This real photograph advertising trade post card has a view of numerous workers at the in Plant Department Sydney Warehouse of Arthur Yates & CO LTD Sydney, and there is a roller cancel of a SYDNEY/ 5-PM/ JLY 24/ 1922/ N.S.W (Figure 1).

The reverse has a printed ‘Yates Seeds/ from Grower to Sower’ in a circle plus a message, part printed, part manuscript ‘From Arthur Yates & Co., Ltd., Seed Growers, Seed Merchants & Nurserymen, 184, 186 & 188 Sussex St., Sydney. Your esteemed favor of the 10th July 1922 for Plants, Gloxinia & bulbs will follow in the Spring, duly received and for which accept our best thanks. We have put the order in hand, and will send on the goods as soon as possible. Amount received 15/2 (fifteen shillings & 2 pence). The postcard is addressed to a client in Murray Bridge, South Australia and the chocolate brown 1½d KGV Head is cancelled SHIP ROOM/ 2/ (2)4 JL 22/ SYDNEY N.S.W (Figure 2).

Arthur Yates seedsman, was born on 10 May 1861 in Lancashire, England, one of six sons of Samuel Yates, seed merchant, and his wife Mary, née McMullen. Arthur’s grandfather George Yates had started as a grocer and seed merchant in 1826. Three years later he opened a separate seed shop and put his eldest son Samuel, aged 15, in charge. Within a few years Samuel’s firm outstripped that of his father; in 1855 he joined his father in partnership and in 1888 acquired the whole business. All Samuel’s sons joined the firm. An asthmatic son, Arthur was sent to New Zealand for his health, arriving on 23 December 1879 in the Auckland. He worked on the land near Otago for two years before opening a small seed shop in Auckland, in 1883.

In 1886 Yates visited Australia and on his return sent a commercial traveller to Sydney to take orders for seeds, and leased premises in Sussex Street. After his younger brother Ernest joined him in New Zealand in 1887, Arthur decided to move to Sydney, where the climate suited him better, leaving Ernest to manage the New Zealand business. Arthur visited England in 1888 and he married Caroline Mary Davies, and the couple came to Australia.

In 1893 Yates launched his range of packet seeds for suburban home gardeners in Australia. Two years later he set about writing a gardening book. This became Yates’ Gardening Guide for Australia and New Zealand, directing its instructions to home gardeners rather than to professionals. It became an annual publication and contained information on new seeds and varieties as well as the planning and management of gardens and care of shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Still produced more than a century later, it has been the most useful and popular of the relatively inexpensive garden books available (Figure 3).

Yates’s seed business had soon become the largest such firm in the colonies. He built an office and warehouse in Sussex Street in 1896, travelled to Europe in search of quality seeds and established seed farms elsewhere in Australia. About 1907 the two brothers decided to operate separate enterprises, Arthur in Australia and Ernest in New Zealand; both businesses were named Arthur Yates & Co. and each maintained close links with their father’s business at Manchester. Arthur Yates & Co. Ltd was incorporated in New South Wales in 1910. Arthur’s 4 sons all joined the firm, whereas his 2 daughters did not. The company produced a medallion in 1923 and presented it to Worrowong Gardens, Moss Vale, N.S.W. (Figure 4).

Yates lived at Didsbury, Burwood, and he died of cancer on 30 July 1926 at his home, survived by his six children. The firm operated as a family company until 1951 when it became Yates Seeds Ltd. After merging with Hortico to become Arthur Yates & Co., in 2003 it was purchased by Orica Ltd for $45 million.

Addendum (April 2010):  The advertising cover has at the top left:  Arthur Yates & Co. LTD, Seed Merchants, 184, 186, 188 Sussex St. Sydney, N.S.W.  Represented in New Zealand by Arthur Yates & Co., LTD Auckland and in England by Samuel Yates, 75 Shudehill, Manchester, 18(–). The orange ‘Four Corners’ Queensland stamp is cancelled by a roller cancel SYDNEY/ 19 JL 1912. 

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