MRS BANSGROVE, AGENT IN MARYBOROUGH, VICTORIA

24 May 2015 3:01 PMVeronica Lampkin
MRS BANSGROVE, AGENT IN MARYBOROUGH, VICTORIA

SELLING MADAME WEIGEL'S PATTERNS THROUGH AN AGENCY NETWORK

Agent Mrs Bansgrove emerged early in my study of Madame Weigel and her paper patterns, way back in 2007. Thanks to my friend and mentor, Wendy Hucker, some artefacts that Mrs Bansgrove had carefully saved came to light.

Wendy Hucker was a strong advocate in the domestic history of rural women. I had contacted Wendy through her role in establishing the Pioneer Women’s Hut in Tumbarumba, western NSW: she had studied Madame Weigel’s work in the 1980s and had even met with Madame’s last manager, Mr Alfred Gasson, in 1986. Wendy had also sought recollections of Madame Weigel from the general public, and in return received rare news of Madame Weigel’s early ‘pattern circulars’.

These ‘circulars’ were the leaflets that predated ‘Madame Weigel’s Catalogue of Patterns’, a publication started in 1879. They formed Madame’s earliest form of in-store, or in-home, pattern promotion.

The original source of these circulars had been Mrs Bansgrove, one of Madame Weigel’s earliest agents located in Maryborough, a key town in the central goldfields district of Victoria. She had saved around 20 examples, each a promotion of Madame Weigel’s patterns. The example here (right) features in my new biography, ‘Madame Weigel: the Woman who Clothed the Australasian Colonies’.

One of the circulars listed 18 agents spread across all colonies, even in those very early days of Madame Weigel’s business (see illustration below). Mrs Bansgrove was included, with a cross against her name: she had quite probably put this there herself, and had looked after the loose leaves well having carefully stitched the single sheets together to make a booklet, probably to use in her shop as a form of early catalogue.

These were signs that Mrs Bansgrove must have treasured Madame Weigel’s circulars: she had not only kept them carefully, but passed them on to a relative who later passed them on to a friend, the person who had contacted Wendy Hucker in the 1980s. Early agents would have been proud to have agency for such a new development as paper patterns, one that supported women’s lives as they sewed at home to clothe themselves and their families. As part of her business practices, Madame Weigel often advertised for agents to sell her paper patterns, and after 1880, her fashion journal, ‘Weigel’s Journal of Fashion’.

 

Whilst on a study tour in 2009, I visited Maryborough to research Mrs Bansgrove, helped by the local historians at the Maryborough Family History Group.  Mrs Bansgrove had been Anne Pryse before marrying  Jonathon Bansgrove in 1870. By 1889, she was a widow, as were many of Madame Weigel’s agents – women who had to earn their own living, and did so by keeping a shop. Shown in the main illustration here, the shop window proudly promotes ‘Weigal’s Paper Patterns’.  Jonathan Bansgrove had previously worked as a journalist with the Maryborough and Dunolly Advertiser and South Australian Register and was 47 when he died prematurely in sad circumstances (see illustration right).

I could see from my study records that Mrs Bansgrove’s business relationship with Madame Weigel extended from 1878 to at least 1897, and that by 1910, Miss Alice Grant had taken over the agency. On her death in 1954, Miss Grant was remembered as a ‘great church worker’ who was ‘gracious and charming’; a ‘popular and successful figure in business affairs’ having conducted her fancy goods business in the High Street for many years; and was sister of the late Miss Flo Grant, also in business in Maryborough as a florist.

As with widows, single sisters such as the Alice and Flo Grant were often found in the lists of Madame Weigel’s agents: independent, self sufficient, and enterprising.

 

© Dr Veronica R. Lampkin: Madame Weigel’s Patterns. 24 May 2015.

 

Sources:

Madame Weigel’s early circulars. Courtesy of Wendy Hucker. In the author’s collection; Poster: View of Maryborough, Victoria. Lithographed by F.W. Niven & Co.; South Australian Register. 1889. Deaths: Bansgrove. 23 May, 4; South Australian Register. 1889. Colonial Telegrams: Victoria. 12 April, 5.; Bendigo Advertiser. 1889. Death of a journalist. 13 April, 4; Maryborough Advertiser. 1954. Late Miss Alice Grant a great church worker. 15 February, 6.

 


 

 


 

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