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Foy & Gibson

Glasgow-born William Gibson immigrated to Australia in 1882, working as a representative for a major white goods wholesaler before entering into a partnership in a drapery store in Collingwood in 1883 with Francis Foy, son of Sydney draper Mark Foy. The partnership was dissolved after a disagreement in mid-1884, and William Gibson became the sole proprietor. He set about improving his overseas buying organisation and regularly sent his departmental buyers overseas. When the business expanded in the late 1880s, Gibson was joined by William Dougal and by his nephews Samuel Gibson and John Maclellan. He opened a hardware department and then established a department store modelled on the Parisian Bon Marché. In Glasgow when news of the 1893 bank crashes arrived, Gibson returned to Melbourne, where he kept his store going through hard work and 'dogged determination'. He used the depression to establish his own manufacturing works for men's clothing, shirts, ladies' underclothing, millinery, furniture, bedding and hardware, and he developed the large 'Gibsonia' woollen and hosiery mills. By the early 20th century Gibson's store and manufacturing works, one of the largest employers in Victoria, dominated the Wellington and Smith streets area. A second store - the Big Store - opened in Chapel Street, Prahran, in 1902. After Gibson died in 1918, the firm was carried on by his nephew John Maclellan until it was taken over in 1955 by Cox Brothers, which went into liquidation in 1968. Letter books, financial records and catalogues are held by the University of Melbourne Archives.

Charles Fahey