Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

No Business Like Snow Business

In Dairy, Dairy Products, Desserts, Frozen Foods, I.R. Paterson Ashburton, Ice Cream, Irvine, Irvine & Stevenson, Peacock, St. George on October 23, 2011 at 10.46

Snowdrop Ice Cream. I have searched high and low using every term I can think of with the few clues that I have, and have turned up nothing about this product. Or company. Or the owner. The only information I have is that the address was being used by a butcher in 1906, as a notice appeared in the Ashburton Guardian that year- indicating that previously there had also been a butchery on the premises. It is really unusual to not be able to find a single thing out with information like the brand name, the owners name, and street address. I can’t ask for more leads than this, yet I have come up with zilch. Compared to my recent story on Dustin’s and Buttermaid it seems sort of ridiculous not to be able to produce anything at all. I have written to the Ashburton museum to see if they have any more information on this item which is in their collection . Anyway I’m guessing post 1945 for this item, I’d say between late 1940s and mid 1950s.

Photo of assembled Snowdrop box, courtesy of Ashburton Museum collection, object no. 4.99.124

There have been a lot of these turning up on the collectables market lately, and in fact you can get them at quite a reasonable price. A friend nabbed this one for me in Auckland for two dollars in a sale which was one of the best bargains ever. They must be ex-factory stock as they are all mint and still flat packed. I can only assume that they were found during a renovation probably at the address listed on the box which is 141 East Street Ashburton (the town is south of Christchurch). Who knows what the deal is.

141 East Street Ashburton premises, The Ashburton Guardian, 24 November 1906, Page 3

It’s probably rather like the story behind the amount of Peacock can labels that have been around for quite some time – in fact I can remember them being for sale when I had just started collecting as a child – I used to see them at swap meets and the like. Apparently they came out of the factory during demolition. I am fairly sure that I read the story somewhere recently told by an employee of the factory that there was some kind of a space in the rafters above the offices and rather than take label stock back to the store room, it was common practice to lazily throw them into the ceiling where they stayed until discovered during dismantling of the building – and thus they have been doing the rounds ever since.

I can’t remember where I’ve read this recounting but it was in the last couple of weeks, and probably in relation to some cursory research I did on the St George jam factory (both St George and Peacock were brands of Irvine & Stevenson).

Rather like the Snowdrop boxes the Peacock stuff has lost its cachet (well, to me anyway) because of the frequency with which they turn up for sale. In fact the price on both items is dropping drastically so now Peacock items are going for between $1.00 and $3.50 apiece (even less in multiple offerings), with St George dropping to around five dollars on average, and asking any more will generally result in it being passed in. Same situation with the Snowdrop boxes as people have an inability to move a common item. Although beautiful designs they don’t have much appeal for many dedicated collectors due to their lack of rarity. I’ll update if any additional info materialises.


Postscript, mid September 2012: Mystery no more. In the meantime someone with a lot of information as well as leads, has come forward regarding  Snowdrop, and I will be updating on this brand soon. 


Bite Size: With Bells On

In Amber Tips Tea, Bell Tea, Edglets Tea, Four Square Supermarkets, Norman Harper Bell, Tea, Tiger Tea on October 15, 2011 at 10.46

Here’s another “family” from the set that was issued as a promotional gimmick by the Four Square store chain. I previously wrote about this item here:


and noted I am working my way through digitally restoring them (they are in pretty bad shape, which seems to be a common problem that the earlier sets of cards haven’t suffered – the type of materials used later, I suspect ).

Someone has since noted that they believe this card set was issued between 1979-1981. That tees up with what I remember about the products pictured. I would have said the same since this is what packaging of these items looked like around 1980 and I recall all of them very clearly. Many of these items have not yet tuned up at auction – I guess that there’s not a level of interest in that era there yet, certainly not the interest that there is in anything that’s pre mid-1970s. But it is creeping up slowly. Like all collectables, it’s all a matter of how much time has lapsed – even over and above “rarity” issues. It’s pretty obvious most of it is still going to the tip instead of up for sale.

This set features Bell Tea, which is very much a New Zealand institution going back to 1898 when the trademark was registered (Although the beginnings of R Wilson and Company, before they formed a partnership with Norman Harper Bell, dates to the early 1860s). It’s one logo which actually hasn’t changed remarkably in all that time. Generally the boxes (first introduced in 1937) were red – with a yellow, blue and white print in the 1970s, which I don’t have any pictures of yet. The larger boxes of bulk bags in the late 70s to early 80s looked like this.

