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Archive for the ‘S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd’ Category

Catching Up With The Kid

In "K", "K" Brand, Canned Goods, Centennial Kirkpatrick House, Kirkpatrick, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, S. Kirkpatrick & Company on June 28, 2014 at 10.46

Kirkpatricks Nelson Melon & Lemon-Plum  jam Tin  copy

As I have passed the milestone of publishing one hundred articles quite a while back – I now find I backtrack on a regular basis to add interesting titbits as they come up. These may be things that I think will enhance a story I’ve previously considered I’m done with. This may be as new information comes in, or I run across relevant images – or perhaps a descendant or collector contacts me to offer something I may be interested in; data they have that fills in a gap in a story.

This week I’ve made small updates to quite a few previous articles with pictures and revisions, and these are noted at the foot of the article with an addendum.

Here’s several images of an incredible stash of ancient “K” products from S. Kirkpatrick & Co which came up for sale a while back. I am guessing these date from the late 1910s-through the early 1920s. It’s rare enough to find any labelled and unopened cans, particularly this old. I’ve maybe seen one or two from this brand over time. But a few at once? I was intrigued.

I contacted the seller to satisfy my curiosity and they explained that they were found stashed in an old, forgotten cupboard of a long-abandoned house they had recently acquired. I also contacted the buyer, wondering why someone I didn’t previously know of as a collector had bought them all in one go. As it turns out they are the current owners of the renovated Kirkpatrick House that I feature in my previous article – and have decided to collect anything associated with the former owners.

Most of the envelopes further down, as well as the ginger tin, came up for auction around the same time, albeit from a different seller. You can see the previous story on Kirkpatrick and the “K” brand  here.

Kirkpatricks Nelson Marmalade Tin  copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Baking Powder Tin copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Tomato SoupTin  copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Cayenne Pepper Tin copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson K Damson Tin  copy
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KirkpatricksTin tops copy
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K Brand Kirkpatricks Ground Ginger Tin  copy
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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope Solpak apples 1940s edit
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K Brand Tomato Soup, 1940 colour advertising cvrKIRKPATRICK  North Shore Stamps crop

“K” Brand Tomato Soup, 1940 colour advertising cover, image courtesy of North Shore Stamps.

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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope spagetti in tomato sauce  1940s edit
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K Kirkpatrick Spaghetti with tomato and cheese 1945 NZ Bill envelope with advertising edit

“K” Brand  bill envelope with advertising, 1945.  Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library collection, ref Eph-A-FOOD-1945-01.

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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope baked beans flavoured with pork and tomato sauce  1940s edit
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Other updates as follows:

 

The Creamy Dragon Strikes Again

Continental Love

Bite Size: Reconstituted Retro

When It Finally Dawns: Sunrise Cordial and The Galliens

Edible And Credible

Fruits Of Commerce: The Bountiful Depictions of Joseph Bruno Moran

Don’t Mess With The Classics

A Trail Goes Creamy and Cold

Man’s Best Trend: Commercialising Our Critters

Perfitly Preserved

In My Cups

Somewhat Wireless, But Not Brainless

Coupon Conquest

Projecting The Past

When Lactose Goes

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

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Perfitly Preserved

In "K" Brand, Agee, Alex Harvey Industries (AHI), Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd (AGM), Bond & Bond, Choysa Tea, Don and Marjorie Symonds, Finch and Company, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Gunn Gollin Ltd, Home Preserving, Irvine & Stevenson, L D Nathan & Co Ltd, LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd, Lion Nathan Limited, National Can Industries (NCI), Oak, Perfit, Preserves, Professor Helen Leach, Pyrex, Q-P baking powder, Quality Packers Ltd, Roma tea, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, St. George, Susan Baker, Thompson & Hill, Unilever, Wiltshire NZ Ltd on April 20, 2013 at 10.46

1 Susan Baker Warhol  copy

The eternally cheerful and supremely confident preserving wiz Susan Baker, Warhol-style.

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For a long period of history, bottling was the main method of preservation of foods – and there doesn’t seem to be much “specific” history of it in New Zealand since it is obviously not endemic; and therefore didn’t have much of a separate development geographically. It is what it is; stuff in jars, found the world over – even the earlier traditions of potting, drying and smoking of Maori culture weren’t that different from any other parts of the world.

2 Perfit Seal Large D1 Dome Perfit Seals - edit QUALITY PACKERS owned by LEVER   liquidation by 1993 these are probably 1980s

Perfit dome lid box, by Quality Packers (Q-P), probably produced in the late 1970s-late  1980s. The booklet price is listed as fifty cents at this time.

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Although, Professor Helen Leach, a food anthropologist and historian from the University of Otago, reckons the history of it is, inexplicably, far more enduring in Aotearoa than that of the U.K. or U.S. She does have her suspicions as to why, though. I listened to an interesting broadcast on the topic where she skirted around the obvious economic issue; we’ll get to that in a moment.
MASON AND GOLDEN STATE JAM PRESERVING JARS RITCHIE'S Otago Daily Times 17 February 1920 Page 8

Ritchie’s preserving supplies, Otago Daily Times, February 1920.

