The Wall Street crash of October 1929 heralded a worldwide depression that saw one in three Australian breadwinners unemployed. In what became known as the Great Depression, hunger was commonplace, people ate bread and dripping or bread with a little milk and sugar. Soup kitchens were set up to feed the starving and sustenance payments, “the susso”, were made in the form of foods such as bread and potatoes. More
The Australian government set up the Wine Overseas Marketing Board (from 1936 the Australian Wine Board) financed by a levy on all grapes used for the manufacture of wine, brandy and spirit used for fortifying wine. Between 1925 and 1939 Australia exported an average of 2.8 million gallons (12.6 million litres) of wine to Britain annually, which was about 20 percent of Britain’s total wine imports for that period.
In an article in The Telegraph, Brisbane, in 1929, Margaret Cullen wrote about Robert Walsh’s Redcliffe garden where avocados were among the tropical and sub -tropical fruits being grown. She described the fruit, explained its history (omitting to say that the Aztec word for avocado, ahuacatl, also means “testicle”), and wrote that: ‘They are superb served as a salad (with or without other raw ingredients), with a mayonnaise dressing. Spread on toast or water biscuits and lightly peppered and salted they make a delicious “savoury.”’ Her article is likely the earliest mention of avocado on toast. More
Although people had been putting hundred and thousands (or nonpareils) on bread and butter for some time, the first known reference to this dish as Fairy Bread was in the Hobart Mercury in April 1929. Referring to a party for child inmates of the Consumptive Sanitorium, the article proclaimed that “The children will start their party with fairy bread and butter and 100’s and 1,000’s, and cakes, tarts, and home-made cakes…” More
In 1928, a 23-year-old entrepreneur named Oliver Kenneth McAnulty, opened a processed cheese factory in Brisbane. His Maxam Cheese operation raised the ire of the Kraft Walker company, who accused him of infringing their patent. A court battle ensued, with appeal and counter-appeal going all the way to the Privy Council in Britain. McAnulty won, and became a significant Australia cheese manufacturer and meat canner. He sold the business to Swift in 1947, who sold the brand to Arnott’s in 1967. More
In the town of Chillicothe in Missouri, the eponymous Chillicothe Baking Company was the first company to use a slicing machine to produce the successful Kleen Maid Sliced Bread. After ignoring this achievement for decades, Chillicothe has now reinvented itself as the “Home of Sliced Bread ”, holding an annual Bread Fest.
The first espresso machine in Australia, according to the Massoni family, was installed by Rinaldo Massoni at the Café Florentino in 1929. With a mixture of Italian family pride and good Aussie idiom, a Massoni descendent says: “The first commercial espresso machine was installed in the Café Florentino, Burke Street Melbourne by my grandfather Rinaldo Massoni in 1928. Patrons were delighted as this large machine hissed, plumed gushed streams of aromatic coffee, and promptly drank copious amounts of this delicious liquid. Any other claim in this regard is pure southern matter dropped from a north bound bull.” More
James Lambert of the Australian National Dictionary Centre has unearthed a reference to this popular fast food in the Melbourne Argus in 1928. On 13 October of that year, the paper proclaimed that “No Chinese meal is complete without some succulent dim sims (pork minced with water chestnuts and enclosed in paste), and such sweets as honeyed lychee nuts and honeyed ginger.” Lambert noted that many other sources have attributed the development of dim sims to William Wing Young in 1945. More
Rinaldo Massoni purchased Café Denat in Bourke Street, Melbourne and changed the name to Café Florentino. Now called Grossi Florentino, it is Melbourne’s oldest restaurant. Restaurant dynasties like the Massoni and Triaca families emerged in the 1920s. However, Italian culinary traditions had little immediate impact on the domestic cuisine of the Anglo middle-class family. More
MacPherson Robertson began making sweets in 1880 and by the late 1920s had 17 factories employing 2600 people. The Max-Mints Alphabet Book was an advertising pamphlet produced in 1927 and sent free of charge to any child who wrote to the company supplying their name and address. The mints were probably MacRobertson’s answer to Sweetacres Minties, which were launched in 1922. They look remarkably similar. More
