The Adelaide Stock Exchange in session, early in the 20th Century. 
Image by John Gazard, courtesy State Library of South Australia.

for rise of South Australian business
giants felled in the later half of the 20th Century


BUSINESS ENTREPRENEURS BECAME INVOLVED HEAVILY IN FOUNDING SOUTH AUSTRALIA. But the particular philosophy of many of those businessmen is essential to understanding their effect on the colony.

George Fife Angas and the others who formed the South Australian Company in London on October 9, 1835, were strongly middle class wealthy merchants and they were mainly Dissenters: they belonged to Protestant churches dissenting from the Church of England as the symbolic faith of Britain’s upper class establishment. As middle class and Dissenters, South Australia’s founders wanted a colony where ambitions wouldn’t be held back by the establishment. 

Angas set a strong pattern for the colony’s early business. Although money from wealthy British capitalists was invested in the colony, the self-made middle class Dissenters were at the forefront in enterprise, making the most of business opportunities. They also followed a pattern of going into politics to protect their positions. The middle class Dissenters, who made money in pastoral/mining ventures, joined the limited-franchise Legislative Council to become the colony’s establishment.

They were conscious of gaining rights for the colony and blocking any British establishment intrusion (such as through state aid for church schools). They weren't united in extending those rights to the working class but there was a strong theme of expressing Protestant Christianity in philanthropy and community service.

As with Angas, who was benevolent but not a democrat, these businessmen believed in individual effort. That belief translated into solid business innovation and enterprises that created giants such as Adelaide Steamship and Elder Smith, along with smaller family businesses like Fauldings, Fowlers, Bickford and Burfords, that grew to have national clout. A wider middle class in South Australia was drawn into capitalism through investments in the the copper mining boom from the 1840s.

As even Angas came to realise, South Australia was too limited in resources, too prone to boom and bust, and ultimately too small to hold off entrepreneurs from the bigger eastern states – as Adelaide Steamship, Elder Smith, the Bank of Adelaide and the State Bank discovered fatally in the 20th Century.

South Australia's economy needed government involved. The 20th Century premier Tom Playford, from a conservative Dissenter background, acknowledged this by making government a necessary instrument for South Australia’s survival.



GEORGE FIFE ANGAS, DEVOUT BUT WITH A CAPITALIST VISION: colony as paradise for Dissenter Christian middle class enterprise

George Fife Angas builds fortune in shipping and banking; holds devout Dissent wish for colony

George Fife Angas, the first chairman of the South Australian Company, epitomises the middle class Dissenter capitalists who were a driving force in founding the colony. Born in Newcastle on Tyne in 1789, Angas was brought up in Baptist Dissent: exposed as a child to his father’s severe Puritan outlook. Angas took over his father's shipping firm in 1832 but he had already set up his own shipping company in London. He also found a special talent for banking. Also in 1832, Angas received a prospectus of the South Australian Land Company and bought enough shares to become a director. This venture was quashed because Viscount Goderich, in charge of the British Colonial Office, didn't like Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s theory of systematic colonisation. Angas didn't like Wakefield’s scheme, either. But, as a religious Dissenter, Angas's hope for a South Australian colony was “to provide a place of refuge for Pious Dissenters of Great Britain, who could in their new home discharge their consciences before God in civil and religious duties without any disabilities”.

Angas combines his Christian social vision with a keen eye to maximising his profits

Despite his varied businesses, George Fife Angas had a passion for forming societies and joining charitable committees. Angas would bring the same attitude to the new colony of South Australia, with a vision of Protestant Dissenting Christian capitalism. Despite being a Whig and dissenter, he was appointed a South Australian Colonisation Commissioner in 1835 and immediately began engaging in land deals and profitable possibilities in whaling, fishing and banking. To obtain migrants of his liking, he distributed propaganda among the congregations of Dissenting churches and recruited men, such as Samuel Stephens and his brother Edward (founder of Methodism in South Australia) with similar views to his own to run the South Australian Company. Even before the first settlers left England for South Australia, Angas was sounding out colonial secretary Robert Gouger on buying property and advancing money for colonial funds. Besides forming the Union Bank of Australia in 1836 and the South Australian Banking Company in 1840, Angas was a director of the British Colonial Bank and Loan Company.

Angas becomes colony's biggest land owner; maintains monopoly, sparking speculation

With Henry Kingscote and Thomas Smith, Angas bought 13,770 acres, two-thirds of the unsold land in the proposed colony, and in 1836 transferred them to the new South Australian Company. Angas became the colony’s the largest landowner with 105.000 acres. In 1840, the South Australia Company paid its first dividend, chiefly because Angas had saved its bank from competition. The company's monopoly saved shareholders but also stimulated frenzied land speculation.


