Henry Buck was born on the 26th November 1860 in Clerkenwell, London. He was the second child of Thomas, master electro-plater and later a corn factor. He moved to Yorkshire and was brought up in Danby. Henry learnt the soft goods trade at the age of thirteen and suffering from tuberculosis, migrated to New South Wales in 1887 finding a job as a grazier’s farm hand at ‘Manfred’ owned by the Tailor family near Euston. His fiancée Laura Jane Rose joined him but was repelled by life on a sheep station and persuaded Henry to move to Melbourne. On the 25th June 1887 at Armadale the couple married with Presbyterian forms.
Henry worked as a bookbinder’s assistant, losing his job in 1890 after having the ambition to ask for a pay rise, probably a shilling a week. He went into business with a friend and found to his dismay that he had been duped. Rather than take legal action against his friend, Henry took over the shirting fabric shop, the fabrics and equipment. With Laura as the bookkeeper and two machinists, he learned the trade of shirt making, opening a shop on the 25th August 1890 in the fashionable Queen’s Walk off Swanston Street and Collins Street now known as Henry Buck Pty Ltd.
By the turn of the century Henry had built a big factory on the outskirts of Melbourne to manufacture shirts, pyjamas and ties. He also diversified into warehousing and wholesaling and founded Wallace, Buck and Goodes Pty Ltd, the London Tie Co Pty Ltd, Beaucaire Knitting Mills Pty Ltd and Eyelets Pty Ltd.
Henry was a respected figure in Melbourne where he belonged to the Commercial Travellers’ Association, the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Master Drapers’ Association of Victoria, as well as in London, where he was a member of the Portland Club. He was an authority on bridge and solo and belonged to the Melbourne Philharmonic Society.
King George V appointed Henry Buck an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1920 for services to the community and business. As well as managing a business involved in retail, manufacturing and wholesaling, Henry had become famous for administering to thousands of returned troops, ferrying them around and providing food and shelter throughout the 1914-1918 war.
Henry Buck died on the 7thof May 1933 in Marylebone, London and was survived by his wife and daughter.
The company moved in 1963 to the new Colonial Mutual Building, Collins Street, where the plush atmosphere of the old store was re-created and remains at 320 Collins Street, Melbourne. There are now three stores in Melbourne, one in Sydney and a thriving on-line shopping business.
The company has strengthened its’ position in the market place over the years through expansion and consolidation, entrepreneurial initiatives and focusing on its’ 35-65 age group of affluent, corporate and professional, smartly dressed clients. Henry Bucks is one of the world’s great menswear stores and perhaps one of the last of the great menswear retail specialists to remain in family hands to this day.
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