Commonwealth Match Works vesta case

From about 1911 to 1925 - During the early decades of Australian federal politics there were fierce debates over the size of import tariffs designed to protect Australian industry versus free trade.

Such debates were central to the development of our first major political parties. The Australian match industry was one commercial interest that suffered from competitive overseas imports, and eventually collapsed. Pocket-sized cylindrical boxes for wax vestas (short matches), such as this one, were popular in Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900s.

Photograph of a small circular box filled with blye tipped matches

This matchbox was manufactured by the Commonwealth Match Works. Founded in 1911, the company aligned itself closely with the Commonwealth and with Federation through its name and its logo, but also with union labour. The ‘Commonwealth vestas strike anywhere’ slogan identified the company with the London match girls’ strike of 1888.