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St Joseph's Building Society papers

The St Joseph’s Building Society Papers cover the commercial transactions of the Society in the Sydney area between 1879 and 1974. They reveal Sydney's flourishing commercial environment, but more importantly for the family historian, they also contain information about families, their mortgages, location, family linkages and even financial woes.

The economic history of Sydney is demonstrated through the range of traders that St Joseph’s dealt with. Invoices reveal the names and addresses of companies long since gone, their products and costs, sometimes with building images on their letterheads. For those with an interest in the economic dealings in Sydney at the time, there are balance sheets, annual reports and mortgage agreements.

For the Sydney historian, tenancy records reveal family locations and the housing options of the times: they encompass a wide range of suburbs, concentrating on North and central Sydney and the Inner West, but also touching on a few outlying suburbs such as Minto and Windsor.

These records also contain a wealth of material for anyone interested in earlier building styles, methods and products and common repair problems. Who knew that flour was used as a wallpaper glue ingredient for the builder of the time, or that ‘burnt sienna’ was a paint colour even then?

The records of St Joseph's Building Society also reflect the economic rollercoaster that was created by two severe economic depressions and two world wars. Mortgages were often defaulted during the depressions, and thus the Society acquired properties that had previously been owned by individuals. This resulted in a significant real estate portfolio, and the associated invoices and receipts reveal the products required, the maintenance and repairs that were commonly undertaken and the different tradespeople (including some women), that St Joseph's dealt with.

The documents originate from a number of building firms, as well as a range of other businesses such as newspapers, accountancy firms, estate agents - the sometimes dramatic and artistic typefaces and graphics show how advertising has evolved over time.

Image: Invoice and receipt from Goodlet and Smith SAG Manuscript and Image Collection Item 16/334

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