From the podcast series ‘Look history in the eye’
Written and presented by Amanda Scardamaglia
Produced by Public Record Office Victoria
Music by Jack Palmer
Look History in the Eye is produced by Public Record Office Victoria the historic archive of the state government of Victoria. 100kms of public records about Victoria’s past are carefully preserved in climate-controlled vaults. We meet the people who dig into those boxes, look history in the eye, and bother to wonder why.
I’m Natasha Cantwell, Communications and public programming officer at Public Record Office Victoria. For today’s episode, we’re featuring a talk by Amanda Scardamaglia that was originally held at the Victorian Archives Centre for Melbourne Design Week 2022. Amanda is an associate professor and department chair of the Swinburne Law School and has a research focus on trademark law, advertising and branding. Her talk explores 19th century Melbourne through the lens of advertising and is titled Charles Troedel Archive: when the past meets the present. So, keep on listening for Amanda’s talk, or if you’d like to watch her slideshow and see all those amazing 19th century illustrations, you’ll find the video version of this talk on PROV’s YouTube channel and on the landing page for this podcast episode on the PROV website. Now, let’s get into the talk and find out who Charles Troedel was.
Thanks so much for the introduction. I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we’re located here today and pay my respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
I'm really thrilled to be here in person and to see so many people here today at Design Week to present on the Charles Troedel Archive which draws on my book "Printed on Stone: The Lithographs of Charles Troedel" which was published almost two years ago to the day in 2020.
So as you know, the theme for Design Week, or as you may know, the theme for Design Week this year is 'design the world you want' and in keeping with that theme today I'm going to talk about how Australian design in print advertising has developed and evolved over time and to do that I'm going to take you back to the 19th century and draw on the Charles Troedel Archive of advertising lithographs. This archive tells a really fascinating story about how the law, technology, art and advertising intersect and in particular the way that lithography shaped the way that print advertising came to be protected by the law and the way that advertising came to be regulated. But the lithographs also tell a really lovely story about Melbourne and the Australian colonies more generally, its people, its culture and its history and that's what I want to focus on today, to reflect on this history and explore how past design practice has come to shape our present and the world that we live in today.
This is Charles Troedel. It's a photograph that was taken in around 1895. Charles Troedel was an award-winning lithographer who brought colour to the lives and homes of Melbourne in the 19th century, transforming the advertising landscape in the process. He was born on 26 June 1835 in Hamburg, Germany and at age 13 he was apprenticed to his father Carl who was also a lithographer and that was when he really started out his career as a lithographer. As a young man he went on to work in Norway and London furthering his craft until 1859 when he was recruited by a Norwegian printer Augustus William Shellcraft who traveled to Europe looking for talent for his Melbourne business.
There was a need for printmakers in the colonies at the time especially to print maps which were in high demand during the gold rush. Lithography was a uniquely European invention and so Troedel's skills which he had developed working throughout Europe were highly sought after. And so Troedel arrived in Melbourne at Williamstown on 5 February 1860 and began working at Shellcraft's Wholesale Paper Bag Manufacturing and Printing Establishment. Some of you may know Shellcraft's was well known for printing many of Melbourne's early maps. A few years later and Troedel left Shellcraft's to set up his own small print workshop in Melbourne in June 1863 and after importing his own printing press from Europe his business Troedel and Co Lithographers and Printers was born. The workshop was located opposite the Argus office in an area that was then considered the golden mile of the city and is now the site of the Melbourne Town Hall.
Troedel's first project at this new workshop was the Melbourne Album, a series of lithographic works depicting views of Melbourne and its surrounding districts. In fact the first two prints from the album were printed at Shellcraft's but the remaining prints were published at his workshop on Collins Street which later became known as the Melbourne Album Office. This is one of the first lithographs produced for the album in 1863, "Collins Street from Queen Street" which was drawn by Francois Cogne and advertised in the Argus at the time with a monthly subscription for two views to be completed in 12 monthly parts for the price of seven shillings sixpence. "Collins Street from Queen Street" shows the Union Bank of Australia to the right. On the left is the newly built Bank of New South Wales. Into the distance, Scots' Tower and straight ahead is the now Old Treasury Building. Francois Cogne produced 12 of the drawings in the 24 plate collection and possibly another four which were unmarked. It was Cogne who had proposed the idea of this Melbourne themed album to Troedel while he was still working with Shellcraft. Nicholas Chevalier was another contributor to the album with two prints derived from his paintings included in the compilation.
