From the Archives
Advertisements are often the best indicators of contemporary society for while they are meant to sell goods and services, they are framed with the intention of appealing to a particular clientele. Advertisements reflect the values, concerns and aspirations of their intended audience. They are an appeal for trust, to engage in good faith and be rewarded with something beyond the actual product being sold. This may be a sense of accomplishment in making a sound purchase, getting a good bargain or a achieving a better lifestyle. Whatever the attraction, advertisements point to aspects of our lives that are seldom portrayed in a simple historical account of events. They are, in effect, a mirror of what the seller believes is an attractive proposition and are most successful when the buyer recognises this on a personal level.
Looking back on newspapers of an earlier age, one can see the interests and identity of the community at that time. This is evident in the small local press, which carried classified and personal notices as well as product advertisements. Indeed, many suburban or regional newspapers included the words “Advertiser” in their names. Family historians have long been aware of the value of these newspapers in researching the lives of their relatives. The advent of “Trove”, wherein the National Library of Australia digitised its newspaper collection and made this available online, has been a boon to genealogists. Less attention, however, has been focussed on what can be discerned from the advertisements about the society in which those ancestors lived.
The advertisements featured were found in The Australian Courier dated April 25, 1919.
They indicate that at this time there were at least five dairies within a very small area. This suggests there were more open spaces locally on which the cows could graze and that there was a growing population to support these dairies. The proprietors of these dairies sought to differentiate their businesses from the competition by claiming to be the oldest, cleanest or best run dairy. One offered to deliver milk twice a day to the customer another suggested their cows were some the most contented in the district. (There didn’t seem to be any surveys, focus groups or other means of measuring how content the cows were, but one feels that if the cows were happy, then the customer ought to be too.)
The emphasis on hygiene in the advertisements is understandable in the wake of scandals relating to the contamination and adulteration of milk. Between 1905 and 1911 the state government introduced a swath of legislation to regulate the production, sale and distribution of milk products. It is interesting to note that in 1919 there was little by way of refrigeration. Some homes had ice chests to keep milk cool (rather than cold), but generally milk had to be purchased fresh each day from the milkman who travelled around the district.
Per capita consumption of milk was much higher in 1919 than it is today. Changes in diet have resulted in reduced consumption of dairy products across the board, while improvements in refrigeration mean the sale of milk is no longer restricted to an area close to where it is produced.
Andrew West, Archives Chairman