Pg.42: An Extravaganza of Signage

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 21:55

Queen’s Road began its route through Hong Kong’s commercial heart as a refined thoroughfare lined with prosperous buildings. However it became progressively less dignified, and a great deal more colourful, as it snaked westward through the more visibly Chinese sector of town. Here it coursed between open-fronted shops, overcrowded tenements and impromptu markets bristling with shop signs.

In this view,

again dating from 1939 ((since identified as 1952 - see comments below)), we see familiar English brand names identifying the already popular San Miguel Beer and Bata Shoes, produced by a company founded in 1894 in Zlin (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and today the Czech Republic). The family of its founder, Tomáš Bat’a had been cobblers for generations. At upper right is a sign identifying what was already another familiar brand name, Camel, but this time associated with paints rather than cigarettes.

Hong Kong’s longest surviving western-style restaurant, Jimmy’s Kitchen, borrowed its name from an earlier restaurant in Shanghai, owned by a friend of its founder. The first branch in Hong Kong was launched in Wanchai in 1928.


Date picture taken
1 Jul 1952


Submitted by
Ho Lim-peng (not verified)
Wed, 12/01/2010 - 07:05

I wonder if this photo might perhaps have been taken rather later than 1939. The uniform of the traffic policeman looks post-war to me, as does the nearest car in the middle distance. The title of the film showing at the cinema looks like "The Blue Max", which was produced in 1965. San Miguel beer was not produced in HK until 1947, when the Spanish/Filipino company of that name took over Ruttonjee's Hong Kong Brewing and Distilling Company premises at Sham Tseng, although San Mig beer was imported from The Philippines before then. 

I stand to be corrected- it would be interesting to hear some more opinions on the likely date.

I have the same photo.

Judging from the period, dress and the white car in the middle, I believe the photo is from the 1950s. I cannot make out the name of the film that was shown at the Queen's Theatre.

I'd be grateful for any info relating to the copyright of this image and a source for a very high resolution digital scan of it. One post suggests that it was taken by Harrison Forman so I searched for it in the AGSL digital archive but it's not there. If it IS Forman's I'd be surprised that FormAsia would own the copyright, as another post suggests, but I've contacted them too just in case. Any pointers appreciated.

hello.... i'm hoping that this system sends an email to specific commenters. if so, to the person who says he/she has a copy of this photo, any idea who owns the copyright and where i could obtain a very high resolution scan of it?? thanks in advance.

Dear David,

Thank you for your answer. I have since had an answer for FormAsia and am floored by the amount they're asking for the right to reproduce the image. As it appears on several websites I thought I might find it in an online archive at a lower cost, but I've looked through all the HK government/library sites and so far no luck. It is also NOT in the (huge) collection of Forman pictures owned by the American Geographical Society, so it may not even be one of his... I may be stuck... Cheers, Rosemarie

Hi Rosemarie,

I've found a couple of similar views in my collection, but neither show the "Bata" sign, which I understand is what you're looking for. Do you know what dates they had the shop there?

I confirm that the photo at the top of the page is not a Harrison Forman photo.

Regards, David