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It was a given that the accomplished housewife would have a skilled knowledge of cooking and preserving. Sometimes hundreds of pounds of produce were ‘put down’ while it was in season. Anything that could be saved for later, was – even pickled eggs, which sound kind of revolting now – were quite popular for a number of decades, as anyone who watches Boardwalk Empire would have observed.

Preserved Plums about 1899 or 1900 - Puke Ariki collection New Plymouth, Taranaki

Preserved Plums c 1899-1900, courtesy of Puke Ariki  Museum collection New Plymouth. Accession No A92.979

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Anyway, there is likely a lot more to it than sheer financial reasons, but I know my mum did an awful lot of bottling for that very reason – we could “pick-our-own” produce locally in the semi-rural area where we lived for very little – the kids would be put to work coring, peeling and chopping in preparation – and we’d have a greater variety of food for later in the year at a low cost. I can say as far as our family, it certainly was not done for any sense of accomplishment or sheer joy as the alternatives suggested.

PRESERVING SEASON 1902  - Ashburton Guardian - 13 February 1902 - Page 3 EDIT  copy

Fletcher’s preserving supplies, Ashburton Guardian, 13 February 1902.

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NZ History online states New Zealanders had an “obsession with bottling (and) good housewives were expected to know…”  This is a bit like saying fruit grows on trees under a blue sky, since in those days it was more a given necessity than a pastime of any sort. Also – thrift, or even the exhibition of it – through perceived activities such as home arts in the culinary manner, was seen as virtuous. Ergo, there was hardly an exception when it came to cookbooks including extensive sections on this prudent approach; as well as a plethora of them completely devoted to the topic.

4A1 100_4099 edit  smaller probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Back of small orange G dome box with the booklet price  listed as 30 cents. This indicates it probably dates from the  late 1960s – early 70s. 

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Domestically-based commercial canning and bottling of foodstuffs was beginning to become prevalent in the late C19th (Kirkpatrick’s “K”, Thompson and Hills‘ “OAK” , Irvine & Stevenson‘s “St George” to name some ) – however this did little to dull the ardour for home preserving – which flourished, although the technique probably may have had a significant downtime in recent decades with a notable nosedive in the 1960s (yet, Perfit claimed that in the mid 1960s Kiwi women were still squirreling away twenty million bottles per annum collectively).

4AB 100_4104 edit smaller probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Front  of small orange G dome box above. Manufacturer is Finch & Co.

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The drop-off was due to a number of factors. The advent of easy accessibility to home refrigeration and new-fangled methods of freezing food meant perishables, where possible, were chucked in the ice chest to use as needed. Mass advertising of goods that became more prevalent in the 1950s began to capture an audience to branded product; and the corporatisation of just about everything possible seemed to be on the rise from the early 1960s (what big business wants people doing it themselves? There’s no money in that). By the time these factors were combined with a marked rise in time poverty – especially because of women entering the workforce full time in droves – there was no real chance of recovering the decline and ever going back to those halcyon days.

4A perfit1large booklet edit

The Perfit home preserving book was published in at least four editions through the 1960s and 1970s, and was available for a nominal price by writing to the company.

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However that has not at all stopped enjoyment of the same products over time – whether home or factory made. And it has certainly had a hobby revival in the last few years with the re-trending of vintage Kiwiana and home cooking – as people have a yearning to get back to old-fashioned ways, signifying simpler times and other unfounded romantic ideas that enter their heads. “It did have a bit of a lull for a while, but it’s never really gone away”, says Marjorie Symonds, one of the current owners of Perfit.

100_4109 edit sml probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Back of large blue dome box. This probably early 70s as booklet price is now five cents up from around 1968.

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Preserving memorabilia is in a little category of its own, not quite lumped in with food and drink products, but associated kitchen ephemera – “cooking stuff”. Brands of bottling gear were imported (Atlas, Mason, Fowler, Ball, Mason to name some) and a lot of companies got in on the lucrative preserve seal/ cover act like Reidrubber, KB (by IGA ), Deeko, and Jet Set (by Lane Latimer who were well known for their King brand of foodstuffs). There was Four Square and Pam’s (by Foodstuffs NZ Ltd) as well, but the two most popular were domestically produced brands Agee, and of course Perfit – which is in the oeuvre of an iconic NZ brand remembered by a number of generations.

100_4112 edit sml probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Front of large blue dome box. Manufacturer is Finch & Co.

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Perfit is an old French /British surname which originally stems from “Parfait” although the name of the brand seemingly has nothing to do with that and is simply an amalgamation of two words – “perfect” and “fit” referring to their function as a superior method of sealing preserved goods.

Perfit Screw Bands 12  Green copy copy

Perfit screw bands during the period they were sold in plastic rather than the classic box.

