State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 62 Spring 1998


(Top)): Poster for Carlton Prize Ale. Troedel Collection, vol. 29, p. 20. La Trobe Picture Collection.

(Left): Poster, F. Sandiman & Co. tea merchants. Troedel Collection, vol. 26, p. 32. La Trobe Picture Collection.


Troedel & Co.: Master Printers and Lithographers

In 1968 the firm of Troedel and Cooper donated its archive to the State Library of Victoria, making it the most significant printer's archive to survive in a public collection. The archive complements prior holdings of material produced by Troedel, like The Melbourne Album and Chevalier's Album of Chromolithographs, and consists of thousands (estimated at 9,000) of examples of show cards, letterheads, share certificates, brightly coloured labels for food and drink products and posters showing theatrical productions, stage personalities, breweries, factories and land sales. As well as the material in the Picture Collection, the firm's wages and salaries books, ledgers and accounting books, stock records, apprenticeship indentures and patents are held in the Australian Manuscripts Collection.1
Born in 1835 in Hamburg, Germany, Johannes Theodor Carl Trödel, known as Charles Troedel, was apprenticed to his father, a lithographer. At the age of 25 he was brought to Australia by A.W. Schuhkrafft who had been visiting Europe to recruit staff for his Melbourne printing business. Troedel and his friend Robert Wendel, a brilliant lithographic artist and draftsman, arrived in Melbourne in 1860 and worked for three years at Schuhkrafft's Wholesale Paper Bag Manufacturing and Printing Establishment, at 178 Elizabeth Street.2
During his term with Schuhkrafft, Troedel met François Cogné (1829-1883), an artist and French teacher who had produced the Ballarat Album (1859) which consisted of 16 lithographic views of Ballarat, all after photographs by William Bardwell. Cogné proposed a Melbourne album to Troedel, who agreed, and in July of 1863 advertisements appeared in the Argus, Age and Herald announcing the first two lithographs in their Melbourne Album series under the vice-regal patronage of the Governor of Victoria, Sir Henry Barkly.3
These first two lithographs, in what became a set of 24, were very well received by reviewers in the press, and must have been financially rewarding because Troedel imported a press from Europe and was able to establish his own lithographic printing works, his ‘Melbourne Album’ office, at 73 Collins Street. Cogné was the artist for 12 lithographs in the series and possibly another three which are anonymous. After Cogné left Australia in 1864, James Buckingham Philp (1830-?) and later Edward Gilks (1822-?) worked as lithographers for the Melbourne Album.
A number of copies and collations of the Melbourne Album are held by the Library, both in the Picture Collection and in the Rare Books Collection. Nicholson Street. (Fitzroy)4 is from a hand-coloured set in the Picture Collection [H15454-H15474] purchased from Spencer Jackson in 1953. It shows one of Melbourne's most fashionable streets in the 1850s and 1860s. Royal Terrace, on the right, is where some
of Melbourne's best-known citizens like the Premier of Victoria (1858) John O'Shanassy, the artist Nicholas Chevalier, and the founder of the School of Medicine at the University of Melbourne, Professor Halford, lived. Further up the Street is the convent of the Sisters of Mercy, the first order of nuns to establish a convent and school in Victoria.5 It is a testament to the artistic merit of these lithographs that they still have the power to inspire us. The artist (the work is anonymous, but probably by Cogné) has captured the elegant ambience of the Street which continues to appeal to us, as is demonstrated by the fact that this image was recently used in a brochure by a real estate development company marketing Royal Terrace as a desirable place to live.
Other plates in the Melbourne Album show the Treasury Buildings, built between 1859–1862, at the top of Collins Street, and Elizabeth Street at a time when Melbourne was beginning to take on its characteristic solidity.6 The footbridges over the gutters are visible in the foreground reminding us that Elizabeth Street was a creek and prone to flooding, and the Eastern Market, showing the wholesale vegetable and hay market on the corner of Stephen (now Exhibition) Street and Bourke Street, the newly opened Haymarket Theatre, built by George Coppin in 1862, and G.H. Tipper's Royal Haymarket Hotel. This site was later occupied by the Southern Cross Hotel.7
To mark the centenary of the arrival of Charles Troedel to Australia, the National Gallery of Victoria exhibited the Melbourne Album prints. The artist Harold Freedman was so inspired by them that in 1962 and 1963 he set about drawing Melbourne from the same vantage points as Cogné had one hundred years earlier.8 Six of these lithographs by Freedman have been published by the Griffin Press in a limited edition volume. Others are with the Picture Collection, along with Freedman's artwork donated by the firm of Troedel and Cooper in 1968.
At this point it may be useful to look at a definition of lithography. Lithographs are pictures that are printed from finely polished limestones or, later, zinc or aluminium plates. Troedel used limestone from Bavaria which is the smoothest.9 The artist draws on the surface of the limestone with greasy crayons and touche (greasy ink) — no special engraving or cutting skills are required. When the drawing is complete a solution of gum arabic and nitric acid is washed across the stone. This fixes the grease and prevents spreading during the printing. The entire surface is then washed with water, and the stone is rolled with greasy printing ink. Since grease and water repel each other, the ink adheres to only the greasy drawing and does not stick to the clean portions of the stone. Paper is then laid across the stone and together they are pulled through a press. A mirror image has been transferred from the stone to the paper.10
