The Poster King

C Arthur Von Tosseau (or Arthur Niven Tossau or Arthur Tozzart and/or other name variations along the way) made his living for a large part of his life traveling around Australia performing as a sketch artist in public places such as the Manly Corso, as well as regional centres across the country as this advertisement from the Maitland Daily Mercury on 26 July 1923 portrays.

Poster King-1 - Manly LibraryMaitland Daily Mercury - Poster King

These examples of his work on advertising posters can be found in the collection of the State Library of Victoria.

Fat man with Panama hat – Tossau, C. Arthur von & Mason, Firth & McCutcheon (1904) – isn’t clear about the brand of ale it’s advertising although it does look like a good place to be at this time of year.

Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) never had such an ethereal treatment as with his The Gift of the Gods poster – Tossau, C. Arthur von & Mason, Firth & McCutcheon (1904). A tasteful use of cloud camouflage don’t you think?

Ale & Stout

Gift of the Gods

There are numerous articles about Mr Tosseau in Trove’s digital collection.  One gets the impression he was quite skilled at self-promotion as he appeared regularly on radio programs and was often available to be interviewed on his arrival in a new town with his show.  He would not have appreciated this publicity in 1923 when he appeared in court after a mishap at one of his shows on the Manly Corso. (Sydney Morning Herald – 2 May 1923)

skyrocket Tosseau

At the age of 54, while traveling with his Poster King show, Arthur Tosseau died at the wheel of his car. This account is from The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate of 9 May 1927.
9 May 1927 - re A T death

His story can be found in more detail on this link to Manly Library’s Local History blog. The photograph of Tosseau is also from that site.

The Greedy Feed on the history of takeaway food in Australia

saucepanLouisa Peterson has written an article about the history of takeaway food in Australia on the blog The Greedy Feed.

Louisa contacted me for some of my memories and you can find them and the article here.

Read on to discover the answer to the question – what was the first takeaway food in Australia?

vegetarianism in western society – 19th century beginnings

Notwithstanding the long history of a vegetable only diet in ancient civilisations, here are two items that provide some insight into the introduction of the concept of vegetarianism into western society.

From the Vegetarian Society’s website comes the story of the Reverend William Cowherd.

The first long-term modern organisation to abandon meat eating was the Bible Christian Church, led by the Reverend William Cowherd in Salford, near Manchester.

Rev William CowherdBack in 1809, Cowherd famously advanced the principle of abstinence from the consumption of flesh to his congregation. His reforming spirit, which encouraged temperance and self-improvement through education, won favour with local people through the practical support he gave them in the form of warm food, medical help, and unusually for the time, free burial. The Rev Cowherd’s emphasis on vegetarianism was that it was good for health and that meat eating was unnatural and likely to engender aggression. Later he is reputed to have said “If God had meant us to eat meat then it would have come to us in edible form, as is the ripened fruit”.

This article from The Vegetarian Advocate appeared in the South Australian Register of 3 February 1851.

VegetarianismThe article continues.

4. Because the blood is the life of man, therefore the purer the blood the healthier the man.

5. Because every constituent of the body of man and animals is derived from plants, and not a single element is generated by the vital principle — man and animals therefore only appropriating the already formed organized productions of vegetable matter.

6. Because it follows from the former fact, that those who partake of the flesh of animals can obtain no additional element in such food ; capable of forming purer blood, on the contrary, they risk the introduction into their system of the elements of various diseases with which the animals might have been infected.

7. Because a vegetarian diet will sustain a man in perfect health at a much less cost than a mixed diet.

8. Because feeding animals for the purpose of killing them and eating their flesh, is a circuitous and extensive way of obtaining food.

9. Because partaking of the flesh of animals as food, gives an undue stimulus to the propensities, which frequently goad persons on to the commission of offences against the moral law.

10. Because the long experience of numerous persons, in most parts of the world, on vegetarian diet, has enabled some of them to endure more than ordinary physical and mental labour, in most uninterrupted good health.

11. Because it is an admitted fact that great physical energy, highly intellectual attainments, and moral purity, are incompatible with gross and diseased organism.

12. Because the chemical analysis of Liebig, Playfair and other modern chemists prove that peas, beans, lentiles, wheat, contain more per cent of the element of nutriment than any kind of flesh.

the truth about opium

Cruising through the titles of e-books on Project Gutenberg (see link to this one below), I need go no further for a curious sense of amusement than some of the title pages. I give you:

The Truth About Opium

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at

Title: The Truth about Opium
       Being a Refutation of the Fallacies of the Anti-Opium Society and a Defence of the Indo-China Opium Trade

Author: William H. Brereton

good luck with your Cup selections

Is there anywhere else in the world where a horse race “stops the nation” and provides a local holiday for the city in which it’s held.

