Wide Bay-Burnett

TFA’s People & Places is your road-map to the key sites, figures, and scenes that have shaped fashion in Queensland from the late 19th century onwards. In Issue Eight we take you to Wide Bay-Burnett.

Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1957Picture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries

Bundaberg, Hervey Bay and Maryborough are some of the major towns of the Wide Bay-Burnett region. Just north of South East Queensland, Wide Bay-Burnett is encircled by the coast and a series of mountain ranges that shape its inland borders. Maryborough was the first port to be established in the Wide Bay area, and between the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was one Queensland’s most significant sites of industry. Mining and agriculture has also been historically important to the region, with Bundaberg famous for its sugar production.Tourism represents a key contemporary industry, with picturesque Hervey Bay a drawcard on the coast, and Maryborough in particular a well-known destination for surviving Queensland heritage architecture, with excellent examples of sandstone and timber buildings. Such buildings have been the sites of some high-quality fashion retail over the decades.

Places to Shop

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Bundaberg and Maryborough had bustling fashion districts, with drapers, outfitters and department stores that rivaled their Brisbane counterparts in scale and grandeur. In Bundaberg, department store Buss & Turner was established with a drapery business in 1876, later becoming a department store in 1888 on Bourbong Street in the town centre. Growing from a much smaller business, Buss & Turner quickly became the leading retailer in the rapidly growing city, booming on the back of sugar cane. Lyons and Stullznow were another successful partnership in Bundaberg retail in the first half of the 20th century.

Stuparts Drapery Palace was established in Maryborough by George Stupart in the latter half of the 19th century (Stupart started out in business as early as 1863). It had an impressive window-lined street frontage on the corner of Kent and Bazaar Streets, said to match the “best in Southern Capitals” and provide a focal point for the bustling city center1. The tailoring and millinery workrooms were home to skilled staff, reputed for their fine work—the head cutter, who had been with the company for 20 years, was described in a Queenslander article as being an “artist of first rank”2.

Another article described Stupart himself as a ‘protectionist’ who worked hard to source local manufacturers for many of his clothing items, rather than importing goods from overseas. Upmarket fabrics, garments and hats were supplied by makers in Sydney and Melbourne. By 1916, the firm had over 100 employees. George’s son Ernest took the reins in 1919, and re-launched the company as simply ‘Stuparts’. Major retailers in Brisbane, Allan and Starks, later took ownership, and in 1946, Stuparts was sold to the large manufacture and tourism firm, Burns, Philps & Co.

W. Boys & Sons was a drapers and outfitters in Adelaide Street, Maryborough. It was established by William Isaac Boys (1860-1934) who apprenticed in Brisbane under Finney Isles & Co., then worked at Messrs. Clarke & Trelevan in Queen st, and under Mr D. Sinclair, a draper in Stanley st, Woolloongabba. Major Brisbane department store, Finney Isles and Co. had a Maryborough branch for over 50 years. In 1928, rising rents were to blame for the board’s decision to close down the Maryborough store, and the remaining stock was transferred to Brisbane. They claimed that by concentrating exclusively on their Brisbane branch, they would be better able to service the Queensland regions, however, Wide Bay Burnett locals may not have felt the same way.

In Pialba, a suburb of Hervey Bay once serviced by rail, there was a well-stocked department store called Murphy and Sons. The drapery department specialised in beachwear to match local demand.

Design & Manufacture

Cotton grew very well in the Wide Bay-Burnett region, and in fact was one of the few areas of Queensland to produce a successful commercial crop. As was the case for many parts of Queensland, it was only during cotton shortages, such as during the American Civil War (1861-1865), that there was a strong impetus to grow cotton, primarily for export to England. Ultimately, the success of the sugar crop in the region meant that cotton was comparatively unprofitable. Nonetheless, newspaper reports suggest that there was some continued interest in growing cotton in the early 20th century. Using seeds from America, cotton was grown in the Hervey Bay area of Pialba. In 1905, the cotton crop was inspected by a representative of the British Cotton-growing Association and reported to be ‘healthy, clean and vigorous’ and it was recommended that a cotton gin be set up in Maryborough to encourage further production. There was renewed interest in this project in the early 1920s, with a Federal Government commitment to support the local cotton industry. Nearby towns of Munduberra and Gayndah were also cited as world-class cotton growing areas, and were additional proposed sites for cotton gins. Despite this enthusiasm, the production of cotton in the region was later deemed to be insufficient to warrant processing facilities.

