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Advertisements can reveal a great deal about an age. Gleaned from the pages of long forgotten publications, such as 'The Sydney Gazette' and 'New South Wales Advertiser' and 'Australian Town and Country Journal', together with dozens of regional newspapers, they paint an intriguing picture of our great-great-grandparents' world. With over 450 images, this book is one to pore over: perhaps that electric hairbrush really did cure baldness and wouldn't it be wonderful if those strange cannabis cigarettes did relieve asthma? Advertisements for condoms? It was just a matter of knowing what to look for.
In 'Emporium', collections of advertisements give a series of 'snapshots' of colonial times. Each themed section, with its eyewitness accounts and contemporary descriptions, paint a lively and entertaining picture of everyday life in the Australian colonies.
Humorous - quirky - fascinating - you will find this book compulsive!
Edwin Barnard is an author and designer with an enduring interest in the everyday lives of nineteenth-century Australians. His previous books include 'Exiled' for the National Library of Australia. Edwin lives in Avalon NSW.
Australia's first retail emporiums in the 19th century were veritable Aladdin's Caves. An etching of Levy Brothers' vast Melbourne warehouse in 1865, in this lavishly illustrated historical keepsake, depicts a cornucopia of hot air balloon-type lampshades cascading from the ceiling, perambulators, rocking horses, dolls' houses and sailing ships lurching across the floor, and every wall space packed with archery and cricket paraphernalia. Originally known as "universal providers" - "department store" only gained currency in the 1880s - Edwin Barnard delightfully informs us, "By the end of the 19th century, among (some) women at least, the idea that shopping was fun ... rather than a chore ... had taken firm hold."
"Sex sells" might be the catchcry of modern-day advertising, but 19th century advertisements in Australia showed little more than the corset-enhanced curvature of daintily sketched women in elaborately layered European gowns. "Perfect women are not flat-chested and thin-limbed. Nature intended every woman to be decently developed with a full, round bosom & sufficient flesh to hide her skeleton," instructs an advertisement for "Flesh-Food", a "medicated tissue food" sold out of Sydney. Luxurious hair, youthful complexions and personal freshness were preoccupations, as were fat reducers and manhood maintenance. Bell's Life in Sydney had advice for today's hipsters seeking the bushman look: "Do not have your hair cut or disturbed in any way, by either comb or brush, but let it stand up fiercely as possible all over your head. The same remarks apply to your whiskers, beard and moustache, which must be allowed to grow wherever they will. In short look as much like an owl in an ivy bush as possible." A fascination with electricity led to such wonders as the Electro-Galvanic Suspensory Belt to cure nervous weakness. Other outlandish claims included cigarettes as a treatment for asthma, cocaine concoctions to restore mental powers, and chloral hydrate, though associated with fatal overdoses, to promote sleep. The book also gives insight into 19th century attitudes towards marriage (right), housing, sport, transport, industry and agriculture.
Verdict: surprising and amusing