Angas lobbies hard for British parliament's support to save colony from ruin in the 1840s

In the depression years, George Fife Angas struggled mightily in England for the survival of the colony. He gave evidence to the select committee on South Australian affairs in 1841. Despite his faith in self help, he became convinced the colony would founder unless aided by the British government. His interviews with the Colonial Office, his lectures and widely distributed literature on South Australia helped to gain the parliamentary approval that saved the colony's credit.


when middle class investors benefit from Burra copper in 1840s

Minerals motivate the colonisers; South Australian Company hires Johannes Menge

Finding minerals was important in motivating the founding of South Australia. At its second meeting in London in 1834, two years before South Australia was colonised, The South Australian Literary and Scientific Society’s principal lecture was on “The geology of Australia”. The South Australian Company in 1836 appointed the German Johannes Menge as mine and quarry agent and geologist. Menge was not only Australia’s first geologist but also has been called the father of Australian mineral exploration. He travelled widely and helped make the first significant copper find. South Australia’s early colonial administrators also played an early role in describing the colony’s geology. The second governor, George Gawler (1838-1841) made his own geological contributions. The first surveyor general William Light and his staff were asked to site the capital near water, coal and building stone resources. This continued after Light died. During the 1840s, surveyor general Edward Frome reported on geology during his exploration. His deputy, Thomas Burr, presented an early geological report from exploring South Australia’s southeast region in 1844. Appointed mineral surveyor in 1846, Burr conducted Australia’s first geological survey and wrote the first geology book Remarks on the Geology and Mineralogy of South Australia published in Australia. Its overview identified Cambrian Age rocks for the first time in Australia.

Australia's first mine on Osmond Gilles' land; first ore export from Wheal Gawler in 1840s

South Australia operated the first commercial metalliferous mines in Australia and produced the first Australian metalliferious exports in the 1840s. Glen Osmond silver-lead mines, in Adelaide’s south-eastern suburbs and Mount Lofty foothills, never produced big amounts but, egged on by expectation, their last remnants were active until 1889. Ore was discovered in 1838 on land owned by colonial treasurer Osmond Gilles. This became the Glen Osmond mine, starting in 1842. Another nearby discovery in 1841, claimed to be more abundant in gold, silver, lead and iron than any in British Empire colony, led to Wheal Gawler mine and the South Australian Mining Association set up with capital of £6,000. In 1841, a trial shipment from Gawler Wheal was sent to London: the first Australian export of metalliferous ore. Wheal Watkins joined the foothills mines in the 1840s but attention had switched to the discovery of copper elsewhere in the colony. Wheal Gawler was revived by a new syndicate in the late 1840s, with 20 German miners working on it. Despite attempts to convince investors of its  prospects, it was shut down in 1849, after only producing 100 tons in three years. Glen Osmond Mine, also having produced 100 tones, was closed in 1851. It was reopened in 1888 by a company inspired by high metal prices and the major silver-lead finds at Broken Hill. But hopes weren't met and it finished in 1892. Wheal Watkins went through the same dented optimism but was revived in 1888. It produced about 130 tons for smelters in England and Port Adelaide before being doomed by metal prices in 1889.

Australia's first mining boom centres on major copper find at Burra (1845-51) after Kapunda

South Australia gave Australia its first mining boom in 1845-51, after a major discovery of copper led to a “monster mine” at Burra. The first significant copper find had been in 1842 at Kapunda, and more small mines followed over the next five years. By 1850, the township of Burra was the largest inland settlement in Australia, more than double the size of the current major cities of Perth and Brisbane. Kapunda also grew into a large town. Minerals accounted for more than two thirds of South Australia’s exports, rescuing the colony’s economy from collapse. As coppermania grew, 49 active metal mines were operating in the colony by the end of 1850. Of those, 38 were copper mines, with Burra and Kapunda dominating. Eight-six people were working at a remote Eyre Peninsula mine in the far west. The Burra copper boom had the added benefit of attracting a many outside geologists and their knowledge. This built on three basic sources of expertise in South Australia: the educated founding elite from Britain, the practical miners from the English county of Cornwall, and Germans with professional and practical experience. Johannes Menge, the geologist employed by the South Australian Company, was dismissed in 1838 for eccentric behaviour. He went on exploring and was a key to the Kapunda copper discovery. The colony’s mineral surveyor Thomas Burr became general superintendent of the Burra mine in 1847. James Trewartha and Benjamin Babbage followed as mineral surveyors before the position lapsed in 1852.

Victorian gold rush in 1850s suspends Burra copper boom as labour and geologists head east

Georg Bruhn, who confirmed the discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851, had been among the German and other geological experts flooding into South Australia during the Burra cooper boom. In 1848, Dr Bruhn, a German doctor, advertised his services in Adelaide as a mineralogist, geologist, miner and chemist. He received finance to explore for the colony’s minerals. But it was his mineral expedition in Victoria in 1851 that confirmed the discovery of gold and set off a rush that had a major effect on South Australia. About 28,000 people left South Australia in 1852-1853 from a European population of 63,700. Even the rich copper mining operations at Burra were largely suspended due to lack of labour. Smaller mines soon closed permanently. Within this exodus were most geologists based in South Australia during the copper boom, including Thomas Burr, James Trewartha, and Carl Zacchariae, who had lead a team of German miners working the Wheal Gawler lead-silver mine at Glen Osmond. Even Johannes Menge, South Australia’s first official geologist, who had lived in the colony for 15 years and was aged 64, walked to Victoria but died soon after he arrived. The Victorian gold rush put a serious brake on geology in South Australia as a discipline and a profession. It was only restarted when the University of Adelaide was opened in 1874 and with the Geological Survey of South Australia in 1882.


