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Archive for May, 2014|Monthly archive page

Bite Size: Frisco Candy Kitchen

In American Boss candy, Auckland confectionery companies, baker and confectioner, British Photographic Studio, Candy, Charles Edward Swales, Collins Bros, Collins' Lolly Shop, Confectioner, confectionery, Frisco Candy Kitchen, Henry Winkelmann photographer, Ice Cream, John Clemshaw Swales, Palmer's confectionery, photographer, Richard Henry Swales, Rowland Chubb photographer, Sweets, The Elite Studio on May 5, 2014 at 10.46

1 Frisco LWK copy copy1

2 Frisco Candy Kitchen Karangahape Road, Auckland edit pink copy

Karangahape Road, Auckland, by W. T.Wilson, May 1910. Frisco Candy Kitchen at right showing hoarding advertising American Boss, Swales’s speciality. Image courtesy of  Alexander Turnbull Library, ref PA5-0015.

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A friend, knowing I am interested in such things, sent me a picture today regarding the Frisco Candy Kitchen, and asked if I knew anything about it. Yes I was familiar with it, as it appears in at least three photos taken in the early part of the Twentieth Century of the Newton, Auckland area and I had noticed it in passing. I hadn’t ever paused on it and wondered what the back story was – however I rarely encounter a dud – and yet again there is an interesting tale behind it, or at least I am actually able to find some material on something so obscure. The Frisco Candy Kitchen was on one of the corners of Pitt Street and Karangahape Road (this intersection seems to have been popular with photographers for postcard snaps), in the 1900s and 1910s and was owned by C. E. Swales. However one image, by Henry Winkelmann shows it may have been in operation into the 1920s.

3a SWALES BOSS CONFECTIONERY SWEETS ICE CREAM Thames Star, 23 October 1903, Page 3 edit copy

Swales’ Confectionery, Thames: an early mention of ice cream, and a first appearance of American Boss.  Thames Star, 23 October 1903, Page 3. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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Charles Edward Swales was born in New Zealand in early 1871 to Councillor John Clemshaw (1827-1909)  and Lucy Swales (nee Jones, 1828-1907) who had arrived on The Shalimar in 1859 and settled in Ponsonby. His father, considered a gentleman by the time he retired in the mid 1890s, began as a plumber and tinsmith in Young’s Alley off Wellesley Street, then in retirement represented Auckland city for a number of years and sat on the boards of Ponsonby Highway and Hospital Charitable Aid, the Streets Committee, the Ponsonby School Committee as well as being a trustee of the Wesleyan Church. In other words a quite prominent and respected family. They lived in Dedwood Terrace, near the corner of Caroline Street, for over 45 years, being some of the oldest residents of the area (Dedwood was Ponsonby’s earlier name and I wish they had kept it; Tim Burton would move straight in). Charles’s siblings were John William (1861, a plumber and gasfitter who inherited his father’s business), Richard Henry  (known as Harry, 1863, later a well-known merchant and military tailor on Victoria Street West), Annie Maria (1865), Sarah Ann (1869), and Frederick James (1873).

3b Frisco Candy Kitchen 1919 Henry Winkelmann edit

Looking east from Pitt Street along Karangahape Road, showing Frisco Candy kitchen on right. Photo by Henry Winkelmann, 1919. Image courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1682.

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However as I started to follow the trail backwards I found that Swales had an earlier career as an “art photographer” first in the city’s main road, Queen Street, as a young man – at number 322 in the mid-1890s; then in Pollen Street, Thames, Coromandel soon after; he appears there in 1896. Newspaper adverts of 1897 mention his “many years of experience at leading Auckland studios.” Between May and December of that year he closed his business, called for tenders, rebuilt his studios and re-opened. The last advert for his career behind the camera that I can find appears on the last day of August 1899, and seemingly his work in that area finished up by the end of 1900 at latest. In 1902 he married Ellen Thorburn (1879-1956).

4  F H Creamer a noted walker  Photo by  Swales New Zealand Illustrated Magazine edit copy

“F. H. Creamer, a noted walker.” New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 8, 1 May 1900, Page 623. The only image I could find of a photo taken by Swales. Image courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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By mid 1902 an ad appears for C.E. Swales, confectioner, in Pollen Street, offering ice cream. So his learning curve lasted no more than two years at the very most. I’d be interested to know which confectioner he quickly learned his trade with, though. It is very likely he served an apprenticeship with Charles Palmer or Collins Bros also both of Pollen Street, which I previously covered here.

4a  C E Swales the Elite Studio Auckland Star, 26 February 1895, Page 8 edit copy copy

C. E. Swales’s “Elite Studio” Auckland Star, 26 February 1895, Page 8. I was wondering why this address sounded familiar; my grandfather had his factory at 323 Queen Street. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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I am placing bets it was Palmer that Swales studied the art of candy making with – simply because they were a much bigger and longer established business – who also advertised ice cream they were making, from at least 1891. This mention, by the way, is the fourth-earliest historical evidence I have run across of commercial ice cream making for retail in New Zealand thus far. Although admittedly, an objective look at the overall history of this genre in New Zealand has not really been focussed on by myself – just pockets here and there. It makes Swales the sixth-earliest mention. Anyway, it’s interesting to ruminate on – besides both areas being considered “creative” – what the inspiration was for the change to such a dramatically different field.

6 Frisco Candy Kitchen 1907 Radcliffe, Frederick George edit copy

Looking east along Karangahape Road, from the corner of Pitt Street, showing Frisco Candy Kitchen on right. Photo by Frederick George Radcliffe, 1907. Image courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A4724.

