Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

A Visit to Ernest Hillier’s Factory (c.1926)

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clip Chocolate packing department education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

In the chocolate packing department, lines of women wearing protective smocks and hairnets, hand select and carefully pack individual chocolates into boxes.

One woman passes boxes of chocolates to another, who then makes a final inspection before folding over the outer paper and fitting the embossed lid on the boxes. The lid has the Ernest Hillier signature on the front. A range of box sizes and shapes corresponds to the different packages available.

Intertitles are used in this clip.

Curator’s notes

The camera is set up in a fixed position with different angles (close-ups and medium shots) taken to build an overall sense of the work in the factory and the precise care taken to ensuring the confectionary is of the highest standards.

The division of labour along gender lines was accepted as the norm at the time and can also be seen in the 1932 film A Day in a Biscuit Factory.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This black-and-white clip, part of a silent promotional film for the Ernest Hillier confectionary company, shows employees at work in the packing room at the factory. Two men in a supervisory role move away and women stand in lines selecting individual chocolates and putting them into boxes. An intertitle introduces footage of the final inspection process. After inspection the liner paper is folded in before embossed lids are placed on the variously shaped and sized boxes.

Educational value points

  • Ernest Hillier, for whom this promotional film was made, claimed to be Australia’s first chocolate-manufacturing company. Hillier learned the confectionary trade in San Francisco and returned to Sydney where, in 1914, he established the confectionary-manufacturing company bearing his name in Pitt Street. In 1934 the company relocated to Melbourne where it continues to manufacture chocolates today.
  • Ernest Hillier was always aware of the need for promotion and the film may have been made in response to increased competition. Cadbury had begun producing confectionary in Tasmania in 1922 and, with MacRobertson’s based in Melbourne and the largest confectionary works in the country, competition was fierce. Haigh’s Chocolates, established in 1915 in South Australia, was another Australian manufacturer achieving success at the time.
  • Prior to the introduction of Australian-manufactured chocolates, Australians could buy only chocolates imported from Europe and the USA. Due to the distances involved and the climatic conditions during transportation the chocolate frequently arrived in poor condition. Ernest Hillier made a feature of the freshness of its locally produced product.
  • Ernest Hillier produced premium quality hand-dipped chocolates that were carefully selected and packed, also by hand, using a labour-intensive production line. At the same time, however, chocolates were being produced by machines such as the cocoa press, created in 1828, and the ‘conching’ machine, invented in 1879. These made mass production possible and led to chocolates of a lesser quality becoming more readily available at a lower price.
  • The clip shows the women employees wearing protective clothing appropriate for food manufacturing but not the gloves now considered necessary for food handling. Since 1905, when Victoria passed the first overall Pure Food Act on the Australian continent, Australia had pioneered health regulations governing food manufacture. Thin plastic gloves were not available and thick rubber gloves were too bulky to use when selecting and packing fine chocolates.
  • Women’s employment in manufacturing industries, illustrated in this clip, already had a long history in Australia. In the 19th century, industries that had traditionally employed women working from home, such as textile production, tailoring and food processing, began factory production. This trend continued and by the 1920s two-thirds of factory workers in Vic were women. Supervisors and managers were, however, predominantly male.
  • Some evidence of staging and film techniques is apparent in the clip. The opening scene appears to be staged, with the supervisors in the foreground conferring over a clipboard and then moving away to reveal the women at work behind their benches. A medium shot shows a line of women skilfully selecting the chocolates. A close-up of a woman’s hands shows her giving a box to another woman on the left to carry out the final inspection process.

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