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. 

  1. Re Snowdrop. You say you have written to the Ashburton MUseum regarding this, but we have no record of having received your letter in recent years.

    I suggest you contact Roy Paterson’s son Bruce at pater@netspace.net.au He will be prepared to give you the full story, including where the packaging was actually stored.

  2. Thanks for your response. I wrote to the Ashburton Museum quoting the object number in October last year. I would not describe it as a letter, just a few lines. Generally if things are longer than that it decreases chances of getting an answer – being as busy as they are. I appreciate the tip-off. I will follow this up and add to the story at some time in the future. Cheers,

  3. The original Ashburton factory was created by my grandfather, Percy Bates. He emigrated to NZ with his wife, Jane, early last century from Yorkshire, England. He settled initially in Wairoa in Hawkes Bay and began dairy farming. He then opened an ice cream factory in Wairoa with the Snowdrop brand. After WW2 he shifted to Ashburton for person reasons and opened the second factory. My Dad and Mum joined him in Ashburton. I have lots more info if you’re interested. I plan to sit with my Mum and get more info on the factory.

    • Wow, an amazing piece of information, Noel. Thanks for letting me know, I have had the second part of the story about the Patersons’ history written for some time. They remembered the name Bates but knew nothing more in regards to the earlier history of the business. I’ll definitely be in touch shortly. Thanks for reading.

  4. Any progress on this story yet? Back in the days before we had a fridge, one of my big sisters used to get sent up to the Snowdrop factory on her bike to get a preserving jar full of something called ‘superwhip’ – not sure exactly what it was but likely some form of wizzed up icecream.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dave. Definitely progress, I have the full story on the Patersons and also the Bates family that founded it. I’ll get around to posting it one of these days. What era are we talking about when you were getting Superwhip?

    • My family owned Snowdrop. Do you want to talk about it.

      • Hi Gerald, thanks for getting in touch. You’ll see your name gets a mention in comments above from someone who remembers you. I have now managed to put together some of the history of Snowdrop, which goes back further than most people think. I obtained quite a lot of information from Bruce Paterson several years ago and oddly he never once mentioned your name. I subsequently finished another story several years aog covering the history of the business in detail, but have not published it.

  5. Mid-fifties. Went to school with Bruce P and knew the family quite well. Be interesting to see what you write up. Damn interesting stuff you’ve winkled out on everything. Should still be an old unopened K brand can of peas out in the garage- Rescued it from my old aunts rubbish years ago- it was waay past its ‘use by’ even back then. Bulging ends though but the label might still be OK.

  6. Thanks for your comment Dave. It’s a very good account of how ice cream and novelties were made, mostly by hand, before the advent of big commercial enterprises. I’d be interested in seeing the K can label if and when you find it!

  7. I went to school with Gerald Patterson and remember visiting the factory with him in the late fifties

  8. The factory was last located at 514 East Street Ashburton if you google it its now a Laundromat. My wifes father worked at Snowdrop until it closed

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