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In October 1903 Swales offers “all kinds of confectionery and sweets”, as well as something called “American Boss.” The Wilson image of 1910 shows a hoarding on K Road painted with the slogan “The original American Boss” over the Frisco Candy Kitchen shop. Obviously Boss was a kind of candy as I have references to “American Boss” being sold by Waughs confectioners in the 1910s and “Boss Balls” by The Bluebird confectionery in the 1920s. However I’ve been unable to find out anything more about it, as far as a recipe or even any mention, so I am speculating this recipe was some kind of Australasian corruption of a foreign treat that was popularised down under – rather like Sally Lunns and others which were given their unique twist and name, then adopted wholeheartedly. About this time of the first American soda fountains in Aotearoa there seems to have been a trend for things Yankee.

6a  CE SWALES ART PHOTOGRAPHER Thames Star, Volume XXIX, Issue 8551, 5 January 1897, Page 4

A variety of services at Swales’s studios. Thames Star, 5 January 1897. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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By 1905 Charles and Ellen were back in Auckland living with his father; John Swales, now referred to as a ‘gentleman’, had acquired another home for his retirement at 6 Yarborough Street, Ponsonby, and Harry was living in the former family home. Charles would have established the Frisco Candy Kitchen that year. From this time on, he listed his occupation as ‘confectioner’ but  interestingly, he was never too far away from photography; later on the second floor above Frisco Candy Kitchen was occupied by snappers – at various times both Rowland Chubb who ran the British Photographic Studio, and Frederick Harmer ‘s Childhood Photographic studios, also known as Peter Pan Portraits, were in situ.

6b john clemshaw and Richard Henry ( Harry) Swales and Harry's shop copy lighter copy

From left: John Clemshaw Swales, Richard Henry ( Harry) Swales’s shop, and Harry Swales. Ironically I wasn’t able to find a picture of Charles Edward. Portraits from The Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1902, courtesy of  NZETC (New Zealand Electronic Text Collection), Victoria University of Wellington Library. Middle image looking south east  from corner of Albert St down Victoria St West towards Albert Park, showing premises of R. H. Swales, tailor.  He had been running this business for nearly twenty years by this time. Photo by Henry Winkelmann, 1907. Image courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1-W1441.

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Charles and Ellen’s only known child was John Louis Swales (b 1910). Seemingly they were prosperous from the sweets business for Charles and Ellen owned more than one residence; by at least 1915 they had acquired a property at Victoria Road, Mount Eden, and an advert of that year offers for lease a five room house near Three Lamps (Ponsonby) and asks for applications to be made to Frisco Candy Kitchen. Obviously they had inherited the Dedwood Terrace house post their father’s death and were managing it as a rental property.

8 swales photo studio Thames closes tenders reopens between March-December1897 1 copy

Swales’s Pollen Street premises closes and re-opens. Clockwise from top L: Thames Star, 31 March 1897, Page 3; 11 December 1897, Page 4; and 18 March 1897, Page 3. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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There are advertisements seeking staff from at least 1906 to 1915. Several of them which ran seeking “a smart young lady for the shop” were dated late 1911. That smart young lady was Phyllis Adelaide French, later the subject of a notorious case of tragic demise. She was successful in obtaining the position and worked for Swales until mid-April of the following year when she stopped turning up for work, a note being sent that she was unwell with the flu.
A few days later, she was dead – seemingly the victim of peritonitis attended to far too late to save her. This was caused by a terribly botched abortion she obtained when she became pregnant, after an affair with a married man from Christchurch – while they were both living in a boarding house in Union Street. Swales was named as a witness to appear at the inquest. You can read articles outlining in detail the court proceedings here and here. It’s an interesting look into the stigma of becoming pregnant out of wedlock and how it was dealt with in secrecy and shame, a century ago – with disastrous results. How times have changed.

smart young lady for frisco candy kitchen New Zealand Herald, 29 November 1911, Page 1 edit

 The successful applicant died while in Swales’s employ. New Zealand Herald, 29 November 1911, Page 1.Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

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It was an interesting moment when I realised that Phyllis was the very person who had filled the position being advertised earlier. Sometimes you get an objective peek in on history, and feel like you’re kind of privy to a weird sequence of events that fall like dominoes – and nobody else could have known they were going to be related.

intersection of Karangahape Road and Pitt Street c1920's Rendells  Frisco Candy Kitchen  From a Souvenir Folder of Auckland  pub Tanner Bros Ltd via Hayden Oswin

Frisco Candy Kitchen at the intersection of Karangahape Road and Pitt Street, in 1919. From a Souvenir Folder of Auckland, published  in the early 1920s by Tanner Bros Ltd. Image courtesy of Hayden Oswin.

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It’s unknown exactly when Swales finished up the Frisco Candy Kitchen. In 1917 he enlisted in the army indicating his occupation as ‘sugar boiler’; And at various times after this they seem to switch between the Mount Eden and Ponsonby addresses, until 1928 when a new residence at 768 Manukau Rd, Royal Oak and a new premises, at 17 Victoria Avenue, Remuera, is registered. The latter seems to have been a retail shop so indicates that Frisco probably closed in the mid 1920s. Charles and John Louis were both recorded as ‘shop assistants’, along with Ellen, at Victoria Ave as late as 1935 when Charles passed away at 64 years. He died at Ruawai, a small township located 30 km south of Dargaville in Northland; I have no information on why he was there when he passed away.  Ellen and John Louis continued to run the Remuera shop until the end of WWII;  after which Ellen opened a new premises at Horoeka Avenue, Mt Eden. They stayed at this address until the end, running a business from here until it closed around 1956 when she died, followed by her son seven years later.
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