There are different types of lithographs. The examples from the Melbourne Album are tinted lithographs. This means that one stone was used to print the image, and subsequent stones are used to add colour. These tints create atmospheric effects but do not compose the image. In chromolithography, the image is composed of at least three colours, applied to the print from a separate stone. The colours of a chromolithograph make up the picture itself. A set of 14 sheets demonstrating the
progress of colour printing exists in the Troedel Collection [Nobel's Explosives Co. Calendar, MCa 12/12].
Although the principles of lithographic printing are simple, it is in practice so complex and sensitive a task that traditionally most artists have made lithographs in collaboration with professional printers;11 the artist needs to have a sophisticated understanding of colour and the printer requires perfect registration. Nicholas Chevalier's Album of Chromolithographs12 is a perfect illustration of this point.
Made up of 12 chromolithographs, this album was published by Troedel in 1865 (from 1864 in parts). These were the first chromolithographs published in Australia, 13 and Troedel and Chevalier were both awarded medals in the 1866 Melbourne International Exhibition for their work in chromolithography.
As Melbourne was growing and prospering, printed images were sought after for home decoration and gifts for abroad. The marketing of chromolithographic copies of works of art meant that people could have ‘art’ in their homes. Today there are art historians who argue that chromolithography democratised art, making it available to larger audiences, 14 but last century in Britain and the US debate was raging over the aesthetic merits of chromolithography. Critics argued that chromolithography vulgarised art, and the prints were sentimental and cheapened the aesthetic experience by depriving the viewer of the quality of the original.15
These disputations did not seem to have been applied to Chevalier's chromolithographs; they were very well received by critics in the press. In 1865 the Herald said the works have ‘all the freedom, force and charming breath which distinguish Mr Chevalier's style’, and that
As a present to send to friends at home [ie England] they are exactly what is required; for they not only will give a perfect idea of what the scenery of the colony is like, but they will indicate the degree of perfection at which art has arrived. Those somnolent people at home, who still insist that we are a community in a condition of semi-civilisation, can have nothing better than drawings like these to convince them of their error. (Herald, 22 April 1865)
Later, Troedel and Co. also published engravings for illustrated newspapers. The inclusion of coloured wood engravings of copies of works of art in illustrated newspapers demonstrates the popularisation of art and the sentimental aesthetic of the time. These engravings showed idyllic homesteads, shearers; images that romanticised Australian life. There are many examples in the Troedel Collection like Who Comes? by Samuel Calvert, after an oil painting by H.J. Johnstone, appearing as a supplement to the Illustrated Australian News, 15 November 1888, and showing a sentimental scene of a young, rosy cheeked girl and her dog, waiting for the return of a loved one, and What You Give? by Calvert after Chevalier, published as a supplement to the Illustrated Australian News, November 1884, and showing a radiantly healthy Pacific Islander woman offering us the fruits and treasures of the sea [Troedel Coll. vol. 26, pp. 23, 7].
As the success of the Melbourne Album and Chevalier's Album of Chromolithographs proved, Charles Troedel understood the value of collaborating with first-class artists and lithographers. One such artist was Robert Wendel, who produced many of the posters in the Troedel Collection, as well as the chromolithographs for the New South Wales Album 16 and the magnificent colour plates, many from drawings by Baldwin Spencer, which illustrate the zoological and anthropological volumes of Spencer's Report on the Work of the Horn Scientific Expedition to Central Australia, 1896.
Another notable artist who worked for Troedel was William Blamire Young who made commercial designs for Troedel and Co. before he achieved fame as a watercolourist. While he was in England in 1893, Young was influenced by the new poster movement from Europe which sought to beautify pictorial advertising.17 Perhaps the most famous poster artist from this time is Toulouse-Lautrec. Young's The Poster Maiden, ca. 1896, 18 displays all that was considered good design in posters by the avant-garde: highly simplified and harmonious lines, large areas of flat colour, and the elements of pattern comprehensible at a glance. Another work in the Collection displaying these qualities is the poster designed by Beryl Reid for Empire Condensed Milk [Troedel Coll. vol. 28, p. 29].
As well as the artists already mentioned, the firm collaborated with Eugene von Guerard, Robert Russell, Percy Leason, Charles Nuttall, Charles Wheeler (apprenticed to Troedel in 1895), and Arthur Streeton (also apprenticed to the firm before he was discovered by Frederick McCubbin and Tom Roberts).19
The commercial handling of pictorial art, like the publishing of the Melbourne Album and Chevalier's Chromolithographs, launched Troedel's company, but the firm went on to concentrate on commercial lithography, specialising in exquisite multicoloured packaging labels for food, tobacco and beverages, bank cheque forms, company share certificates, sheet music and posters.