Bell is of course still going today, and along the way they acquired a few other brands such as Edglets, Tiger and Amber Tips . I will do a proper post on Bell in the future when opportunity presents its self.

Addendum: The people at Bell Tea have given longwhitekid a nice little plug over at their Facebook page by featuring this post.

Maid Me Look

In Biscuits, Buttermaid, Cakes, confectionery, Dustins Ltd, Frozen Foods, Ice Cream, Pastry, Southern Cross Biscuits on October 9, 2011 at 10.46

I have to admit that I at first dismissed the Buttermaid Cake ads I found as likely being irrelevant to the story I posted on previously in March 2011:


I immediately decided that it was unlikely a bakery from the 1920s had any relation. It wasn’t until I really examined all of them I found that the company, Dustins Ltd., was also manufacturing “Famos Pies”, almond icing, and puff pastry, ready to bake – surely what must be one of the earlier non-canned New Zealand convenience products (although since writing this weeks ago, I have found an advertisement for chilled readymade pastry for sale in the 1890s).

Buttermaid Cakes, Evening Post , November 1928 

So this is effectively part two of the Buttermaid pastry story.

Paraphrasing the Wanganui Herald’s article “Banquet in New Rooms” of 13 May 1909 : “In 1896 Mr Dustin started biscuit baking, and that business grew so much that he had to turn it into a company. Then Mr Dustin entered the catering business, and progressed so rapidly that he had to extend his buildings”.

Buttermaid Cake coupon, Evening Post, October 1927 

Indeed he did – opening quite glamorous tearooms painted with murals selling their cakes, pies and confections in 1909 (a newspaper feature goes into great detail about the stencilling and harmonic shades of sage, salmon and de nil). Two large floors offered  morning and afternoon teas, and dinners –  four courses for a shilling.

Advertisement for the newly opened restaurant and tearooms, demonstrating the fare on offer, Wanganui Herald, July 1909

Interior of  William S Dustins tearooms, Wanganui, 1909. Photograph taken by Frank J Denton, National Library of NZ Collection 

As well as a second bakery he owned named “Devon” at the same time, from 1903 Dustins American Saloon in Victoria Street offered milkshakes, ices, cream drinks and sodas. By 1914 their mini-empire also included “their Regent Rooms higher up The Avenue, where wines may be purchased in draught, in single bottles, or in case lots”.

“Employees outside the confectionery shop of W. S. Dustin Wanganui 1909”.  F. J. Denton Collection , Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and pictorial.

“Interior of the confectionery shop of W. S. Dustin Wanganui 1909”I got out my magnifying glass and was able to spot the following products for sale: Cadbury Chocolate, Kirkpatrick’s “K ” canned plum pudding, Aulsebrook’s chocolates, Huntley & Palmer biscuits, KOPS ale & stout, Tucker’s chocolate and toffee, Fry’s Chocolate,  American Baloon (sic) soda drinks. Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts and pictorial collection.

As well as a confectioner, bread maker , biscuit baker and agent for various products from malt to honey, W.S. Dustin also catered for races,  A&P shows, as well as hosting concerts, wedding parties and balls in the tearooms. In 1899 he was referring to himself as “premier caterer” (eventually he catered for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1927, who were later to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth  but by 1909, the year his restaurant and tearooms enterprise opened, Dustin’s Ltd were already appointed as bakers to His Excellency the Governor).

Dustins“American Saloon” ,Wanganui Herald,November 1903

He may have started baking biscuits per se in 1896, but when he arrived in Wanganui in 1879, straight off the “Geraldine Paget” -on which the skills he learned in Plymouth and Devon were put to use as ship pastry cook – he first opened business in Guyton street with an output of just 25 loaves of bread a day, distributing by hand basket delivery. From there he gradually developed his trade until  he removed to Wicksteed Street, and his tally recorded a daily delivery of 1500 loaves In 1896. By the late 1890s he was the largest bread and confectionery business for many miles around.

Southern Cross Biscuit Company sack – besides biscuits, confectionery, pastry, pies and breads the factory also produced flour.

