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About Lewis & Skinner, and the documents in this archive


An incomplete overview by Stefan Schutt


Lewis & Skinner was a signwriting company based in South Melbourne and Footscray that existed for at least 60 years. The earliest reference to the company I've found thus far is in the 1905 Sands and McDougall business directory, which can be found on microfiche in the State Library of Victoria. Some early references to the company can also be found in newspaper classifieds seeking rented wall spaces for advertisements:



The signwriting documents I discovered in Footscray in February 2012, and which compose this archive, go back to 1915. The National Library's Trove newspaper service, which I used to find the classifieds above, also turned up some other interesting details, such as a report of a burglary at the Lewis & Skinner premises in 1925:



When did the company end? I don't know yet. But I do know that in 1950 Frank Mason & Co (a UK-based advertising company) bought out a range of local firms including Lewis & Skinner and radio serial producers Australasian Radio Productions, whose records I also found at the demolition site. This report in the Adelaide Advertiser has a few details.


My research at the State Library of Victoria also revealed that in 1960 the Frank Mason group of companies moved to the building at 2-4 Whitehall Street in Footscray, where I found the pile of documents in February 2012 (see photos below). That building, whose latest incarnation was a Vietnamese auto mechanic's premises, has since been demolished to make way for the expansion of the railway line to the Western suburbs.





If you do happen to know anything more about Lewis & Skinner, please feel free to get in touch via the Contact Us page on this site: http://www.lewisandskinner.com/contact.


So how did I find the Lewis & Skinner documents, and how did they get from there to here?


In February 2012 I found an old invoice in the bushes outside my Whitehall Street workplace. Curiosity piqued, I took a look at the demolition site next door, and found the pile of documents you see above. I then spent two warm evenings after work rummaging through the pile until it got too dark to see. Unfortunately I had to leave many more behind than I could take, even after having commandeered every milk crate and box I could find there and loading them into the back of my car. The week after I did this, the building was demolished and all the site contents were hauled off, presumably to landfill. Here are the documents I did manage to get, as they ended up at my house:



After that, I spent a couple of weeks sorting through the documents on the back porch. I threw out documents that were lacking detail or interest - this was a large company and they were obviously very busy in their heyday. The remainder then found their way to the scanner, online and to you, courtesy of the brilliant document processing of Joseph and Hughie, as well as Oztron webmeisters Justin and Sean. This work was made possible by a grant from the Telematics Trust, and the related research by the State Library of Victoria.