Match point

Matchbooks and matchboxes were once a popular vehicle for advertising, bearing powerful messages that could fit in the palm of your hand. We hold a flame to eight vintage examples, some lighthearted, some inflammatory, in an attempt to illuminate the past.

Bee gone

What more fitting name for a Wellington matchbox than Beehive? The safety matches were originally made by UK company Bryant & May, which opened its Wellington factory in Newtown in 1894. The operation shifted to Tory St in the 1920s, when Wellington Hospital expanded. At the time, the new factory was the largest brick building in Wellington, part of the council’s commercial plan for the area, which had around 150 residents evicted. Previously a residential slum, Tory St became an industrial precinct. The Bryant & May factory remained a central feature until production was moved to Upper Hutt in 1971.


Given Australia is well known for its history as a penal colony, it won’t come as a shock to learn that Aussie brewing company Lion Ltd was the brainchild of a convicted criminal. Highway robber James Squire produced the first commercial ale in Australia, creating a legacy that lives on to this day. In 1923, Lion Brewery became one of 10 brewing companies that formed New Zealand Breweries Ltd. Kiwis have since accepted Lion Red and claimed it as their own. The name of the beverage was originally Lion Beer, but after hearing its customers calling it “Red Lion”, because of its red branding, the name was formally changed to Lion Red.

Got milk?

The Wellington Milk Department was established in 1918 by the Wellington City Council in response to the selling of dirty or watered-down milk in the city. Its depot on Dixon St was initially established to oversee the collection and treatment of milk, but in 1922 the department gained complete control of the process, from farm to newly introduced bottles. At the time, it was common for dairies to undergo random hygiene inspections, and they were often prosecuted for selling low-fat milk. The Milk Department soon moved to Tory St where it continued to operate under the council until 1987. It then vacated Tory St and morphed into trading company Capital Dairy Products Ltd, which later became part of Fonterra.

Smoke & mirrors

The Marlboro Man advertising campaign is considered one of the most successful of all time – if you consider persuading large numbers of people to smoke a success. Tobacco first reached our shores in 1769 with Captain Cook, but it was almost two centuries before the Marlboro Man arrived, in the 1960s, spouting the slogan: “Come to where the flavour is.” Unfortunately, it seems, too many New Zealanders heeded his message. Today, we are desperately trying to rectify the damage tobacco has done, with plans to make NZ smoke-free by 2025. Ironically, a number of actors who portrayed the Marlboro Man over the years have since died from smoking-related diseases.


For younger folks, the name Hope Bros would most likely bring back hazy memories of student Saturday nights out. The generation before, however, may remember Hope Bros as a menswear store owned by, you guessed it, the Hope brothers. The firm was the main ground-floor tenant of Cuba St’s first wooden two-storey building, which was demolished in the 1980s. The name lived on and, for another seven years, the address drew crowds of young people looking for a fun night out. More than two years ago, we waved goodbye to Hope Bros forever, but for many the meeting of Dixon and Cuba will forever be known as Hope Bros corner.

Solway Away

Copthorne Solway Park Hotel and Resort Wairarapa was built and originally operated by the Masterton Licensing Trust in 1972. At a time when conference facilities in Wellington central were limited, the concept was to provide a nearby facility to accommodate visitors for both business and leisure. What began with 40 rooms in the middle of a Masterton paddock has now grown into more than 100 rooms, with a pool, gym, squash court, and 10- bay golf driving range.

Scrap it

During World War II, scrap metal became a hot topic. New Zealand was one of many countries to collect and sort its metal scraps for the war effort. Thus a need arose for companies to buy, sort and export scrap metal. Wellington Scrap Metals, a family owned company, was established in 1952 for this purpose. Still operating today, the company has branches in the Ngauranga Gorge and in Porirua, but with the price of scrap metal dropping on a global scale, it seems the once hot topic is in a cooling-off period.

Hard to swallow

In 1961 the contraceptive pill arrived in New Zealand, offering women real control over their fertility and sparking a sexual revolution. Doctor and mother-of-two Dame Margaret Sparrow was one of the first to try it, at a time when there was still a strong backlash against the medication. Because of regulations, it was extremely difficult for unmarried women to gain access to the pill until the 1970s. Sparrow dedicated her professional career to the issues concerning women’s reproductive rights, fighting against the anti-contraceptive messages of the day, such as the one shown on this matchbook. On retirement, The Margaret Sparrow Family Planning Clinic in Wellington was established in her honour.


Sign up to our newsletter