According to Gardner's research, W.C. Cook was an early Port Melbourne retailer, who established his grocery store in what was then known as Sandridge, located on Bay Street 'a little closer to the beach than where the English Church now stands' (Gardner). He is said to have gone from this to pawnbroking in Beach Street after a few years. A sign above the door stated that the store was established 'before the flood', which Gardner interpreted as meaning before the 1863 flood of the Yarra River, but which 'to the casual reader conveying a much older foundation for his business.' Gardner also records that at some point Cook moved his business to Richmond, and was trading there up to the time of his death.
Cook's tokens, struck in 1862 by Melbourne medallist Thomas Stokes, bore the inscription 'Sugar Companies Treacle delivered'. Gardner says that he was the first merchant to carry their product. The inclusion of this information on the token suggests that the Sugar Company's establishment was something of an event in Melbourne.
It is difficult to track Cook through the Melbourne Directories, as Sandridge was not regularly included in the listings until 1860. William Charles Cook's General Store in Bay Street, Sandridge is first listed in Sands and McDougall's 1863 directory. It seems likely, given that he issued a token in 1862, that he issued his tokens as a means of publicising his new store. Cook kept his General Store until 1866 when he changed to running a Pawnbroker's business at the same address. He continued trading at the same address until at least 1870.
Gardner, F. (1912). 'Trade tokens and the firms who issued them.' The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 30 March, p.10.
Sharples, J. (1993). 'Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens', Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia. Vol.7., December, pp.73-74.
Hope, John (2005). 'Cook, W.C.', unpublished MSS, 1pp.
Melbourne Directories (Various), 1850-1870, State Library of Victoria.