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R.C. VERNEY & SONS, BRISBANE TIN SMITH & JAM MAKER to SARNIA, ONT.

The Queensland cover has a green ‘ONE HALFPENNY’ and a blue ‘Four Corners TWO PENNY’ stamps cancelled by a duplex BRISBANE/ 22/ AU 5/ 03/ QUEENSLAND postmark. It was addressed to Messrs. A.G. Crosby, Sarnia Ont., Canada (Figure 1).

The flap of the reverse has a black printed double oval of the sender, R.C. VERNEY & SONS/ BRISBANE (Figure 2).

I initially identified the sender firm in Queensland, and then attempted to identify the receiver firm in Sarnia, Ontario hoping that I could find an association between the 2 companies. In reply to my enquiry, I received 2 emails from the Lambton Room Library in Sarnia, that an initial search by the historian of the county archives for G.A. Crosby, as a possible tinsmith, did not yield any information. My emphasis on tin smiths was prompted by the finding of an exhibition by artisan tinsmith, Barbara Heath that the Verney family were tin smiths rather than jam makers, which she recorded as follows: "I had no idea tinsmithing had such a colorful local history...Tin was once as common in our everyday lives as plastic is to-day. There were many tinsmiths in Brisbane and the R.C.Verney & Sons factory in Fortitude Valley (suburb of Brisbane) even combined tinsmithing with jam making".

I am not attempting to down-play the importance of the Verney family to tinsmithing, for the accompanying photograph shows R.C. Verney & Sons Canister Makers, Tinsmiths & Ironworkers.   There was also a separate building with Cannister Works, and there was a caption under the photo described as 'Staff standing outside R.C. Verney & Sons Factory in Doggett Street, Fortitude Valley 1902' (Figure 3).

If the quality of the family home of R.C. & O. Verney in Zillmere in November 1904 is a reliable indicator, then the family business was at one stage very successful (Figure 4).

However an undated and unknown newspaper advertisement, which cannot replicated, shows that the Verney business was very troubled, as follows: "M’Whirter & Son, The Valley, Brisbane, Public Notice, Queensland Canister and Packing Works. We beg to announce that we have purchased the Business, Machinery, Buildings, and Property previously owned and occupied by R.C. Verney & Sons, Limited, (now in Liquidation), and we are now carrying on the business of Cannister makers and General Tinplate Workers at the old address, Victoria-street, Valley, Brisbane, under the name or style of VERNEY & SONS. Anticipating the pleasure of receiving the support of the numerous Customers of the late Company, VERNEY & SONS’. This certainly sounds to be the demise of Verney’s tinplating career.

Two advertisements in 1901 showed that the on-tinplating side of the Verney business was still in operation. The first was in the Brisbane Courier, 12 August 1901 p. 11, advertising the ‘V, & S. BRAND TOMATO SAUCE’, and the second was in the same newspaper on 10 October 1901, on p. 9, and it read as follows: PLEASE NOTE. That having been appointed SOLE AGENTS in Queensland for W.D. PEACOCK & COMPANY’S TASMANIAN JAMS AND PRESERVES, we have ceased the actual making of Jams ourselves, but are still continuing the manufacture of our well-known "V & S" BRAND TOMATO SAUCE, And also the canning of Pineapples. FOR PARTICULARS AND PRICES WRITE US DIRECT. R.C. VERNEY & SONS, LTD. 45 ADELAIDE-STREET, BRISBANE (Figures 5 & 6).

 None of the above information gives much biographical information on the Verney family but when the term ‘jam’ was included in the Trove newspaper search, the following entry was found in The Queenslander 28 July 1900, page 26 provided the following information on R.C.Verney and his 2 sons:  When some twenty-five years ago, Mr. R.C. Verney decided to leave the pretty county of Buckingham, England, to seek "fresh fields and pastures new" he little thought that in selecting Queensland he had exercised a foresight that would ever afterwards stnd him in good stead, as the extensive manufacturing and importing business of which he is now the principal...After spending a year or two on the Darling Downs, Mr. Verney, with his wife and family, moved to Victoria-street, Fortitude Valley, and made a start in a very modest way as a general tinsmith. Showing aptitude and care for his business, however, it was not long before he had to extend his premises, and employ labour outside that of his own family, and from that day to this his business has gone steadily forward until it has assumed proportions demanding the constant and energetic application of his sons in guiding the large manufacturing concerns with which their name has become so favourably associated and widely known".

"It must be understood, how ever, that R.C. Verney and Sons do not confine operations entirely to tinware manufacture at the present time, that being only one of the branches of their business – a large one, of course, but bidding fair to be equalled ere long by the jam and preserve manufactures now being turned out in such large quantities in the splendidly equipped factory in Victoria-street, where busy workers are engaged from year’s end to year’s end making the choicest jams, conserves and marmalades...the firm also does an enormous trade in all sorts of tinned fruits, pineapples....Another line of the firm’s business which is assuming large proportions is the preserving of all classes of vegetables in tins, as well as all descriptions of pickles, sauces, relishes, etc. and their V. & S. Brand of tomato sauce...made from an old English favourite recipe...The business founded by him goes prosperously ahead under the guidance of his family".

"Mr. R.C. Verney has gradually placed the business into the hands of the younger generation, O.C. Verney is the manager of the factories, Mr. J.J. Verney is in charge of the clerical staff and Mr. J.E. Burnard presides over the sales department. Mr. Verney snr. is a magistrate and private citizen, and he is much esteemed. John James Verney was said to have become the managing director of R.C. Verney and Co., perhaps when it was taken over. This statement was found attached to his photograph, which gave additional information on him, as follows: prior to working for R.C. Verney and Sons, John Verney was employed by D.L. Brown and later Thomas Brown and Sons. He was born in England but was educated at the Fortitude Valley and Normal Schools in Brisbane".

A picture of the son J.J. Verney is seen in Figure 7.

I emailed the Sarnia, Ontario Library and Ellen Dark, Reference Librarian replied with 10 reprints from the Sarnia Daily Observer from 1902-1904.  In her covering letter she stated "Not much is mentioned of the Crosby family" but I could not find in the fine print any real biographical data.

The most significant facts are summarised as follows:  "The business of the company was the manufacture of patent automatic can making machinery, presses and dies for all kinds of sheet metal work" which could be of interest to the Verney Company in Australia;  the ground for the company was broken in May 1901;  the company was in action initially with ca. 100 employees;  great things were expected of the company to aid in the economy of Sarnia,  with shipments to England and Switzerland; and, Australia was specifically mentioned with an order;  at its undated prime it had 175 men, yet by June 25, 1902 it had closed down, and by December 30, 1904 it had been taken over by the Canada Machinery Company. I could not see any reason to follow-up on my research.

 
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