Towel, Ocean Beach Sweat Towel; Unknown Maker; 1950-1980


Towel, Ocean Beach Sweat Towel

About this object

This is an Ocean Beach Freezing Workers sweat towel. Ocean Beach Freezing Works operated in Bluff for 99-years from 1892-1991. Known locally as “The Beach”, the works functioned as a main source of income and population for the portside town. Historian Dr Michael Stevens gives us an insight into the people who worked at The Beach, stating that it “drew in hard personalities to do dirty work”. The hard dirty work of a freezing worker is reflected in the fact that the meat works had company issue sweat towels for their employees. This towel would have been used, by an employee of the works, to wipe the sweat off their brow.

A Brief History of The Beach:

Politician Joseph Ward established the Ocean Beach Freezing Works in 1892. In 1891, Joseph resigned from his position as Director of the Southland Frozen Meat Company as he opposed building a meat works at Mataura, instead advocating for one to be established in Bluff. Joseph did not want the product to be handle through Port Otago when a works at Bluff would enable the export to be handled through Bluff Harbour. Joseph pulled strings in parliament to facilitate the development by altering an act of parliament and borrowing money from offshore resulting in Ocean Beach being operational a year before the Mataura Works.

An instant success, The Beach quickly became the largest and most efficient works in Southland. Entire families and generations of families were employed by the works. In the 1970s, Ocean Beach was the first works to employ women in New Zealand and for decades it attracted people to Bluff, generating local income. However, due to financial pressures in 1991 The Beach closed down resulting in the loss of 1450 jobs.


Unknown Maker

Maker Role


Date Made


Medium and Materials

organic, vegetal, processed materials, textiles, cotton


h 565 mm x w 129 mm measured when flat.

Subject and Association Keywords

Industry and Manufacturing

Object Type



Attribution (cc) Attribution (cc)

This object is from

Include tags such as place names, people, dates, events and colours. Use commas to separate multiple tags. e.g. Pablo Picasso, Madrid, red, 1930s.