BANK OF ADELAIDE, A PILLAR OF BUSINESS ELITE SINCE 1865,  crashes under the debt from interstate finance subsidiary in 1979

Bank of South Australia monopoly broken by Savings Bank, Bank of Adelaide and others

Adelaide's first bank, the Bank of South Australia, was a monopoly operated by the South Australian Company, a driving force in the founding of the colony in 1836. The Savings Bank of South Australia, opened in 1848, was based on the movement advocated by the Rev. Henry Duncan to encourage the working class to save their money. The Bank of Adelaide (started in 1865) was the sole local survivor of South Australia’s financial disaster, caused by land speculation, in 1893.

Bank of Adelaide started by Henry Ayers and new social and business establishment in 1865

The Bank of Adelaide was founded in 1865 by a core of the South Australian social establishment. The bank’s first directors made their money through the Burra Burra copper boom, pastoral runs, speculating in land, or retail. The five directors were:
• Henry Ayers (chairman) who became rich from the Burra Burra copper mines, as secretary in charge of 1000 men. Ayers was South Australian premier several times in 1863-73.
• Robert Barr Smith came to Adelaide in 1855 to join Elder & Co. From a firm mercantile and shipping base, Smith and Thomas Elder expanded into pastoral and mining. Their risks in 1860-61, with a £80,000 loan to develop Wallaroo and Moonta copper mines, brought enormous wealth. They opened vast agricultural land and stock/station agency network.
• Thomas Magarey: Arrived in 1845 with brother James and a Lancashire milling background. Four years later, they succeeded John Ridley as owners of Hindmarsh flour mill. In 1859, Thomas leased a big Naracoorte pastoral run with sheep, cattle and horses. He had other properties in the south east and Eyre Peninsula.
• Thomas Waterhouse was an early shareholder and later director of Burra mine. With brother John, he ran a grocery business at King William and Rundle streets ("Waterhouse's corner"). During the Victorian gold rush exodus, Waterhouse profited from investing heavily in Adelaide city centre land.
• George Harris joined George Scarfe in 1866 in a Hindley Street ironmonger business that became hardware sellers, later retailers, Harris Scarfe.

Surviving 1893 land crisis, Bank of Adelaide keeps expanding with branches state-wide

The Bank of Adelaide started in Gresham Chambers, on the King William Street-North Terrace corner. It later moved to the King William-Currie streets corner. The first balance sheet showed new branches at Kapunda, Port Adelaide, Gawler and Goolwa.This continued beyond 1886 when it took over branches of the collapsed Commercial Bank of South Australia. The Bank of Adelaide's London office opened in 1890, giving links to Europe and legendary service to Australian visitors.


Bank of Adelaide a jewel of state's 'financial royal family'; collapses in 1979 under fatal debt

In the 1970s, South Australian premier Don Dunstan claimed that a “financial royal family” ran the state. That “family” was the directors of the Bank of Adelaide, SA Brewing and The Advertiser newspaper. By 1979, one of those three pillars, the Bank of Adelaide, had collapsed. In 1969, the Bank of Adelaide, as it continued expanding, bought Finance Corporation of Australia. In 1978, the bank discovered that the Finance Corporation of Australia had run up a fatal level of bad debts.



from 1870s before a corporate takeover spree kills it in the 1980s

Robert Barr Smith and Thomas Elder help start Adelaide Steamship: a national shipping giant

Adelaide Steamship Company – a national shipping giant – was started by South Australian businessmen, including Robert Barr Smith, Thomas Elder and Andrew Tennant, in 1875. It aimed to control goods transport between Adelaide and Melbourne and to provide an efficient passenger service. Adelaide Steamship joined with Spencer's Gulf Steamship in 1882 to form a fleet that circled the coast from Derby in Western Australia to Cairns in Queensland. Its ships were supported by offices in almost every major Australian port. By World War II, the company owned 30 ships. After the war, declining trade forced it to diversify into towage, shipbuilding, and carrying salt, coal and sugar. During the 1940s and after the war, declining trade forced the company to diversify into towage, shipbuilding, and carrying salt, coal and sugar. Adelaide Steamship’s interstate fleet merged in 1964 with McIlwraith McEacharn in a new company, Associated Steamships, with Adelaide Steamship holding 40%. The new company developed the world's first purpose-built container ship, MV Kooringa. Bulkships Ltd, 40% owned by Adelaide Steamship, bought all shares in Associated Steamship in 1968. In 1977, the company's interest in Bulkships was sold and Adelaide Steamship Company ended its link with ships. But the company kept its interests in tug boats and, by the late 1980s, Adelaide Steamship was one of Australia’s oldest surviving industrial companies.

