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Baker & Rouse
Image: Photograph - Photograph - Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd, Kodak Shopfront & Building, Melbourne, circa 1927
Source: Museum Victoria
In 1884 Mr Thomas Baker, a thirty year old registered pharmaceutical chemist, began making photographic dry plates at his home 'Yarra Grange' by the Yarra River in Abbotsford, Melbourne, under the name the Austral Plate Company. In 1887 Baker formed a partnership with John J Rouse, and in 1908 their highly successful business merged with Eastman Kodak. The resulting company ultimately evolved into Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd, which has been a significant manufacturer and distributor of photographic products in Australia, and an important educator in regard to the practice of photography.
When Baker met John J (JJ) Rouse (born 1861) Rouse was working as an accountant and sales manager for a Sydney photographic merchant and an importer at a branch store in Melbourne. The partnership between the two men allowed Baker to expand the photographic manufacturing and retail business. Baker concentrated on improvements to the manufacturing of plates and production in the laboratory whilst Rouse set up a network of retail outlets.
In about 1886 Baker's photographic business had moved from the Baker home into a three-storey factory building nearby, to accommodate its 10 employees. By 1887, under the new partnership with Rouse, the factory was producing a new bromide paper, known as Austral Pearl Bromide, which replaced albumen paper, previously the dominant photographic paper. By the 1900s the factory was producing bromide and gaslight papers, negative materials, mounts, envelopes, and ready mixed chemicals.
The business continued to expand as Baker and Rouse took over existing companies or trade outlets. They imported Eastman products from London and in 1888 obtained a trade agency for the American Eastman products, which they successfully sold. Baker and Rouse opened new stores and branches in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, and Sydney. Between 1887 and 1900 they had outlets at fourteen locations. Their first wholesale and retail store opened at 37 Collins Street Melbourne, where Lichtner & Co, a photographic supply store had operated. In 1894 the company became known as the Baker and Rouse Australia Laboratory.
Due in part to the success of sales at Baker and Rouse of Eastman products, Kodak Limited opened its own branch in Melbourne in 1900, at 284-286 Collins Street. However, the store did not match the sales figures of Baker and Rouse, which continued with good sales. Contributing to Kodak Limited losses were the high tariffs imposed at the time on imported films.
After Thomas Baker visited George Eastman in Rochester, Baker and Rouse was appointed the sole Australian agents for Eastman Kodak products in 1905. The agreement included the sale to Baker and Rouse of the Kodak Limited store in Collins Street. In return Baker and Rouse agreed to purchase a certain percentage of Kodak products directly from Rochester, rather than London. A clause in the agreement provided that at a suitable time Kodak could purchase Baker and Rouse. That time came in 1908, after further import tariffs introduced in 1907 greatly increased the cost of imported goods. Baker travelled to Rochester and convinced Eastman on the benefits of a merger between Baker and Rouse and Eastman Kodak to form Australia Kodak Limited. Baker saw the merger as an opportunity to upgrade and expand the factory in Abbotsford. Eastman saw this as a way of avoiding tariff imports by manufacturing and finishing products in Australia.
The newly merged company became Australian Kodak Limited, and later in 1911 Kodak (Australasia) Limited, then finally in 1920 Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd. Both Baker and Rouse continued to play leading executive roles in the company, and after Baker's death, John Rouse's son Edgar took on the role of Managing Director and Abbotsford Factory Manager, and later became Chairman and Chief Managing director.
The two men in the original Baker and Rouse partnership had very different personalities. Baker was said to be reserved whilst Rouse was athletic and outgoing. After Baker's unexpected death on 4 December 1928, Rouse wrote to George Eastman 'During this long partnership he (Baker) never interfered with me, and never took my part in the running of the works. Although we were entirely different dispositions we had only one subject in view, namely the success of the firm'.
Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd, 'Kodak in Australia', June 1975 (HT 31586)
Lowe, T (1974). The Thomas Baker, Alice Baker and Eleanor Shaw Medical Research Institute: The First Fifty Years, Trustees of the Institute, Melbourne, pp. 9-10
Davies, A & Stanbury, P (1986). The Mechanical Eye in Australia Photography 1841-1900, Oxford University Press, p. 54.
Beale, N, (no date). History of Kodak, in Possession of Kodak Australia, Melbourne.
Items per page: 10 50 (showing 11 - 20) 476 items
Scrapbook that was compiled by Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd. It contains approximately 76 archival items produced 1963-74. The archival items include promotional clippings and advertiseme ...Images: 7
Scrapbook that was compiled by Kodak Australasia Pty Ltd. It contains approximately 349 archival items produced in 1963-71. The archival items include promotional leaflets for Kodak pr ...Images: 4
A small point of sale label or sign for the Kodak Instamatic Movie Camera, released in 1965. This label would have been given to Kodak dealers and retailers for use in their merchandisi ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for Kodak film, likely produced in the 1960s. It says 'Don't Miss a Good Picture...take along an extra roll of Kodak Film'. It would have been given ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for the Kodak File Box, a storage system for 35mm slides. This label was likely produced in the 1960s. It says, 'Protect your colour slides...with a ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for Kodak film, saying 'Take Along an Extra Roll of Kodak Film'. While this slogan had been used by Kodak since the 1920s, this label was likely prod ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for Kodak carrying cases, likely produced in the 1960s. It says, 'A Kodak Carrying Case Protects Your Valuable Camera' and would have been given to K ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for Kodak books, likely produced in the 1960s. The label says, 'Learn More About Photography From Easy-to-Read Kodak Books'. It would have been given ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for Kodak Instamaic cameras. The Instamatic 104 is pictured on the label, which means this label was likely produced between 1965 and 1968. The label ...Images: 1
A small point of sale label or sign for Kodak Instamatic cameras, so the label was likely produced in the mid to late 1960s. The label says, 'Give a Kodak Instamatic Camera - the gift t ...Images: 1