T.W. Thomas and Co. opened a grocer's business during 1854 in one of the premises previously occupied by James Nokes, 55 Bourke Street Melbourne. They soon also occupied No. 53 1/2 Bourke Street. The fact that Thomas used Nokes' reverse, commemmorating the arrival of Lieut. Governor Hotham in mid-1854 adds strength to the timing of the sale of the business. Gardner notes that Thomas was thought to be an assumed name and that his real name was thought to be Walters.
T.W. Thomas did not appear in the alphabetical listings of the 1854 Butterfield Directory, but was there in the 1855 edition, making it probable that he began his own business in Melbourne in either late 1853 or early 1854. Gardner states that 'it is difficult, after this lapse of time, to get facts,' (Gardner's biography of Thomas appeared 92 years before this text was written). Elsewhere in his biography Gardner implies that Thomas came to Victoria from Tasmania.
An advertisement for 'T.W. Thomas and Co., Old East India Stores, corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets' appeared in The Argus, Monday 23 April 1855, p.3, addressed 'To Country Storekeepers.' Stock included: Teas, Coffees, Sugar, sauces, oils, pickles, vinegar, soaps, rice, jellies, cheese, matches, hams, spices, coconuts, starches, pasta (macaroni and vermicelli) and tinned fish.
Thomas & Co. sucessfully operated their business at this address until 1857, and in 1859 were at 105 Swanston Street according to a directory for that year. He is said to have become insolvent while trading in Melbourne, and during a meeting he is alleged to have threatened to drive his creditors into the street with a horse whip.
Thomas is thought to have returned to Tasmania after 1859 and not returned to Victoria.
Butterfield Directory of Melbourne 1855.
Sands and Kenny Directory of Melbourne 1857.
Tanner's Melbourne Directory for 1859.
Argus, Monday 13 April 1855, p,4.
Gardner, F. (1913) 'Trade tokens and the firms who issued them', The Australian Storekeepers and Traders Journal, 31 March, Australia, p.11.
Sharples, J. (1993) 'Catalogue of Victorian Trade Tokens' in Journal of the Numismatic Association of Australia, Vol. 7, December, Australia, pp. 65-66.
Hope, John Thomas, (2005) 'T.W. Thomas & Co.'. Unpublished MSS, 1 pp.