Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria




Mr Jenkins: a Fishy Connection

In the preface to volume two of the Prodromus, McCoy explains 'how little the native Fish are known for want of figures for reference.' In his quest to remedy this he employed Melbourne's 'potentate of the fish trade', fishmonger Percy Jenkins.1

Percy Jenkins worked with his father at 22 Swanston Street until 1877, when he opened his own shop at 5 Swanston Street, where Young and Jackson's Hotel now stands.2 'From morning until closing time at night the shop was thronged with citizens from all parts of the city and suburbs securing tit bits with which to grace their tables. Jenkins was without equal in the line, and well deserved his success.'3

During the mid to late 1800s the Jenkins family were Melbourne's premier fish and game suppliers. 'Jenkins kept only the best of everything. In the sale of such perishable delicacies as fish and game the utmost caution was exercised, and in consequence of his personal supervision, the public implicitly relied upon this market for all that they required.'4

As well as providing specimens of the most common species, Jenkins delivered many rare and spectacular fish. 'Every variety of fish and game found in the Southern hemisphere was secured by Jenkins who spared no expense in catering to the wants of his thousands of patrons'.5

Although Jenkins' contributions were numerous and frequent, he was often not paid until years later. Museum accounts show he was paid for the period from 1884 to the end of 1887 on a single invoice for 109 fish.


Portrait of Percy Jenkins.
The Jenkins fishshop on Swanston Street was a Melbourne institution.


References

1Bruce Bennet, The Melbourne Fish Markets, Melbourne, 2002, p. 30.
2Guy Murphy, At Home on Hotham Hill, Melbourne, North Melbourne Library, 2004.
3Bruce Bennet, The Melbourne Fish Markets, Melbourne, 2002, p. 30.
4ibid.
5ibid.