Biscuit Bitchfight

In A.F. Gallacher, baker, baker and confectioner, Booth's Excelsior Biscuits, Excelsior biscuits, Excelsior Steam Biscuit Factory, Gallacher & Co, Gallacher's Excelsior biscuits, Glasgow Pie House, Invercargill, Invercargill Biscuit And Jam Factory, Inverness Bread And Biscuit Manufactory, J. C. Booth, jam maker, Nicholson's Mill on May 17, 2013 at 10.46

excelsior biscuit  copy

I ran across this little series of ads, below, by chance whilst looking into Hudson’s (the famous biscuit and chocolate brand) and found them quite amusing.
In them, two rival Invercargill bakers go at each other over a perceived trademark infringement; duelling in ink on newsprint rather than with the sword. Well, they do say the pen is mightier. If it was today there would be high-powered lawyers involved, adjusting their silk designer ties (or over-size pearls, if it were Gloria Allred) before stepping up to the mike to address the press with a statement outside the court for whichever major foodstuffs corporation they happened to be representing in the battle. Because nothing is small any more. But back then in simpler times – yet more unusual circumstances perhaps – they chose to take public pot-shots at each other in the local newspaper, to settle their beef.
What amounted to a particular name stamped onto the finished product was a bone of contention for these two early Invercargill bakers. Of course in the Nineteenth Century, and well into the Twentieth – the moniker “Excelsior” was up there with Lion, Acme, Peerless and Anchor et al as the most worn out, ubiquitous product names. For example, there were over time, and possibly even at the same time, at least four or even more different brands of biscuits with this name.

NOTICE OF PUBLIC INTIMATION J C BOOTH vs A F Gallacher  - Southland Times - 8 September 1880 - Page 1 - Page 1 Advertisements Column 4

Gallacher vs. Booth:  Southland Times,8 September, 1880 .


The three ads all ran on the same page in the same column, of the same issue which gives rise to the question – how had A. F. Gallacher known about J. C. Booth’s ad prior to publishing, in order to respond? It did flash across my mind that it may have been a stunt, and did a journalist at the paper perhaps have a helping hand in fanning the flame? Once this clicked I became even more curious as to whether this was just some sort of elaborate publicity gig between the two of them.
Actually, at no point during my researches have I found a mention that Gallacher used the Excelsior name once for anything. I have no reason to doubt that he did otherwise Booth would not have written the letter in the first place. Or was it all a beat-up?

Booth ran the exact same standard ad as this one for his Excelsior factory a couple of hundred times through 1880 and 1881, with no variation. So what happened before and after his apparently short stint? I was curious about the two fellows involved and their history, and it looked at first like I was going to get nothing on either of them. Then like always there’s a small chink, you wedge open the door that appears – and it’s like a torrent of badly stacked papers in an over-stuffed cupboard, that have had the door forced closed on them – when you open it, everything falls out on your head and onto the floor in a mess.

So J.C. Booth was James Charles, known as Charles or Charlie. He was born in the small village of West Hythe, on the edge of Romney Marsh, England in 1852. In 1871 there is the first record of him working as a bakers assistant (officially, a servant) for Thomas Gee in Dover Pier, Dover (now simply known as The Pier, it was not at the sea but some way inland).

James Charles Booth 1852-1917EDIT

James Charles Booth, baker, 1852-1917.


He also spent some time residing in St Mary just east of Romney as a baker’s assistant. He obviously undertook this for a number of years in order to gain the experience needed to later strike out on his own. However between then and leaving the country, there’s record of him working as an agricultural labourer (probably because being a servant “officially”, was also officially a shitty job). Perhaps he wanted experience in cultivating and processing grains which would have been a bonus in knowledge. Likely he remained in Kent during this period. In early 1874 Booth left from The Downs, on the Kent Coast on the Wennington , and arrived to Wellington in April. He immediately found work as a baker in Invercargill. Wasting no time he married Mary Hinson Wright (1854-1925) before the year was out at the Wesleyan Church there. In 1882 Booth took part in the international exhibition of Christchurch with a display of wares. Along with Aulsebrook’s they were described as “… colonial manufacturers of this class of goods (who) seem to hold their own against outside competition”, high praise in the days when the country was only just beginning to break away from importing just about everything – and all goods from “home” were seen as superior, no matter what the quality in comparison.

GLASGOW PIE HOUSE Southland Times , Issue 4092, 11 August 1881, Page 1

Glasgow Pie House opens, Southland Times, 11 August 1881.