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For decades Ms. Susan Baker, Perfit‘s ”home preserving consultant” has beamed beatifically from the cartons, with a confident glow that says “of COURSE you can do it, and all your efforts will turn out perfectly, so I’m not expecting a letter from you.” However if you ran into problems, she was at your service ; you could write to her, and she would do her best to answer. Oh – and also, for the nominal fee of a few cents, send you a home preserving handbook ( which was being produced in the 1960s and 1970s that I know of, and also L D Nathan & Co Ltd. had produced an earlier one, thought to be from the 1940s that is in the MLNZ ephemera collection). I always imagined her sitting on a spindly, high stool at her little wooden desk in the high-ceilinged Perfit warehouse somewhere in a 1950s-looking industrial division in South Auckland, with a few reference recipe tomes book-ended, and a soft lamp at her elbow, earnestly answering letters from housewives as storemen bustled around in the background preparing orders. So who was this Susan Baker, that, if you were like me – was gazing back at me every time I opened the cupboard that held the Edmonds jelly crystals, Gregg’s spices, Maggi stocks, cake decorations, and bits of preserving gear? She became an unwitting icon of our childhoods. Yet, we knew nothing about her.

Perfit Seal 12 Green Screw Bands (B2) EDIT  copy

Perfit screw band box showing contents. This looks like a recent revived version of the box.

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As it turns out – Susan Baker was not a real person – she was invented by the marketing department of the time. “She was a fictitious character, made up when Unilever had it. They just picked out a name and put the picture of some lady on the box. There was no such person as Susan Baker”, says Marjorie Symonds, who with her husband Don acquired both the Agee (in the late 1990s) and the Perfit brand in 2000. In reality, it would have been employees like Diane Horne , who, working at L.D. Nathan‘s Fort Street building in the 1960s – who answered the inquiries during her tenure working for Ray Lowe in the Perfit Seal Division.

42 Home Preserving by Susan Baker of Perfit - Nelson Photo News - No 75 February 4, 1967

Home Preserving article by Susan Baker (apparently) for the Nelson Photo News, No 75, February 4, 1967.

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I can’t say for sure but the brand was likely created by Nathan ( today the international behemoth based in Australia –Lion Nathan Limited ); when it was known more formally as “The Perfit Seal” – the earliest ads I can find mentioning the Perfit product are 1944-1945. Museum collections show preserving jar seals by that company from the 1950s but do not mention an actual brand name.

perfit seal auto preserver and box Kauri House Auctions 2012 cropped

An early version of the Perfit auto preserver with original box, waiting to be auctioned in Havelock North last year. This one is probably from the late 1950s-early 1960s. Image courtesy of Kauri Auction House.

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Don Symonds has had a long history with brands prior to that – spanning thirty years or so with agents Gunn Gollin Ltd who handled the Agee product. Belinda Cimino, a former employee, recalls that GGL dealt also in “half of New Zealand’s tea”, as well as pineapple, herbs and spices, seeds, frozen seafoods, steel and cast iron kitchenware, wine and spirits. ”

“I started with Gunn Gollin (GGL) in 1981 as national sales manager, and in this role I looked after the Agee brand along with several other brands – for many years. GGL was the distributor for Agee. This came about because GGL imported and supplied the compounds to make the rubber seal, to what was then named Alex Harvey Industries (AHI), manufacturers of the metal components. AHI did not have the expertise to market the product – hence we at GGL assumed that role. “

Perfit Seal Electric Home Preserver (M EDIT  copy

A late 1960s version of the Perfit auto preserver.

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Marjorie seems to think that both Perfit and Agee stemmed from the same original business, which could be true, however the sealing components for the jars (domes, rings, seals) were both made in the same factory in Mount Wellington. I have two boxes that state “manufactured by Finch & Company Ltd.” Don Symonds says: ” I think that Finch were taken over by AHI later on. Agee and Perfit were manufactured side by side – the only difference was the colour of the compound and the outer packaging. These were both made in AHI‘s Mount Wellington factory which later became National Can Industries (NCI). Packing of the product was originally done by the Blind Institute, and later contracted out.”

100_4071 edit to blue B1 box  copy

The recent revived version of the classic blue Perfit screw band box. Most of these items are from my own personal collection.

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Eventually like everything domestic that was hanging on, the factory could no longer compete with foreign manufacture and the new owners of the brands had to look overseas for another component fabricator . “Eventually they closed manufacture of the line down, hence why we now import them”, says Don. These days the product comes from Canada.

41  Ellesmere Guardian Volume 66 Issue 12 16 February 1945 Page 6 Advertisements Column 2 ORMANDYS

An early mention of Perfit in the  Ellesmere Guardian, February 1945. I’m not sure when Perfit was on the market but I am assuming that it was at the end of WWII.