It’s Melbourne Cup day tomorrow and this richest handicap horse race in the world attracts much attention from regular and non-regular punters.

It seems that nothing has changed. This is from Sydney’s The Arrow on 29 October 1904.

The caption reads:

HOUSEKEEPER: “Oh, if you please Sir, an Astrologer says he has called by appointment, and there’s a Fortune-teller waiting to see you, and a tipster wants you in the back yard”.

CUP ENTHUSIAST: “Yes – yes – I’m working out an infallible guide to the winner of the Cup by the law of chances, but I’ll see them if they can throw any additional light on my selections”.

Melbourne Cup cartoon

Balmain businesses 1902

365 Darling Road, Balmain - W J Laws

From The Australian Town and Country Journal of 10 December 1902 comes this item in a special edition of businesses in Balmain, a suburb of Sydney.

My suspicion is that it was a promotional feature which may have involved payment for the placement of what were, in reality, advertisements.

Disclosure:  W J Laws was my great-grandfather who went on to become the Mayor of Balmain in 1907-1908.


The most imposing block of buildings in Balmain, without doubt, is that which comprises the Town Hall and Post Office, situated, as it is, in the centre of the suburb’s main thoroughfare, and upon an eminence which renders it visible from almost any part of the city, and even of the more distant suburbs. Right opposite the Town Hall, and within a yard or two of the tram stopping place, are the premises of Mr. W. J. Laws, auctioneer, valuer, and property agent.

In such a thriving district there is a lot of business requiring the attention of an expert real estate agent, while a lot of property owners have interests which they must of necessity employ someone else to look after. Of this business and these interests a very large proportion are in the hands of Mr. Laws, who has a local standing of very nearly 18 years, during which period he has not only gained a most intimate knowledge of local properties, but has established a reputation for business aptitude and integrity. Some three years ago Mr. Laws took over the business of Messr. J. Garrard and Company.

Since he first started in the business of real estate agency Mr. Laws has probably had the bulk of the property in Balmain in hand, and his acquaintance with local values is, therefore, of such a character that his advice may be regarded as practically infallible. The fact that he has lived in Balmain, too, since he was but a few weeks old is an advantage in a business requiring judgment as to the relative prospect of advancement as between different localities. He is at the present time a member of the borough council, and he has had, too, a wide experience in local municipal valuation. The list of properties passing through Mr. Laws’ hands is such that it is safe to say that anybody, no matter what class of house was required, could be accommodated almost immediately. Once in each month, or at any time, by arrangement, Mr. Laws holds land and property sales at auction. As an adjunct to his business he conducts the local agency of the United Insurance Company.

writing machines

I have had the pleasure of meeting some colourful and portable not-so-old typewriters and their owners recently.  It had me wondering about the history of these objects that replaced the pen, and became a writer’s stepping stone to computers and portable laptops.

The following item, published by Pearsons Weekly, and reprinted by the Evelyn Observer, and South East Bourke Record on 8 December 1893, outlines the history of the machine, twenty years after its appearance, in the first flush of its commercial existence.


The invention of the typewriter, like that of every other epoch-making machine, was not a matter of a few years. The production of a practical writing machine was the result of more than a century and a half of scientific experiments, culminating in the construction of a successful instrument some twenty years ago. The first attempt in this direction of which we have any record was made by an Englishman, Henry Mills, in 1714. His specification was lodged in the Patent Office in that year, but as it was unaccompanied by drawings,we have little or no knowledge of its mechanical details.

In 1784 a French machine for embossing letters upon paper for the use of the blind was invented. Between that date and 1843 there is no record of any attempt to make a typewriter. In the later year a patent was taken out by Charles Thurber, an American, who constructed a practical, though extremely cumbrous writing machine, the types of which were arranged round the under surface of a horizontal wheel, which wheel the operator [would move] until the required typo was over the printing point on the paper. He then depressed the corresponding key, and the character was thus printed.

