Our History | William Taylor, tobacconist and hairdresser, of Yass

William Taylor, tobacconist and hairdresser of Cooma Street, Yass, in the early 1900s was a man of humble beginnings who successfully built up a business and raised a family, achieving recognition and success.

William himself was fully involved in the community and set an example followed up by his children.

WELL KNOWN: Yass hairdresser, tobacconist, storekeeper and community leader William Taylor. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

WELL KNOWN: Yass hairdresser, tobacconist, storekeeper and community leader William Taylor. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

William, born 1860 to James and Mary Taylor, spent his entire life in Yass until just five years before his death in 1935 at Manly, Sydney. In 1885 he married Jessie Curran at Goulburn. They already had two children, Muriel Ann born 1883 and William born 1884. Their next child, Edward, died aged one day old in 1886. James Patrick arrived 1898 and Mary Kathleen (Cassie) arrived in 1906. The electoral roll of 1895 confirmed they were living in Yass and setting up a tobacconist business in Cooma Street.

Already William was involved in town affairs. He was on the Jockey Club committee in 1899 and contributed to a second prize in the 1900 race meet. For Christmas 1900 he advertised as a bookseller and stationer with "school books, fancy goods and toys of all descriptions". He continued to diversify his offerings to include the "Sun condition powder"; a tonic for horses that increases the appetite, assists digestion improves the coat and destroys worms". He was the sole agent for Mighty Rival Rabbit poison and was listed as the local agent for the Australia Workers Union.

William was a busy member of the Oddfellows Order and was awarded a gold medal by the Oddfellows in 1906 for his ongoing support. The Yass Evening Tribune gave him a glowing write-up as an astute businessman when he bought up the whole range of samples from a visiting representative of one of the leading tobacconist houses containing "no less than 150 different kinds, in neat little boxes, and including the choicest weeds at £50 per 1000, down to the ordinary everyday decent smoke".

RESPECTED: Aldermen of the Yass Municipal Council for 1908-9. William Taylor is seen in the front row seated on the left. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

RESPECTED: Aldermen of the Yass Municipal Council for 1908-9. William Taylor is seen in the front row seated on the left. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

Between 1900 and 1910 William was elected council alderman, and vice president of the football club. He played cricket and joined the golf club. His shop was advertising fishing tackle, presents, postcards, 12 inch records, phonograms and the exciting new Neophone. In the 1920s Mrs Taylor offered "ladies hairdressing done in the latest City methods".

William junior married Miss Ruby Prior and joined the fire brigade but suffered a setback in 1925 when his North Yass Hotel was de-licensed by the government despite being an "exemplary business". Meanwhile, young James had shown himself to be an outstanding athlete and scholar, gaining a scholarship to St Patrick's, Goulburn and then to Sydney University, where he graduated in medicine at the age of 24, and went on to a distinguished career in tropical medicine in Borneo. James was captured and tortured during the Japanese occupation for organising the Sandakan underground, but made it back alive.

When the business was sold in 1930, Mr and Mrs Taylor were given a rousing send off and "handsome cheque" at the Oddfellows Hall, while a public dance was held for the popular Miss Cassie Taylor, who was praised for her support of sport, amateur acting and charitable fund raising. Dr James Taylor is also present.

A cut-throat razor that once belonged to William Taylor was found in a Melbourne antique store several decades ago and recently donated to the Yass and District Historical Society. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

A cut-throat razor that once belonged to William Taylor was found in a Melbourne antique store several decades ago and recently donated to the Yass and District Historical Society. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

The German-made Solingen blade of the razor is clearly inscribed 'William Taylor, Hairdresser and tobacconist, Yass. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

The German-made Solingen blade of the razor is clearly inscribed 'William Taylor, Hairdresser and tobacconist, Yass. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

The razor has the name 'HR Blomley' etched into the handle and suggests evidence of a later owner. Herbert Roger Blomley was a local jeweller who died in 1937. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

The razor has the name 'HR Blomley' etched into the handle and suggests evidence of a later owner. Herbert Roger Blomley was a local jeweller who died in 1937. Photo: Yass & District Historical Society

Comments