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Jacket magazine:

The Early Days

Jacket magazine has a long and distinguished history. In the late 1930s, among the turmoil of union agitation, the Longshoremen’s Strike and the looming war in Europe, a small group of idealistic young Australians set up a magazine to serve itinerant fruit-pickers, in an old building on the outskirts of Toongabbie.

Early days

Jacket’s first office, at the rear of the shed that can be seen at the back.


The runaway success of the magazine meant that new, more ample quarters had to be found, and quickly. A large team was involved in planning the move, involving Alf Conlon’s “Pacific Directorate” (an amateur union-busting outfit) and the poets James McAuley, Ern Malley, Carl van Vechten and Carl van Buren, who were often mistaken for one another.

Early days 2

Part of the editorial team searching for a better location, Victoria Barracks, circa 1943.


Not everything went according to plan. Several of the poets left for more comfortable jobs in the USA. Jacket’s first typesetting engine, a part-diesel part-steam model, was plagued with problems, and caused frequent production delays as faults were diagnosed and spare parts fitted.

Early days 3

Typesetting engineers struggle to find a solution to the problem of erratic camshaft alignment, Goulburn, 1942. Ern Malley can be seen at the right, fitting a “Newcastle Collar” to a hardened steel habiliment reciprocating sleeve.


And some problems were never solved. Jacket's first jet model, intended to bring the benefits of automation to magazine delivery across the South Pacific, failed dismally.

Early days 4

The Jacket Mark IV, a supercharged double turbo-thrust inflatable aerostat, never made it off the ground. Craft with ground crew, Coolangatta, 1949.


Other forms of office automation and streamlined text delivery were more successful, and brought the magazine into the modern age.

Early days 5

A senior editor checks a hand-annotated automated page-count and castoff sheet delivered via motor-cycle messenger and motor launch from a regional office near Durban, South Africa, 1951.


At Jacket’s downtown office, we have a well-earned reputation for looking after the little things. “Look after the little things,” Jacket’s founder Hiram Bamburger once said, “and the big things can just fuck off.”

Early days 6

Every Jacket employee, from the youngest office assistant to the most senior executive, undergoes a rigorous health check upon starting their duties with the company. In the 1950s this involved a scan for halitosis, tuberculosis and mange, and in 1963 a fresh battery of tests was added, including a rigorous psychological investigation using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and progressing through Psychomotor Fear Variance tests to Psychopathological Deep Stress Analysis. Only two people have ever passed all these tests, and to this day Jacket remains the most severely understaffed of the major literary magazines in the Western World.


What will tomorrow bring? Who can say? As we move forward into the future, one thing is certain: nothing is certain.

Jacket historical scenes courtesy of the US Library of Congress Historic Photos public domain material here.