In 1856 a Mr. A. E. Beach (afterwards one of the proprietors of ‘The Scientific  American’) patented an instrument for embossing letters on paper for the use of the blind. The appearance of this machine is noteworthy because its main principle was somewhat similar to that embodied in later writing machines. ”The typo-base was arranged round a circle, and converged to the centre when operated by means of keys. Numerous attempts in the same direction followed, but none were successful until 1867, when a typewriter was constructed by three inventors. The chief of these, Mr. C. Latham Sholes, had had his attention called to an article in The Scientific American, relative to the writing machine invented by a Mr. John Pratt, and exhibited before the Society of Arts in London. In this article it was stated that the inventor of a successful writing machine would not only secure a fortune, but would confer a blessing upon humanity. This article, however, did little more than suggest the construction of such a machine, for the typewriter upon which Sholes set to work, with the co-operation of another inventor, S W Soule, and a capitalist, Carlos Glidden, was constructed on entirely different lines. The writing was done by means of pivoted types set in a circle and capable of being brought separately to the centre of that circle. In September, 1867, the first machine was finished. It was practical, inasmuch as letters were written with it, but was so far from perfect that between 1867 and 1873 Sholes was constantly employed in developing details. Some twenty-five or thirty experimental typewriters were made, each a little better than its predecessors, but all full of defects.

Meanwhile Glidden and Soule had long since retired from the concern ; but Sholes had confidence in the feasibility of the undertaking, and persevered, with the result that in 1873 his machine was considered sufficiently practical to be taken for manufacture on a large scale to Messrs. E. Remington and Sons, of Ilion, N.Y. “That the machine did good work at this stage is evident from the fact that it was regularly used by a large number of professional men, lawyers, doctors, clergymen, &c. But many improvements required to be made before the machine could be generally acceptable, and for the majority of these improvements Sholes is responsible.

In 1882 the commercial success of the  machine really began, when all rights connected with the Remington model were acquired by Messrs [.illegible.] Beemans [.illegible]. At that time only some 1,500 machines were being made by them per annum, whereas at the present time over 800 Remingtons are being made every week, a complete typewriter for every five minutes of the working day. The growth of the industry has been largely due to the fact that commercial firms and public companies, as well as professional men, have come to appreciate the advantages attaching to the use of the typewriter. This may be illustrated in our own country. In some fifty Government departments, and by upwards of thirty British railways the Remington is used, the London and North-Western Company alone having over one hundred and fifty in constant use. Within the next few years there will scarcely be a commercial firm of any repute without its equipment of typewriters.

The first commercial typewriter used a treadle to shift to the next line as this photograph via The Virtual Typewriter Museum of one of the earlier (Sholes and Glidden) models shows.

Sholes & Glidden typewriter - Virtual Typewriter Museum

For those interested in all things typewriter and more, head over here to oz Typewriter whose curator, Robert Messenger, also owns the Australian Typewriter Museum.

My favourite discovered article in this search comes from the South Australian Register of 23 December 1867. This time, it’s from Punch, clipped by the editor of this newspaper during the quiet of the Christmas season.  The author makes some interesting future predictions about other objects to assist ‘thought-hatching’.



It is surprising what discoveries are made in the dead season. Here is one for instance, the account of which has recently been snipped out by the scissors of many a sub-editor :—

“Writing superceded: Mr. Pratt, of Alabama, is the inventor of a type-writing machine lately exhibited to the London Society of Art, which is said to print a man’s thoughts twice as fast as he can write them with the present process. By a sort of piano arrangement the letters are brought in contact with carbonised paper, which is moved by the same manipulation.” 

Every author his own printer! What a happy state of things! No more struggles to write legibly with nibless tavern pens; no more labour in deciphering the hieroglyphs of hasty writers. Literary work will be in future merely play— on the piano. The future Locke may write his essays by a touch upon the keys. 

In this inventive age there really is no saying where discovery will stop. Now that authors are to put their thoughts in print with twice the pace that they can write them, perhaps ere long they will be able to put their works in type without so much as taking the trouble to compose them. A thought-hatching easy chair may very likely be invented, by the help of which an author may sit down at his ease before his thought-printing piano, and play away ad libitum whatever may occur to him. Different cushions may be used for different kinds of composition, some stuffed with serious thoughts, fit for sermons or reviews, and others with light fancies fit for works of fiction, poetry, or fun. By a judicious choice of cushions an author will be able to sit down to his piano, and play a novel in three volumes twice or thrice a week, besides knocking off a leader every morning for a newspaper, and issuing every fortnight a bulky epic poem, or a whole encyclopedia complete within a month.


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