Straight Razor Chronicle - Volume 4 - Ward Bros. Melbourne

Discussion in 'General Straight Razor Talk' started by Luc, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    I will not kill all the work on this but be aware that the 'Ward Bros.' in this post is not the same Ward Bros that made the razor. The correct Ward Bros is in post #11.

    This research is long overdue. I was given this straight razor by johnmrson in exchange of doing the research. I apologise to John as I did not do it quickly(well, not as quickly as I wanted to). It’s been almost a year now that I’m in possession of the razor and I used it quite a bit. The research was not easy as you can think, Ward is a common name and it’s short. John gave me the razor as he already has a large collection (see his interview) but he thought there might be something behind it worth looking at. I tried to get that little piece of history together.

    First, the straight razor is stamped “Made Expressly for Ward Bros. Melbourne”. It’s another Bengall (Cadman & sons) made razor. You will notice immediately that the heel is very different to any other razors that I’ve seen before. Let me say it right now, it’s a pain to hone, I might need to regrind that heel too and soon...

    I only saw two other razors elsewhere and the heel wasn’t the same. It was a Ward Bros, another Cadman & Sons and one just stamped Sheffield. I have no idea if the one I have is a special edition but I’ve never seen an heel like that on any other razor (Bengall or not).

    There’s a Ward Bros. Company existing today in Darwin but I really doubt it’s the same company as I did not find much information about it (8 McMinn St, Darwin, NT 0800 - (08) 8981 4964). They seem to be in the air conditioning industry. The other Ward Bros. that I found in Victoria is specialised in earthmoving, again, I doubt it’s them. I’m fairly sure the company doesn’t exists anymore.

    However, the Ward Bros. that I would like to talk about was founded around 1855 or 1876 (I'm thinking more 1855 since they have a picture of a straight razor) and probably traded until a bit after 1956 (last seen newspaper advertisement). The Ward Bros. Plty Ltd was created by George Ward and Samuel Ward (Ward Brothers) first in 40 Errol Street, North Melbourne and then in Prahan (both in Victoria, Australia). The Ward Bros were running a department store and they imported sewing machines from England and Wertheim under the name: Australian Sewing Machines Limited Pty Ltd. They would build their own cabinets and place their logos on it to sell them. The first newspaper advertisement was seen in 1897.

    Later on, David Ward (brother of George and Samuel) join the team and started importing the sewing machines from Germany (made by Beisolt & Locke). Those sewing machines were known as ANA (All Native Australian), later on, WARDANA. David shop’s was located in Collingwood, Victoria, Australia.

    The sewing machines usually had the logo of the shop with either George and Samuel picture with the Australian map or all three brothers.
    $Ward1 Logo.jpg

    The A.N.A. machine got very popular in 1911 when the brothers decided to present it at the Melbourne exhibition. The reviews were so good that George and Samuel decided to use the name for their machines also. The result was David taking George and Samuel to court. The whole issue lasted for years and was settled outside the court.

    In the newspaper, we could follow the dispute between the brothers

    After the settlement, David stopped trading and George and Samuel started using the A.N.A. brand and also created the WARDANA brand. They also had a good deal with the city of Bendingo, Victoria, Australia as they were offering rebates.

    The interesting bit is the “18 Sturt Street, Ballarat “ which is similar to Thomas Jewelers (15-21 Sturt Street, Ballarat). I’m wondering if they were renting a stall or shop inside Thomas’ Supply Store building.

    It is unknown when exactly or why the company stopped trading and who was running it as I really doubt it was the original Ward Bros. I could only find sales from individuals in the early 1950s. Nothing else on the company which had a few stores in Victoria. I was unable to find any funerals, family notices or anything pointing me to when they died (any of the 3). It makes me wonder if they died in Australia. There are a few matching names in the 1940s and 1950s but I’m not sure enough to say, it was them. There’s also no mention of bankruptcy in the newspaper...

    So, after all this, how old is the razor? I did not find any catalogs online, unfortunately, I cannot really say when mine was made or sold. From the newspaper ads, I would place it in the range of 1855 to maybe 1955 (opening and closure of the shops, Cadman & Sons was in business for longer than that) as they advertised the electric razor in 1938 but were probably still selling straight razors.