Adelaide Airways, ship building and tug boats make up Adsteam's huge industrial structure

A hallmark of Adelaide Steamship Co. was its array of significant subsidiary businesses. One of those was Adelaide Airways, formed in 1935, and pivotal to the emergence of Australian National Airways (ANA), later Ansett-ANA. Another Adelaide Steamship subsidiary was Adelaide Ship Construction, set up in 1957, and employing 1000. From 1993, Adsteam grew aggressively to a fleet of 156 tug boats operating in more than 40 Australian, Indian, Pacific Oceania and British ports. 

John Spalvins takes Adsteam in 1980s on splurge of takeovers, cross ownership, debt

John Spalvins, as chief executive of Adelaide Steamship Company from 1977, built it into one of Australia's largest industrial conglomerates. Spalvins used vast debt to launch huge takeovers. Borrowings came from about 200 banks including the State Bank of South Australia. At its height, the Adsteam group included Woolworths, David Jones, brewer Tooth and Company, the Petersville Sleigh food group,  Farmers Union, Metro Meat and premium wineries (including Penfolds, Seppelts and Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate).  Adsteam held, at times, a 15% stake in Westpac, a 20% of Bell Resources, along with significant investments in ANZ Bank, BHP and Royal Insurance and many other “strategic” holdings. As the last relic of the old Adelaide Steamship company, it had 156 tug boats in more than 40 Australian, Indian, Pacific Ocean and British ports. The Spalvins-led company was Australia's fourth highest capitalised company during the 1980s but a collapse was looming.

Adsteam collapse adds to State Bank's demise and John Martin's lost to interstate control

Adsteam's loss of $4.49 billion in 1991 represented one of Australia's largest corporate collapses.South Australia lost a home-grown company that had achieved national success. The exposure of the State Bank of South Australia to the excesses of Adelaide Steamship’s 1980s management contributed to that entity’s collapse. The David Jones takeover of John Martin’s stores took its management focus interstate and led to the demise of that South Australian icon.



but another South Australian victim of 1980s corporate excesses

Thomas Elder's copper cash exploits outback pastoral opportunities to built agency empire

Alexander Lang Elder arrived in Port Misery (now Port Adelaide) in 1839 aboard the family-owned Minerva to launch a new arm of his Scottish-based merchant and shipping business. Alexander’s merchant family had decided there was real potential in three-year-old colony and he was dispatched to both set up business and explore opportunities – particularly in goods, such as wool, that could be returned to Britain for sale. Alexander battled to consolidate the business until the copper boom in the mid-north in 1842 saw him branch out as a metal broker and enjoy major success. Alexander’s brothers, William, George and Thomas (in 1854), joined Alexander in Adelaide but it was Thomas who stayed on while the other three eventually returned to Scotland and England. Thomas Elder realised the potential of pastoral outback holdings and he encouraged the family business to import camels to provide transport between the pastoral properties. This unlocked the vast interior of Australia, tapping into the Great Artesian Basin water that made grazing viable. He laid the foundations of a national wool broking and rural agency empire that would be built on the back of sheep but funded with cash from the copper boom; cash that enabled him and his peers to buy huge amounts of pastoral land. After George returned to Scotland, Thomas Elder formed Elder, Stirling & Co, a partnership with Edward Stirling, Robert Barr Smith  and John Taylor. In 1856, Barr Smith married Thomas Elder's sister Joanna, and when Stirling and Taylor's retired in 1863, Barr Smith and Thomas Elder formed Elder Smith and Co.

Elders' strength in national wool market allows it to grow agencies, land holdings

In 1888, Elder's Wool & Produce Co. Ltd and Elder Smith and Co. amalgamated. The company bought a one third holding in the Western Australian wool business of George Shenton in 1903, allowing it dominate the wool trade in South Australia and Western Australia. With its centenary in 1839, Elders expanded its agencies, resouces interests and land holdings. It had principal offices in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Geelong and London, with 38 country branches.


Elder Smith expands into mining, finance before John Elliot takeover as Elders IXL

Norman Giles took Elders Smith to nationally dominating the wool market in the 1950s. Giles merged Elder Smith and Goldsborough Mort in 1962, with headquarters in Adelaide. Giles also expanded Elders Smith into mining, finance and beef lots. In the 1980s, Robert Holmes a Court sold his major stake in the company to John Elliott. Elliot's Elders IXL became one of Australia’s corporate giants that overstretched itself and had be sold in 1989 with Elders Pastoral as a mere division.