Prominent tailors in the Wide Bay-Burnett region in the early part of the 20th century included John Norman, based in Maryborough. He became a distinguished local citizen, due to his subsequent political career—he was an alderman on the Municipal Council, and for a time, he served as the Mayor of Maryborough.

Fashion Scenes

An unusual scene for women’s fashion could be found in rural parts of the Wide Bay-Burnett region. At the turn of the 20th century, the ‘Lynch sisters’ were famous for their wood-chopping skills, displayed in numerous competitions and carnivals around the Wide Bay Burnett region and South East Queensland. Described alternately as ‘muscular’, ‘emancipated’ and ‘pioneering’ women, Mary, Maggie, Kate and Nellie were claimed to be as strong as, or stronger than, the ‘average bushman’.

The sisters had grown up working on their father’s farm, near Gympie, as bullock-drivers and later worked as timber cutters around Nanango and were early European settlers in a rural area of Kingaroy. The four sisters were a headlining attraction in events like the Kingaroy Show, competing—and sometimes winning—against men. Photographs portraying their wood-chopping attire provide a glimpse into their fascinating lives as hard-working rural pioneer women. They toiled in the long skirts that were typical of the period, but favoured simple, unembellished styles and durable natural fibres, and almost always wore a sturdy hat. Their more elaborate costumes worn for competitions indicate their sense of showmanship.

Picture theatres were once glamorous places that provided an occasion to dress up, and there are some prime examples of grand theatres in Wide-Bay Burnett. Bundaberg’s Queens Theatre was built in 1888, and was the first brick theatre in the town. It was a popular venue for dances and balls, and also screened Bundaberg’s first films, as early as 1905. The influential Queensland cinema partnership, Birch, Carroll and Coyle, erected Wintergarden ‘picture palaces’ in both Bundaberg and Maryborough in the late 1920s. Another important theatre in Bundaberg was the Paramount; with its grand façade and plethora of events, it remained a fixture of the town’s social scene until it was torn down in 1973.

