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Plate - Cole's Book Arcade, circa 1886 Object Reg. No: HT 21117

Alternative Name(s): Advertising Promotional Item

Advertising plate, dinner size, featuring the poems 'All The Children' and 'My Girl', and Cole's rainbow symbol in black on white. The plate was made to advertise Cole's Book Arcade in Melbourne. It probably dates to the late 19th century.

The poem 'My Girl' on the plate also appears on page 18 of Cole's Funny Picture Book, No.1. It tells the story of a girl's life from the crib to marriage.

According to Cole Turnley, E.W. Cole travelled to London in 1886 and attended the opening of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition. He subsequently conducted a spending spree at 'most of the potteries of England' and planned a new 'Ornament Exhibition' for the Arcade. He ordered large stocks of 'a child's plate with a rainbow and a view of the Arcade and the Song of the Book Arcade on it' as well as a child's mug advertising the Ornament Exhibition (Cole of the Book Arcade, 1974, p.89 & 92). Although this plate differs from that Cole described - it lacks the view of the Arcade - it seems likely that it was acquired during this time.

Cole's Book Arcade opened in the Bourke Street Mall in 1883, after earlier operating from other sites. It was a shop like no other, crammed with new and second-hand books and other wares, but with the atmosphere of a circus. Cole enticed customers of all ages with a menagerie and fernery, a band, a clockwork symphonion and other mechanical delights. Readers could sit in comfortable chairs, encouraged by a sign: 'Read for as Long as You Like - Nobody Asked to Buy'. The Arcade's proprietor, Edward William Cole, was optimist and idealist, believing passionately in the power of education and envisaged a world without borders, expounding his views in pamphlets and books. Cole died in 1918, still dreaming of a better future. Cole's Book Arcade, one of the wonders of 'marvellous Melbourne', closed in 1929.
Glazed dinner plate with grey-white ground, heavily crazed. Blue glazed rim and edge where plate dips into centre. Glaze is uneven in parts. The centre of the plate features the poem 'All The Children'; the 8 stanzas of the poem 'My Girl' is written around the edge, interspersed with images of open books.

Spots of aqua glaze on back. Two small chips in upper portion of rim.
Discipline: History

More information

Tagged with: advertising, booksellers, retailing
Themes this item is part of: Edward William Cole, Bookseller (1832-1918), Cole's Book Arcade Collection, Childhood & Youth Collection, Public Life & Institutions Collection
Primary Classification: COMMERCE & RETAILING
Secondary Classification: Department Stores
Inscriptions: 'All The Children' inside rainbow; underneath 'COLE'S LITERARY PLATES / BOOK / ARCADE / MELBOURNE'.

Around edge: poem 'My Girl', with stanzas numbered 1 to 8.

Back of plate stamped 'Rd 54424'
Commissioned By: Cole's Book Arcade, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, circa 1886

Probably late 19th century. Dates provided are dates of operation of Cole's Book Arcade.

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