National Archives of Australia

Issue 5 January 2012

What a gem! Enemy property: café noir, dolly pink and chin-chin blue

National Archives staff often unearth exciting or unusual records from among the millions of items held in the collection. These records are placed on the Archives’ Gems Register. ‘What a gem!’ showcases amazing finds from the Archives’ collection. In this issue, Your Memento presents a gorgeously colourful ‘floss card’ from 1928.

1928 Spring season color card of America (detail). NAA: SP1098/7, 1928 SPRING

The sample card, from the Textile Color Card Association of the United States (200 Madison Avenue, New York), showcases the ‘colors to be shown in the 1928 spring season color card of America’.

The floss samples nest snugly in a series of columns, giving the appearance of meticulously arranged colourful jewels. Each swatch is assigned an irresistible name – cupid pink, emberglow or meadow violet, for example – and a cable number identifier.

An air of exclusivity surrounds the colour card. ‘STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL – FOR MEMBERS ONLY’ is printed, underlined, in the top left corner (not visible on detail above). In the opposite corner, one can find the ‘cable code word for 1928 Spring season card’ – YEBUC.

This colour sample card was one of many textile samples confiscated from the Japanese trading firm Araki & Co. by the Controller of Enemy Property in 1941. Araki was an importer and exporter of various goods, and had origins in Australia going back to the 1890s. Also seized were financial documents, shipping and Customs forms, and personal documents, correspondence and photographs relating to the Araki family. These are now all held by the Archives.

The Controller of Enemy Property was established under the National Security Act 1939. It was responsible for ‘receiving, holding, preserving and dealing with’ any property owned by, or managed for, an enemy subject during World War II.

The colour of fashion

Although confiscated in 1941, this 1928 floss colour card would have reflected Australian fashion of this early twentieth-century decade. Below is a selection of images from the Archives’ photographic collection depicting late 1920s fashion. Although black and white, it is easy to imagine the luxurious colours of the fabrics, possibly inspired by the 1928 Spring season color card of America.

A young lady, 1928 (detail). Photographer: William James Mildenhall. NAA: A3560, 3892

The Duchess of York outside Parliament House, 1927 (detail). Photographer: William James Mildenhall. NAA: A3560, 3134

Mr and Mrs Deane in front of Parliament House, 1927 (detail). Photographer: William James Mildenhall. NAA: A3560, 735

A young lady, 1928 (detail). Photographer: William James Mildenhall. NAA: A3560, 3889

Prime Minister SM Bruce, Mrs Bruce and their pet dog in the gardens of The Lodge, Canberra, 1927 (detail). Photographer: William James Mildenhall. NAA: A3560, 7647

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