The Troedel Collection provides a wealth of information for social historians, art historians and art students. The illustrations on stationery show the excellent craftsmanship of Troedel's printing company. Letterheads, like that of the Austral Otis Engineering Co. Ltd. [vol. 15, p. 4], invoices, like that of Parsons Bros. & Co. Ltd. [vol. 17, p. 29], and receipts, like those of The Melbourne Tea Company & General Supply Stores, which shows the King and Godfree corner of Lygon Street in Carlton [vol. 8, p. 2], portray the buildings and streetscapes of the period and are invaluable to the historian researching a company or a building.
There are many examples of advertising in the Collection. Posters advertising land sales like The Sandringham Estate land sales of 1886 [vol. 25, p. 1] provide us with fascinating information about how our suburbs looked and developed. Volume 32 in the Troedel Collection consists of posters which illustrate buildings. These posters advertising various manufacturers, often showing their premises, and providing a great deal of documentary information, are beautifully crafted lithographs, often by notable artists, as for example James Moore Timber Merchant City Road South Melbourne, a chalk lithograph from the 1880s by A.C. Cooke [vol. 32, p. 21].
Then, as now, consumption of tea was high and advertisers appealed to our desire for authentic products. The poster [vol. 26, p. 32] advertising the tea of F. Sandiman & Co., ca. 1890, shows what we would now regard as racial stereotypes, an Indian and a Chinese man as tea traders, to communicate the idea that the teas imported are authentic.
Another advertising poster, The ‘Eureka’ Patent Rabbit Extractor [vol. 28, p. 16], ca. 1890, has no explanatory text or slogan — the image accurately and graphically describes how the product works. Though probably not intended, the image of farmers applying such practical methods to eradicate rabbits can strike the modern viewer as humorous. Yet it communicates to us the desperation of early farmers to control rabbit populations; desperation which still exists, though farmers now rely on chemical and biological controls.
The posters advertising tobacco and cigarettes are striking, minor masterpieces of colour and design. Cameron's Tobacco [vol. 29, p. 2], advertising the choice of the Emperor of Germany, is a very dramatic image, and Yankee Doodle [vol. 26, p. 26] evokes images of the American south, from where tobacco was reputed to be smoother.20 Cigarettes were in existence by the 1850s, but did not become really popular until World War I. In fact, in London, men who first smoked cigarettes in the streets were laughed at.21 The Reigning Cigarette [vol. 29, p. 30], ca. 1890, reflects a shift from this initial reaction to cigarettes and shows a man in raptures because raining down on him are hundreds of cigarettes of the reigning brand ‘Cameo’; a charming play on words, typical, it seems, of the nineteenth century.
The Troedel Collection also contains many beer and wine labels and posters, reflecting Australia's love of drinking. In 1883, the Age newspaper calculated that less than 100,000 people were spending £2 million a year on alcohol in 1100 public houses.22 Alcohol advertising often used lions and horses to symbolise strength, health and manly stamina. The poster advertising Edward Latham's Carlton Prize Ale [vol. 29, p. 20] shows jousting knights, the drink being supposed to conquer all, having secret ingredients which made it wholesome, pleasant and popular.23 The poster advertising S.G. Elliot & Co. Blackhorse Brewery [vol. 29, p. 21] is another example, while Empire Pale Ale [vol. 29, p. 10], ca. 1907- ca. 1913, invoked the Empire to appeal to consumers.24 And for the abstainer, or for those with liver damage from too much alcohol, there was Dandelion Ale from Tasmania [vol. 14, p. 16], promised to cure the liver, purify the blood and assist digestion.
Some of the most striking examples of colour lithography come from the Troedel collection of theatre posters. Charles Troedel was a prominent figure in cultural and artistic circles. He and his friends, like the consul for Austria Carl Pinschof, the government botanist Baron von Mueller, the consul for Germany W.H. Brahe, 25 and the artist Robert Wendel, continued the traditions of good music, good manners and genial society brought from northern and central Europe.26
Of Troedel's three sons who joined the family business, Walter Troedel, the second son — also reputed to be the handsomest and best dressed young man in
Melbourne in the 1890s — was responsible for most of Melbourne's theatrical printing for many years.27
The mid- to late-nineteenth century has been referred to as the golden age of theatre, and the posters produced by Troedel's firm reflect the vigour and vivacity of the Melbourne theatre scene.28 Most of the posters are not dated, so the date is assigned according to the first performance of the production, as that would have been the earliest it could have been printed.29
The poster ‘I've called about a Hat’ — Phil Day [vol. 31, p. 7] advertises the play Mixed by W.S. Craven, which was first performed in Melbourne on 5 September 1885. One of the catch-lines was ‘I've called about a hat’, spoken by Phil Day playing Bosco Blithers. Phil Day, a very popular comic performer, ‘convulsed audiences with his ludicrous make-up and clever acting, which included giving the impression of having an unmanageable artificial leg’.30 The poster shows scenes from the play, drawn from photographs by Stewart & Co., with lines of dialogue.
Mr Frank Thornton's … on a wave of laughter [vol. 31, p. 1] was first performed in Melbourne in 1885. The fifth Australian tour advertised would have been in the early 1890s. The players are shown sailing on a boat called ‘success’, on a ‘wave of laughter’; the metaphor literally depicted.
The Troedel Collection also includes some artwork for posters, a notable example being that for Nellie Stewart as Sweet Nell of Old Drury, 1902, by William Blamire Young.31 Nellie Stewart was possibly the most popular native-born actress in Australia at the time. Here she is shown playing Sweet Nell in Act 1 of the production

