September 7th, 2012
Thomas Bibby Guest arrived in Sydney in 1852. By May 1856 he had established a steam biscuit factory in Melbourne in partnership with John Barnes, trading as Barnes, Guest & Co. The firm began the manufacture of ship and fancy biscuits in a building in William Street and by 1858 the firm reorganised as TB Guest & Co. With continuing expansion of the business, a store was built at the William Street site in 1869. Following a fire, the factory was rebuilt and served as Guest’s factory until 1932 when the business moved to West Melbourne. In 1963 Arnott Guest Pty Ltd was created following a merger with another biscuit company.
Samuel Thomas Gill was commissioned by the architect to paint a representation of the second William Street building. Gill is best known for his lithographs of Victorian gold-diggings, but he was often commissioned by architects as he was capable of embellishing a perspective view of a building. This painting exemplifies his style with its solid architectural depiction and the spirited but somewhat naïve figures, animals and carriages.
While Gill’s artistry depicts the prosperity of the company, the stories found within the company records allow a vastly different insight into the working conditions of female industrial workers and working class conditions in general during the late 19th century.