The following year he left Invercargill leaving his debtors to pay a certain John Hare. most of his children with Mary were born before moving on to the North Island; Alice Mary 1876, Eliza Jane 1877, James Charles Jr. 1879, William Stephen 1881, and Florence Louise 1883. Three more offspring followed the relocation – Ruby Ellen Jane 1885, Cecil Frank 1887, and Omega in 1889. None of the eight births appear to be registered. Before the end of 1883 he was working as a mill hand and baker at Nicholson’s Mill, Northland. Not long after he listed his occupation as “farm owner” of Kent Farm, in Booth Road, Kaipara. And here he stayed working as a dairy farmer except for a trip to Britain (London and Kent) and Australia (Brisbane) in 1894. He was done in by a stroke and buried Port Albert Public Cemetery in Northland, aged 65 years. So that’s him.

A. F. Gallacher had a much more tumultuous time (mostly his own doing I think). Andrew Francis Gallacher, baker and confectioner, was born 1844 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland. I do not know when he immigrated; but a list of unclaimed letters in the Otago Daily Times , notes one for an Andrew S. Gallacher in June 1864 (a mistake I think), and then again in April 1865 for Andrew Gallacher. Nor do I know much of his career before he comes to our attention – however I probably still have more details of his life of pie than the former party. He married Jessie Fraser in New Zealand in 1871 and had the following children with her; William John Gallacher born Dunedin in 1872, Samuel Joseph 1879, James Ernest 1880, Margaret Elizabeth Anne 1873, Jessie Henrietta 1874, and Catherine 1875.
In 1875 the first mention of his business is the opening of the Gallacher & Co’sInverness Bread and Biscuit Manufactory” in Dee Street opposite Yarrow, Invercargill, with a J.A. Frederic as partner, a “commodious premises” with dining rooms for coffee and pies.

bride cake races

Opportunity and talent: Gallacher catering for local events March 1881, Southland Times; and showing off his decorating skills in the Southland Times, 9 March 1882.


They offered the Dee Street leasehold for sale at auction, not long after a new bakehouse had just been erected. Together they went bankrupt in 1876 – Gallacher was discharged in 1877. By this year Gallacher and his wife are living at Leven Street, Invercargill when a son is born, and by 1878 the couple are living in Spey Street, Invercargill when a daughter is born – neither are registered, yet the other five children were – indicating that they both died soon after childbirth.
By around 1878 Gallacher had re-opened a business “Glasgow Pie House”  in partnership with Andrew Anderson, which was situated one away from the corner of Esk Street and the West side of Dee Street, next to Sloan’s Theatre (none of these buildings stand today). The premises again had separate bakery ovens.
In July 1879 he parted ways with Anderson officially, and the business was split with Gallacher retaining the pastry and confection business and premises while Anderson, specialising in bread, kept that part for a time. So it was a financial, rather than physical, separation. By 1882 he was running pastry, jam, confectionery and refreshment lines as well as catering for events like the One Tree Point Station Races. In the middle of June 1882 had purchased the Railway Refreshment Rooms and opened a branch of his business there.

Dee_St_west_side_looking_north_from_Esk_St Kete Christchurch Reference - LC 993.185 EAR edit

The Glasgow Pie House on the west side of Dee Street, looking north from Esk Street. Image courtesy of Kete Christchurch, Ref LC 993.185 EAR.


In December 1882 Gallacher offered Glasgow Pie House for sale, to concentrate on wholesale endeavours, according to his statement. The advert insists the business is going well, and quite established with a roaring trade. Although he is asking for tenders, It makes it clear he is selling the premises and the business but not the fitting out and equipment.
An ad of January 1883 is seeking quantities of fruit for the “Invercargill Biscuit, Confectionery and Jam Factory“, and specifies a premises now in Tweed Street owned by Gallacher and a Jason Gilmour. Tweed street of course was where J C Booth’s set-up the “Excelsior Steam Biscuit Factory” was located. I have to wonder if they bought it from him when he left Invercargill in 1882, it’s quite likely.


Loudmouth strikes again: at least he apologised, I guess. Southland Times, 19 May, 1882.


By the middle of February 1883 Gallacher had apparently moved on from the Glasgow Pie House, selling up to an S. Langford (a presumably later photo shows R Johnson’s name emblazoned on the building, likely after Jessie Gallacher sold the business post her husband’s death). In March 1883 he filed for bankruptcy for a second time. At a meeting of creditors his ownership of a house in Winton is mentioned – although I suspect the family may have lived above the shop for at least a couple of years during financially strained times.

ANDREW FRANCIS GALLACHER BANKRUPT Southland Times 13 October 1883 Page 3

One of a legion of notices to appear in the papers pertaining to Gallacher’s legal woes. Southland Times, 13 October, 1883.