Advertisement for the Melbourne Tea Company & General Supply Stores. Troedel Collection, vol. 8, p. 2. La Trobe Picture Collection.

which opened at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, on 15 February 1902. Though not signed, this work is attributed to Blamire Young by Christine Downer, based on the fact that Young worked for Troedel at the time and we have the lithograph produced by Troedel from this artwork.32 Further, the complex watercolour technique of dripping and staining on saturated paper is uniquely his.33
Into the twentieth century the Troedel printing firm produced World War I recruitment posters (such as Boys come over here, you're wanted)34 and travel posters. The well-known Australia for sun and surf35 by Gert Sellheim (1901-1970) was produced for the Australian National Travel Association in 1931. Sellheim, a very important artist, designed the flying kangaroo for Qantas36 and his posters, like the travel posters of the time, are made up of bold and decorative images projecting a modern and leisured image of society.37
Charles Troedel died in 1906, leaving his business to be run by his sons and Edward Cooper. In 1910 the firm Troedel and Cooper was formed. The firm remains today as William Troedel & Co. The archive donated to the Library is vast and varied and our institution would be much the poorer without it. It is rare that a collection like this should survive, for it is made up of material that is by nature ephemeral. Access to the collection is limited because much of it is very fragile. Some of the original albums consist of labels that are pasted on top of each other, making them difficult to view without the risk of tearing. Ideally, more access can be achieved when selections of the Collection are digitised and made available electronically. This is certainly a possibility for the future.
Olga Tsara


La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection, MS 8490.