Elders Ltd returns to Adelaide and South Australian 1839 origins as agribusiness vision

Elders Ltd is back in Adelaide and on track to being a great Australian company again. It has returned to the ASX top 300 Australian companies and won the large business turnaround award in 2015. Elders Ltd’s turnaround came from a strategy in 1993 to revert to its origins in Alexander Lang Elder's 1839 South Australian vision for an agribusiness. In 1993, Elders Pastoral was sold out of the Foster’s group where it had landed as a spillover of 1980s corporate takeover games by Robert Holmes a Court and John Elliot. Elders return-to-rural strategy included buying the Australian Agricultural Company, one of Australia’s oldest businesses with one of the world’s largest beef cattle herds. Bought by major shareholder Futuris Corporation, Elders continued its rural strategy by buying Charlton Feedlot in Victoria in 1996. It launched Australian Wool Handlers and gained more than 60% of the national wool clip. In 1998, it bought Primac Holdings in Queensland and a share in Killara Feedlot in NSW and rescued Victoria Producers to set up EldersVP. Elders Finance was sold to Hanover Finance in 1999. In 2001, Elders floated Australian Agricultural Company. In 2009, Elders changed its name from Futuris Corporation to Elders Ltd. Its Rural Bank became a fully-owned subsidiary of the Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Group In 2010. In 2013, Elders completed its return to a pure agribusiness with the final sale  of its forestry and automotive units. By 2014, the company was operating as one of Australia and New Zealand’s largest rural distribution systems with 226 rural branches. 


collapses in 1980s as financial wreck for whole of South Australia

Savings bank becomes schools institution and symbol of the state's financial independence

The Savings Bank of South Australia started in 1848. to accept small deposits from working class men. In 1901, Australian federation, represented by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, threatened South Australians’ financial independence. The Savings Bank of South Australia persuaded the state parliament in 1907 to allow almost every public and private school in the state to take penny deposits from children on behalf of the bank that became the state's largest.


Tom Playford uses the government's State Bank/Savings Bank to develop South Australia

Premier Tom Playford made the Savings Bank of South Australia – a statutory institution managed by trustees – a fully state-government-owned bank in 1945. This was a response to the federal Labor government move to formalise the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s role as the nation’s central bank. Under this arrangement, the Savings Bank of South Australia had to lodge £8 million in a special reserve account with the Commonwealth Bank. By making the Savings Bank state owned, the Australian constitution exempted it from this payment. Playford also extracted an £8 million loan from the Commonwealth Bank to the South Australian Housing Trust at only 1% interest. The Savings Bank wasn't South Australia's first government-owned bank. In 1896, the State Bank of South Australia was started as the state government bank, in the wake of other Adelaide banks collapsing during 1890s land speculation. The role of a state government bank was resented by the private banks, especially in the 1920s when the State Bank of South Australia was empowered by the Gunn Labor government to provide 1000 homes for returned servicemen and the needy in the new suburb of Colonel Light Gardens. Playford increased the role of the State Bank and the bigger Savings Bank of South Australia. He used them was a key tool of his vision for South Australia’s rapid economic and industrial development, including financing Electricity Trust and the Housing Trust. The Savings Bank allowed people to deposit savings or borrow for mortgages, while the State Bank was used for larger projects.

Tim Marcus Clark drives growth of State Bank, merged with Savings Bank, to crash

The State Bank of South Australia started in 1984 as a merger of the old State Bank and the Savings Bank of South Australia, with Tim Marcus Clark as managing director. The Savings Bank had bought Beneficial Finance and subsidiaries that became part of the merged State Bank Group. The merger, first floated by Labor premier Don Dunstan, was achieved by later premier John Bannon. The two public banks' conservatism was transformed into risk, leading to a spectacular crash.


$3 billion debt disaster leads to loss of State Bank and privatising of Electricity Trust

The State Bank's debt, that became $3 billion, had to be rescued by the taxpayers from 1991. The South Australian Asset Management Corporation cleared and sorted the debts. The bank’s collapse was given as the reason for privatising the Electricity Trust of South Australia by the incoming Liberal government of John Olsen. The debt-free part of the State Bank (now Bank SA) was bought by Advance Bank, later to merge with St George Bank that, in turn, merged with Westpac.



BICKFORDS, FAULDINGS, BURFORDS, FOWLERS: Dissenters who created national brands from small Adelaide shops and factories

William Bickford's shop starts Adelaide family's success with cordials, Sal Vital, Dexal et al

William Bickford worked as a chemist’s assistant after arriving, aged 23, in Adelaide in 1839. Next year, he opened his own shop in Hindley Street with a borrowed  £220. Its success allowed him to move to a bigger shop down the street. Bickford did well enough by 1846 to build a large house, later called “Benacre”, at Glen Osmond. He died five years later, leaving his wife Anne pregnant and with four young children (William, Harry, Elizabeth and Edward). Anne Bickford engaged qualified chemists Edwin Page and Robert Hutton to carry on the business for 14 years. Son Harry, now a qualified chemist, returned from England to join his mother in the business as Bickford and Son. Eldest son William in 1871 joined A.M. Bickford and Sons that developed drugs and popular products such as Sal Vital, Dexal and Sopaderm. Large offices and a warehouse at 42-46 Currie Street (on Leigh Street corner) became the company's headquarters from 1879. From 1874, their factory in Waymouth Street made cordials (including lime juice and raspberry vinegar). An expanded factory had Monsieur H. Foureur in charge of aerated drinks. When their mother died in 1877, the two sons continued expanding, including to Perth and amalgamating with competitor Felton Grimwade & Co. of Melbourne. In 1914, the Adelaide manufacturing laboratory moved to Waymouth Street next to the cordial factory. A major change for Bickford’s family identity came in 1930 when it combined with similar companies from all states, except Tasmania, to form Drug Houses of Australia (DHA), with £5,000,000 capital.