Panorama of Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1947
Panorama of Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1947Picture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Buss & Turner Family Draper in Bundaberg, 1907
Buss & Turner Family Draper in Bundaberg, 1907John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 36568
Buss &Turner after the fire of April 15, 1956
Buss &Turner after the fire of April 15, 1956Picture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Premises of Lyons and Stollznow, Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1911
Premises of Lyons and Stollznow, Bourbong Street, Bundaberg, ca. 1911John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 203049
Stuparts Drapery Palace, Kent and Bazaar Streets, Maryborough, ca. 1900
Stuparts Drapery Palace, Kent and Bazaar Streets, Maryborough, ca. 1900Picture Fraser Coast, Maryborough, Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society
W. Boys & Sons Department Store, Adelaide Street, Maryborough, ca. 1960
W. Boys & Sons Department Store, Adelaide Street, Maryborough, ca. 1960Picture Fraser Coast, Maryborough, Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society
Group of workers posing on top of bundles of cut cane Bundaberg ca 1914
Group of workers posing on top of bundles of cut cane Bundaberg ca 1914John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 257880
Inside Georges Menswear, Bundaberg, undated
Inside Georges Menswear, Bundaberg, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 72656
Lynch sisters demonstrating their wood sawing skills at an early Brisbane show, undated
Lynch sisters demonstrating their wood sawing skills at an early Brisbane show, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 34274
Lynch Family, undated
Lynch Family, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 34273
Paramount Theatre, Bundaberg, undated
Paramount Theatre, Bundaberg, undatedPicture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Kent and Bazaar Streets, Maryborough, ca. 1885
Kent and Bazaar Streets, Maryborough, ca. 1885Picture Fraser Coast, Maryborough, Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society
Inside Georges Menswear, Bundaberg, undated
Inside Georges Menswear, Bundaberg, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 72656
Group of people are having a picnic in the bush near Maryborough after gathering staghorns, ca 1915
Group of people are having a picnic in the bush near Maryborough after gathering staghorns, ca 1915John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 145763
Forrest family home in Maryborough, undated
Forrest family home in Maryborough, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 59811
Cunningham and Mills Premier Store in Kingaroy, undated
Cunningham and Mills Premier Store in Kingaroy, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 164949
Bert Hinkler, famous Australian aviator, and his family, Bundaberg, Queensland, 1928
Bert Hinkler, famous Australian aviator, and his family, Bundaberg, Queensland, 1928John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 65639
A. F. Walker Drapery, Gin Gin, 1895
A. F. Walker Drapery, Gin Gin, 1895John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 8007
A shooting party taking a break in the Maryborough district, ca. 1900
A shooting party taking a break in the Maryborough district, ca. 1900John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 86384
Bourbon St, Bundaberg
Bourbon St, BundabergPicture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Travelling salesman for Brisbane tailor Woodcock and Co. displaying his wares in Nanango, undated
Travelling salesman for Brisbane tailor Woodcock and Co. displaying his wares in Nanango, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 159542
Two girls on the beach at Hervey Bay, Queensland, ca. 1918
Two girls on the beach at Hervey Bay, Queensland, ca. 1918John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 48750
Store belonging to R. Beckett in Mundubbera, 1913
Store belonging to R. Beckett in Mundubbera, 1913John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 486847
Playboy the horse with attendant at Maryborough, 1946
Playboy the horse with attendant at Maryborough, 1946John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 49441
Portrait of a male Australian South Sea Islander who worked at Albionville plantation near Bundaberg, ca. 1885
Portrait of a male Australian South Sea Islander who worked at Albionville plantation near Bundaberg, ca. 1885John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 156947
McRobbie Jeweller and Gem Merchant, Bundaberg, 1920
McRobbie Jeweller and Gem Merchant, Bundaberg, 1920John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 162446
Bullock shifting a log for the Lynch sisters, undated
Bullock shifting a log for the Lynch sisters, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 185580
Lynch sisters, undated
Lynch sisters, undatedJohn Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 57596
Schoolgirls at Middle Rock on Fraser Island, 1936
Schoolgirls at Middle Rock on Fraser Island, 1936John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 46472
Veanne Frock Salon in Bourbong Street, Bundaberg
Veanne Frock Salon in Bourbong Street, BundabergPicture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Mabel Steindl, Maryborough, 1898
Mabel Steindl, Maryborough, 1898John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 41924
Bourbong St, Bundaberg, ca. 1900
Bourbong St, Bundaberg, ca. 1900Picture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Inside Queens Theatre, Bundaberg, ca. 1900
Inside Queens Theatre, Bundaberg, ca. 1900John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 9554
Crowds leaving after the opening of the new Olympia Theatre in 1956
Crowds leaving after the opening of the new Olympia Theatre in 1956Picture Bundaberg, a project of Bundaberg Regional Libraries
Picture screen inside Paramount Theatre, Bundaberg, ca. 1929
Picture screen inside Paramount Theatre, Bundaberg, ca. 1929John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 11341
Wintergarden Theatre, Kent Street, Maryborough, ca. 1950
Wintergarden Theatre, Kent Street, Maryborough, ca. 1950Picture Fraser Coast, Maryborough, Wide Bay and Burnett Historical Society
11907 ‘GEORGE STUPART’S DRAPERY PALACE.’, The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), 27 April, p. 29, viewed 26 November, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article25977773
21904 ‘GEORGE STUPART’S EXHIBIT.’, The Queenslander(Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 – 1939), 6 August, p. 37, viewed 26 November, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article22267632
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Published in , on December 3, 2013.