The biscuit baking branch launched with immediate success and resulted in the formation of the Southern Cross Biscuit Factory in 1902. It went from strength to strength and within two years was baking ten types of bread, 3500 plus units a day, as well as sweets, and of course cookies. By 1907 they had purchased machinery and had branched out into manufacturing their own iced confections for sale – however I found reference to W.S. Dustin in Wanganui offering ice cream in an ad as early as 1891.

Chocolates and Petit Fours at Dustins, by Berry and Co, circa 1920. Glass plate negative, courtesy of Te Papa Collection.

Another factor in the strategic expansion of the firm was the increase of Dustin’s family – eventually to number eight children – which had compelled him to plan for the future and “give them an interest in the business, and the result was Dustins, Ltd., of Wanganui and Palmerston North.” (apart from his eldest, it seems most of them turned out to be far more interested in playing sports, as numerous photos in archives attest).

WWI  soldiers  outside Dustin’s home cookery shop, Main Street West. Courtesy of Manuwatu Memory online, Palmerston North City Library.

Such was the popularity of their product that by the 1920s Buttermaid products had spread from Wanganui throughout the lower half of the North Island under expansion of eldest son David Ernest Dustin, with many agent stores carrying their line – and several stand-alone stores (I can count at least ten) including two in Cuba Street and another in Lambton Quay. Throughout the late 1920s Dustins advertised Buttermaid stores heavily as well as seeking agents to spread their goods far and wide.

Another branch of the Dustin Bakery: Mrs Claude Dustin and Betty Fryer in doorway, 1930s. Claude must have been a grandson of W.S., since Claude his son was killed in action in 1915. Courtesy of the Foxton Historical Society Collection.

By the time he died in 1927, “W.S.”, as he was affectionately known, had become a prominent and respected member of the community associated with bringing progress and prosperity to the general area. As such he had clout in several organisations; he sat on public boards, judged competitions, and became renowned -not only as a keen and talented sportsman himself -for his philanthropic endeavours in that area.  He sponsored the Dustin Shield (rugby), Dustin Fours (rowing) and the Dustin Cup (softball, shooting). He also  accompanied the All Blacks on their first tour – as well as one in 1924 not long before his demise.

Part of a  panorama showing the corner where Broadway meets The Square in central Palmerston North, 1923. Dustins can be see to the right of the chemist store. Courtesy of Manuwatu Memory Online, Palmerston North City Library.

One of the two Cuba Street, Wellington Dustins stores can be seen with the sign showing above the group of people in the centre of the road. Courtesy of  Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R2267.

In July 1930 Dustins Ltd. publicly announced that one of the Cuba Street shops (it denotes singular in the article, mentioning 181 on that street in particular) and the Buttermaid brand had been sold and was henceforth to be known as White’s. What happened between the early 1930s and the early 1950s, by which time General Foods had acquired and trademarked the brand and made Buttermaid frozen pastry one of the more popular purchases in frozen foods for some time- I don’t yet know. Although there’s an absolute wealth of information on Dustins over time (which is rare for the type of subjects I cover), White’s seems to disappear from the records as soon as they took over.

Hopefully that piece of the Buttermaid story will be uncovered in due course. As for the Southern Cross Biscuit Company, which is a saga worthy of its own post – it lived on until the Dustin Family offloaded it to Griffin’s in 1959 where it was “disappeared” by effective corporate osmosis. After all as one of the eight largest New Zealand concerns of the time, it was not viewed as a brand, so much as just a share of the market.

Wattie’s He Been Doing

In Canned Goods, Canned vegetables, Fruit Juice, Instant Drinks, Wattie's on October 2, 2011 at 10.46

I honestly can’t say what I have been doing for the last month besides not posting here, but I do know that I have a heck of a lot of filing to catch up on and work to achieve on the book I am currently doing.  I do have some interesting articles coming up on the Pam’s brand, the early New Zealand  advertising world, and part two of a story on the Buttermaid brand  which I have discovered has its foundations  way back to Victorian Times. In lieu of not having put anything up on the site for nearly four weeks, here is the recent recreation that I have done of an early Wattie’s label for a grapefruit juice can.

Again this is part of a collection that was amassed by a marketing manager who worked at a company from the 1950s  through to the 1970s and collected samples of all the products he handled during that period. I’ve covered this story here  and here  and here. That said I am not sure of the date of this item, but I am conjecting that it dates from the early 1960s. hopefully later in the week I will be back on track and posting at least four times a month even if it’s something small.