Luther Scammell builds Francis Faulding 1840s vision for an Adelaide wholesale pharmacy

F. H. Faulding & Co pharmaceutical company started as a pharmacy shop opened by Francis Hardey Faulding at 5 Rundle Street, Adelaide, in 1845. With the pharmacy flourishing, Faulding bought a warehouse in Clarence Place for its manufacturing and wholesale arms. In 1861, he partnered with another Yorkshireman, Luther Scammell, who’d trained at Guy’s Hospital, London, and arrived in Adelaide in 1849 to practise medicine at Burra mine. Scammell became sole owner after Faulding died without children in 1868. He appointed Philip Dakers as the company's London buyer and, in 1876, built a warehouse in King William Street, Adelaide, later expanding to James Place. He was forced to retire in 1889 when the Bank of Adelaide threatened foreclosure after failed mining and pastoral speculations. Sons Luther and William bought the manufacturing and wholesaling operations in 1888; its shops were sold to John White to cut debt. The company expanded to Perth and Sydney. In 1921, Faulding & Co. became a private company, with Luther Scammell as chairman and managing director. In 1935, elder son Alfred took over. In 1971, Faulding's bought Adelaide's Jasol Chemical Products. Dr Ed Tweddell became managing director in 1988 and, with CSIRO, developed drugs under the Keating government’s “Factor f” scheme. In 1999, Fauldings were promised $40 million in federal development funding. Faulding Pharmaceuticals expanded in the northern hemisphere but, in 2001, it was taken over by the Mayne Nickless group as Mayne Pharma – bought out in 2007 by US Hospira conglomerate. 

William Burford starts dominant soap maker company from 1840 business in Adelaide

William Burford in 1840 founded one of the Australia’s earliest soap-making factories and its oldest up to the 1960s when it closed, after being dominant in the soap market in South Australia and Western Australia. Burford, an apprenticed butcher with experience as a tallow merchant, built up a large painting and glazing business after arriving in Adelaide in 1838. When the 1840 recession hit, Burford opened a soap and candle business on the Grenfell Street-East Terrace corner. The business revived with the cooper boom from Burra (1848), Moonta and Wallaroo (1863) mines. Carried on by Burford’s son, the business opened bigger factories in Sturt Street, Adelaide, and later Adam Street, Hindmarsh (taking over Apollo Soap). Fire destroyed both factories. This prompted new premises at Dry Creek in 1922. In the 1890s, Burfords opened factories in Western Australia. Burford products included Signal soap, Apollo laundry soap, Sayso carbolic family soap, White Dove soap, Dr Bayley’s medicated soap, Southern Sky washing blue, Exhibition candles and Brunswick stove blacking, Snow White starch and Magic egg preserver. In the 1920s, W. H. Burford and Son was taken over by eastern states rival J. Kitchen & Sons, who became Lever & Kitchen, part of the British Lever Brothers empire that in 1930 merged with Dutch Margarine Unie to form multinational Unilever. The Burfords factory at Dry Creek was running in the 1950s and still listed in 1962 when the office at 83 Sturt Street, Adelaide, had the Burford’s name, alongside nominal owner J. Kitchen & Sons, Rexona and Lever Brothers.


Fowler brothers turn grocery shop into huge Adelaide wholesaler and brand builder from 1854

D. and J. Fowler (Australia) was started by Scottish brothers David and James Fowler, in 1854, as a grocery shop in King William Street, Adelaide, that became one of Australia's largest wholesale grocers. After James Fowler died in 1858, a third brother George joined and ran the company from King William Street from 1865 while David took over a London office. In 1881, Fowlers built a warehouse at Port Adelaide to store 30,000 tons of merchandise. Branches opened in Fremantle, Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie. Besides gaining a Shell dealership, Fowlers started a shipping agency for imports and exports including wool, wheat, meat and flour. They built Paou Chung Factory on King William Road and took over Barnfield & Turner’s London Condiment Company at Maylands. They renamed H. B. Hanton's at Fullarton as Lion Preserving Company and expanded into canned fruits with a factory at Nuriootpa (later sold to R. McEwin and Sons of Glen Ewin fame). Henry Harford in Mill Street, Adelaide, became Lion Confectionery Works. Fowlers contracted farmers in South Australia's south-east to grow chicory for Lion coffee/chicory essence. Fowlers introduced packaged tea with Paou Chung (1883) and Amgoorie (1896) brands. Adelaide Milling (bought in 1895), Robur Tea, Adelaide Bottle Company and Waltons added to the firm’s diversity. The Lion Factory, packaging self-raising flour and other goods, opened on North Terrace, Adelaide, in 1907. In 1899, D & J Fowler became a limited liability, with 2,000 shares given to employees. In 1982-83, it was taken over by the Adelaide-based Southern Farmers.