    What I got is not a wedge or near wedge so I would say it’s in 1900s. Further, Ward Bros advertised the model “Federal” quite a bit at the early 1900s, and I think that it would be a fair assumption to place the razor I have after that. so probably around 1920-1955.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2012
  2. Great work Luc..... Wonderful story of an object and it's history!
  3. Luc, another excellent job at researching the history of a razor.
  4. Excellent research. The heel of that blade looks awesome, along with the rest of it.
  5. Legion

    Legion Moderator Emeritus

    Interesting, as always Luc.
  6. mdunn

    mdunn Moderator Emeritus

    Great, as always mate!

    I have this ward brothers straight, would you say it's related or another ward bros?

  7. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    Thanks Gents!

    So Marcus, you got the "Sheffield" straight I've seen! I didn't know who owned it. I would say that one is older than mine. The Ward Bros. probably started to trade with T.R. Cadman at a later time. Related? Yes!
  8. Great stuff Luc.
  9. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    I was contacted by a descendant of the Ward bros. family. I got the wrong Ward family, stay tuned, more to come and it will be exciting from what I saw already!
  10. Extensive research.
  11. Let me tell you a little re. "Ward Bros," Melbourne.

    My name is Peter Ward, and worked as a 4th generation family member in the old Ward Bros store at 144 Swanston St, Melb., as a youth in the 1950's.

    $Peter and Razor.jpg

    Here I hold the giant razor, “The Beast,” that formed part of the Ward Bros display at the Victorian Centenial Exhibition of 1888, held at the Exhibition Buildings, Melbourne. No maker's mark, and "Superior Cutlery" engraved into the ivory. With the fine edge of a normal razor, this piece has to be handled with care. The blade, and handle, is covered in wonderful scenes.

    When researching, note that Ward Bros (Cutlers) history is an entirely different company the Ward Bros sewing machine company.
    The two families and their business' have no connection. George, David and Samuel Ward do not feature in our family tree.

    The Australian chapter of the story, as best as I know it:-
    Frederick William Ward (1) was a "Surgeon's Instrument Maker and Cutler" at 3 Athol Pl. Pentonville London. (1851 census) We still have good samples of his amputation saws, a blood letting lance, and a Printer's Plate with his advertisement.

    Frederick's brother George, who did not come to Australia, was a Surgical Instrument maker (1841 census), Dental Instrument maker (1851 census), Master Cutler (1861 Census) and finally Retired Cutler (1891 census)
    His father, John Ward, born Middlesex in 1775, was also a Cutler.

    Family tradition has the family coming originally from Sheffield, with a manufacturing history spanning 300 years, but we cannot find a date for the move to London. Wards of Sheffield were foundation members of the cutlery manufacturing there, but whilst my father spoke of the links, we cannot find a genealogical connection that is indisputable.
    The “ARGUS TWENTIETH CENTURY EXHIBITION”, Friday July 29 1938 states "Ward Bros, have been established in England for 208 years and in Australia for 86 years; and have always been first to Introduce the latest and most, modern ideas in cutlery." This indicates that at least John Ward’s parents had been cutlers.

    Frederick William Ward (1) arrived in Australia, arriving at Port Phillip in June 1853, with wife and child Frederick William (2) born 5 July, 1849.
    Whilst a son Henry was born at Forest Creek, Castlemaine (goldfields north of Melbourne) in 1855, business also commenced in Melbourne that same year.
    The family business had its Australian centenary celebration in 1952, the huge old sign above the shop at 144 Swanston St said, "WARD BROS Est. 1852", the 1937 catalogue says "Est. 1852." How this equates with an arrival date of 1853 I cannot explain, but only speculate that these brothers may have initially intended to migrate together as a partnership, something that never happened.

    Listed in the 1856 Census as living at 85 Bourke St Melbourne, occupation "Cutler," Frederick William (1) died at 144 Swanston St on 25/08/1882. As usual in those days, the elder kept active in the business, and died "on duty" aged 74.

    The business was continued by son Frederick William (2) together with his brother Henry Charles, the final "Ward Bros", with the business continuing both to manufacture and to import.

    Frederick William (2) died on 1/9/1912, occuption listed as "Cutlery Importer" on his Death Certificate. Henry died 13/4/1930.