Here's one of the more recognisable prints from the album, "The Melbourne Cricket Ground, 1864". The artist responsible for the drawing which this print is based is unknown. This is one of the four prints which were unmarked in the album. The print depicts the first day of a cricket match between the second English team to visit Australia and a team of 22 Victorians. You can see that the cricket oval is surrounded by marquis, small stands and a paling fence and the oval is surrounded by trees. In the foreground the crowds are milling around on the lawn to watch the game and you can see some children climbing very high atop the branches of the tree to get the best vantage point and two men and a woman do the same but they're not nearly as adventurous in their climb.
Thanks to the success of the Melbourne Album, Troedel's business grew rapidly and for a short period he set up an office in Sydney and it was here that he produced the New South Wales album in 1878 with Richard Wendel who drew all of the lithographs in that collection. Here's one of the prints from the New South Wales Album, "Botanical Gardens, Farm Cove, Government House in Distance" from 1878. It shows a young couple picnicking in the gardens and as the title indicates Government House is in the distance. The woman's sitting on the lawn while watching the man who's playing with the butterfly net.
Now there's no denying the success of these collectors’ compilations but Troedel's business endured over the years, for 150 years in fact, because of his great success in commercial printing and advertising. Over the years the Troedel family were integral to the firm. After Charles Troedel's death in 1906 his eldest son Walter took over the business. You can see here Charles Troedel is shown in the back row of the photograph wearing the top hat and Walter Troedel is shown in the back row far left in the bow tie. Walter went into partnership with Edward Cooper who was already involved in the firm, and had helped set up the Sydney office, and the firm was renamed Troedel and Cooper in around 1910. The business was sold and taken over several times thereafter but even so the Troedels remained in the business including Walter's son Theodore, his son William or Bill and later Bill together with his son Alastair who were all involved in the business at various stages, and in various capacities and it wasn't until 2013 that the firm went into liquidation bringing to a close a monumental 150 year run of the printing business bearing the Troedel name.
From its earliest days the firm preserved and archived all of its print jobs, an archive that was donated to the State Library of Victoria in 1968 by Troedel and Cooper as it then was. The records contained in the archive are the product of the meticulous recordkeeping of Arthur Hewitt. Hewitt spent his entire career at Troedel and Co. His time started at the firm in December 1897 when he took up the job of office boy. He was then involved in almost all administrative aspects of the business, holding the role of Secretary and Director before he retired in 1963. This archive is considered one of the most significant printers archives to survive in a public collection in Australia. It contains almost 10,000 individual print specimens including product labels, advertising posters, corporate stationery including company share certificates, invoices, Christmas cards, calendars, theatre posters and brochures and other ephemera. The book "Printed on Stone" uses these lithographs to tell the history of print advertising in Australia across a range of categories, in the home, at the bar, in health and hygiene, in fashion and style and in leisurely pursuits, capturing a really diverse range and cross-section of the Troedel collection. Today I'm going to showcase just some of the collection and some of the stories behind the images in the archive and reflect on the evolution of this design practice and how it's come to influence print advertising and design today.
