1868 Exhibit: DON’ T RISK I T FOR THE BISCUIT C o l l e c t o r : JK Occupation: gardener ESA Member: 20+y e a r s *1868 was the date that the f i r s t decorated biscuit tin was produced. It was commissioned by Huntley & Palmer.
JK : I think it began in the late 1960s, as a young boy I had been gathering small trinkets
and storing them in tobacco tins which ended up being stored in larger tins. Over the next
10 years I started my collection of tin packaging; all tin packaging, sweets,
tobacco/cigarettes, gramohone needles, samples, the list is endless. During this period my
mother was enthsiastic about this growing collection so her friends were going through
their pantries and drawers and were happy to give me a range of small interesting tins.
During the 1980s I had a haunt I loved going to in Flinders Lane run by Mrs Berry and her
son Richard. One day Richard asked me why I wasn’t interested in ‘that biscuit tin’. I had
been looking at what I thought was a block of English novels for years. The Huntley &
Palmer tin (1901) was named ‘Literature’; it had beautiful marbling, a tin binding strap to
look like leather… It started my love and appreciation of a period of spectacular biscuit tin
The chiefly English biscuit tins on display date from 1875 to 1940. Most of the tins were
designed to be used as a decoration or plaything after the biscuits were eaten.
Some early Australian biscuit makers are represented too: Swallow & Ariell Ltd; Brockhoff’s
and Menz. The small tins are sample tins often holding just one biscuit for the travelling
salesman to offer to the storekeeper. The oldest tin is the cylinder tin which held a
horizontal stack of biscuits and this style tin was used by travellers.
UNTIL 22 AUGUST YOU CAN SEE Cabinets of Wonder exhibition, 12 July–22 Aug 2016 at RHSV, 239 A’Beckett St Melbourne. All welcome. Bring your friends. Entry is by gold coin donation. We reprint the exhibition guide for GJ (there are more than 40 entries. If you want a copy please send payment of $10 to the Ephemera Society of Australia Inc c/- 6 Duke St Richmond 3121 – for costs including postage and handling.)
1. Lifesaver truck c.1920s. There was a truck produced for every flavour each in its own
colour, for example musk was pink. JK
2. Travellers c.1875, slip out case with two handles, Huntley & Palmers (H&P). Rare
example of direct tin printing process. May have been intended for travellers to use
for refreshments on a journey or for travelling salesmen.
3. Horse 1925, Menz, South Australia, modelled on an English tin. JK
4. Plane 1925, Arnott’s, note the wings and propellor, rare to find in such good
5. Mary, Queen of Scots, c.1935 McVitie & Price. Printed on base ‘Free sample no
6. Literature 1901, hinged lid, H&P. This was an advance on the preceding year’s box, with
covers now featuring ‘marbling’ and ‘tooled leather’. About 60,000 manufactured in 1901.
7. Poppy, c.1920s, English.
8. Breakfast Biscuits 1933 H&P.
9. Tutankahmen 1924. Released after the discovery of the tomb.
10. Library 1900, hinged lid, H&P. Set apart by its attention to detail – the little pull tab
(bookmark), the simulated leather strap and buckle. Note the titles of the voulmes
Biscuits, Poetry, Cakes. About 50,000 of these tins were manufactured in 1900.
11. Osborne c1920-1930 H&P, advertising mirror. (Source date: internet)
12. The Trumpeter, c.1926 W& R Jacobs & Co.
13. Chinese Laquer Tea Caddy 1924 hinged lid, W&R Jacob &Co. Note the embossing
has been used to simulate the ornate hinges.
14. Noah’s Ark Swallow’s & Ariell.
15. Rich Biscuits [date unknown] Macfarlane Lang & Co. Verso is Granola Digestive
16. Easel [in the style of the H&P tin The Artist, 1900]. Note the travel pictures on the
top and the evolution of travel as the border.
17. Marble 1909, hinged lid, H&P. The original idea here was a vase like tin to be set on a
pedestal. The directors of H&P vetoed the vase and commissioned 50,000 pedestal
18. The Blacksmith.
19. Butter Biscuits c.1890 H&P.
20. Russian water vessel. Note the pokerwork on the handle.
21. Dibbets Toffees.
22. Bluebird 1911, lift off lid, McVitie & Price. Modelled on Martin Bros ceramic Blue
Bird. The tin on display has been kept in a smoky kitchen and hence is much stained.
23. Strawberry Box 1909, hinged lid, Macfarlane, Lang & Co. The berries are individually
embossed and so very life-like.
24. Chinese Vase 1928, lift off top, H&P.
25. Chippendale c.1904 MacFarlane, Lang & Co.
26.The Premier Biscuit of Britain, c.1924 McVitie & Price. This image was used for
27. Shortbread c.1927 McVitie & Price. Using an image after Landseer’s painting.
Embossed on base ‘Free sample’. The Crawford Tartan Shortbread c.1930 William
Crawford & Sons. The shape of the tin is unsual and dated by ESA at about 1930 as
this is the date of a like Crawford tin White Heather.
28. Dundee Cake 1933 H&P.
Reference: Franklin, MJ British Biscuit Tins 1868-1939: An Aspect of Decorative Packaging
(London: New Cavendish Publishing) 1979
Kathy Clarke says
thanks for sharing
My grandfather mr Gordon Peddie was factory Manager @ Swallow & Ariell biscuits p/ltd in Port Melbourne for many years-an industrial chemist- they had dozens of biscuit tins in their home pantry-all disposed of- I purchased one recently- I am writing a history of family and wish a catalogue of that display- Kathryn Hartley (other grandfather began Hartleys Sports Store in flinders st, 1930/40
Hi Kathryn we can send you a catalogue if you provide an address.
Also I will send your note to our Swallow & Ariell and biscuit tin collectors.
I’ve just come across a very old, amazing Swallow & Ariell biscuit tin, Swallow & Ariell Biscuit Manufacturers Port Melbourne printed on the underside of the hinged lid. It’s an odd shape, there’s a girl on the front and two King Charles puppies. The rest of the tin is very decorative and in great condition. Would any of your tin collectors be able to give me some information as to age and perhaps a valuation?
Please send a scan of the tin, top, bottom and side view, much easier to advise with this information.
Brian Hawkins says
Not for publication.
I’ve come into possession of around 30-60 assorted tins. Genuine collectors, NOT SELLERS, are welcome to scruffle thru and take what they can use, NO CHARGE. Would appreciate a phone call for my address before the avenging horde descends. Whats left over will go to the Sallies.
I live in Thornlie, WA.