Auction man Theodore Bruce prominent in Adelaide life, including city mayor 1904-07

Theodore Bruce (third from left) in a formal group at the Victoria Park races in Adelaide in 1907. Bruce was part owner of two-year-old horse Lord Wilton that won several races for him. Later, Fred Bruce and George Aldridge took shares in the horse, without success. They sold her to E. W. Ellis, and within months she won the 1885 Adelaide Cup (held that year in Melbourne).
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Theodore Bruce in 1878 started what in the 21st Century was the oldest auction house in Australia.  He also was a prominent South Australian citizen as mayor of Adelaide (1904-07), Liberal member in the Legislative Council, arts patron and racehorse owner. Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, Bruce arrived with his parents in 1852 in Adelaide where his father set up as a merchant.

He started schooling at J. L. Young’s Adelaide Educational Institution before St Peter’s College. After working at a station in South Australia’s far north, he joined Randolph Isham Stow in 1862 in the law firm Stow & Bruce, followed by a National Bank of Adelaide job requiring travel around the state’s north where he became an expert horseman.

Around 1878, he started an auctioneering business with school friend George Aldridge, later Adelaide Stock Exchange chairman. They started a Broken Hill brewery that Bruce managed before selling it to South Australian Brewing and Wine and Spirit Company. The partnership with Aldridge ended in 1889 but Bruce continued as auctioneer on his own, with offices in the Old Exchange, Pirie Street, Adelaide.

Around 1895, Bruce was elected to Goodwood Ward on Unley Council, and became mayor in 1898-99. He served from 1894 as Adelaide City councillor for Hindmarsh Ward and, when Samuel Tomkinson died, was elected alderman and then  mayor. His major achievement was agreement with premier Thomas Price to start Adelaide's tramways network. Bruce was the city council's first representative on the Municipal Tramways Trust.

He stood twice for House of Assembly seats (East Adelaide, Torrens), both times beaten by the Labor candidate. He was elected to the Legislative Council in 1909, filling the Central District seat vacated by A.A. Kirkpatrick. Bruce died two years later – elected president of the Yorkshire Society a few days before.

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