Before I do I want to take a quick moment to talk about lithography. For those of you who aren't familiar with the process, lithography is a method of printing that's based on the incompatibility of oil and water where ink is transferred to a blank sheet using a press, typically using finely polished limestones. Lithography was first discovered by Alois Senefelder sometime around 1796 in Bavaria with Senefelder obtaining patents for his process in Europe and throughout the following years. So the process of lithography is best explained visually so here I've provided a step-by-step overview of the process in its primitive form. Obviously the technology has evolved and it's much more sophisticated today but interestingly most methods still rely on the basic principles of Senefelder's process. So starting from the left hand corner of the top row, to produce a lithograph the artist must firstly draw on the surface of a limestone or an aluminium plate with greasy crayons. A solution of gum arabic and nitric acid is then washed across the stone and that fixes the grease to the stone. The limestone's then washed with water then the stone is rolled with ink using a roller and since grease and water repel each other the ink only adheres to the greasy drawing and not the clean portions of the stone. Paper is then laid across the stone and pulled through a press and this transfers the image from the stone to the paper producing a mirror image of the original drawing. The original lithographs which were produced were in black and white and they were made using greasy crayons but the process evolved very quickly over time to use more advanced methods. So one of the first advances was the tinted lithograph which involved using one stone to print the original image and then subsequent stones to add a wash of colour. The most significant advance in lithography was chromolithography which allowed for multi-colour printing of at least three colours. Charles Troedel was at the forefront of these advances. He was recognised as a pioneer in the trade having been awarded the gold medal at the 1881 Melbourne International Exhibition for his work in chromolithography and in 1883 he was awarded a silver medal at the Calcutta International Exhibition for specimens in lithography.
This process really revolutionised the way that goods were advertised and marketed in the late part of the 19th century and the Troedel archive of advertising materials for products found in the home really captures this change especially the expansive collection of labels used and posters which were used for jams, preserved fruits, teas and coffees. So the lithograph was really responsible for changing print advertising practices around the world and this absolutely filtered down to the Australian colonies.
During that latter period of the 19th century advertising evolved from what was simply black and white text-based classified advertising in newspapers to artistic masterpieces like this thanks to lithography which allowed for the production of low cost, very high quality illustrations which included colour. So here on the left is a label for Robert Harper and Co's new season teas with an image of a paper lantern decorated with cherry blossoms and bright floral patterns. On the right is another label from Robert Harper and Co, this time printed in the shape of a fan. The label features two workers in traditional dress pulling a copper pot of new season Indian, Chinese and Ceylon teas and the woman is standing in the centre, she appears to be directing the two men and the teapot cart while wielding a very dangerous looking parasol. Robert Harper was a colonial businessman and also a politician. He started out his business in Melbourne in 1865 and while the company initially traded in tea, coffee and spices which were imported from the East Indies, he later expanded and started manufacturing his own award-winning products, first in Melbourne and then later in Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and even in New Zealand.
So while many of the tea and coffee products consumed in the colonies were imported, local manufacturing industries did start to emerge and we see this in some of the Troedel lithographs. So here is a label for TB Guest and Co Steam Biscuit Factory, Williams Street, Melbourne, 1878. The Guest Factory is the central focus of this label with the red brick building and the yellow stone dressing sanding prominently. In front of the building is a horse and carriage and there are another two horse-drawn delivery carts sitting on either side of the factory. In the centre is a man, possibly Guest, standing by the front door decked in a frock coat and a top hat. The print places the William Street factory as the focal point surrounded by experimental fonts and flourishes and it's also decorated with all of the firm's award-winning medals.
Thomas Guest was born in England in 1830 and arrived in Sydney in 1852 with his father and together they started making biscuits out of a factory in Pitt Street but a few years later they shut their Sydney factory and following a three and a half month journey on a wagon packed with all of his plant and machinery he arrived in Melbourne and started operations here, before the business was sold on and off eventually becoming part of what we now know as Arnott's Biscuits. So it was common practice to feature a firm's warehouse or factory on food labels. This was a way to highlight the feats of innovation and ingenuity of the businesses concerned and show the way that firms had developed and marked their progress and progression over time and this was definitely a message that traders were very keen to convey not only to local consumers but also to people abroad to try and encourage investment in the Australian colonies and perhaps even persuade some people back home to come and relocate here.
Now lithography wasn't just used for labels, lithography also allowed for the reproduction of really intricate original paintings, drawings and other sketches which were very often reproduced as full page advertisements or for advertising posters. So the advertising poster like this beauty right here really owes its existence to lithography and you can see it mimics the style of the French poster art movement at the time which of course were all lithographs. So this is a particularly cheeky poster. It's an advertising poster for Yorick Bacon and Hams from around the 1880s and it's just one example of the production quality that's possible using lithography. So here you can see there's that watercolourist background and that's punctuated by the dramatic use of violent blood red ink used for the leading text but also to brand the featured animals with their impending fate as hams.
