Thomas Stokes, born in Edgbaston Birmingham 22 March 1831, arrived in Australia
1 January 1854 on the ship Birmingham, at the age of twenty three in search of
gold. Gold eluded him and in order to make a living he returned to his trade as
die-sinker and button maker. By late December 1855 he had set up a small factory
business at l5 Mincing Lane, Melbourne and offered his services as a “Die-Sinker
and Electroplater” appearing among the new entries in the Melbourne Directory
of 1856. The actual business registration date was July 1856. Rapid success caused
his move to larger premises at 115 Flinders Lane.
Acquiring by 1857 the W. J. Taylor press which had been brought to Australia
from England to mint the “Kangaroo Office” gold issues, gave Stokes the ability
to cope with the prolific production of tradesmen’s tokens in demand at that
time. The increased business forced another move-this time to 100 Collins Street.
His advertisement in the Directory then shows a broader scope of trades being
“Die-sinker, Seal Engraver, Letter Cutter, Military Ornament, Button, Check
and Token Maker-Electro Gilder and Plater and manufacturer of Embossing
In 1873, Thomas Stokes took in a partner, Charles Roger Martin and for the next
twenty years the firm was known as Stokes & Martin. For the period 1873 until 1888
Stokes & Martin occupied premises at 29 Little Collins Street, then moved to the
four storied Caledonian Building, off Post Office Place. After a factory fire damaged
a large part of the establishment in 1891 it was discovered that Mr. Martin had
forgotten to renew the fire insurance and the partnership was dissolved in 1893.
The Caledonian Building was largely rebuilt and occupied by the new firm of Stokes
until 1935 when another move was made to Albert Street, Brunswick.Further name
changes occurred after the Stokes & Martin partnership was dissolved; firstly to
Stokes & Son, 1893 to 1896, Stokes & Sons, 1896 to 1910 and with the death of
Thomas Stokes, changed to Stokes & Sons Pty Ltd, finally to Stokes (Australasia)
Limited in 1962 with a progressive move to the present site at Ringwood, an outer
suburb of Melbourne.
Many Exhibition medals and medalets were struck on site by Stokes in the period
1870 to 1906. The first at Melbourne in 1872 (C1872/2 and, C1872/3) followed
by a Sydney visit in 1873 (C1873/2 and C1873/3). There were then later visits to
Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Tasmania, New Zealand, Paris and London.
The Paris International Exhibition 1889, held in conjunction with the opening of
the Eiffel Tower, attracted Stokes to send Mr. A. Moran and a metal press with:
“fourteen medal dies, several thousand gilded blanks, more blanks – three more
medal dies and six plain dies arrived later”.
They also exhibited electro-plate, fern leaf trophy and emu eggs in many decorative
forms. Profit from this exercise was a mere one hundred pounds. Over periods
of peak production Stokes employed other die-sinkers from Melbourne, for example (I.H.)
Julius Hogarth, De Gruchy, 98 Flinders Lane East, X. Arnoldi, 87 Russell Street
and George Twentyman. In 1900, a Branch Office was established in Sydney at 220
Clarence Street, managed by Thomas William Stokes.
The above is excerpted from
Leslie J Carlisle, Australian Historical Medals 1788-1988, p. xv (Reference: Stokes Unpublished Manuscript, 1985)
Over many years Walter Bloom and Leslie Carlisle have edited a manuscript of Leigh Blackburn and Gwyn F James on a history of the Stokes company. The almost completed manuscript (there are some images missing) can be downloaded from Bloom, Carlisle Eds – Stokes history.