with solid investment, enterprise, philanthropy and networking

George Brookman's gold bonanza followed by contributing to politics and philanthrophy

Amid economic uncertainty, George Brookman became a sharebroker and financial agent in 1890-96. His skill and hold on the best leases on Kalgoorlie’s “golden mile" meant his Coolgardie Gold Mining and Prospecting Co. was voluntarily liquidated in 1898 with a capital of £9,275,750. Brookman continued links with several companies, became a conservative Legislative Council member and, as a philanthropist, gave £15,000 to the South Australian School of Mines and Industries.

Adelaide stock exchange investors cash in from mining interstate from late 1890s to 1928

South Australia's longest mining based boom lasted from the late 1890s until 1928 – but the source of the boom was in New South Wales and Western Australia. South Australians had started investing in mining at Kapunda, Burra, Moonta and Wallaroo in the 1840s. Adelaide Stock Exchange and its local investors enjoyed a mining boom when silver, lead and zinc were discovered at Broken Hill in 1883. Ten years later, gold was discovered at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie in 1893.

Colony's chambers of commerce (1836) and manufacturers (1869) the first in Australia

South Australia created both Australia’s first chamber of commerce and industry by 1839 and, in 1869, Australia’s first chamber of manufacturers. They eventually merged in 1993,the South Australian Employers' Federation to form the South Australian Employers' Chamber of Commerce and Industry. that became Business SA. The Master Builders Association, Motor Trade Association and South Australian Chamber of Mines & Energy are other leading nusiness lobby and support groups.


Carols by Candlelight part of Commercial Travellers Association legacy from 1874

In Adelaide in 1866, commercial travellers (now known as sales or customer service reps and managers) met to discuss difficulties such as poor quality country roads and hotel accommodation. In 1874, the Commercial Travellers' Association (CTA) was incorporated – the first in Australia. As part of its tradition of community service, the association and The Advertiser radio station 5AD jointly organised the first Adelaide Carols by Candlelight at Elder Park in 1944, attracting 30,000 people.


MICHELLS survivors from the 19th Century family enterprises

Samuel Smith & Sons/ Yalumba: Australia's oldest surviving family-owned winery since 1849

Samuel Smith was a successful brewer in England before he migrated to South Australia in 1847 and worked as a gardener for George Fife Angas at Angaston. In 1849, Smith bought 30 acres for his a vineyard and orchard he called Yalumba. Smith and his son joined the rush to Victorian goldfields in 1852.  On his 16th shaft, he struck gold and returned to Adelaide £300 richer. He spent £80 on 80 acres that he let out and spent the rest on equipment, cellars and another house. In 1852, he made his first wine and, by 1862, had nine acres planted with shiraz. He gave cuttings to neighbours and bought their grapes to make wine. In 1863, he produced 60 hogsheads (13,638 litres). Yalumba wines soon won repute, with a bronze medal at the 1866-67 Intercolonial Exhibition, Melbourne, and silver at the 1878 Paris Universal Exhibition. Son Sidney Smith took over the estate in 1888. In 1923, Samuel Smith & Son became a wine merchant, presenting a blue chip portfolio of national and international wines, spirits and premium ales. In the 1980s, managing-director Robert Hill-Smith oversaw a buyout of family shares to consolidate the company's independence. Having made a strong push into exporting, the company operates throughout Australia from its head office in Angaston. Yalumba wines have been style leaders, controlling quality through its own vine nursery and cooperage. It has introduced varieties such as viognier and tempranillo. It also led the industry in environmental performance; reducing carbon emissions, increasing biodiversity and exploring organic viticulture. 

Thomas Cooper's first ale in 1862 starts family brewery now largest to be Australian-owned

Coopers, the largest Australian-owned brewery, originated in Norwood in 1862 when Thomas Cooper used an old family recipe to brew ale as a tonic for his wife. It soon became popular throughout the colony. Thomas Cooper passed on what became his brewery business to his four sons, the start of a chain of six generations of family control of the business. Coopers shares are primarily owned by the extended Cooper family, with a constitution and different classes of shares, decided in 1923, making it difficult to sell shares outside the family.  In 1962, Coopers & Sons and the South Australian Brewing Company, as the only remaining Adelaide breweries, decided to ward off takeovers by swapping shares. Coopers sold their 2% of SA Brewing (at a big profit) in 1984 but SA Brewing held onto its 25% of Coopers until 1995. SA Brewing had been taken over in 1993 by Lion Nathan (who also made a play for Coopers) but the buyback and share arrangements in 1995 but the company firmly back in Coopers family hands. In 1968, Coopers made a significant move to produce its first lager, after 105 years of making only ale and stout. This was despite resistance by older board members, fearing it would compete with SA Brewing. Another big move came in 2001 with the move from the Leabook site of its original plant to much bigger premises at Regency Park. The energy-efficient plant brought state-of-the-art technology to the Thomas Cooper tradition.