At a March 8 meeting of the creditors that was reported in the papers in an article entitled “A Reckless Trader”, “…it was brought out that he had but a very imperfect idea of his business at any time. The biscuit factory, had been losing at the rate of £6 -10 per week. The creditors expressed the opinion that the debtor was totally unfit to carry on a business, and hoped that the case would act as another warning to the people to be cautious as to whom they gave credit. One creditor signified his intention of proposing when the proper time arrives that the trustees represent the matter clearly before the Court, with the view of getting a punishment inflicted upon the debtor for the loose manner in which he had carried on his business.”

Ouch, but I think we kind of get the idea of what kind of person he was as far as business practices – all over the place and somewhat irresponsible. Further to that, in June 1882 he had been back in the Resident Magistrate’s Court charging an apprentice, an A. Rogers, of desertion. In response, Rogers testified that complainant had failed to supply his contract, that as a minor his mother never signed one, and that he did not get proper shelter with the roof leaking on to his bed. Gallacher scoffed that a nail hole in the roof was causing the issue but the amount of water that came through it was “very trifling”. The judge discharged Rogers and advised him to complete his apprenticeship. Whether he did I don’t know, but any amount of rain on your bed is just not cool.

Glasgow Pie House shown corner Dee and Esk Streets__Reference - Kete Christchurch  LC 993.185 EAR EDIT

Glasgow Pie House shown next to the corner of Dee and Esk Streets. I was really surprised to find not one but two images of this obscure business. Year unknown, but note the name above the door is now R. Johnson. I’m guessing first half of the 1890s. Image courtesy of Kete Christchurch, Ref  LC 993.185 EAR.


In November 1885 his wife Jessie announced a move back to the Glasgow Pie House in Dee Street. She apparently had a shop elsewhere that she was running, as well as the Railway Refreshment Rooms (who knows what happened to that). I suspect it was all in her name due to her husband’s history of legal troubles. In December it was advertised as re-opened – “The real old shop , a good dinner every day for one shilling, in the old Premises”  yet, again advertised in name under A. F. Gallacher. I’m at this point confused how someone who has gone bankrupt twice and actually sold the lease once and  the business twice still owns the business and in the same premises no less. Who knows what actually happened amongst all of these goings-on. The paper often only gives you the fragments (that’s assuming one finds all of them) and  – If you’re not on the spot, it’s too hard to figure out how it played.

Gallacher & Co's Inverness Bread and Biscuit Manufactory  Southland Times  29 December 1875 Page 3

Gallacher’s earlier endeavour also ended in financial disaster. Southland Times, 29 December, 1875.


Gallacher continued with the business through 1886, receiving permission from the local council to erect a sign for his business on the opposite side of the street. He passed away in 1887 at 43 years old and was buried at St. Johns Cemetery, Invercargill. They were still living in Dee Street at this time. A couple of years after his demise his wife Jessie bogarted on the Pianoforte teacher’s fees for the lessons of her two of her daughters, even though in the middle of 1887 she had collected £300 on her husband’s life insurance policy from Mutual Life Australasia. In November 1889 it was settled in the plaintiff’s favour by default as she did not turn up to court for the hearing. She later moved to Christchurch, sometime before 1896, where she saw out her “twilight” years and died in 1900 at 51 years old, residing at 33 Worcester Street.

Just saying – they sound a bit dodgy really. I wouldn’t be surprised if J. C. Booth had good reason for his accusation after all.

All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

  1. Fascinating, u r such a great, tenacious researcher. Peter

  2. It’s true that I won’t rest until I get my story.

  3. If you look at the photo of the corner of Dee and Esk Streets, their is more than a passing similarity with the situation of D K Kingsland and Sons at the corner of Jed and Don Streets Invercargill with the pie shop gone. Both corners with 3 lettered street names too! See Kingsland’s letterhead of 1928 and their Invoice of 1912 (Google images). Some artistic license given. Kinsland’s made biscuits and confectionery.

  4. Yes, a bit. I’ve never run across much about Kingsland’s I think they ended up being subsumed as part of AB Consolidated Dunedin with Caley Phoenix Mackintosh and Bycroft when Aulsebrook’s gobbled them all up.

  5. Have just read this and I really wanted to thank you for it. You have a real gift.
    Andrew Gallacher was my Great-Grandfather, so has made very interesting reading. I didn’t know the family from my dad back, so all I have to go on is what I have read and researched for myself.
    One of the children missing from your list of Andrew’s children is William John Gallacher (my Grandfather) born in Dunedin in 1872. Not sure if this helps with anything or if you have finished with this small part of your world.
    Thank you again.
    Ruth Stamler

    • Thanks for the compliment Ruth, it makes it worthwhile. It’s always really nice to hear from descendants, especially when I’ve found something new that they didn’t know. I’ll add the missing information in regarding your grandfather.

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