Soap stamp and mould, metal / wood, used at James Hunter and Sons soap works, Waterloo and Botany, New South Wales, Australia, soap stamp maker unknown, place unknown, mould made by [Austral Bronze], Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1930-1950
Laundry soap is an everyday product. Many households and commercial and industrial workplaces use laundry soap for a variety of tasks. Its manufacture involves a combination of scientific understanding and practical skill. The product and the basis of its manufacture changed little over the 104 years that James Hunter and Sons and its predecessor company made soap in Sydney.
Scientific understanding was important in selection of both the ingredients and the conditions under which they were combined, and in monitoring the liquid soap as it formed in large vats. Practical skill was more important in the finishing of the solid product: shaping, drying, labelling and packaging.
The stamp and mould represent two different final-stage production methods and product forms: hand stamping in production of bar soap; and use of a mould in a press to produce soap tablets. Through use of the in-house brand name 'Crown', the stamp represents the company's pride in its product. By imprinting the term 'pure soap', use of the mould assured customers that they had purchased a quality product; this assurance was backed by law, as pure soap must contain at least 63% fatty acid, compared to 59% for soda soap and 53% for silicate soap.
It is not known who made the hand stamp.
The mould was made at a Sydney foundry, probably Austral Bronze, from a timber pattern still in the possession of the donor.
The stamp and mould were used at the Waterloo works of James Hunter and Sons Pty Ltd from an unknown date until the company moved to Ivy Street, Botany in 1965. They were used at the new works until soap production ceased in 1984. Soap production at the Waterloo site (bounded by Morehead, McEvoy and Bourke Streets) had begun in 1880, when Smith Bros established the Wellington Colonial Steam Soap Works, and continued after James Hunter took over the business in 1890.
Laundry soap was made in both bar and tablet form. Liquid soap was run from the vat in which it had been made into a box-like frame below. After the soap had cooled and partially hardened, the frame was dismantled to reveal a large block of soap. A series of piano wires strung across another frame were forced through the block, slicing it first into layers and then, when moved in a different direction, into bars.
The stamp was used to imprint the brand name, by hand, on both sides of the bars when the soap was still soft enough to stamp; it was then left in a stack for a few days to dry before being packed. The mould was loaded by hand with a bar that was already fairly hard, then placed in an electric fly-press; force was applied to imprint the name on the soap, which was removed from the mould by hand and cut into five tablets prior to packing.
The stamp is for Crown soap, the company's own brand. The company also made bars and tablets under a range of other brand names, and many of these had 'Pure Soap' imprinted on the product. Soap made by the company was used in Australia, Papua New Guinea and some Pacific islands until 1984, when local manufacture became uncompetitive with imports.