When F. and W. Stewart brought a touch of Tiffany's to Launceston
THE jewellery and watchmaking firm F. and W. Stewart was established by Frederick Stewart at 149 Charles Street, Launceston, in August 1878, with younger brother William joining in late 1879.
The brothers were born in Launceston to George and Mary Stewart and their father was a journalist and worked on the Cornwall Chronicle until its demise in 1880 when he became editor of the Daily Telegraph in Paterson Street.
The first newspaper advertisements for F. and W. Stewart stated that they were watchmakers, manufacturing jewellers, electro-platers and gilders with a stock of chains, watchcases, rings, pins, lockets and brooches.
By 1882 they had opened a shop at Waratah near the Mt Bischoff tin mine and later acquired interests in other jewellery businesses. In the early 1880s, F. and W. Stewart was appointed agent for the American Waltham Watch Company.
From an early stage F. and W. Stewart frequent providers of trophies and prizes to local community and sporting clubs and provided timekeeping services to a number of sporting organisations.
However, by 1895 the partnership between Frederick and William Stewart had ended and Frederick had opened a watchmaking and jewellery business at 134 Brisbane Street, Launceston, where he traded until 1909.
In June 1904, under the ownership of William Stewart, it was announced the business was moving to new, specially-designed premises at 100 Charles Street, across from their existing shop.
"We have obtained more commodious premises as we have outgrown our old store. Call at 100 Charles-street if you require watches, clocks, jewellery, or silverware. If you are passing come and inspect our new shop, whether you want to purchase or not."
Their new store was fitted out by well-known Launceston builders J. and T. Gunn and the shop facade was described by the Examiner of June 22, 1904 as a fine piece of work that resembled Tiffany's, the noted New York jewellers.
F. and W. Stewart is still located in that shop at 100 Charles Street.
Following the death of William Stewart in 1916, management of the firm passed to his son Harold Percy Stewart who trained as an optometrist and added optical services to the business.
By the 1920s the firm was trading as F. and W. Stewart Pty Ltd.
When the company celebrated 140 years of continuous trading in 2019 it was still operated by members of the Stewart family.
The Stewart brothers are among more than 600 watchmakers profiled in the soon-to-be published book Tasmania On Time by Julian Burgess, Graham Mulligan and Sallie Mulligan.
(Written for the Launceston Historical Society and published in the Sunday Examiner on 8 December 2019)
Top image: F. & W. Stewart shop front (Weekly Courier, August 20, 1904). Bottom image: The shop interior built by J. and T. Gunn that was likened to the famous New York jewellery store Tiffany's (Weekly Courier, August 20, 1904).