The confectionery company Darrell Lea was founded in Sydney by an English immigrant, Harry Lea, in 1927, and named after his youngest son. Harry’s foundation product was Bulgarian Rock, a type of hard nougat. The company remained in family hands until 2012 when it was put into receivership and sold. The new owners closed the famous stores and the products are now only available in supermarkets and independent retailers. More
The inventor of Aeroplane Jelly was a tram driver. Bert Appleroth first made jelly crystals at home in his bathtub and began distributing them along his Sydney tram route. He subsequently formed a company called Traders Ltd with a partner, Albert Francis Lenertz and the brand was launched in 1927. The famous Aeroplane Jelly song was written by Lenertz and first recorded in 1930. However, the most popular version was recorded in 1938 by a seven-year-old girl who won a New South Wales-wide competition. In 1966, the jingle was recorded in Greek, Italian, Russian and Croatian. More
After the ceremony, the official party, including the Duke and Duchess of York, lunched on turtle soup, poached schnapper, fillets of beef, roast chicken and ham, straw potatoes, green peas, Canberra pudding, fruit ices, coffee and cheese. Provision had been made for the public, but the crowd was smaller than anticipated. As a result, more than 10,000 Sargents meat pies, as well as sausage rolls, prawns and fish were buried at the Queanbeyan tip. More
The Victorian Railways Refreshment Branch opened a stall selling freshly squeezed orange and lemon juice drinks at Melbourne’s Flinders Street Station in 1926. It was an initiative of the chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners, Harold Clapp. This was one of many innovations Clapp introduced to aid farmers and increase the railways’ freight business. He believed it was the Commonwealth’s first fresh juice bar. More
The Emily McPherson College, Melbourne, formerly the College of Domestic Economy, was named after the wife of its benefactor, Sir William McPherson, the then State Treasurer. It offered tertiary and non-tertiary training in Foods and Food Service, Dietetics, Nutrition and Food Science and Fashion Design and Production. It amalgamated with RMIT in 1979.
Gordon Edgell and Sons of Bathurst launched their canned asparagus in 1927 after 18 years of experimentation in growing the crop in the local area. In 1943 Edgell expanded to include a new cannery at Cowra and the one millionth can of vegetables rolled off the line just one year later. The brand is now owned by Simplot. More
As part of the agreement that gave Fred Walker the Australian rights to Kraft Cheddar cheese, the Fred Walker Company became Kraft Walker Foods with part ownership going to the American Kraft company. You can see a Vegemite timeline, complete with pictures of the old packaging, at vegemite.com.au. (Kraft says we’re not legally allowed to link to their site, so you’ll have to copy the address into your browser. Sorry.)
The Melbourne entrepreneur, Fred Walker, had been experimenting with the processing of cheese. Learning about the process that had been developed and patented by J L Kraft, he travelled to the USA and obtained the Australian rights for Kraft Cheddar processed cheese. In 1926, the Kraft Walker Cheese Company was formed in Melbourne- the parent company for Kraft Foods Ltd. More
It started as a marketing idea. The original recipe for the Empire Christmas Pudding was published in an advertisement developed by London ad agency H. P. Benson in 1925 and financed by the Australian Dried Fruits Board. It promoted dried fruits from Australia and, in following years, produce from other outposts of Empire. At the time, a post-WWI passion for Empire had inspired the 1924-5 Wembley Empire Exhibition which had royal patronage.
The Cherry Ripe bar was introduced in 1924 by MacRobertson Chocolates (later to be taken over by Cadbury in 1967) and is uniquely Australian. It’s a combination of cherries, coconut and dark chocolate and is Australia’s oldest chocolate bar. In 2013 Roy Morgan Research found it to be our most popular chocolate bar. More
The Chairman of the Victorian Railways Commissioners, Harold Clapp, wanted to see primary producers succeed, so the railways would succeed and the State succeed. He vigorously promoted sales of fruit, opening a fruit kiosk at Flinders Street Station and stalls at other stations. His campaign initially addressed a glut of oranges in northern Victoria growing areas. More
Seventh Day Adventist Dr John Harvey Kellogg filed a patent for flaked cereal process in 1895 when he and his brother Will (W.K.)invented it as an adjunct to the strict vegetarian diet at their Michigan health facility. Sugar was added to the corn flakes when they were first mass-marketed in 1906. In 1924, the first Australian Kellogg’s plant was set up at Chippendale, moving to the current site of Botany in 1928.