    The family had continued as manufacturing cutlers in Australia, with a factory in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy. Pocket and general purpose knives were made at the factory. I do not have a date for the commencement of Australian manufacturing, but we know the factory was active in 1912. Keith Spencer’s book "EDGEMASTER" indicates Thomas Brammer was employed by Ward Bros not long after arriving in Melbourne in 1912. Keith writes, "Thomas had supervised the production of pocket knives and daggers at the Joseph Rogers factory in Sheffield, as his father and grandfather before him had done." Thomas obviously brought great expertise, and his son Frank also was an employee of the business, even after the factory was closed. Frank's role was then to do the repairs and sharpenings, even though he had his own business. "Bram's" parcels arrived back at the shop weekly, clearly labelled and well wrapped, with never a need to check the quality of the job before the customer took delivery.

    A lot of cutlery and razors were imported stamped "Made for Ward Bros", but the wording of advertisements would indicate the "Federal" razor was made by Ward Bros. Whether these were made in the Australian factory, or by connections back in England I cannot say.

    My father, Gilbert Ward, son of Frederick William (2) took over the family business upon the death of Henry in 1930. The business had to be purchased from the housekeeper to whom Henry had bequeathed it, and traded as a properly incorporated "Ward Bros (Cutlers and Importers)" from that time, until its closure in 1965.

    Gilbert had purchased the 144 Swanston St premises, previously rented, but in the late 1950's he leased it out, and continued to quietly trade in Presgrave Arcade off Little Collins St, still in the heart of Melbourne until 1967. The business had withered and became unprofitable with Australia's severe post war import restrictions, and cheap imported Japanese cutlery. Gilbert had made a trip to Canberra and personally pleaded with the Minister for Trade to get a larger import quota, but was turned down.
    As well, quality no longer commanded a premium, and the tendency to replace instead of repair had begun.
    The factory had been dismantled in the late 1940's when Gilbert returned from Active Service, but had made items for the military during the war years.
    Gilbert finally offered the business as a gift to a longstanding employee, Mr Arthur Fitzgerald, but he declined.

    And so, a true family business that had been based on quality, service, integrity, and plain hard work, had finally come to a natural close.

    ("Mr Arthur's" father, "Mr Tom" had also started at Ward Bros in his youth, and he still came to work well into his eighties, such was the family custom.)

    I do not believe those blades stamped "Wardonia" have a direct connection with the Australian Ward Bros, and at this stage I do not know of a connection to razors marked "Ward Bros, Sheffield."

    The "Port Phillip Herald", 2 April 1892 tells a lovely story about the Jack the Ripper suspect, Fred Deeming, visiting the Swanston St shop to have his knives sharpened.


    Late in December last a man called at Ward's cutlery establishment in Swanston street, and producing two amputation knives, which were stained with blood, requested that a perfect edge be put on them. He gave no name, but with a vast assumption of importance he gave Mr. Ward to understand that he must keep these two knives "apart from all others in the shop", and treat them as very special articles that had been left by a very special person. Mr. Ward only remembers at this distance of time, that the man was short and square, and in manner of general bearing corresponded with the published descriptions of Frederick Bayley Deeming. There was, of course, nothing unusual in the fact of two amputating knives being left for restoration, but it was most unusual for such articles to be left by a man who, in appearance and style, was unlike any doctor yet born. No doctor, moreover, when leaving his knives ever draws them across his fingernail as though testing their keenness. Yet that was exactly what this queer customer did. And, furthermore, he volunteered the information that he had just come off one of the mail boats. The blood stains naturally attracted attention when the knives were in such strange hands, and Mr. Ward remarked, "Some blood on them, sir." "Yes," said the visitor, "they are stained certainly, but that's not blood; the fact is that on the voyage out I used them for cutting lemons and the acid has discolored them." This extraordinary explanation was accepted for what it was worth, and the knives were sharpened and taken away by the same man in a day or two. The knives were an old fashioned pair, and the man said that he was going to get one of them nickel plated. Curiously enough, a gentleman named Max Hirschfeldt had been to the shop a few days previously." (

    $Razor Tip.jpg

    Tip detail .

    $Handle End 2.jpg $Handle End.jpg

    Yes, you are seeing RUST!! I confess to being a less than adequate custodian of ”The Beast.”

