Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover for M.B. Wragg & Co. Pty Ltd., Gardenvale. S.4, Victoria advertised “Alpha” Fishing Tackle and was sent to W. & L. Gordon Pty Ltd., Napier St. Essenden.  It had a blue ‘Alpha’ cogwheel shield trade mark, as well as a large fish chasing a fly.  The green 1d KGV head stamp was postmarked GARDENVALE/ (   ) OC 34/ VICTORIA (Figure 1).

A variation on the “Alpha” Fishing Tackle advertisement is seen in the next cover for it has clouds, conifer trees on the hill, a fish that has taken the fly, and the fisherman standing in the lake is ready to scoop the fish into a net.  The ‘Alpha’ trade mark is in red, and the address for the M.B. Wragg & Co. is given more fully as being at Cochrane Street, Gardenvale.  It is addressed to the same company in Essendon and the green 1d KGV head stamp is postmarked with a machine cancel MELBOURNE/ 4 15 (P)M/ 13 DEC/1929 VICTORIA with a slogan cancel POST XMAS/ MAIL EARLY (Figure 2).

M.B. Wragg & Company is among Australia’s oldest trading companies and in many ways its history reflects the social and business changes that have taken place over the same period.  M.B. Wragg & Co. was formed in 1883 by John Davey Wragg, and he named the company in honour of his wife, Margaret Bennet Wragg.  John D. Wragg was from the outset an agent for the British fishing tackle maker, S. Alcock & Co. for almost 50 years, when the firm first commenced manufacture of their own ‘Alpha’ brand of tackle in 1931.  This involved a big commitment to the then cutting edge bakelite plastic technology.

‘Alpha’ brand rapidly grew in popularity and it was not long before the company established export markets in Canada, South Africa and New Zealand.  The connection with fishing still remains to-day with the ‘Alpha’ tackle being the mainstay of the company’s outdoor recreation range.  With the desire to even out the seasonal nature of sales, the decision was made in the early 1980s to expand into a broader range of outdoor products including camping, picnic sets, portable furniture, inflatables, and many other items.  The outdoor offerings were further expanded in 1983 when John ‘s great grand-daughter, Simone (Wragg) Flanagan joined the company after completing a fashion degree.

The company soon began manufacturing its own range of quality outdoor clothing under the ‘Adventureline’ brand.  The first garment produced under Simone’s guidance was the quintessentially Australian wool bush shirt.  The ‘Adventureline’ brand is distributed thoughout Australia and New Zealand.  More than 20 years later the brand has grown to a comprehensive range for people of all ages engaged in year-round outdoor pursuits.  In 2007 the M.B. Wragg & Co. merged their business with Rosbert International (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. one of Australia’s leading importers and distributors of snow sports and outdoor recreational equipment.

Did you notice that the 1929 cover advertising ‘Alpha’ fishing tackle predates the official information of its introduction in 1931?!  A picture of John Davey Wragg is shown in Figure 3