Peace, Prosperity and Catastrophe – The Canada Cycle and Motor Agency (Qld) Ltd 1919-29

Guest blogger: Dr Hilary Davies, 2018 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow.

The Canada Cycle and Motor Agency (Qld) Ltd (CCM) was a major company in Queensland between 1905 and 1929, primarily selling motorised vehicles, engines, bicycles and sporting goods. After a business slow-down during the First World War, the CCM sought to support peace-time recovery efforts and resume its rapid pre-war growth. All CCM enlistees who wished to return to their jobs regained their former positions or similar ones. In recognition of this, the company received the first “returned soldiers’ employment window badge”. These badges were issued by the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial League (RSSIL) to firms that re-employed their returned staff and other soldiers. The RSSIL was the precursor to today’s Returned Services League (RSL).

Reception for General William Birdwood, 1920, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 142549
Reception for General William Birdwood, 1920, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 142549

The CCM participated in the peace celebrations held in Brisbane in November 1918 and in July 1919, when soldiers, nurses, and floats created by various Brisbane organisations paraded through central Brisbane to celebrate the peace. When General Birdwood visited the city in April 1920, the CCM, in conjunction with the RSSIL, held a “supper and smoke social” in the CCM’s building on the corner of Creek and Adelaide Streets, for returned servicemen and nurses to welcome their former commander. In September 1923, His Excellency the Governor, Sir Matthew Nathan, presented British war medals and victory medals to twenty CCM employees at a function at the CCM Building.

Fund-raising did not end with the war, as Queenslanders sought to support returned soldiers, memorialise those who had died, and improve conditions in post-war Europe. For instance, the CCM donated sporting goods to a concert and dance on New Year’s Eve 1919 at Seabrae House, Redcliffe, in aid of the French Red Cross. It donated money to an appeal in 1922 for those starving in Europe; to the Soldiers’ Church of England Help Society to erect church buildings on soldier settlements in Queensland; and gave £150 to the Anzac Memorial Avenue Fund for the planting of an avenue of trees from Petrie to Redcliffe. Part of this Anzac Memorial Avenue remains and is heritage-listed.

Seabrae Boarding House Redcliffe, 1917, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: APA-034-01-0014

The CCM expanded its business after the war, adding new motor agencies to its stable, including the American-built Reo ‘Speed Wagon’ commercial vehicle, ‘Dodge’ cars (sold by the CCM from 1919-23) and ‘Gray’ vehicles, as well as the British-built ‘Austin’ cars, trucks and tractors, and ‘Clyno’ cars. It also launched a new department selling radios, and demonstrated them receiving Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne radio broadcasts throughout the state.

Mechanic-in-training with the Austin Seven motor car, ca. 1923. A young boy stands holding the starting handle of the car.
Austin Seven motor car with a mechanic-in-training, , John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 20935
Gray one ton truck with CCM made tipping body, Brisbane, ca. 1922
Gray one ton truck with CCM made tipping body, Brisbane, ca. 1922, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 163281

To accommodate its growth, the CCM extended its 1910 purpose-built building by adding three storeys in 1925. This extension was designed by the building’s original architect, Richard Gailey. In its final form, the CCM Building contained offices, car showrooms, sales areas for its many departments, a garage for repair and maintenance work, and even a cinema that accommodated 200 people! The building was the site of the infamous ‘Battle of Brisbane’ in 1942 and is now a local heritage site.

CCM Building in the middle ground of this view from the City Hall clock tower looking northeast over Adelaide Street, , John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 11713

After two decades of growth and leadership in the motor industry, the CCM succumbed to the difficult economic conditions of the late 1920s. On 1 November 1929, the company entered voluntary liquidation – an early casualty of the Great Depression. Although the wheels had fallen off the CCM, Queenslanders’ love affair with motor vehicles and motorisation continued.

For further information about the project or to contribute any memories or connections to the CCM contact State Library of Queensland at slqevents@slq.qld.gov.au or 3840 7424.

To see more images of the CCM and its vehicles, go to Flickr.

Using the State Library Queensland OneSearch program you can explore resources connected to this interesting Queensland company via this tag Canada Cycle and Motor Agency

Hilary Davies is the recipient of the 2018 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellowship for her project Putting Queenslanders on the Road: The Canada Cycle and Motor Agency Ltd.
Through examining the collections of the State Library of Queensland, this project will endeavour to make the Canada Cycle and Motor Agency’s achievements, its employees, and its importance in Queensland’s business landscape visible.

References:
Brisbane Courier: ‘Peace Celebrations’, 29 Nov 1918, p. 7; ‘The Procession’, 21 Jul 1919, p. 7; ‘A Diggers’ Night’, 5 May 1920, p. 7; ‘The Town Topics. Studebaker Film’, 4 Feb 1922, p. 9; ‘Anzac Memorial Avenue’, 28 Dec 1922, p. 10; ‘CCM Employees’, 1 Sep 1923, p. 5; image, 2 Dec 1924, p. 9; ‘The “Operadio” Wireless Set’, 11 Aug 1925, p.12; ‘Reception of 4QG at Townsville’, 10 Mar 1926, p. 8.
The Daily Mail: ‘Soldiers’ Employment Badge’, 14 Feb 1919, p. 2; ‘The Gray Car’, 6 May 1923, p. 16.
Daily Standard: ‘Ex-Soldiers’ Settlements Appeal to Archbishop Sharp’, 20 Mar 1922, p. 2.
The Telegraph: ‘Social and Personal’, 2 Jan 1919, p. 7; ‘Starving Europe. Increasing Public Support’, 11 Feb 1922, p. 2; ‘“A Glorious Tale” Governor Presents War Medals’, 1 Sep 1923, p. 2; ‘House Warming. C.C.M. Additions Opened’, 9 Dec 1925, p. 3.
Brisbane City Council, City Plan 2014 local heritage overlay ; Queensland Heritage Register. ‘Anzac Memorial Avenue (former)’, ref: 602693 accessed Nov 2018