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The actual Agee bottles themselves were first made by Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd (AGM, established in 1915 ), their logo commonly found on many New Zealand bottles and handy for dating. The company were later famous of course for Agee Pyrex cookware – as well as insulators and baby feeders also under the Agee brand. “I believe that originally the jars were made in Australia but it could have been in the 1970s – I’m not sure of the exact date – that New Zealand changed the lid size to the US measurements – and Australia did not. hence our lids do not fit Australian jars. From then on all our jars were made domestically by a manufacturer named NZ Glass in Penrose. The jars were never sold by either Perfit or Gunn Gollin, NZ Glass sold them direct to retailers themselves. We never handled them.”

Perfit Seal - Gregg's coffee jar promo box EDIT copy

This  smaller screw bands box was a tie in product with W. Gregg & Co is probably around 1967-68 as the stamped price  shows both decimal and imperial currency – indicating it was produced when the conversion was recent enough for people to still be confused.

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Perfit Seals New Zealand Weekly News  Jan 1966 - Perfit and Gregg's promotion box - prob circa 1968 as it shows price decimal and imperial

An advert of January 1966 explaining that special edition screw bands are now available to recycle 4 ounce Gregg’s instant coffee jars to use for preserves. The box indicates the Perfit preserving book is now in its fourth edition. This is the earliest reference I can find for it, though – at 25 cents.

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The Perfit brand name its self wasn’t registered until 1960 by L D Nathan & Co according to IPONZ records, and interestingly, it doesn’t seem that “Susan Baker” was ever registered.

An early box of Perfit G Dome Seals made for L D Nathan sold recently on Trade Me and showed that the instruction book price had risen to fifty cents. This indicates it was produced post 1967 decimal currency introduction, and so that information tells us it was after that time Nathan on-sold the business to Unilever. A trademark registration, with no party named, shows up for the product in 1972; this seems to match up with the year of some acquisitions and changes at L D Nathan who may have decided to divest their interest in – what they likely considered at the time – a  waning brand with limited future.

5 perfit stuff 1 EDIT copy probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

A look at the design for the metal domes – early-mid 1970s.

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It now seemingly stayed with Unilever through to 2000, although one box I have is marked “Quality Packers Ltd”  Nielsen Street, Onehunga ( a company founded in the 1930s who were well-known for their “Q-P” baking powder, and later also produced a serious Kiwi foodstuffs icon – Choysa tea, as well as Roma).Choysa (established in 1905) came from Bond & Bond, whose company became “LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd” after it was purchased by them around 1972, as Christine Cox, a former employee, remembers happening while she worked in the L D Nathan offices in Auckland central.

perfit jar holder copy edit

Box for the Perfit jar holder – it was a rubber-sheathed loop used for lifting bottles in and out of the auto preserver.

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Eventually, the Choysa brand was moved over from LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd to Quality Packers, (which Nathan had also snapped up around the same time) to handle. Clearly Perfit was eventually slotted in under the QP division in the 1970s-1980s for reasons we don’t really know. Perhaps it seemed to be in marketplace competition with another of the numerous brands Unilever owned – or perhaps QP were just better equipped in some way to handle such a product. It could have been a myriad of reasons. So that’s how Perfit ended up being “produced” by QP. Quality Packers were liquidated in 1993 and then struck off the following year (it turns out 100% of the shares were owned by Unilever at the time) and yet they decided to retain the Perfit brand for a few more years until they finally decided they’d had enough of it.

Agee Preserving Jars and pint preserving jar box perfit seal box EDIT  copy

A variety of Agee and Perfit preserving products.

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Don and Marjorie Symonds took over Agee first (Unilever had acquired it from Wiltshire NZ Ltd at some point – who had registered it around 1957), and “then Unilever…came to us and said would you like to have Perfit too? and we did. In 2003 we ceased production of Agee because it turns out there wasn’t really room for two brands in the market at that time, and Perfit was more popular”, says Marjorie. Don recallsPerfit was sold to us in 2000, as Unilever had decided to shed lines that were no longer classed as core business.”

6A 100_4079 edit  copy

An original version of the red screw bands box, probably early 1970s.

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I’ve got quite a collection of the various boxes that have been issued over the years – including one that is specifically marketed for its ability to fit on a certain size of Gregg’s coffee jar that people were taking it upon themselves to recycle and use for preserving. I’d noticed that recently a lot of the older style boxes were cropping up – but in fact seemed to be a recent product. “We’ve gone back to the two older boxes, the ones that originally came out the forties or fifties. So the ones that are on the shelves now are the original box designs they used many years ago”.

6B 100_4082 edit  copy

An original version of the red screw bands box, probably early 1970s.

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I ask if it was a deliberate decision to go back to that to give it a more traditional feel and honour that long history of preserving.“Well, yes – the product was only in plastic bags with a card label and they’re no good sitting on supermarket shelves” says Marjorie.” It doesn’t look good. So I said – let’s put them back into the original boxes. So we had them redone.” 

It’s good to see that every once in a while a company is upholding its own history and celebrating it, even if it’s in small ways.

Ellesmere Guardian Volume 66 Issue 13 20 February 1945 Page 3 Adverts column 1 FARMERS

An early mention of Perfit amongst the preserving range on offer at Farmers”. Ellesmere Guardian, February 1945.

