The Early Days:
John Watson and James Ferguson formed a strong friendship
in Edinburgh, Scotland. Watson's skills
were in printing and engineering, Ferguson’s in stationery and
bookselling. They both emigrated to
Brisbane in early 1868 and formed Watson Ferguson & Co.
In 1868 Queen Street was the only viable address for
a business in Brisbane. Watson and
Ferguson established their offices in 69 Queen Street and operated their
printing activities in Adelaide Street, opposite City Hall. They were very well regarded as account book
manufacturers and paper rulers.
The business traded so successfully that by 1880
Watson decided it was time to expand.
They chose a site nearly opposite 69 Queen Street which had a frontage
onto Queen Street and Bumett Lane.
There, in 1882 they erected a four storey building: the basement contained the steam litho
printing and store; ground and second storey were dedicated to retail; third
storey, wholesale; and fourth storey, office accommodation, letterpress,
engraving, oil embossing, illumination, lithography, and tin plating.
It was only eight years later on February 28th 1890
that John Watson and his wife were sadly drowned when the ship
"Quetta" sank in the Torres Strait.
Watson and his wife had been bound for a holiday to London.
Following Watson's death James Ferguson took the partnership
public and decided to expand at a time when other printing companies were
facing difficulties. This expansion
included more equipment and more staff.
The company grew soundly and provided a number of unique products for
the Brisbane market, including The World's Smallest Dictionary, Artistic
Biscuit Tins, and The Bible in a metallised container. In 1910 the printing side of Watson Ferguson
was gearing up to a new factory built for them by the South Brisbane Town
Council. The building became a landmark
and employed over 200 printers. It was
regarded as the training ground for all master printers in Queensland.
However, Watson's death had a great impact on the
firm. Without Watson's know how and
printing skills, the company missed his input, but was determined to provide
customers with quality and cost-effectiveness.
CHECK THESE FACTS!!The business felt the effects of changes in trade and
in 1914, at the outbreak of World War 1, their premises were occupied by the
Defence Department. At this time the
business passed to the control of James Ferguson’s son Eric. Subsequently the
Depression took its toll and dividends were withheld for a number of years.
After the Depression and with the area’s increasing
population and economic development, the company established Boolarong Press to
meet the growing number of authors’ needs. The company has absorbed new
technologies to increase effectiveness and provide clients with a range of
The current owners, Terry Kelly and Steve Gould, continue the founding fathers’ ethos: “we
believe the company would be nothing without our own family of employees".