Arnott’s Living Pictures – Alma May Taylor – Corner George and Cambrian Streets Erskineville

ARNOTT’S MILK ARROWROOTS
THE CHILDREN’S BISCUITS
NOTED FOR THEIR PURITY

Alma May Taylor, aged six months, daughter of Mrs. G. Taylor, The Elite Academy, corner George and Cambrian Streets, Erskineville, near Sydney, N.S.W. fed since the age of two weeks on Arnott’s Milk Arrowroot Biscuits – The Children’s Food.

Arnott's Living Pictures Alma May Taylor of Erskineville 1906.png

The North Western Advocate and Emu Bay Times (Tasmania) Tuesday, 8 May 1906

Advertisements for Arnott’s Milk Arrowroot Biscuits featuring Alma May Taylor first appear around June 1905, and continue for a little over a year to around July 1906. The advertisements appear in newspapers around Australia, featuring young Alma clenching an Arnott’s Milk Arrowroot Biscuit emblazoned with the ‘ARNOTT MILK ARROWROOT NEWCASTLE’ trademark between her well-nourished little fingers. The advertisements typically appear alongside instructions on ‘HOW TO GIVE THE BISCUITS,’ and a description of the bucolic surroundings in which upwards of 400 choice cows are kept for the provision of milk used in their preparation.

The image of Alma May Taylor is also used in full-page advertisements featuring several portraits (‘a few portraits out of the many thousands which have been sent by grateful mothers’), providing further insights and praise for the biscuits. Interestingly, over the course of the year of advertisements featuring Alma May Taylor the rhetoric framing the health benefits of the biscuits is increasingly pared-back, almost as if there is a need, yet a reluctance to enter into the specific details of Messrs. Arnott’s claims:

Tested and Proved by Thousands.
The undoubted value and efficacy of Arnott’s Milk Arrowroot Biscuits as a beneficial food for children has been indisputably proved by their unprecedented sale in New South Wales and in the adjoining States. Their output is far beyond that of any other Biscuits in the Southern Hemisphere. They are used in thousands of homes, and upwards of five thousand portraits of children who have been brought up on them have been received by the proprietors, Messrs. WILLIAM ARNOTT, LTD. They have stood the test of public opinion for many years, and are recommended by medical men, and used in many of our hospitals and other public institutions. Nurses in hospitals, as well as in private practice, unhesitatingly advise their use to patients, and speak of them in terms of the highest praise. 

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) Saturday 1 July 1905

Ah! Value and efficacy indisputably proved by their unprecedented sales! Used in thousands of homes! Five thousand portraits to date! Clearly, they must be beneficial. Additionally, for anyone with a more critical disposition – they are recommended by medical men, and nurses unhesitatingly advise their use to patients!

A more insistent statement would shortly appear:

We have the private opinion of many Eminent Medical Men as to the value and good quality of our Biscuits as a food for Children if given according to directions, and it is only in consequence of the etiquette of the medical profession that we are unable to give their names. But we can supply the names of leading analysts on this important matter. 

The Worker (Wagga Wagga, NSW) Saturday, 2 September 1905

Eminent Medical Men! Eminent, unidentifiable Medical Men. Lots of them. We otherwise have the contact details of some analysts. Oh, alright, here’s the analysis:

ANALYST’S REPORT.
MESSRS., WILLIAM ARNOTT, LIMITED, Newcastle.
Dear Sirs, —I have analysed the mixture suggested by you —viz., one dessertspoonful of your powdered Milk Arrowroot Biscuits, half a cupful of Milk, and half a cupful of Water, with the following results:—

Moisture   …………………. 91.33 per cent.
Proteids    ………………….   1.91    ”      “
Fat        ………………………  1.58    ”      “
Carbohydrates   …………  4.77    ”      “
Ash    …………………………  0.41    ”      “

  100.00

This mixture contains all the elements of a perfect food for children, and, properly sweetened, is palatable.
Yours faithfully (signed)
FRANCIS L. WATT.
10 Northcote Chambers,
Reiby-lane, off Pitt-street, Sydney.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate Friday, 20 July 1906

There you have it. Edible. And when properly sweetened, is palatable. Interestingly, a quick glance at a modern-day milk nutritional panel would suggest that the dessertspoonful of powdered Milk Arrowroot Biscuit is not bringing much to the analysis. Otherwise, as far as can be determined, Francis L. Watt A.I.C., A.R.C. Sc., F.C.S. was a consulting chemist, also involved in signed analyses of Red Cross condensed milk powder and Champion’s Malt Vinegar


A check of the NSW registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages shows Alma May Taylor was the daughter of James and Gertrude Taylor, her birth registered in the district of Newtown in 1904. 

A review of the Sands Directory and Erskineville Municipality rate book entries shows the Taylor family resided at ‘Elite Hall’ on the corner of George Street and Cambrian (now Victoria) Street. Though since demolished, modern day street numbering places Elite Hall at 180 George Street Erskineville.

The Elite Academy/Elite Hall might have operated as a dance hall. There are several references to various Elite Dance Academies around Sydney at the time, and the well-known Elite Hall tea rooms opened in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Market in 1898. An article describing an evening at the Erskineville Elite Hall allows for the identification of a hall and separate supper room, with a capacity for ‘considerably over’ 100 persons:

Elite Hall Erskineville.png

Nepean Times (Penrith, NSW) Saturday, 29 May 1909


No family should be without these biscuits, the regular use of which ensure perfect health to the children, and prevent those bowel complaints which are so common amongst little ones who are fed on unsuitable food, or whose stomachs are disturbed and weakened by the reception of impure, watered, or sour milk…

The Australian Star (Sydney) Saturday, 10 June 1905

THEY WILL BE FOUND A FATTENING, STRENGTHENING DIET
FOR YOUNG AND OLD

SPECIALLY MADE TO SUIT THE DELICATE DIGESTIVE ORGANS OF CHILDREN

KEEP A TIN IN THE HOUSE


Give your children Arnott's Milk Arrorwroot 1905

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) Saturday, 1 July 1905

The Arnott’s celebrates 150 years website describes the ‘Living Pictures’ advertising campaign as running from 1892 until the 1950s and as having involved tens of thousands of proud mothers sending in testimonials with portraits and photographs of their well–fed babies. The lucky few would have portraits of their children featured in print.

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This entry was posted in 1900-1909, Arnott's, George Street, Victoria Street and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Arnott’s Living Pictures – Alma May Taylor – Corner George and Cambrian Streets Erskineville

  1. Matt Murphy says:

    Awesome.

    Like

  2. I grew up with milk arrowroot biscuits, as did many children of the 1950s. One of my earliest memories is of going into a corner shop with my mother & seeing the Arnott’s sign. As a littlie – about 4 – I thought the parrot was a real bird & very clever one. However, my mother did not send a photo of me clutching a milk arrowroot biscuit to Arnott’s Living Pictures.

    Like

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