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Addendum, early Aug 2013: I had been trying to save up some good images for years for this article, and then of course just the week after I posted this article, someone immediately came up with a couple of much better ones, including some of the Perfit auto preserver and the jar holder with a good shot of the box it came in.

Perfit Seal Jar Holder - For Bottling copy sml

I’m not sure what to make of this seal box. I’ve never seen this version before. Presumably it’s a little older than the others I’ve featured – probably early 1960s, maybe even late 1950s. But who knows for sure. Also, who knows why exactly they needed so many different boxes for what was essentially the same basic product!

older Perfit seal box front and back 200 dpi copy sml
Addendum  mid Jan 2014: A Dunedin collector and reader of this blog kindly sent these images to me as a contribution the article. These arrived some months ago and I haven’t had time for quite a while to do all the updates I need to get around to. I’d say these pages come from two different editions of the Perfit Seal Home Preserving booklet: early 1960s and another from the mid 1960s. Unfortunately all are undated so it’s pretty difficult to tell bar the use of imperial versus decimal currency, which gives a general clue. I’ve never seen either of these versions before – just what I think of as the “regular” version that I posted in the article above, which seems to crop up on a regular basis. Anyway, for the most part they are interesting pages with some colour. All following images are courtesy of Owain Morris collection.

Perfit Seal a  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal  Preserving Items  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal b  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal large booklet  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal Susan Baker - Owain Morris Collection

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

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Power Outlet: The Force of Four Square and Foodstuffs NZ Ltd

In "K" Brand, 4 Triangle, AG Stores, Arrow Butter, Auckland Master Grocers' Association, Baker's Review, Budget brand, Central Provision Stores, Checkout Four Square board game, Cheeky Charlie, Ches and Dale, CPS Stores, Dick Frizzell, Dormer-Beck, Farmer's, Farmer's Co-op, Farmer's Trading Co., Fletcher's Stores, Food Fair, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Stores (Australia) Pty Ltd, Four Square Supermarkets, Four Triangle, Green and Colebrook stores, Grocers' Review, Icon Products, John Heaton Barker, Kirkpatrick, Laidlaw Leeds mail order company, Ltd, McKenzies stores, Mr. Four Square, National Cash Register Co, New World Supermarkets, New Zealand Grocer's and Baker's Review, New Zealand Grocergram, New Zealand Master Baker's associatio, NZ Master Grocer's Association, NZ Master Grocer's Federation, Pak 'N' Save supermarkets, Pam's Products, Rawakelle tea, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, Self Help Stores, Sir Harry Heaton Barker, Te Aroha Dairy Company, The Farmers Union Trading Company, Triangle brand, Uncategorized, United Buyers, Wattie's, Weston-Frizzell, Woolworth's Food Fair, Woolworth's stores, Woolworth's supermarkets on August 7, 2012 at 10.46

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A recreation I’ve made of a rare Australian contest poster of the 1950s.

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The Four Square brand originally emerged from a grocers’ co-op, which was established based on the concern that competition from grocery chain stores in the New Zealand market place was making business very difficult for small, independent store operators. How much truth there is to this claim is dubious since at that period of time in the early 1920s, the only specific food chain that comes to mind that would have provided any serious competition was Self Help, also a co-operative, which I covered previously in a fairly brief and superficial article of May this year here.

J. T. Hammond’s Mangatoki Four Square with sign writing done by Jack Wood, probably 1930s. Courtesy of the Puke Ariki collection.

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Between just 1922 and 1923, during the initial formation by the Auckland Master Grocers’ Association of what was soon to become Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Self Help had gone from just one store to a string of seven which must have been a frightening concept for anyone in the field looking to the near future and their prospects within.

Logos through the decades, clockwise from left: mid-late 1920s, 1932, late 1950s-early 1960s, mid 1930s-early 1940s, unknown – probably late 1940s , and 1980. From the mid 1950s the logo has remained almost the same in colour and design. a

Although a small company named Fletcher’s can probably lay claim to being the very first “self-service” style enterprise in the history of New Zealand, it had probably fizzled out by the early twenties. However in 1919 Laidlaw Leeds, a very successful mail order company had acquired the Green and Colebrook chain to become Farmer’s Co-op and they opened their twenty-ninth store in 1921. Although a general department store, Farmer’s were marketing at least flour, tea and spices that I am aware of, but hardly specific competition, however – that may have been all it took.

Colouring book produced as a competition promotion in 1954. a

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Since at the time the Self Help concept was a huge revelation in grocery shopping and pricing I can only conject that Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd was formed in direct response to Self Help’s extremely sudden success within that narrow timeframe – having pushed the situation to the edge. This allegedly pertinent issue was raised by a man named John Heaton Barker – to Auckland’s main grocers’ association, in early July of 1922. The co-op became official when it formed a company – which was registered on 1st of April, 1925. It’s first contract was with Te Aroha Dairy Company to carry their “Arrow” brand butter. Co-operatives were also formed in Wellington (named United Buyers, the same year, 1922, which became the “4 Triangle” chain) and in Christchurch (1928, which was named the “AG Stores”) . By 1935 all these co-ops had already come under the Four Square brand but were now officially renamed branches of Foodstuffs Ltd.

