MacRobertson Steam Confectionery Works

MacRobertson Steam Confectionery Works

MacRobertson Steam Confectionery Works was a confectionery company founded in 1880 by Macpherson Robertson. Robertson’s Scottish parents had migrated to Ballarat, Victoria during the 1850s gold rush and he was born in 1859. Unfortunately the family did not strike it rich and instead lived in poverty, particularly when Robertson’s father temporarily abandoned the family when Macpherson was just a boy. 

Macpherson established a workshop in the bathroom of the family home in Fitzroy, salvaging scrap metal to make a workbench and purchasing a 6p nail can to convert to a small furnace. In the early years of his confectionery business, he walked the streets with a tray on his head, trying to interest local shopkeepers in buying his wares. As his business grew, his entire family worked with him every evening to package sweets ready for selling the next morning.

Macpherson Robertson named his business for himself but combined his two names into the catchier ‘MacRobertson’. He was usually referred to as ‘Mac’ or ‘Mr. Mac’.

By 1900, MacRobertson’s occupied several blocks in Fitzroy and business was booming. His entrepreneurial interests expanded to transport, design, sport and philanthropy. MacRobertson was a recognisable figure in Fitzroy owing to his larger than life personality and distinctive white suit.

MacRobertson detailed the early years of his life and work in his beautifully illustrated and highly romanticised autobiography A Young Man and a Nail Can. He died in 1945, leaving the operation of the business to his sons. In 1967 they sold the business to Cadbury.

Source: Culture Victoria