Piece of history comes to light

A small piece of New Zealand printing history has come to light in the belongings of the founder of one of Auckland’s oldest family-run printing firms.

Fred Soar, managing director of Soar Printing, says he was searching through his late father and grandfather’s belongings when he came across a dinner invitation dating back to 1938 from the firm they had learned the trade from.

The dinner was held at the Station Hotel in Auckland to celebrate the 50th jubilee of Wright and Jaques Limited, a sizeable Auckland printing company which has been running since 1887.

The dinner doubled as a farewell to both directors Dennett Wright and Amos Jaques who were “retiring from active participation in business.”

Dennett Wright, who’d been a compositor in Fleet Street, London, was 90 years old and Amos Jaques was substantially younger at approximately 67.

Mr Wright had bought the business in 1886 when it published a prohibition publication The Leader. When that fell out of favour at the turn of the century he turned the business into a “general printing house”. Amos Jaques, who was also a former Londoner (and a distant relative) joined as his partner seven years later.

In 1907 the company expanded to publish the NZ Home Journal and grew to need its own purpose-built premises which were built in Albert Street.

While Fred Soar’s grandfather is named in the souvenir booklet’s roll of honour for war veterans, Fred says his father, Harry Soar also followed Fred senior into the firm as an apprentice.

Fred senior left to found his own company, Soar Printing Company in 1920 and was invited to the commemorative dinner as a past employee.

As a relic of last century, the Wright and Jaques commemorative booklet has some interesting snippets.

There was a formal toast to “the King” before dinner and the booklet had a full list and a photograph of current staff, plus pictures of annual staff picnics between 1921 and 1928, including some of the running and sack races held at those events.

The invitation booklet itself was innovative in its day having been cut and folded to look like a dinner menu which was tied together with green ribbon.

Both the Soar men subsequently continued on to a long career in the printing industry.

Fred Soar (senior), passed over the printing business to his son Harry in the late 1960s. Harry died last year, having clocked up more than 40 years in the industry and he was working in the business almost up until his death.

Harry took Soar Printing from a two-man operation working out of premises under the old Orphans Hall in Onehunga, to a large printing firm, in a career that spanned more than 30 years.

Today, his son, Fred Soar along with his sisters, Jenny and Vicky, is at the helm of the business which is now an amalgamation of nine other printing firms operating out of substantial, modern premises in Eden Terrace, Auckland.

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