1900s

1909 Nellie Melba bathes in champagne

Nellie Melba bathes in champagneAccording to legend, Hans Irvine, then owner of Great Western wines, heard that Dame Nellie Melba had expressed the wish to bathe in champagne. He commanded that a bathtub be brought to the winery and filled with 152 bottles of his sparkling wine – known in those pre-D.O.C. days as champagne. The diva bathed behind a screen. Cellar-hands later bottled the bubbly and claimed that, although 152 bottles went in, 153 bottles came out. In 1910, one of the underground drives at Great Western was named after Melba. Seppelts bought Great Western in 1918.

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1908 Australian branch of Nestlé opens

Nestlé logo 1930sFounded in 1867 in Switzerland by Henri Nestlé, the company merged with the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Co. in 1905.  By 1906, Australia was Nestlé’s second biggest export market and the decision was made to manufacture here. Nestlé was to become a diverse global group controlling many well-known brands, with products including chocolate, infant foods,  pet foods, coffee and yoghurt.

1908 Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Bundaberg MailKentucky Fried Chicken in Australia in 1908?  Yes, we discovered this in the household hints section of the Bundaberg Mail and Burnett Advertiser on 14 November 1908. Colonel Sanders clearly had nothing to do with it – he didn’t start his business in the USA until the 1950s. More

1908 First NSW meat inspector appointed

Meat inspector first appointed - leg of muttonIn the early 1900s, many butchers’ shops were still open-fronted, with the carcasses hanging where the air could circulate. In response to increasing concerns about food hygiene, New South Wales’ first meat inspector was appointed in 1908. By 1913 he reported that all except five butchers’ shops  in Sydney had enclosed premises.

1909 Quarantine Act takes effect

The passing of the Quarantine Act in 1908 and its implementation in 1809 provided a national approach to the prevention and eradication of imported plant, animal and human diseases. In the same year the Government Bureau of Microbiology was established to do research in this field.

1907 Carlton & United Breweries formed

The Carlton Brewery had been operating in Bouverie Street, North Melbourne, since the 1860s, but in 1907 it united with the Foster’s, Victoria, Shamrock, McCracken and Castlemaine breweries to form Carlton & United Breweries (CUB).  In the same year, the letters VB were first added to the label of the Victoria Brewery’s Bitter Ale. The CUB website has a timeline with some wonderful old photos.

1907 Peters Ice Cream founded

Old Peters Ice Cream signPeters Ice Cream was founded in Sydney by American migrant Fred Peters. His first Peters Ice Cream family bricks, reputed to be made to his mother’s recipe, were sold  from a horse and cart in Manly. In 1927, Peters Victorian factory opened in Melbourne. The slogan “The health food of a nation” lasted into the 1970s, when regulations about health claims forced a change to “Peters keep the good things coming”. The brand is now owned by R&R Ice Cream, based in the UK but owned by French private equity firm PAI Partners. More

1906 SAO biscuits introduced

SAO biscuitsSAO biscuits are up there with Lamingtons among the “iconic” Aussie foods. They are  still made by Arnott’s. There are conflicting reports about the origins of the SAO name. While some accounts say they’re named after a boat, it’s widely believed that SAO stands for Salvation Army Officer. This was in honour of William Arnott’s son Arthur, who joined the Salvation Army . More

1906 Rice cultivation begins

Jo Takasuka began rice cultivation in Australia

Jō Takasuka (1865-1940), by unknown photographer, 1939 La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H92.400/94

The first person known to have planted rice in Australia was  Jō Takasuka, an import/export merchant who had previously been a parliamentarian in Japan. In 1906 he sowed 35 acres (14 ha) of rice on flood-prone land rented from a farmer in Nyah, on the Murray River.  He struggled to produce a commercial crop, but in 1914 the Victorian Government granted him 200 acres of land to continue his enterprise. More

1905 The Kalgoorlie electric stove

ThermoElectricalCooking cook bookThe world’s first patent for a household electric stove was issued to David Curle Smith, the Kalgoorlie Municipal Electrical Engineer, in November 1905. About fifty appliances were then built and leased to customers in Kalgoorlie in the following years. The design lacked a thermostat – the temperature was controlled by the number of elements in use. David Curle Smith’s wife, Helen Nora, wrote a cookbook to promote her husband’s invention. Thermo-Electrical Cooking Made Easy (Kalgoorlie, 1907) is therefore the world’s first cookbook for an electric stove.