Believe it or not prints like this were not always very popular or cherished, instead early lithographs were considered to be cheap, lowbrow, vulgar and critics even described these sorts of works as pseudo-culture and the owners of these prints were refused copyright protection because they were considered ephemeral and commercial in nature and not a legitimate art form. In time eventually industry, artists and governments eventually embraced lithography and it quickly came to dominate graphic design, graphic arts and the advertising world and the law eventually came to recognise that these works could be protected as artistic works under copyright law alongside other more traditional artistic mediums such as watercolours, oil on canvas and portraits.
So some of the most elaborate items in the Troedel collection were used for advertising beer, wine, spirits and tobacco and these prints reveal the ingrained and entrenched cultural custom of drinking in colonial Australia and the way that alcohol and tobacco were really glamorised in what was an unregulated market at the time. Prints used for alcohol and tobacco typically used bright colours and reproduced highly detailed illustrations as a way to attract customers and attention and as you can see there isn't a health warning in sight, instead alcohol and smoking was often shown as being a civilised pastime enjoyed by happy and healthy individuals. These kinds of prints and posters were typically targeting a male audience and that's who they were depicting on these labels, men riding horses, men as gladiators in arenas or playing sport as we can see here. This label for The Cricketer which was produced in around 1880 perfectly encapsulates Australia's very long history of partnering sports and tobacco before its decoupling in the 1980s. The poster features Australian cricketer Charles Bannerman as the central figure of an advertisement for Cameron Brothers Tobacco and is a far cry from the plain packaging that we're all used to seeing today in Australia. Cricket die hards will know that Bannerman represented Australia in test cricket before becoming an umpire. He's most famous for being the first person to face the first ball ever bowled at test cricket, scoring the first run in test cricket and making the first test century. In the central image Bannerman is lining up to face the approaching ball on the Melbourne Cricket Ground. He's got opposing fieldsmen standing in the distance. You can see the members stand is positioned behind the players. The border is rimmed with wattle, eucalyptus and each of the corners of the poster features cockatoos, possums, emus and kangaroos. You can see the red ribbon spans across the top of the poster bearing the words The Cricketer and that was how iconic Charles Bannerman was, there was no need to mention his name and I guess we can look at this and understand Australia's habit of worshiping our sporting stars. It has a very very long long history.
So when it comes to health and hygiene the lithographs in this category were some of the most stunning but they also had a tendency to stretch the truth. The 19th century was witness to a growing concern for health and hygiene and the result was a really flourishing market for medical preparations, pharmaceuticals, common soap, laundry soap and the result was a combination of great design with disease and disinfectant. So here is a label for De Leon's Toilet Soap featuring a young girl with a very healthy rosy complexion. She's well dressed with her pink bonnet and a giant pink bow tied under her chin. When it comes to common soap products during the late 19th century it came to be understood that these products were not a luxury as much as they were a necessity but cleanliness was more than just a question of hygiene it also became a signpost for moral and social standing with cleanliness equated to respectability, civility and smell and odour an indicator of health, class and social status and you can clearly see this attitude and idea of cleanliness and social status in this label here for Kirk's Fragrant Soap which was produced again in around the 1880s.
Moving on to pharmaceutical products and medical preparations and here we see some very unscrupulous business practices. So these products were often sold as unproven cures and antidotes for almost every ailment known to humankind and were frequently endorsed by people purporting to have medical qualifications or as being doctors and of course these people had no medical qualifications at all and they were also promoted using claims based in pseudoscience and quackery. So here are some examples for Moulton's Blood Searcher, the great blood purifier. Charles Moulton was a household name in the Australian colonies. As well as selling Moulton's Fruit Pills and his renowned Blood Searcher, the company also sold the very popular product Pain Paint which was reportedly able to heal a variety of ailments no matter how violent or excruciating the pain. Moulton's Pain Paint was also advertised as being registered and patented. The newspapers even referred to him as an inventor and proprietor of a patent medicine. Now while it's true that Moulton registered the words "Pain Paint" as a trademark in Victoria, there's no evidence of any patent application ever being recorded in the Victorian Government gazette and this kind of behaviour and selling technique was not an isolated case.
