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Petone's First 100 Years (1940)

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Stewart Prams Ltd.

With the coming of the Centennial year, one Petone firm which represents a very essential industry, celebrates the attainment of its majority. This firm is Stewart Prams, Ltd., which over the last twenty-one years has grown amazingly in size and importance.
In 1919 the business was commenced by Mr. Leonard Stewart, with a total working staff of one boy. Through the years the business expanded, as the quality of Stewart prams found favour among families all over New Zealand. Just a short time ago the factory was employing 48 hands. It has been located for some years in what was once the schoolhouse of St. Augustine's Church.
Here men can be seen at one of the oldest crafts—basket making. All the wicker work for the prams (and a modern perambulator has an amazing amount of wicker work about it) is all woven by the hands of craftsmen, who fashion the intricate designs so pleasing to the eyes of parents and parents to be.
The factory itself is a surprisingly quiet place compared with many of those carrying on manufacturing processes in the Hutt Valley. This is due to the fact that the industry will be one of the last to be completely invaded by the machine. The painstaking hands of New Zealand craftsmen can create things which must remain beyond the scope of machinery for a long time to come. Thus, it is, that a hand-made perambulator has a finish about it that many a machine-made article lacks.
Combined with this absence of mechanisation which is striking compared with, for example, a modern motor-car assembly plant, there is a speed of production which is quite remarkable. Last year the output of perambulators of all sizes was just short of 10,000. This is exclusive, of course, of baskets, seagrass and wicker furniture, and invalid carriages, which are also turned out in considerable quantities by the firm. Agencies for Stewart Prams, Ltd., exist in every town in New Zealand from Kaitaia to Invercargill.
A really great honour was extended to the firm during the visit to New Zealand in 1927 of the Duke and Duchess of York, now King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England. Stewart Prams provided the royal couple with two perambulators for their first born—one a full sized model and one a doll's pram. The firm thus came under royal patronage, and added another to the list of happy Stewart customers.
So Stewart Prams goes on into its third decade, and already has built for itself something more than the beginning of a tradition. Already, it is more than likely that some people who made their first trip abroad in the streets of Petone in a Stewart Pram, are now using the same home-driven means of transport for children of their own. On such a begiiming is a tradition of service built.

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