studios in Sydney and Melbourne.  They specialised in photographing people from the world of the theatre and artists.  They also held theatrical soirees that were extremely popular.  At first, the sisters couldn't afford a big light-filled studio with glass windows and walls, so they used the meagre light from ordinary windows, ad photographed people against a simple cloth background.

May was probably the most famous sister.  Six feet tall and good-looking, she continued with her photography even after she married the dentist Henry Hammond Wilkes. He gave up his practice to help her in her studio.

Mina married William Tainsh, a company secretary and poet.  The couple had two daughters, and Mina also continued to work after her marriage.