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Advertisement showing the white pepper and cornflour from their self line, Evening Post, March 1934 a

Seemingly well documented, the Foodstuffs legend goes that on the 4th of July 1924, two years into the co-op being formed, Barker, in position of company secretary at this time – was doodling on a pad during a telephone conversation with his colleagues and drew a square around the date. He presented this concept with the buoying manifesto that the group would stand ‘four square to all the winds that blew”.

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Above: Four Square white pepper tin from my own collection. This design was in use during 1934-1935. Below, I’ve recreated the label.

It wasn’t long before the first logos for the brand were bumped into all the stores in the form of hand-painted glass signs, with products appearing under the moniker by the end of that year. A primitive version of the formal logos we know today were going up on stores by 1929, with 4 Triangle, and AG Stores becoming part of Four Square not long after in December 1933 – as well as another co-op which had been formed in Southland (but much later down the track, in 1948) . The distinctive colours, however, were not adopted until 1931 when on a field trip to view a particular store belonging to a Mr. McInnes, the initial tangerine and yellow scheme (with green added to it in the form of the logo) was requisitioned.

Promotional puzzle showing many of Four Square’s line of products circa late 1940s. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Manuscripts and Pictorial collection. a

By the time the early thirties co-op merger had taken place (of which the date both Fairfax’s Business Hall of Fame profile as well as Foodstuff’s own history quote incorrectly), Four Square now boasted a total of 266 stores nationwide – what can only be described as an explosive success and had far outstripped even the phenomenal growth success of Self Help – and not even bothering to mention any other competition like McKenzies, Woolworths and Farmer’s which were semi- players at best in the burgeoning grocery market at the time. In 1935 the stores bearing Four Square signage were at 285. By the post war years food groceries bearing the Four Square name had shot up to nearly 400 and climbing quickly – 700 by 1950. By 1956 there were an amazing 1000 stores nationwide.

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Promotional game produced in Australia, probably the mid 1960s. a

By some time in the 1950s Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd had decided to hop the ditch to invade our Australian cousins, as my poster recreation at the head of this post, as well as the  board game on road safety I have found above, attest. By 1980 a Happy Family promotion shows the logo for Australian chain CPS (Central Provision Stores), alongside Four Square and New World’s logos – having been added to the empire via Four Square Stores (Australia) Pty Ltd.

J. Heaton Barker’s new offices bringing everything together under one roof – Auckland Star, 8 October, 1925. a

Barker was one of two children of a family from Derby, Britain. Perhaps his father – mention is made of a John William Barker – stayed behind when he immigrated with his mother and sister in 1886; arriving in Wellington on 6th August aboard the S.S. Ionic. Perhaps he died, and they decided to leave. Whatever the story was, his mother was free to marry a Reverend John Crump seven years later. A devout Christian, J. H. Barker was seriously involved in the Baptist church throughout his life, particularly in Mount Eden, Auckland where he was an elder, and at various times a chair, treasurer, as well as president of the City Baptist Auxiliary.

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Promotional Snap set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores; circa late 1950s-early 1960s. a

That was much later on in his life though; originally he settled in Nelson (where he was the facilitator of the PSA or “Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ movement which had begun in Britain, was active in the Mutual Improvement Society, and on occasion stood in for his local pastor at the pulpit, was a member of council for the NZ Accountant’s and Auditor’s Association, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and secretary of the Foreign and British Bible Society).

Promotional Snap set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores; circa late 1950s-early 1960s. a

More specifically he had spent time in Richmond to the south-west of the town where he was at one time or another secretary of the Richmond Lawn Tennis Club and also the Workingmen’s Club (I think at this point we can already establish that he was quite the busybody do-gooder). In 1896 he sold up and moved to a more central location in Bronte Street, Nelson.

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In-store Disney promotion – Hutt News, December 1934. a

In an article entitled “Farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Barker” in the Nelson Evening Mail of 14th March, 1901, an interesting mention is made – of Barker’s “severing his connection with S. Kirkpatrick and Co., Ltd” in order to move. This was a popular foodstuffs company primarily famous for their jam, in particular the “K” brand, but ranged across a wide array of products from jelly crystals, canned meat and spices to coffee, poultry tonic, vinegar, honey and baking powder.

Triangle brand products – Evening Post, December 1933 . a

This is a very interesting detail to discover because Kirkpatrick play an intrinsic part in the corporate history of the canned food industry in New Zealand – passing through a number of owners and lasting into 1971 when it was finally dismantled by Wattie’s upon their acquisition of the brand and Nelson factory. In what capacity he worked for the firm is unknown (presumably accounting); but whatever it was he had achieved in just a few short years it was important enough for Mr. Kirkpatrick , the CEO himself, to attend in person and present Barker with a gold Albert fob chain for his services.

