The Bridal Magazine

Today, Dr Kate is talking about some promotional wedding magazines published by three prominent Perth photographic studios in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The State Library holds a set of 30 magazines produced intermittently between 1932 and 1949 by Dease, Lafayette, and Bartletto photographic studios.

The magazines were aimed at Western Australian women who were engaged or recently married. Typically, content included things such as: lists of engagements (and later studio portraits of recently engaged women), short wedding write ups, studio photographs of local brides in wedding attire, and feature pieces relating to marriage and domesticity. There was also copious advertising targeted at women related to wedding services and suppliers, beauty, household goods, and fashion.

The magazines are fully searchable, and are a rich source of information for anyone researching their family history. Links to specific years are provided below:

Recorded live on ABC Radio Perth on 23 June 2020.


Peter: Wedding photos!  

Let’s go there. They’re often one of the legacies passed down through families but you might find that many of those photos may have already seen a much wider audience showing up in bridal magazines that became a hit in the 1930s and 40s in Perth. Some of that history is captured in the State Library of Western Australia archives.  

So time to open up those archives once again with State Library of WA Battye Historian Dr Kate Gregory. 

Good morning Dr Kate. 

KG: Hello Peter, how are you today? 

Peter: I am well. Can you tell us about bridal magazines in your state archives? 

KG: Oh yes, look these are absolutely gorgeous. We’ve discovered that we have this wonderful collection of bridal magazines that were produced in Perth really through the 30s in the main. There are a couple that pop up in the late 1940s. Of course the bridal magazine is interrupted by World War II so we have got mainly from the 1930s and look, really they are an incredible kind of social and cultural history of weddings at that time in Perth and they are a really rich source of material of information for anyone looking into their own family history. 

Peter: Where were the magazines found? 

KG: Well the magazines ... look I am actually not entirely sure about the donation history of these ... how they came to be but the State Library does collect anything published in Western Australia or about Western Australia so at some point we’ve collected these magazines and they were published by quite interesting ... a photographic studio. So it was the Lafayette Dease and Bartletto Studios who were involved with actually producing this magazine ... publishing this magazine and of course the aim here was to promote their own photographic studio kind of bridal photography services and this is in the days prior to weddings and engagements being listed and announced in the local newspaper so it really did fill a role for ... in terms of the society wanting to see who was marrying who and yes ... they’re a fascinating social record. 

Peter: Yes, there was also a language around this Kate, like the Jones girl has married the ... you know, the Williams boy for example. 

KG: Yes, yes absolutely and I think really ... so the structure of the magazine we had ... so they’ve got ... I mean they are beautiful covers. They are worth looking at just for the covers. They’re just gorgeous ... either reproducing a beautiful studio portrait of a bride ... a new bride and you’ve got to think this was in the era post-depression sort of slow recovery after the great depression in the early 30s. 

Peter: The people were looking for a lift weren’t they? 

KG: Yes absolutely and as you go through the magazines ... the years, the wedding attire becomes more elaborate. The materials ... obviously reflecting greater wealth that individuals had and look, they’re wonderful so their record of that provide engagement notices so there are pages and pages of engagement notices which in themselves have the full names of who was getting engaged and their parents’ names and where they lived. So that in itself is a really crucial record for anyone looking into their own family history. 

Peter: Do they concentrate mainly on the bride? 

KG: Well, yes. [Giggles] The focus is very much on ‘the bride’ [emphasises in deep voice]. 

Everything that she would need in order to embark on this and they actually refer to this idea about the decisions that a bride needs to make when commencing housekeeping. So throughout ... you’ve got advertisements as well. So you’ve got advertisements for the furniture that she’ll need to be able to furnish her home. So there’s ads for instance, furniture from Boans which many of your listeners will remember Boans department store. There’s also ads for decisions around ... this is a really interesting one, around pasteurised milk, which really sets it in historical context doesn’t it? 

Peter: [Laughs] It really does. 

KG: Because, yes pasteurised milk if you think about it, at the time it was actually very dangerous to consume unpasteurised milk because it could cause miscarriage. 

Peter: Oh dear. 

KG: Yes, so the ad for pasteurised milk read something along the lines of,  

“One of the most important decisions a housewife will make is around accessing this pasteurised milk. You are safe with Pasconi pasteurised milk”. 

And the underlying message is that unpasteurised milk could cause miscarriage. So ...  

Peter: I can hear some of my more empowered feminist brothers and sisters grinding their teeth right now at this. 

KG: Oh look throughout  ... yes most definitely. And some of the ... they had articles scattered throughout as well and these articles seem to have been brought in from sort of international publications; either they were fashion focussed on bridal attire or they were very much about what the “modern housewife” ... how they should behave, what they need to know when they are entering their marriage ... it’s very ... it is quite interesting to read because from our perspective today obviously this sort of deeply patriarchal society and sort of sexist values really do come through. 

Peter: Yes, a snapshot of its times. 

KG: It is. That’s right. And then of course we’ve got these beautiful wedding photographs and profiles of weddings that take place and they are very detailed kind of descriptions of the wedding; who was attending, who gave the bride away, which wasn’t always the father interestingly and also very detailed descriptions of the wedding attire, the bouquets, the bridesmaids outfits and dresses and look it’s interesting. This is kind of society in the making. These ritualised events show a society piecing itself together and it’s quite a fascinating social record. 

Peter: Well thanks for sharing it with us this morning Kate. Dr Kate Gregory we’ll dip into your archives again next week. 

KG: That’s a pleasure. That’s great Peter, thank you. 

Peter: State Library of WA. Battye Historian Dr Kate Gregory.