Horwoods bring 19th Century engineering heft to South Australian mining and agriculture

Horwood Bagshaw manufacturing and dealership chain, at Mannum, is the amalgam of three 19th Century family agricultural machinery firms: Horwoods, J.S. Bagshaw and David Shearer. Joel Horwood, a mechanical engineer from Lancashire, started the Colonial Iron Works in Hindley Street, Adelaide, in 1849. Three of his four sons followed him into engineering but went to Victoria. In Adelaide, Horwood & Sons, supplied the growing mining industry. When Joel Horwood died, his firm eventually failed. In 1867, Horwood’s third son Joseph returned from Bendigo Iron Works where he'd been building mining equipment. He supplied a 10-head stamp battery at Montacute and Echunga gold mines. He built a crushing plant in Barossa Valley in 1872 before working on the Moonta copper mines. In 1875, he managed Francis Clark & Sons machinery dealership on Grenfell Street, Adelaide, before, with Samuel Strapps, starting a machinery and sales business in Currie Street. Horwood's specialty was well drilling and he built the first steam-powered rock drilling machine, as well as pioneering tube-lined bores. His fence-wire tensioning device and windmills won show prizes. The business became J. H. Horwood and Co. in 1912. Horace Horwood was apprenticed to his father's company in 1903 and sold farm machinery from Currie Street showrooms. In 1924, with the takeover of long-standing South Australian agricultural machinery company J.S. Bagshaw & Sons, Horace Horwood became general sales manager in Horwood Bagshaw. Around 1960, the company bought David Shearer of Mannum.

George Michell passes belief in wool from 1895 to his family firm still scouring in Salisbury

George Henry Michell founded G. H. Michell & Sons, wool brokers and processors, at Undalya, south of Clare Valley, around 1895. A bootmaker, Michell started in wool by buying small lots from farmers and scouring on the banks of the River Wakefield. He was noted for buying wool during slumps. In 1903, he bought wool-scouring works at 33 Adam Street, Hindmarsh, previously run by W. Peacock and Sons. All four Michell sons were employed in the business and inherited it in 1909. In 1907, the Michell factory had been destroyed in one of South Australia's largest fires, which started at W.H. Burford and Son’s Apollo Works soap factory and also razed George Wilcox's skin depot. David Reid's tannery was spared. Another big fire in 1943, at fellmonger David Jowitt and Sons, spared Michell's and Burford's factories but a blaze in 1945 destroyed their wool treatment factory on Manton/Adam streets corner. In 1938, the company was listed on the Melbourne Stock Exchange with a signed-up capital of £500,000 in £1 shares (doubled to £lm. in 1953). The wool business thrived during wartime. Major expansion was made in Adam Street but a move onto South Road (then Taylor's Road) was opposed by nearby residents. In 1947, a private company, G. H. Michell & Sons (SA) Ltd., was formed with a nominal capital of £100,000 and two shareholders: R. J. and G. H. Michell. In that year, other members of the Michell family formed Woolcombers (WA) in Perth. G. H. Michell and Sons moved to Salisbury in the 1980s as Michell Australia and then the Michell Group of Companies.

Bickford's a different South Australian family firm but keeping the same cordial tradition

Bickfords is back to being a South Australian family-owned brand – but in a very different way. After 1930, Bickford, amalgamated with half a dozen other similar Australian companies to form Drug Houses of Australia (DHA), continued to produce the A. M. Bickford and Sons drugs and chemicals under the DHA brand while the cordials and soft drinks were produced under the A. M. Bickford and Sons brand. DHA (SA) Ltd in 1956 moved to new premises at Port Road, West Croydon. In 1961, DHA’s net profit after tax exceeded a million pounds. In the 1960s, DHA was targeted by corporate raider Slater Walker and, by the 1970s, DHA collapsed under an imposed massive debt. What was left of the company was split up and sold. Reckitt & Colman bought the major drugs and chemicals products and brands (including Dexcal, Sal Vital, Sapoderm). Peter Abbott of Melbourne took the pharmacy products, eucalyptus oil operations, and the soft drink products. The pharmacy products were onsold; eucalyptus oil operations were incorporated into Felton Grimwade & Bickford (FGB). Soft drink products continued under the revived A. M. Bickford and Sons brand. In the 1980s, Felton Grimwade & Bickford sold the soft drink business and, in 1999, it was bought by the Kotses family of Adelaide. In 2005, the cordial and soft drink parts of the company, now Bickford's Australia, moved into a new plant at Salisbury. Products expanded to iced teas and milkshake mixes. In 2014, Bickford's announced plans for a distillery in the South Australian Riverland.

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