Primary Sources 50 stories from 50 years of the Archives

All in a day's work

Wage books and personnel records are useful for researching our manufacturing past and the socio-economic conditions under which people worked. As well as documenting rates of pay over time, wages books and staff cards offer a glimpse of the development of manufacturing technologies as skills are lost or replaced by new ones.

McKay Massey Ferguson in Sunshine and Hoffman Brick and Potteries Pty Ltd in Brunswick are examples of manufacturing companies which formed the industrial nucleus for development of their respective suburbs.

A particular feature of the McKay staff cards is the inclusion of numerous members of the same families, all employed with the one company. McKays was one of the first companies in Australia to implement mass production and, in 1911, to install a personnel records system. It was a mandatory condition of employment that workers supply their name, date of birth, trade and education, and meticulous records were kept on their attendance and wages.

Hoffman Brick and Potteries Pty Ltd, established in 1871, was known for the introduction of mass-produced brick technology and continuous kiln burning. This wage book highlights the diversity of skilled, artisan and unskilled labour employed at the brickworks.

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