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An unusual Four Square promotional chair which was auctioned recently. Photos © and courtesy of Trademe menber cache10 (Phil). a

He moved with his wife Mattie and eight offspring to Wellington in 1902 (where he was president of the city’s Sunday School Union, president of the Sunday School Teacher’s Association, vice-president of the YMCA Cricket Club, vice-president of the Gregg Shorthand Association, and prone to giving rousing public speeches on the gospel everywhere he could, it seems).

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Four Square’s self line of preserving jar skins probably date from the 1950s or early 1960s. From my personal collection. a

In 1907 we find him managing director of Messrs. Yerox, Barker and Finlay, Ltd., a company primarily moving cash registers and typewriters. In 1908 he moved to directing the interests of the National Cash Register Co in New Zealand at 17-19 Cuba Street – and in 1911 he gained inches of press when he invented an automated telegram sorting and stamping machine, which was subsequently installed in Wellington’s General Post Office. Following that the family relocated to Auckland in 1912 (where he had a spell as a director on the board of the Auckland YMCA, and led Baptist services at various church venues).

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Rare canisters issued for the Southland Four Square Co-op’s general area centennial of 1956 crop up at auction very occasionally to be bid on competitively. a

Presumably he eventually became somehow involved in the grocery industry to bring him into the relative picture; A newspaper article of 1924, in which he is called to give testimony in a case to do with milling industry price fixing, defines him as the Auckland secretary of the New Zealand Master Baker’s association, as well as the editor of their magazine “Baker’s Review” since 1920 (he remained secretary until 1930 when he stood down voluntarily).

George Allen and staff in the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, late 1940s. Photo © and courtesy of the estate of George Allen. a

Clearly from the court report he was a significant player in the supply and demand of flour and other goods for some years. Quite frankly I was surprised to find a dearth of biographical information on a major player in New Zealand industry; One of his children grew up to become well-known newspaper editor and politician Sir Harry Heaton Barker – and much more is written of his long term mayor son. Certainly at this point with his various experiences in foodstuffs, accounting, sales, administration and a clear talent for creative invention – he had everything he needed to take things to a spectacular new level.

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Advertisement showing the custard powder and tea from their self line, Auckland Star, 11 April, 1935. a

Barker, as well as also being secretary, accountant and auditor of the NZ Master Grocer’s Association – ran the Auckland branch of the food co-op from its inception until 1934 when he became director of Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd – a position he remained in until 1947 when he passed away. In 1932 he was made a life member of the New Zealand Master Grocer’s Federation, of which he had been secretary since 1923.

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Four Square brochure of 1977 showing product specials to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Four Square in Otago/Southland. Image courtesy of the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

He also launched an industry magazine, “Grocers’ Review” in the early 1920s – which later seems to have joined forces with the milling industry and amalgamated his previous work there to become “New Zealand Grocer’s and Baker’s Review“. Sources seem to indicate that this version wrapped up in 1939; what I have seen from the Foodstuffs Ltd archive (I was lucky enough to get an insider peek at their collection courtesy of a food technician friend who is part of the team, and loves retro stuff herself) show two images of a “New Zealand Grocergram” magazine so presumably that became it’s moniker. Last reference to it in public collections is in 1974 -1975 however AdMedia ran an article in 2003 that it was being revamped. Current status is unknown, with the website down – but presumably it is still running – if so making it one of the longest running periodicals in the history of the country.

Waxed cardboard pot for Four Square’s self line of honey from the Christchurch Co-op, circa mid 1970s. a

By the mid 1930s Four Square had under its own line tea, honey, culinary essences, Worcester and tomato sauces, cornflour, macaroni and vermicelli, custard powder, malt extract, butter, coffee essence, spices, salt and pepper, canned fruit, and raisins. There was also jellies, candles, soap and toilet paper under the “Triangle” brand. Later boxed chocolates, vinegar, and cordials were added (1940s) as well as mixed dried fruit, preserving equipment,  and “Rawakelle“; their brand of tea that was in the 1950s and 1960s quite popular with the public.

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Front of cardboard box for Four Square’s self line of dried cake fruit from the Foodstuffs archive collection, probably early 1960s. a

Starting with baking powder – and then a few years following custard powder – “Pam’s” was launched by Four Square Stores in 1937 to offer lower price, quality goods that competed even more vigorously with opposing chain’s lower price bracket products. Although there were several “self” lines from other stores at the time, “Pam’s”  has stood alone, lasted into the present day as a “private” brand, probably the only surviving one. I previously documented my recreation of the first Pam’s marketing campaign/product label when I wrote about agency Dormer-Beck, who were behind it, here.

Advertisement announcing merger of 4 Triangle and AG Stores under the Four Square brand, making a total of 266 stores. Evening Post, December 1933. the co-ops changed their names to Foodstuffs two years later in 1935. a

Mr. Four Square” , who has also come to be known as “Cheeky Charlie“, was a welcoming storeman figure with a big thumbs up – yet to many he always had a slightly imposing, sinister air about him (he looks like the type of guy that if you were left alone in the store room with him he might try to cop a feel). The mascot was developed sometime in the 1950s for print advertising initially – although the exact date and who the specific the creator of the character was, is unclear – one source quotes the Foodstuffs advertising department as responsible. Another states it was a son of J.H. Barker’s who came up with the concept around 1951.

