Frank Firestone was responsible for many examples of iconic design and advertising imagery for predominantly Australian brands and products. Frank and his brother, John, escaped Germany in 1939, and came to Australia via England on the hired military transport ship, the HMT Dunera in 1940. The Dunera carried just over 2,500 ‘enemy aliens’, most of whom were Jewish refugees. In 1946, after serving in the Australian Army during World War II, they used their deferred army pay, and a loan from a relative, to establish a small embossing factory in Port Melbourne.
The company produced many embossed showcards, which are advertisements for companies. Embossing the advertising image provided an almost three-dimensional effect to the printed paper. Firestone learned the intricate and detailed techniques of embossing from his father, Leon Feuerstein, whose company, W.S. Feuerstein, was a world-wide leader in its field. The Top Dog Men’s Wear showcard is an early example of the work produced in the Port Melbourne factory, as is the AWA (Amalgamated Wireless Australasia) showcard.
Firestone embossed showcard, 1946 – 1975. Samples of embossed advertising material printed in Melbourne c. 1946 – 1975.
Gift of Frank Firestone, 1986
In Melbourne, Firestone obtained a collection of his father’s pre-war sample cards. The collection included an early French showcard for the gramophone company, His Master’s Voice.
Firestone established a successful printing and embossing company in Melbourne. In the 1950s the firm moved to Highett, and became known as Firestone Embossed Showcards. He donated his collection to the State Library of Victoria in 1986. This collection is a great example of both the embossing technique and the distinct bold graphic design of the 1930s. A sample of the showcards are currently on display in the Changing Face of Victoria exhibition.
In 1982, Leon Feuerstein’s grandson, Walter Firestone, published an account of embossing, steel diestamping printing and hot foil stamping in a book titled, The Art of Embellishment, the designers’ and directors’ handbook of printing resources, explaining the craftsmanship and traditions in embossing.
Written by Ann Carew, Exhibitions Curator, State Library of Victoria.