A lost Australia has been found in the last fifteen or twenty years. Folk songs and slang, old buildings, bottles and bedsteads, old Australian paintings and films and books have been appreciated afresh. And in this book Mimmo Cozzolino shows us, for the first time, how Australian trademarks were a mirror of people's dreams, ambitions, and daily life.

Just as the Commonwealth designed its own coat of arms and flag, so thousands of firms designed their own slogans and symbols - in short their trademarks. The rise of the trademark was mainly the result of the industrial revolution and the widening range of products made in factories. Trademarks were also multiplied by a change which has barely reached the history books - the packaging revolution. Whereas in 1850 many households in Australia made soap, candles, clothes, medicines, jam, bread and butter in their own kitchen, in 1900 the factories increasingly made these goods, selling them under distinctive brands and trademarks. In 1850 a general store sold most of its goods straight from the packing cases, vats, chests and barrels and then transferred them to the customers' baskets, bags, containers and billies, but more and more goods in 1900 were sold in individual bottles, tins, jars and other labelled containers.

As the standard of living increased, people could afford to buy a wider variety of products. Bicycles and sewing machines and other innovations entered the market: being almost identical they needed a trademark to show that they were not. Literacy increased, and advertising became an industry. In the era before radio and film, the printed word and the painted picture dominated advertising; and the typical trademark combined the two.

Trademarks were not widely used until the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1862 an English law made the fraudulent forging of a trademark a criminal offence. Between the 1860s and the 1880s the various Australian parliaments enacted their first laws to register trademarks, thus curbing those backyard manufacturers who had found it profitable to copy the labels of well-known products. In Melbourne as late as 1874 a maker of perfumes and soaps issued large advertisements warning the public that his labels were being copied by competitors. 'Beware of imitations' was a warning often made by makers of popular products. The registering and protecting of trademarks was a simple answer to these commercial pirates, and from the old public registers come most of the trade-marks reproduced in this book.

The trademarks reflect changing customs and attitudes, ways of leisure and ways of work. A century ago the average Australian drank more tea than did the average citizen of any other country, and tea was widely advertised in many brands. The words of 'Waltzing Matilda' were first popularised in the advertisements for a brand known as 'Billy Tea'. Country people travelling in the train to Melbourne saw the city coming closer because every mile a coloured enamelled plate announced that it was so many miles to the home of Griffiths' Tea. Boots were a strong source of trademarks because most men walked long distances in the course of a week and did work which demanded strong boots. As boots and shoes were expensive, boot polish was vital and gave rise to some of the best known trademarks. Indeed at one time 'Nugget', the trademark for one brand of shoe polish, became the common word for shoe polish in many parts of Australia.

These commercial signs captured the excitement of great events. Gold rushes still fired the imagination of Australians, and so gold-mining terms were popular in commercial trademarks. Words such as 'digger' and 'nugget' were used again and again. Allen's the confectioner made 'Gold Nuggets', and a rival made 'Old Gold' chocolate. A digger panning for gold was the trademark of a large Bendigo maker of jams and pickles. Overseas firms trading in Australia in the era between 1900 and 1914 liked to use gold in their trademarks, and an American tobacco was called 'Welcome Nugget' and an Austrian brand of matches was called 'The Nugget of the Southern Seas'.

The word 'Australia' did not appear on many trademarks until the eve of the creation of the Commonwealth. After 1901 a map of Australia appeared on dozens of trade-marks. One early trademark embodying a map of Australia was registered by a Melbourne photographer. Facing that difficulty which a host of commercial artists would later face - do we include Tasmania or save a little space - he found his own spectacular solution. In his trademark he moved Tasmania two thousand miles to the west where it could be neatly moored just off the south-west corner of the continent. One hopes that the photographs he took were truer to life.

The new Commonwealth gave birth to scores of trademarks on which stood native animals - even the dingo had his day. The First World War was almost as fertile for new trademarks. The word 'digger' acquired a new meaning. Appeals to patriotism filled tins and boxes, 'Our Wounded Hero Brand' went so far as to depict a one-legged digger. In l915, the year of Anzac, that trademark was so blatant that it was rejected by the government. In the same year thousands of Australian soldiers camped near the pyramids before sailing from Egypt to Gallipoli. Accordingly a Goulburn manufacturer called his brand of shoes 'Pyramid Girl'. One wonders whether the women of Goulburn, sensing what the pyramid girls were doing in Australian tents, boycotted the shoes.

Curiously, there are few appeals to sex in the trademarks in this book. At first glance the trademark of Parson's Starch, registered in 1903, hints at restrained sex appeal. It shows a woman wearing a white ground-rustling dress, beneath which peeps the tip of one shoe. But she is called 'A White Australian' - an appeal to race rather than sex in that decade when the White Australia policy was shaped. Women shoppers must have bought most of the white starch which was used daily for stiffening clothes; and a starch advertisement was unlikely to have been designed in the hope of titillating men.

Many of the trademarks have a simplicity which borders on the naive. A brand of shoe-polish was called 'Sparkling Wine'. An eye medicament of the 1920s was registered as 'Mallee Eye Drops'. In the era when many people spoke in rhyming slang the simple play on words was central to some trademarks. In the early 192Os, after the visit to Australia of the Prince of Wales, the Swan Brewery in Perth registered the trademark of one beer as the 'Prince of WA ALES'. In the 1930s the trademark of one medical potion, known as Kure-ettes, showed two clergymen - obviously curates. Although simple plays on words were relatively common, trick spelling (e.g. 'rite' instead of 'right') seems to have been uncommon in trademarks until recent times. It may well be that in the last century, when illiteracy was a serious problem, trick spelling was deemed a serious offence, for it could easily mislead adults who were painfully learning how to spell. Furthermore, at a time when so many adults could not spell correctly, trick spelling was more likely to be interpreted as evidence that the owner of the trademark was illiterate rather than clever.

The trademark is valuable as a barometer of nationalism. While much has been written about early nationalism in the labour movement, less has been written about the nationalism of merchants, shopkeepers and factory owners. And yet both kinds of nationalism were important, and it may well be that the nationalism of the marketplace was far more influential in the 1890s and early 1900s. One source of this influence was the trademark, which thrived in the mass media - the daily newspaper, shop window, tobacco tin, and the billboard. We forget that the billboards on railway stations and city streets were mass media in the era before radio and television, and that these advertising hoardings were the shrines of the trademark. Indeed commercial awareness of the value of these insignia influenced the new Commonwealth's own insignia. In the national competition for an Australian flag in 1901, most of the prize-money came from the magazine Review of Reviewsand from Havelock Tobacco. The Southern Cross which appeared on the new flag had already appeared in many well-known trademarks.

This first book on Australian trade-marks displays imagination, flair, and a feel for the past: Mimmo Cozzolino would not dream of calling himself a historian; but he is.

Geoffrey Blainey
University of Melbourne June 1980