Queensland Places - Thursday Island - Bain's cash Store

By 1897, the date of the pictured advertisement, Mrs. D. Bain was operating this mixed business on Thursday Island.  Her husband, Donald Bain had been a commission agent on the island as well as being involved in the maritime industry.  It is unclear why or how Mrs. Bain came to be operating this business in her own right, however as Mr. Bain was to pass away in 1899, leaving all his assets and business interests to his wife, ill health may have been the reason she took over.

Bain's Cash Store, Thursday Island, 1897

Bain's Cash Store, Thursday Island, 1897

Her business would have sold a wide range of goods and been a well known and frequently visited store.  At the time, few goods were packaged, with food scooped out or cut to order from large tubs or bins, weighed and wrapped.  Barrels of molasses, kerosene and pickles would have been prominently on display.  Manufactured ice was not widely available so salted and pickled meats would have been common.

A set of scales would have been a feature on the counter of Mrs. Bain’s store with many goods being sold by weight.  Many bulk products, such as flour and sugar were not branded and produce such as cheese would have been cut to order from large blocks.  Rolls of brown paper, string and newspaper were commonly used to package goods purchased by customers.  As well, sawdust was often scattered on the floor to reduce breakages or to soak up any spillages.

As a stationer and newsagent, Mrs. Bain would have carried the usual array of newspapers and reading material, including titles ordered specifically by her customers.  As well, a wide range of stationery items including pens, papers and ink would have been available.  As a tobacconist, virtually anything to do with smoking would have been on offer or would have been ordered as required, including pipes, lighters, matches, ashtrays and cigars.

The sign over Mrs. Bain’s store also advertised her services as an importer and commission agent, which may indicate that by 1897, the date of this advertisement, she had taken over some of her husband’s business interests.  We cannot be sure why this was the case, but, as mentioned before, his ill health may have been the reason.

Through this image we are able to gain an insight into life as it was on Thursday Island in the 1890s.  With stores such as Bain’s Cash Store, offering a wide range of goods and services, life on the island, apart from some level of relative isolation, would have been little different to that in other small communities throughout Queensland.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.
We also welcome direct feedback via Contact Us.
You may also want to ask our librarians.

Donald Bain was posted to TI as a policeman. He briefly ran a business in partnership (until the Qld financial crash); and after that was an auctioneer. He maintained his interest in the police and is credited with editing a police manual in 1893. Isabella ran the business successfully for a number of years: the newsagency side of the business took up a lot of her time. She did not hold the business for long after her remarriage and subsequent move to Cairns.