So here is another example of this kind of advertising, this time it's for Ralph Potts and his Well-Known Magic Balm. So this poster was produced circa 1880 and made no attempt to exalt the medical or scientific virtues of the product that were being advertised instead it was all about the mystical healing powers of this very special balm next to a very respectable portrait of Ralph Potts himself. Potts imported his magic balm into the Australian colonies from New York and he sold his special elixir through local agents and shopkeepers and he also administered the balm himself on his patients in his dental practice. Potts' foray into dentistry was let's say unconventional. He established a dental practice in Perth and he even assigned himself the title of the "dental king" traveling around the colonies accompanied by a brass band. All of this from a man with no dental qualifications. He caught the attention of the dental board and had several charges made against him but in the end the board actually registered Potts as a dentist and believe it or not he went on to have a distinguished career. In his obituary though he was remembered for the unusual way that he introduced himself to the Australian colonies as a dentist and I quote "from a flare lighted platform he employed girls to run along the planks and sell his magic balm, then he invited anyone suffering from toothache to step up and have the offending molar painlessly removed for one shilling."
So when it came to fashion and style Troedel's archive of advertising for clothing and apparel gives us a glimpse into the fashions at the time but here we also see advertising become more segmented and for the first time depicting women but also directed at women although we'll see the way that that used stereotypes in the way that it portrayed women and what it meant to be a woman in society at that time. So when it came to the fashion of the day it was all about corsets and crinolines and very full bustle skirts. So you can see here in some extracts from some fashion catalogues produced for Craig, Williamson and Thomas the crinoline and its very full billowing shape was beautiful but it was also very impractical and it was incredibly dangerous. In 1864 there were reports of two and a half thousand deaths in London alone, many resulting from fire as women set their crinolines and themselves alight sweeping past open fireplaces. This had prompted one newspaper at the time to suggest that at all events every lady should wear a fire screen or be attended by a maid with a fire extinguisher and then there was the corset. So the corset wasn't just an object of fashion the corset idealised the female form into a shape and a contour largely to be admired by men. I think if you look at the way the corset and the link between corsets and crinolines it's really very much the way that these garments constricted and constrained the female body into this romanticised fictional form. I think you just have to look at the pain on the woman's face here in this advertising poster for the Celebrated Triple E Corset. So this is produced in around 1890. I think the size of her impossibly thin waist would even rival Barbie's dimensions. Manufacturers sought to monopolise this silhouette through the patent system.
There are lots of examples of corset designs being patented by these companies but the manufacturers also fought fiercely to defend the brands associated with their corsetry and for reasons unbeknownst to me there is a disproportionate number of trademark disputes reported during this period concerning corsets and their branding. One of these cases was heard in the South Australian Supreme Court before Chief Justice Way. He complained about the duration of the court proceedings and the time that it took for him to prepare his written judgment. All in all the hearing lasted 52 days and cost 20 000 pounds and it took Chief Justice Way four hours to deliver his judgment. It's no wonder then that in his private letters Chief Justice Way referred to the case as abominable and noted that there must be more money in corsets than in law, literature or the gospel.
So the adoption of the eight-hour day in 1856 served to demarcate the working week into work or the week into work and leisure and what we see is a number of leisurely pursuits emerge in colonial metropolitan cities and we see these pastimes come through in the Troedel archive.
Our love of sport and the great outdoors has very strong roots and it's a prevailing theme throughout the Troedel archive. Here is a poster for the Melbourne Sports Depot from around 1885 and it illustrates some of these sporting interests and Melbourne's early obsession with sport. So the poster shows a young man in his cricket flannels. He's holding a cricket bat and helping the young lady who's also holding a tennis racket and wearing tennis shoes across what appears to be a small stream. The poster advertises guns, bicycles, fishing tackle and other sporting equipment, toys and parlour games. In the distance there are two young boys who are jostling with a football between two goalposts while another two boys are further afield and they appear to be wearing their cricket whites.
