John Acraman makes a fortune supplying 1850s gold rush via River Murray steamboats

John Acraman, already from a wealthy English merchant family, made a fortune shipping goods from Adelaide to Melbourne during the 1850s gold boom. Acraman arrived in Adelaide in 1848 to join the business of his eldest brother Edward and James Cooke but found that his brother had died.

Acraman partnered with Cooke and was visiting India in 1851 when he found about the Victorian gold find and returned to Adelaide. Acraman & Cooke made huge profits from the gold boom by shipping goods to Melbourne. With timber in high demand, they employed two pairs of sawyers in a sawpit in Currie Street, Adelaide, to cut it. They bought River Murray steamboats that proved the best way, with bullock teams, to serve the goldfields. Branches at Melbourne and Bendigo were run by James Cooke and Archibald Cooke.

Acraman ended his partnership with Cooke in 1855 and, with George Main and John Lindsay, formed a company with diverse interests, from coastal and River Murray shipping and insurance to pastoral runs in the Gawler Ranges and the west. Acraman, Main, Lindsay & Co. acted as agents for T. B. Hall & Sons, of England, distributors of Guinness Stout from 1875. Acraman, Son & Co. emerged in 1882 when son John Knox Acraman joined.

John Acraman Snr also represented Royal Insurance Company in South Australia 1851-91. For more than 30 years, he was South Australian Gas Company chairman plus a director of Adelaide and Suburban Tramway Company, Glenelg Railway Co. and other businesses.

Besides having a crater, lake, creek and conservation park in South Australia’s far north named after him, John Acraman’s love of sport (besides being a collector of ine art) led him to another legacy: founding the original Adelaide Football Club in 1859. He was one of its captains (John Brodie Spence the other) and first club president. He was inducted into the South Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2002

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