Thursday, January 17, 2013

Yorke and Norton

The Melbourne firm of Messrs. Yorke and Norton at “87 Collins-street east” was evidently far more than a manufacturer of picture frames. According to various advertisements in the Argus newspaper, commencing in January 1855, “Ladies needlework [was] carefully and elegantly mounted”; “Furniture repaired, carpets, curtains, rollers, [and] blinds made to order.” They were also “House-decorators, Upholsterers, Cabinet-makers, Undertakers [presumably of work, not funerals―although it is certainly a strange coincidence that Paxton and Allan, undertakers, the conventional sort, were located at 86 Collins-street east], Painters, &c.” And alongside the trade in picture frames “of every description manufactured to order,” Yorke and Norton dealt in pictures too, many thousands of them: “Pictures.―Five Thousand Sporting, Hunting, Steeplechasing, &c., framed or otherwise,” almost certainly cheap reproductive prints and engravings. The partnership appears to have lasted for about a year. In January 1856, Mr. Norton moved into new premises at 88 Collins-street, and Mr. Yorke to 227 Elizabeth Street. Thenceforth, they advertised separately with slight but nevertheless telling shifts in emphasis. On May 1, 1858, for example, we find the following notices in the same column on page 7 of that day’s Argus:

Picture-frame manufactory…Norton, gilder, decorator, printseller, &c. Paintings restored. Frames regilt.

Picture frames, Maple, Rosewood, Gold &c. manufactured by Charles Yorke…Trade supplied.

A little earlier Mr. Yorke posted separate advertisements for “a lad for a market gardener” and “an Agricultural labourer,” though by the end of the year he was seeking “a paperhanger” and “a smart lad.” Perhaps Mr. Yorke had one foot in home décor and the other in fresh vegetables; certainly Mr. Norton’s focus was more squarely upon the traditional spread of the mixed picture-dealing and frame-making business, with the nowadays rather sinister autre corde à son arc of “restoration.” Perhaps this contrast lay behind the dissolution of their shortlived partnership towards the end of 1855.

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