Once Made in Queensland (including the kitchen sink!)

2020 has been a year when many accepted practices have come under review; commuting to work, socialising with friends and family, how and where we take holidays to name a few. Covid-19 has also focused scrutiny on the origins and reliability of commodities we have come to expect as necessary for life. There was concern about the supply of toilet paper, antiseptic hand wash and surgical mask in the short term. As countries around the globe went into shut down and imposed border restrictions some imported items such as spare parts for machinery and motor vehicles were hard to come by, and even the supply of new cars and consumer items slowed. Some people began to ask whether Australia is too reliant on the imported goods.

Global markets supply huge volumes of goods, from regions and countries where they can be produced most efficiently and cheaply. This situation will mostly likely continue into the future, but there was a time, from the 1950s to 1980, when virtually everything in Queensland homes was manufactured in Australia if not within the state itself. There were many small scale clothing workshops, potteries, engineering shops and foundries, brickworks, sawmills and a host of other small manufacturing businesses in Queensland, but there were also large factories producing goods which were household names in their day.

Queensland Museum has quite several examples from Queensland’s manufacturing past in its collection. The Charles Hope refrigerator was manufactured in Fortitude Valley in the late 1950s. Hope’s metal fabrication business had started off in the 1920s making car springs and bodies, and assembled Austin and Morris cars for the local market. They began making fridges in the late 1930s. Charles Hope sold the business in 1960. (Australian Dictionary of Biography)

A Charles Hope electric above and a Crown electric stove below, both part of the Queensland Museum collection.

The Charles Hope fridge, either electric or kerosene, often shared the 1950s Queensland kitchen with a Crown stove, made at their foundry on Logan Road, Greenslopes since around 1912. City customers could purchase gas or electric powered stoves, but Crown also made wood stoves for country customers. Crown also made clothes boilers and water heaters. (Brisbane Courier 5 August 1930)

United Metal Industries (UMI) at Deshon Street Woolloongabba also produced a wide range of stoves and electrical appliances as well as, literally, the kitchen sink and other stainless steel products. (Telegraph 25 April 1949)

UMI was taken over in 1961 by Malleys. The Deshon Street factory turned out Whirlpool washing machines and fridges under license. Malleys were also the makers of that most Australian item of picnic equipment, the Esky. (Canberra Times 25 Nov 1966)

A Whirlpool washer from the 1970s, in the Queensland Museum Collection.
A Malley’s Esky.

The Naco brand of NV Appleton on Gerler Road Hendra was found on washing machines, hot water services, bath and washing tubs and other items throughout the home. Indeed Naco made materials like louvre windows, doors and steel framing to build the home!

A Naco advertisement from Queensland Centenary Souvenir, 1959.

Fibro (asbestos cement) sheeting so popular in the 1950s and ‘60s was produced in the Wunderlich factory at Gaythorne and the James Hardie works at Breakfast creek. They also made fibro roof sheeting and terracotta tiles. ‘BernieBoard’ (fibre hardwood) sheeting was manufactured at Bundamba, Ipswich. The ‘Cyclone’ brand chainwire fencing around every backyard was made in their factory at Geebung. (Queensland Centenary Souvenir 1959-1959) And the whole lot could be finished off with a coat of paint made in the Taubmans’ factory at Yeronga or in the Berger factory at Northgate. (Telegraph 19 April 1948 p3; Maryborough Chronicle 19 March 1949 p2)

The Southern Cross mower from Toowoomba Foundry may not have rivalled the VICTA (made in NSW) in popularity in Queensland backyards, but thousands of the Queensland alternative were produced nonetheless.

Southern Cross Machinery Catalogue 1974

Braemar Engineering at Geebung made hot water services, as did the Rheem factory at Bulimba. Sears & Gunn from Bulimba and W Smith & Sons of Windsor manufactured plumbing fittings for the bathroom and laundry. (Queensland Centenary Souvenir 1959-1959) Concrete laundry tubs were came from Standard Concrete at East Brisbane, and ‘Syphonia’ and ‘Silentia’ flush toilets, for those lucky enough to have such mod-cons, were available from their respective factories South Brisbane.

Courier Mail, 25 April 1952

In the lounge room there might have been a Music Masters radio which were made at Stanley Street South Brisbane  until around 1960.

A Music Master radiogram, part of the Queensland Museum collection.

Queensland had many furniture factories including Carrick’s at Saul Street, North Quay. For decades Carricks made contemporary affordable furniture until around 1980. They sourced timber and plywood from their own sawmills. Trittons also made their own range of furniture in their West End factory. (F Tritton PTY LTD 1942 Bedroom Catalogue) They even built cabinets for radiograms that matched the timber and style of the other furniture in the lounge. Customers looking for more ‘up-market- furnishings could buy from Bell Brothers or Rosenstengles in Fortitude Valley (and Toowoomba).

From F Tritton PTY LTD 1942 Bedroom Catalogue.

‘Envy-ware’ aluminium outdoor furniture for the backyard was made in the Handi company factory at Salisbury. Handi also made clothes irons and kerosene stoves for country customers. They had range of camp stoves and kerosene lamps for the family holiday, which might be enjoyed under a tent, from the George Pickers workshops on the corner of Ann and Gipps Street Fortitude Valley. And Alvey fishing reels and Len Butterworth fishing rods made in Queensland were almost mandatory equipment for every holiday in the Sunshine State.

A Handi Pumpless ‘shellite’ spirit iron above and Alvey reel below, made at St Lucia, Brisbane and both part of the Queensland Museum collection.

Most families had a Holden or Ford car to take on holidays by the 1960s, and these were assembled in Brisbane at Ford’s plant at Eagle Farm or Holdens’ in Fortitude Valley. In 1966 Holden opened a complete factory at Acacia Ridge.

A car body lowered onto a chassis in Holden’s Fortitude Valley assembly plant. The 1959 advertisement states they were assembling 17,000 vehicles per year. Advertisement from Queensland Centenary Souvenir 1959.

Locally made Chesney caravans were often seen behind those Holdens and Falcons on the Pacific or Bruce Highways, heading to the beach for Christmas or Easter Holidays.

Even the tyres under the cars and caravans were made in Queensland, at Hardie’s factory at Yeronga or the Olympic tyre factory at Geebung. (Centenary of Queensland Cavalcade 1959)

The Olympic tyre factory at Geebung covered around 24 hectares. They claimed to have made over 3million tyres. (Centenary of Queensland Cavalcade 1959)

These are just a few examples of Queensland companies making consumer goods and homewares between the 1950s and 1980. There were many more. Queensland also had workshops and factories devoted to heavy engineering, clothing and footware manufacture, canning and packaging and food processing. Not all the companies mentioned have closed their doors. Rheem and Southern Cross for example have relocated within Queensland. Others have moved production interstate or overseas due to easier modern transport, low tariffs and ‘economies of scale’ in production. Queensland’s economy still has a large industrial sector but it has moved out of town into industrial parks beyond the notice of many urban dwellers, and today’s industries are more devoted to heavy engineering than consumer goods.

It seems unlikely we will fill our homes with consumer goods ‘Made in Queensland’ in the near future. However if the year 2020 has taught us any lesson it maybe that the future is very hard to predict.

Jeff Powell
Curator, Cobb+Co Museum