High street dreams

Wealth from gold and wool, combined with a growing population, facilitated the expansion and transformation of shops across Australia at the end of the 19th century. Shops and shopping were revolutionised from the simple provision of goods, via markets and door-to-door pedlars, to a myriad of outlets and an extraordinary range of items.

Where once shopping was done out of necessity, by the end of the 19th century it had also become a form of entertainment - a leisure activity, an art practised by the rising middle class.

Gradually, as Australia became a more modernised consumer society in the 20th century and the 'high street' shops began to lose custom to the suburban shopping malls, the nature of shopping changed again.

Explore some of the characteristics of shopping over the century, from 1880, through a selection of photographs, mail order catalogues, sales registers, order books and ephemera held in the Noel Butlin Archives Centre, of Australian retailers such as Marcus Clarke & Company, McEwans Ltd, McDowells, Paterson, Laing and Bruce and Burns Philp & Co Ltd, together with the shop assistants' and warehouse employees' campaigns for higher wages and better working conditions in journals and minute books of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees' Association also held in the Noel Butlin Archives Centre