I have been researching Sydney in the early part of the century. I have always been naturally fascinated by Australian history (I have a history degree from Sydney University) and this goes in hand with researching the area for a bar I have been co-designing with the talented Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative.
The bar is located in a brick vaulted basement that would have been constructed around the 1850s. On a visit to the Caroline Simpson Library to see librarians, Michael & Matt, I was shown Henry Percy Dove’s ‘Plans of Sydney’ which revealed the businesses, workshops, housing & building that existed at the time. Oyster saloons, taverns, yards, tinkers, smiths, merchants & traders, lawyers, surveyors, milliners and other old fashioned trades are listed & sited.
I have written about Mr G Rice before, but another shop on Pitt St, called Mrs Palmer & co., taxidermist & furrier holds just as much curios.
I have named this new bar, Palmer & co. and lined its walls with photographs of the small time crooks, petty thieves & peoples of interest found at the Police & Justice Museum (often very well dressed & quite good looking):
Pickpockets, confidence tricksters, peeping toms, midnight rovers, rogues, vagabonds, professional shape-shifters, fly-by-merchants, fraudster, hooligans, brawlers, cardsharpers, ruffians & troublemakers.
If this is as fascinating to you as it is to me, the below have provided me endless enjoyment and information:
Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle - an archive of mug shots from the Justice & Police Museum outlining all the mischief the crooks got up to.
Small Trades by Irving Penn - a book of portraits by the amazing Irving Penn, capturing people who practice small trades. This book is beautiful.
Caroline Simpson Library - it is so resource rich I know that CSL will have something for me irrelevant of whether I'm hunting for seaweed albums for my next book, Bowerbird or pictures of Mrs Palmer's husband.
Macleay Museum - I cannot count the number of hours I have spent here wandering and inspecting whatever is on show. This is where I found a tag, attached to a taxidermied animal foot inscribed with 'Mrs Palmer & co' and what started my knowledge hunt.