Printed paper sign 'The Proprietor of this Establishment is British'. The sign was made by Edward V. Brown, Printer and rubber stamp manufacturer, 97 Lonsdale St, Melbourne, circa 1936 - 47. Brown began his printing business in 1901 at Eastern Market, 109 Bourke St and moved to a number of different addresses on Exhibition St and Bourke street before his final location at 97 Lonsdale St. His business disappears from the directories after 1947.

Signs such as these were used during World War II to diffuse ill feeling and to remove suspicion that a shop owner who appeared to be of 'enemy alien' origin such as Italian or German was actually a British citizen. These signs also drew business away from other businesses perceived to be run by people of 'enemy alien' background.

The sign came from the deceased estate collection of the noted Melbourne ephemera collector and hoarder, Richard Berry, who bought the archives and residual stock of printers in Melbourne and suburbs.

Physical Description

Printed paper sign with the words: "The Proprietor of this Establishment is British" beneath a British flag. The sign appears to be screen printed in red and blue on white paper, with a Union Jack flag at the top of the sign, but the printers mark lower left appears to have been typeset and shows an impression through the paper.


These two window shop sign are significant as they demonstrate Australian society's desire to be identified as British and the stigma attached to being non-British during World War II in a Melbourne context. The signs refer to a period before Australian citizenship was introduced in 1949. Until then, Australian residents were British subjects or non-British aliens. These window signs were probably designed to be used during World War II to diffuse ill feeling and/ or suspicion of a shop owner who appeared to be of 'enemy alien' origin such as Italian or German. During the war 7000 Australian residents many of Italian and German descent, were interned in camps such as Tatura, Victoria. Others were constantly monitored and faced discrimination from the wider Australian community. For example, the Casamentos, an Italo-Australian family who ran a fruit shop in Northcote during World War II. Despite having naturalised in 1938, Marino Casamento felt it necessary to place a sign in his shop window stating he was a "Naturalised British subject".

More Information