    There are more photos, but the editor thinks I have already uploaded five. Hope this helps



    Attached Files:

  12. wow! that is interesting. great job. thank u, tom.
  13. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    Thanks Peter! Great stuff that you posted. I found a few newspaper articles about Frederick W. Ward... I will post later
  14. Hey Wardie, I'd be very happy to look after the beast for you. The blad needs to be oiled to stop it getting any worse. The scales look like they've dried out a little which is what happens to scales made of natural materials when stored in modern homes with entral heating. I've disconnected the heating duct in the room that I keep my razor collection, and cigars in and they have no such problems.
  15. Continuing from Post #11, with the missing pictures.
    I must stop to thank LUC for his initial post. If he hadn't added those
    sewing machines into the plot, I would never had bothered to post, and a
    bit more history may have been lost. Those who have done any historical
    investigations will acknowledge just how easy it is to follow the wrong
    road. Thank you LUC.

    You will note from my first post that I added quite a lot of detail which
    may not be of general interest, but I had hoped may jog interested
    readers. I welcome any input that helps us all put the "Ward Bros"
    picture together. I regret, that as a youth, I failed to take sufficient
    interest in the human resources that were still alive and could have
    given me the whole picture.

    Here are the extra pictures of "The Beast" that will interest some. As
    noted in my last post, it was part of the ward Bros exhibition at the
    Centenial Exhibition in 1888. The writing says "Superior Cutlery" and "Warranted razors"
    Of interest to readers who, like me, cannot find the Sheffield
    connection, the Bengal razor in the picture is engraved "Ward Bros,
    Melbourne", but comes in the original case that says made in Sheffield.
    We have seen lots of pieces marked "Made for Ward Bros, Melbourne", or
    "Made exclusively for Ward Bros, Melbourne", so the inference is that the
    connection here is much more than a "Made for."
    I failed to mention in my last post that Father spoke with pride of the

    Melbourne factory's knives and blades, but never mentioned local production of razors.
    Also, remnant machinery was despatched to the family farm after the factory closure,
    and there was nothing seen that would have been applicable to razor making.
    At this stage, I think I can say no razor originated from the Melbourne factory.

    Those that have an interest in Sheffield will know of Joseph Ward, Master
    Cutler (among a few Ward Master Cutlers), recorded as principal heir to
    his step-father Samuel Broomhead. Joseph's son, Samuel Broomhead Ward is
    recorded as Master Cutler 1798.
    I have a book "Sheffield and It's Achievements" presented to my father
    after his visit to Sheffield, about 1948. In it, a hand written thank you
    note is signed by his host, Bernard Broomhead.
    Probably co-incidence, but takes us teasingly close to a connection that
    we cannot yet substantiate!

    You will also see below a picture of a seventeen bladed knife, also part
    of the 1888 exhibit, beside the 1937 Ward Bros catalogue. By the way,
    that thumbnail in Post #11 was the razor page of the 1937 catalog.
    If there was interest I could post all the razor and knife related pages.

    Also is a picture of a bit of the gear left over when Ward Bros closed,
    the shop "demonstrator" Wilkinson stropping machine, which was used to
    show purchasers how their razor blades could be sharpened before they
    took their "high tech" machine home. Almost "BNIB."
    I apologise for the quality of my pictures. They look pale beside the
    other magnificent presentations on "Badger and Blade". Well done to those
    who have so impressively restored, and presented their work!

    $Center blade Scrimshaw.jpg $Non Wrting Side of Blade.jpg $Writing Side of Blade.jpg

    $WILKENSON BNIB.jpg $Knife and Catalog.jpg

  16. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    Ah nice! I see that you have the famous Wilkinson stropping machine that no one ever saw!

    Thanks again for posting Peter, this is great!

    So, to get the research right, there was 'Ward Bros.' and 'Ward Brothers' from what I understand and they were 2 different shops! I found a few more articles that I will post later.
  17. Here's another Ward Bros razor that I have in my collection.


  18. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    Interesting heel on that one...
  19. Luc

    Luc Moderator Emeritus

    As promised, I got a few articles:

    Before the dispute
    A dispute between 2 cutlers
    M. Ward being called as a witness for a suicide.
    Family Notice of Frederick William Ward (1)
    Family Notice of Frederick William Ward (2)
    Remembrance for Henry Charles Ward
  20. simply outstanding work. love the beast! tom

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