Book Reviews

David Jones – 175 Years by Helen O’Neill

The iconic Sydney department store David Jones celebrated their 175th anniversary (opening in 1838) by publishing the very lavish, very well researched hardcover history book, David Jones – 175 Years, written by Helen O’Neill.

The book is very surprising, not just focusing on the start of the David Jones store (affectionately known as DJ’s), but delving into its archives to find photos of a youthful Sydney CBD. There are wonderful photos of the GPO tower being built in Martin Place and photos of the first DJ’s on the corner of Barrack and George Streets, looking onto Martin Place.  For the fashionista, there is in depth coverage of the famous models who were the face of DJ’s, and colour plates of the glorious clothing imported by DJ’s from France after WWII.  The human side of the store is illuminating too, with stories of David Jones taking a risk and immigrating to Sydney, his staff who worked all of their lives at DJ’s (and were immensely proud of their tenure) and the restrictions caused by shortages during both Wars.

Even if the borrower is not a DJ’s nor shopping fan, the historic photos of Sydney are worth poring over.  Another side of the book interviews now famous photographers, models and fashion designers (all Australian) who are proud to tell that their first job was with DJ’s (even a young Paul Keating, who worked at the Bankstown store).

My mother held DJ’s in such high regard that she carefully folded and hoarded its black and white houndstooth packaging in a drawer.  Other stores’ packaging was recycled and re-used – but not DJ’s. It’s worth noting that it’s quite a sizeable, heavy tome – the book measures 24cm x 30cm, so I recommend the dedicated borrower bring a sturdy library bag to carry it home!

An illuminating history of a department store, an Australian icon, and of Sydney in its early years.

Find David Jones – 175 Years by Helen O’Neill in the SMSA Library Catalogue


Belinda Coombs
Member of the SMSA Mystery & Crime Reading Group

David Jones – 175 Years by Helen O’Neill

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