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A corruption of monopoly with products instead of property, Milton Bradley-produced “Checkout” in 1959. They also did a version for the Acme chain of stores in the USA. a

He is often mistakenly attributed to renowned Kiwi pop artist Dick Frizzell who was a commercial artist in the 1960s and 1970s, but this is incorrect. Frizzell was, however, involved with the iconic Ches and Dale characters, and the fact that he has used Charlie in some of his most famous art works only adds to the confusion.

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Promotional Happy Families set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores, New World and CPS stores (Central Provision Stores, Australia); circa 1980. a

Another well-known contemporary artist Mike Weston, who coincidentally partners with Frizzell’s son Otis to produce humorous Kiwiana-inspired works under the moniker Weston-Frizzell, seems to recall hearing that Charlie was “allegedly a knock off of a Santa Monica supermarket character from the fifties called “Freddy Fireside” – of the Fireside Market. Although I’m still looking for evidence” . I myself was also unable to find any information to even hint at this.Today when people think of the brand they definitely think of Charlie beaming at them from shop windows and hoardings so, although a rather overused word -he has definitely become a New Zealand icon (with a few modernised features). Extremely collectable now, original Mr. Four Square cut-out signage old or newish – sells for competitive prices well into the hundreds and sometimes even the thousands.

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Interior of the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, late 1940s. Photo © and courtesy of the estate of George Allen. a

Quite a few different items have been issued to promote the business over the years. Snap and Happy Family card sets were produced featuring their most popular product lines in the late 1950s-early 1960s, and another Happy Families set of 52 cards in around 1980 from which many of my age group will remember all the products – I featured some of them here, here, and here.

Four Square’s warehouse opens  in Southland, 1956.  Image courtesy of the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive.

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Other fun items to rope in the punters and strengthen allegiance to the business were a puzzle (late 1940s), a board game with Milton Bradley – “Checkout”, around 1959. a highly desirable colouring book “Fine Things of the Future” (1954), calendars (1950s-1960s), a stamp collecting book. Recipe/household hint books such as “Homeways” was published in the late 1960s, and “Take A Tip” of the early 1970s. A cast metal can opener was issued as a complimentary gift to customers.  Very rarely the hard-to-get canisters issued for the Southland Co-op’s general area centennial of 1956 crop up at auction to be bid on feverishly; and not so long ago even a very unusual Four Square chair.

Foodstuff’s former cut-price – now “private” – brand Pam’s started in 1937 with one product; baking powder. Photo courtesy of and © Eriq Quaadgrass, eRIQ on Flickr. a

Icon Products, who partner with Four Square as well as several other brands , currently hold a license for the Cheeky Charlie character, producing aprons, shirts, tea towels and carry bags – which have been marketed through another Foodstuffs enterprise – New World supermarkets – established at the end of 1963 (the same year that Woolworths rolled out their first dedicated food store Food Fair, a New Zealand first at New Lynn).

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This classic version cut-out Cheeky Charlie signage just sold recently for around the $1000 mark or a little over. a

Although significantly less than in their heyday – today Four Square stores in New Zealand remain as 300 plus independent operators as well as a few still dotted about Australia. It is one of very few companies that has ever reversed the usual trans-Tasman power play of brands being foisted on the comparatively tiny country and marketplace of Aotearoa. Even Ozzie brands like the re-tooled IGA still can’t usurp the sheer power in numbers, well – yet, anyway.

A modern store in Waitarere using the classic Four Square colour scheme to the maximum effect; with the newest version of Cheeky Charlie, said to have been “made over” by Dick Frizzell at Foodstuff’s request recently. Photo courtesy of and © Kiwi Frenzy on Flickr. a

Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd is still comprised of three co-ops and has grown to include a slew of chain brands in its portfolio including aforementioned New World, Pak ‘N’ Save (established 1985), Write Price, On The Spot, Shop Rite, Raeward Fresh, Liquorland and Henry’s, Budget, Pam’s, and of course Four Square (and that’s just the food and drink enterprises) making it the largest retail organisation in New Zealand to date.

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Contemporary Four Square store and staff. Photo courtesy of and © the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

You have to wonder if Barker, whilst scribbling on his calendar absent-mindedly that day, ever in his wildest dreams could have comprehended he was launching an empire worth more than four billion dollars per annum.

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Neither the classic or contemporary version of Mr. Four Square -this was the in-between version with a few new touches in the 1990s-2000s. Photo of Cheeky Charlie on left courtesy of and © emilyandadam on Flickr. Image of modern Four Square logo graphics on right courtesy of and © the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

The Four Square Contest Poster is available from my online store here , as well as greeting cards for a nominal price.

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