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c1905 Camp Pie canned in Australia

Foggitt Jones camp pie

Although camp pie in various guises had been around for many decades, it appears that Foggitt Jones of Queensland were the first to market it in Australia.Their Rex Camp Pie became a well-known brand. The famous “Camp Pie” Case in the 1920s was a legal dispute over trade marks between Foggitt Jones and the Darling Downs Co-operative.  (Image courtesy of Tommy’s Pack Fillers) More

1904 Sennitt’s Ice Cream

Sennitt's Ice CreamJohn Sennitt was an engineer  who, in 1899,  acquired his employers’ firm Victorian Cold Accumulator Co. Pty Ltd. The firm began to manufacture Sennitt’s Ice Cream around 1904. In the early 1930s John’s son, William,  introduced the popular polar bear trademark. A moving neon sign on the roof of the South Melbourne factory showed a  bear  licking an ice-cream cone.

1903 William Farrer’s Federation wheat

William Farrer

William James Farrer

William Farrers Federation wheat was bred to resist the common crop disease of rust. After many years of cross-breeding, he developed the Federation strain in 1900, just prior to the Federation of the Australian colonies. The strain was released to farmers in 1903 and contributed to the trebling of Australia’s wheat harvest over the next 20 years.

1903 First Australian barbecue

The term ‘barbecue’, referring to a cooking method was certainly known in England well before the First Fleet departed for Botany Bay. But it was little used in Australia until the mid-1800s, and then normally in reference to events held in America.The first use of the term for an Australian event seems to be a report of the Waverley Bowls Club’s Leg o’ Mutton Barbecue in 1903.
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1902 Last Bunya nut gathering

Bunya cone and nutsThe bunya nut, from the Bunya Pine, was an important food source for aboriginal people of Queensland’s Darling Downs area. Every three years, many different tribes would travel to the region to feast on a bumper crop. The introduction of government settlements displaced indigenous people and these large gatherings ceased. The last large Bunya gathering is thought to have taken place in 1902.

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1902 New Idea magazine

New Idea first edition coverAustralia’s oldest women’s magazine was launched by Thomas Shaw Fitchett as The New Idea—A Women’s Home Journal for Australia. Its cookery columns have influenced generations of Australians. More

1901 Neenish tarts recipe

Neenish tartsNo-one really knows the origin of neenish tarts, the bi-coloured pastries still widely available in Aussie cake shops. The first known mention of ‘nenish cakes’ is in an advertisement for the New South Wales Ice and Fresh Food Company in 1895. In 1901 a columnist calling herself “Housewife” published a recipe in The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser. The recipe was evidently new, as she remarked that she hadn’t had time to test it. More

1901 A population of farmers

Australia’s 1901 Population Census recorded around 14 per cent of Australia’s total population as working in the agricultural and pastoral industries. This contrasts with around 1.4 per cent in 2011. The number of workers in the farming sector in 1901 was, in fact, underestimated. The census did not count aboriginal people who were working as stockmen and in other roles on pastoral properties.

1901 Griffiths Australian-grown tea

Griffiths promoted Australian-grown tea

Although others had earlier experimented with tea growing – notably the Cutten brothers at Bingil Bay in North Queensland – James Griffiths succeeded in producing significant quantities of Australian-grown tea in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne. Griffiths Brothers established one of Australia’s first coffee and tea distribution businesses in 1879.
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1901 Federation banquet

Federation Banquet menuA grand Federation banquet at Sydney Town Hall celebrated the creation of a nation, as the separate British colonies joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia. The menu was presented in French, perhaps to demonstrate the international credentials of the new nation and to show that these colonials knew how to do things properly. More

1900 Lamingtons invented

LamingtonsThere are various stories (probably apocryphal) about how the lamington was invented.  However, it seems likely that it was devised by Armand Galland, the French chef to Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901.  Galland is said to have had a Tahitian wife – hence his use of coconut. There is debate about whether lamingtons were first served at Government House or, as the locals claim, at the governor’s country residence at Toowoomba.  Lord Lamington reputedly referred to the cakes as “those bloody, poofy, woolly biscuits”.

1900 Meat Supervision Act in Victoria

The 1900 Meat Supervision Act introduced a requirement for meat to be inspected at the time of slaughter. Only inspected and branded meat could be sold. This was followed in 1905 by the Milk and Dairy Supervision Act and the Pure Food Act, setting new standards for food hygiene and lack of adulteration. Other states soon followed Victoria’s lead.

1900 Great Western triumphs in Paris

Hans Irvine of Great Western - image Museum of Victoria

Hans W. H. Irvine

Hans William Henry Irvine extended the underground cellars at Great Western, imported a French winemaker from the champagne house of Pommery and made wine by the traditional champagne method. All bottles and machinery were imported from France.  His Great Western sparkling wine, the first successful champagne-style wine in Australia, won the gold medal at the 1900 Paris exhibition.

1900 Muesli invented in Switzerland

Maximilian Bircher-Benner, inventor of muesliSwiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner invented muesli at his health clinic . He called it the “apple diet dish”. The name muesli appeared later and is derived from an old German word for “puree”. His method called for combining a small amount of oat flakes and water with 3-4 chopped apples, lemon juice, condensed milk or cream, honey and chopped nuts.