The theme of playtime's also evident here in this poster for Foy and Gibson's Toy Fair which is from around the 1880s again. This poster also alludes to our love of shopping. In fact one theme really running through the entire archive is the early manifestations of consumerism emerging in the Australian colonies at the turn of the century. So most of you will recognise the name Foy and Gibson and will know that they were one of Australia's earliest department stores. The store was known for manufacturing many of its own goods including manchester, clothing, toys, hardware, furniture and food and was of course eventually sold to David Jones in 1967. Foy and Gibson were also famous for their annual toy fairs which boasted unprecedentedly low prices. Children could meet Father Christmas at these toy fairs although I think it's unlikely that Father Christmas rode in on an emu holding what looks to be an Akubra hat and carrying a sack of toys. So this poster is one of my favourites I think because it captures everything that is very unique about Australia at Christmas time, the heat, the dust and also you can see the Australian landscape.
And then there was the theatre, so the Troedel archive, I think this is perhaps maybe the most special part of the collection, is the trove of theatre posters like this which it includes and it perfectly captures the golden age of theatre in Melbourne at the time but also the Troedel family's very unique connection to the theatre scene. So Charles Troedel and his family were very keen theatregoers particularly his eldest son Walter Troedel. Newspapers described Walter as charismatic, handsome and I quote "the best dressed man in Melbourne." There was one story of Walter reportedly engaged in an animated exchange with Marie Lloyd from the stage box on her opening night at Rickard's Old Opera House in Bourke Street. Walter became the theatrical representative for the firm and was responsible for overseeing the production of most of Melbourne's theatrical printing.
These posters also highlight Troedel's very proud history of employing talented young apprentices and artists who worked in his art department. So some of the names on that list include a young Arthur Streeton who worked with Charles Troedel as his apprentice, Charles Turner and William Blamire Young. Although in this particular collection here in these images it's the mastery of Richard Wendel which is really showcased. So Richard Wendel came to Australia alongside Charles Troedel in 1860 and they worked together at Shellcrafts and they went on to have a very long and rich professional relationship. Wendel drew all of the lithographs in the New South Wales album which I mentioned earlier and Wendel later produced many of the works in the Troedel archive but particularly most of the theatre posters which were manufactured by the firm.
So here's another theatre poster again produced or drawn by Richard Wendel for "Bad Lads Comedy Farce". Bad Lads was the inaugural production of the new Alexandra Theatre in Melbourne on one October 1886 which had been named Alexandra after the then Princess of Wales but which later became Her Majesty's Theatre. The poster shows scenes from the play, a comedy about married men trying to recapture the fun and freedom of their bachelor days and bachelorhood. Sounds familiar? It's a theme that's been rehashed in theatre, film and literature ever since.
So as we've seen in the Troedel archive it covers a really diverse range of subject matter and hopefully I've given you a little bit of a glimpse into some of those images. I think most of these prints were very fun and frivolous and said a lot about who we were at the time in Australia and some of the prints allude to perhaps a more sensitive and serious themes, at least to modern eyes looking back at these images now today. We see the glamorisation of alcohol and cigarettes, unproven cures from people claiming to be medical experts, advertising that pedals impossible beauty standards for women, men behaving badly in sellout stage performances to standing ovations without any challenge or consequence. So there's a startling familiarity to these themes and I think that's really interesting because on the one hand Troedel's lithographs represent a period of intense transformation in terms of advertising aesthetic and design practice at the time but really at the same time these prints just preface what we were going to see and what was to come in print advertising across new mediums of communication in the 20th and now the 21st century. I think times are changing and design practices are starting to challenge some of these deep set ideas and better reflect the complex world that we live in today.
Whatever the future holds though I think it is safe to say that we are unlikely to see another person have the same influence on design practice as Charles Troedel whose legacy does live on in this beautiful archive, an archive which above all else I think is a celebration of our wonderful city and its very rich history.