The Green and Gold Cookery Book was one of the earliest ‘charity’ cookbooks and was compiled as a fundraising initiative of King’s College (now Pembroke School) in Adelaide. These cookbooks tended to be a ‘who’s who’ of local society, as local matrons contributed recipes. The Green and Gold Cookery Book has had close to 40 editions and sold more than 500,000 copies. More
The first commercially available, Australian-made domestic refrigerator to operate without ice was produced by Edward Hallstrom in 1923. It used kerosene as a power source and was promoted as ideal for outback stations where ice was not available. In 1935, Hallstrom introduced the ‘Silent Night’ which ran on electricity or gas.>Museum Victoria More
As part of a campaign to promote fruit sales, Victorian Railways Commissioner Harold Clapp had a bakery built to produce raisin bread. The intention was to assist fruit growers and increase the railways’ freight business. Although raisin bread wasn’t completely new, few bakers were producing it in Victoria at that time. Raisin bread was promoted on railway posters. More
As other Australian states had done in the previous decade, Queensland introduced earlier closing times for pubs, but chose slightly more civilised eight o’clock closing, rather than six o’clock. Western Australia was the only state not to introduce early closing.
Brisbane Cash and Carry (BCC) was among the first Australian self service grocery stores, opened by Claud Archibald Fraser in 1923. The Brisbane Courier reported that “The system cash and carry naturally suggests the paying of cash over the counter, and eliminates the necessity of book debts and bookkeeping in the store, which means a saving to the consumer, and the policy of each customer serving herself, and so eliminating the necessity of sales men effects further saving”. More
Vegemite was developed by food technologist Cyril P. Callister for the Australian company Fred Walker & Co. in 1922 and, after a public competition to create a name, was first sold in 1923. Its competition was the imported Marmite, and initial sales were slow. Promotion of the health benefits of Vitamin B saw sales grow in the 1930s and the “Happy Little Vegemites” song in the 1950s cemented the brand as an Australian icon.
A company called Grain Products Limited added small amounts of sugar and malt to flaked cereal biscuits and launched Weet-Bix in competition to the popular Granose. The company and the brand were acquired by Sanitarium in 1928. Weet-Bix has been the best selling breakfast cereal in Australia for more than 35 years. A detailed history of its development , written by a descendent of one of the founders, is here. More
Australia had been the first export market for the British chocolate giant, Cadbury. In 1922, a consortium of the firms Cadbury, Fry and Pascall opened a factory at Claremont on the Derwent River in Hobart to manufacture cocoa, chocolate and other confectionery. More
Frog Cakes are small cakes made from two layers of sponge with a jam filling, topped by a dome of mock cream and covered in fondant icing. Two fondant “eyes” are piped on top and the dome is slashed through to form a “mouth”. Frog Cakes, produced by Balfours Bakeries, were officially recognised as a South Australian icon in 2001. More
In 1921, in Sydney, a group of businessmen, reportedly Americans, formed a company “To acquire by agreement from Mint Products Company, New York, the right to use the name Life Saver, together with the formulae for the manufacture of sweets, etc.” Life Savers were launched in the eastern states the following year with dramatic newspaper advertisements. Eventually acquired by a consortium dominated by MacRobertson’s of Melbourne, the Australian licence for the brand was sold to Nestlé in 1985. It reverted to Australian ownership in 2018. More
The Eskimo Pie – a foil-wrapped ice cream bar covered in chocolate – was invented by Christian Kent Nelson in Iowa USA in 1920. He franchised the product and by January 1922 Eskimo Pies were being manufactured and sold in Australia. What would become Peters Eskimo Pie was launched in Queensland in 1923 and Peters eventually owned the brand name Australia-wide. More
It’s not certain when the first Violet Crumble was made, but a box of Violet Crumbles was advertised in 1921. The trademark was registered in 1923. Legend has it that Abel Hoadley named it after his wife’s favourite flower, the violet. However, Abel retired in 1913 and died in 1918 – probably before Violet Crumbles hit the market. More
The Group Settlement Scheme in the south-west of Western Australia was a government venture designed to establish a dairy industry. Settlers were recruited from elsewhere in Australia and from Britain, given land and subsidised for stock and expenses. Many holdings were uneconomic and settlers endured great hardship. After two Royal Commissions, the schemes were abandoned in the early 1930s. More
The Anzac Biscuit may have originated in Dunedin, New Zealand. In Australia, the biscuits were baked by volunteers and packed in Billy Tea cans to be sent to soldiers during WWI. The traditional recipe includes oats, golden syrup and (usually) coconut, but no eggs, which were scarce in wartime and would affect the keeping qualities.