Peter A. Cudmore, ‘Troedel, Johannes Theodor Carl’, Joan Kerr, ed., Dictionary of Australian Artists, Sydney: Power Institute of Fine Arts, University of Sydney, 1984-, pp. 810–11.


Ibid., pp. 170–71.


H15474, Ltfbox/Troedel Melbourne Album 3, Box 2 of 2.


Clive Turnbull, ed., The Melbourne Album: comprising a series of elegant, tinted, lithographic views of Melbourne and surrounding districts lithographed, printed and published by Charles Troedel in 1863, Melbourne: Georgian House, 1961, p. 90.


Ibid., p. 76.


Ibid., p. 84.


Harold Freedman, The Book of Melbourne and Canberra: a collection of six lithograph prints of Melbourne drawn in 1962–1963, Adelaide: Griffin Press, 1966, p. 2.


Turnbull, op. cit., pp. 13–14.


Peter C. Marzio, The democratic art: an exhibition on the history of chromolithography in America, 1840–1900, Fort Worth, Texas: Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, c1979, p. 10.


Adam Clinton, ‘The Nature of Lithography’, Pat Gilmour, ed., Lasting Impressions: lithography as art, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1988, note on p. 360.


Ltefbox/Chev (Rare Books Collection copy at Ltef 769.9945 C42N, Ferguson 17329).


‘At the time in Australia “chromolithographs” were understood to be reproductions of oil paintings, printed from numerous stones, often with a final oil varnish and applied texture.’ Roger Butler, ‘Lithography in Australia: Melbourne 1949–1958’, Gilmour, op. cit., note on p. 377.


Marzio, op. cit.


Ibid., p. 100.


New South Wales Album, Sydney: Charles Troedel & Co., 1878.


Sydney Ure Smith and Bertram Stevens, eds, The art of Blamire Young, Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1921, p. 9.


Troedel Collection, vol. 28, p. 37. This is an advertising poster for the Australian Cycle Agency, located at 139 Elizabeth Street. It is damaged but it is possible to reconstruct the missing text from advertisements based on the poster (see inside cover).


Turnbull, op. cit., p. 18.


A.H. Dunhill, The Gentle Art of Smoking, London: Max Reinhardt, 1954.


Ibid., p. 20.


Keith Dunstan, The Amber Nectar: a celebration of beer and brewing in Australia, Ringwood: Viking O'Neil, 1987, p. 10.


Dunstan, op. cit., p. 9.


Dunstan, op. cit., p. 46.


Cudmore, op. cit., p. 811.


Turnbull, op. cit., p. 17.


Turnbull, loc. cit.


Joan Maslen, ‘Theatre Posters of the Golden Age’, The Australian Antique Collector, Jan–June 1981, pp. 65–73.


Most of the research for these posters has been done by Joan Maslen, a theatre expert and formerly a librarian at the La Trobe Library.


Maslen, op. cit., p. 71.


H33856/1, Pic Ltef Box/Y Map Case 12/7. Based upon a gelatin silver photographic postcard with hand-colouring by Harcourt, McGuffie Co., photographers, Hobart (H94.31).


H10467, Ltef Box/Unknown Map Case 10/6.


McCulloch, Alan, ed. The Encyclopedia of Australian art, 3rd ed., St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1994, p. 779.


Troedel Collection, MCa 12/13.


Charles Weetman collection of travel posters, MCa 7/18, H90.105/22.


Trading Places: Australian Travel Posters, 1909–1990, Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Gallery and National Centre for Australian Studies, 1991, p. 29.


Butler, op. cit., p. 284.