Foy & Gibson Catalogues

The department store and manufacturers, Foy & Gibson, began when Mark Foy (1830–1884), a draper from Ireland who had owned various produce stores around the Bendigo district, set up a new drapery business in 1870 in Smith Street, Collingwood. Also known as Foy’s, it was one of Australia’s earliest department store chains, modelled on Le Bon Marché in Paris and other European and American stores of the period. The business prospered and occupied six shops by 1880. A large range of goods was manufactured and sold by the company, including clothing, manchester, leather goods, soft furnishings, furniture, hardware and food.

In 1883 ownership of the business was transferred to Foy’s son, Francis Foy, in partnership with Willam Gibson. Francis Foy later sold his half share of the business to Gibson and moved to Sydney, establishing Mark Foy’s there. Gibson added manufacturing and direct importing to retailing and acquired many subsidiary outlets in Victoria and other states, including Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. By the early 20th century Gibson’s store and manufacturing works, one of the largest employers in Victoria, dominated the Wellington and Smith Streets area of Collingwood, Melbourne. A second store — the Big Store ― opened in Chapel Street, Prahran, in 1902. After Gibson died in 1918, the firm was carried on by his nephew John Maclellan until it was taken over in 1955 by Cox Brothers, which went into liquidation in 1968. The successor of these businesses now trades as Big W, part of the Woolworths group.

Foy & Gibson catalogues began publication in the 1880s. Our collection begins with the Winter Catalogue 1902. Pictured above are the cover of Winter 1929 and and page 51 of Spring/Summer 1929, from the collections of the University of Melbourne Archives.

Vale Margaret Olley

These images come from Donald Friend, A collection of Hillendiana: Comprising vast numbers of facts and a considerable amount of fiction concerning the goldfield of Hillend and environs, with the result of many years of intensive and arduous historical research’ (Sydney: Ure Smith, 1956), held in our Special Collections.

Margaret Olley (1923-2011) was friends with Donald Friend (1915-1989) and stayed with him at Hill End in New South Wales in 1948. The sketch at the top is by Margaret Olley of Hill End cottages; the other sketch is by Donald Friend and is of the cottage where Margaret stayed with Donald in Hill End.

Wilson Hall – An Integral Part of the University

‘Wilson Hall has been an integral part of the University of Melbourne landscape since the first building to bear this name was completed in 1882. Built for the purpose of providing a venue for examinations, conferring of degrees and grand ceremonial occasions, the Hall has been at the very centre of University life for generations of students and staff. The original Hall’s destruction by fire in 1952 and subsequent rebirth in modern form remains one of the more significant events in the history of the University.’ From ‘The art of Wilson Hall’ by Emily Wubben and Jason Benjamin, University of Melbourne Collections, issue 7, December 2010.

This image of the first Wilson Hall, a hand-coloured wood engraving by an unknown artist, was published in The Illustrated London News on 31 May 1879  (reg. no. 2010.0001, Baillieu Library Print Collection).

Wilson Hall was named for Sir Samuel Wilson (1832-1895), a pastoralist from western Victoria, who was also a politician with an interest in higher education. In 1874 he donated ₤30,000 to the University which paid for the hall, and though the original gothic hall was destroyed by fire, the modernist building that replaced it and that we enjoy today retained his name.

Hidden Treasures of the Orient

Along with these colourful magazines from the 1930s, the Chinese rare material includes 7000 publications dating from the 1600s to 1935, as well as scrolls of painting and calligraphy and diaries from the Cultural Revolution period. The Japanese rare collections contain books about history, art, architecture and language learning, and unusual items such as pamphlets and booklets advising the population on how to prepare for the American air raids in World War II. For information and access see

Pictured: Arts & Life, no. 39, K. & K. Printing Co., June 1937, East Asian Collection, University of Melbourne.

Percy and His Museum

The University’s Grainger Museum holds more than 100,000 archives and artefacts. Newly refurbished, the Museum is open to the public and is well worth visiting for a look into the highly creative, eclectic and unusual life of the Australian-born composer and pianist Percy Grainger (1882-1961). For opening times and more information see

Excitingly, this year’s City of London Festival, which is on this week, features an exhibition, lectures and a performance relating to Percy Grainger as a composer and musician. The exhibition focuses on the time that Percy lived in London in the early 20th century, and shows how significant he was in the social and artistic life of the city. For all of the details see

Above: Lee McRae, photographer, Interior of the Grainger Museum showing the towelling outfit made by Percy Grainger, c.1934, out of a bath mat and towels, 2010, Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne; above right: Aimé Dupont, photographer, Cordially Yrs Percy Grainger, 1917, Grainger Museum collection, University of Melbourne.

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