Cottage Industries - nettles, citron, bees, silkworms and more
Cottage industry articles and suggestions peaked in digitised newspapers in the early to mid eighteen hundreds. Newspaper articles featured the many industries which could be started in Australia, from silkworms to sisal; from cabbage tree hat making to making skis from Australian native timber. In 1892 an editorial in The Queenslander emphasised that ‘many of these commodities, however, afford scope for what may be called cottage industries —the growth and manufacture of products, which add largely to the comforts of home but which are commonly bought from the importer or else dispensed with altogether. Some of them, we venture to suggest, can be produced without the exercise of exceptional skill and without even special training.’
In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald 3 August 1882 Mr.Ingiis,notes that ‘it is a shame that we should be dependent for so many products of the soil ... and foreign sources when we could so easily and remuneratively produce them ourselves’. He advocated the establishment of State nurseries here and extensive plantings of wattle, bamboos, olives, cork, sal sissoo (rosewood?), citron, orange, nut trees, and many others of economic value, giving valuable hints as to the habit and use of each. Under the head of Thrift, he deprecated the waste in domestic life so prevalent here, the ugly surroundings of our homesteads and pointed out the advantages that would result from the attention being paid to tie culture of tomatoes, gourds, melons, encumbers, and other marketable garden products.' In a wide ranging lecture he also advocated the four qualities as being essential among others to success in farming namely mutual Help, forethought, thrift, and self reliance.
An article from the 1860’s advocated for making the cultivation of the silkworm an addition to Cottage Industry in Tasmania, ‘not just as a play thing for children.' Sericulture was still being recommended for Mildura in 1895. A report written in 2005 explains that 'several attempts to establish a silk industry in Australia were made in the mid to late 1800s, but they failed due to lack of funds, poor mulberry stock, unsuitable land, disease and lack of knowledge.'
In the 1870’s ‘a new and promising field of industry’ recommended the provision of essential oil of jessamine, orange, heliotrope and tuberose, and explained that from the orange tree alone three essential oils may be obtained from the rind, from the leaves and from the blossoms.
In 1894 growing vanilla in Queensland is recommended ‘not on a large scale but as a cottage industry the light labour being performed by the women and children of the farmer’s family.' An Australian Government report from 2011 confirms that vanilla growing is still a fledgling industry. Scope for the growing of flowers and flower selling in South Australia as a cottage industry is advocated in 1902.
In 1900 In Western Australia the apicultural industry 'is as yet in its infancy, but no valid reason would seem to exist why in the course of a few years it, should not develop into one of the most valuable of those smaller, or cottage, industries which besides yielding a respectable amount of profit, help so much to increase the interest and attractiveness of country life.'
The background to beekeeping as a cottage industry is described in this article in 1930. This Query Pic shows that newspaper articles mentioning beekeeping peaked in the 1890’s.
Some other cottage industries mentioned in digitised newsopapers incluge growing sisal hemp, making of bags, mats and baskets with bark and reeds for an Australian cottage industry, making skis from Australian native timbers or the cultivation of nettles as a cottage industry for fabric.
An article from 1929 laments the fact that Cabbage tree hats are a lost industry and suggests they should be revived.
Madame M'Cracken, was a well-known advocate of the re-introduction of spinning wheels into homes as a cottage industry for augmenting the family income, and has devised a most ingenious sock, which promises to make one sock do the work of two. Elizabeth Leigh’s pages suggest a revival of hand weaving as an old cottage industry, and notes that 'it is good for people with nerves.' Perhaps a reason why there were so few weavers in Australia was because there were so few weaving looms. The making of woollen quilts grew out of its cottage industry beginning.
One industry which changed from being a cottage industry was goanna oil. With increased demand and the goanna becoming a protected species oil of wintergreen became the key ingredient, most fortunately for the goanna.
A writer to the Longreach Leader in 1928 laments the changes to cottage industry in America. 'Perhaps they were days of hard work drudgery and, loneliness, and brought little pay to show for the work, but one pauses occasionally to wonder whether it was a friend of woman who abolished cottage industries, and sent women out into factories in competition with the men. Certainly it would be no lover of her country who would wish to see American conditions spread overseas,'