WW Campbell & Co

WW Campbell & Co was a furniture manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer established by William Webb Campbell (1861-1928) in 1886.

Campbell learned the trade from his father, William Branch Campbell (1826-1906) who operated the company, W B Campbell, between about 1875 and 1883 from the 'Royal Furnishing Arcade' at 426 George Street. W B Campbell was a furnishing retailer and manufacturer of furniture and bedding. Upon William Branch’s retirement, the company passed to his sons, William Webb, Alfred Branch, Chas J. and Henry, and became known as Campbell Bros.

Campbell Brothers continued in business until around 1890, though WW Campbell & Co established its own shop front first in Castlereagh Street, then George Street and finally from around 1897 at 249 Clarence Street. WW Campbell & Co also seems to have taken over W B Campbell’s factory at Cowper Wharf Woolloomooloo where 60 to 70 workers were employed. By 1902 the furniture factory was located at Miller Street Pyrmont and an advertisement in the Sydney Sands directory stated that WW Campbell & Co were 'manufacturers of furniture, bedding, wire mattresses, and every description of bamboo rush and wicker furniture' and 'importers of British, American, Eastern furniture, bamboo blinds, chairs, lounges &c.' A catalogue from around 1900 (TCQ 749.20491 CAM) illustrates the company’s strong emphasis on cane furniture, with different types referred to either as bamboo, rush, wicker, rattan or pith.

By the mid-1920s when WW Campbell & Co issued a Furnishing the home catalogue (TCQ 749.20492 CAM) aimed especially at country residents, the company was selling a wider range of home furnishings including: carpets, linoleum and other floor coverings; mattresses, sheets, blankets and quilts; lamp shades, standard and table lamps; blinds, curtains, curtain rods and fixtures. A later catalogue from around 1939 entitled, Enjoy the comforts of a well furnished home (TCQ 749.20493 CAM), features all of the above furnishings while maintaining the company’s original strengths in cane and other furniture.

Another important aspect to Campbell's business was its wholesale trade. Until at least the late 1930s, WW Campbell & Co advertised themselves as 'Wholesale and retail furniture warehousemen'. The catalogue from around 1925 stated that its sizeable wholesale trade enables buying on a large scale and selling at reasonable prices. In addition, the company claimed that their costs were kept to a minimum as they had "no expensive window-shows and heavy shop-rent" like other similar stores in Sydney. In fact, from around 1897 to the 1970s, WW Campbell & Co was located at 249 Clarence Street, behind the main furnishing precinct on George and later Pitt Streets. Even in the late 1930s after a major extension including an additional frontage on Kent Street, the building was still referred to as a warehouse.

WW Campbell & Co was taken over by Tallerman and Company Pty Ltd in 1967 but continued trading under the Campbell name until the early 1970s.

Related materials:

To see all the W W Campbell material held by the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, go to the library catalogues.

View this fully digitised catalogue on Internet Archive.

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Michael Lech

Michael Lech


Michael Lech is a curator at MHNSW. He has worked on exhibitions, presented talks and written extensively on various aspects of the history of the home in Australia. Michael’s work has covered areas such as interior design, the history of wallpapers and furnishing textiles, the heritage movement, Sydney’s department stores and design history in Australia.