Multi-billion naval shipbuilding projects at Osborne are the focus of major industrial possibilities for South Australia.

the big hope for South
Australian industry in high-tech manufacturing 

SHIPBUILDING FOR THE AUSTRALIAN NAVY – OFFSHORE PATROL VESSELS, FRIGATES AND SUBMARINES –  at Adelaide Osborne precinct are South Australia’s major industry hopes going into the 2020s.

The Osborne projects confirmed are:

• OFFSHORE PATROL VESSELS: Osborne-based and Australian-government-owned ASC won the contract to build two of the 12 offshore patrol vessels, with the other 10 be constructed in Perth by Austal and Civmec. The builders will partner with Lurssen of Germany as the successful designer. Adelaide-based Saab Australia will provide the combat management system on the OPVs. Construction started at Osborne in 2018.

• FUTURE FRIGATES: Nine Hunter-class vessels, to replace the in-service ANZAC class frigates, will be built at Osborne from a projected start in 2020, with British company BAE Systems winning the $35 billion contract against Spanish and Italian competitors.

• FUTURE SUBMARINES: France’s Naval Group was announced in 2016 as winning the design contract, edging out bids from Germany and Japan, for the $50 billion – Australia’s largest – defence project: 12 submarines. Osborne Naval Shipbuilding Precinct was confirmed as location for the program, with a projected start in 2022-23 and extending into late 2040s.

The point of contention has remained the amount of work that ASC would contribute to the frigate and submarines programs.

Having built the 12 Collins Class submarines and three air warfare destroyers, ASC in 2019 still was facing a “valley or death” with a gap between enough work to keep together the skilled team it had built.



with enterprise emerging to supply the other essentials of life

Whaling first industry taken up by South Australian Company from start of colony

Whaling was an industry in bloody full force on Kangaroo Island, well before South Australia was settled as a colony. Profits from whaling quickly encouraged the South Australian Company to send out the Duke of York and Lady Mary Pelham, carrying the first colonists. Leaving their passengers on Kangaroo Island, both vessels went to Hobart Town to be refitted as whalers. Other company emigrant ships, the South Australian and Solway, were involved with whaling. The John Pirie made trips bringing whaling hands from Hobart to the company's Encounter Bay whaling station. In 1837, 40 whales were seen at one time off Glenelg. A year later, the Register newspaper reported on the colony’s second cargo of oil and whalebone going to England. The South Australian Company set up whaling stations on Thistle Island and Sleaford Bay near Port Lincoln. Other whaling sites were at Cape Buffon, Onkaparinga, Hog Bay, Port Collinson and Sceale Bay and Spalding Cove. The two best known shore-based stations were at Encounter Bay in 1837. Captain John Blenkinsop's was the first on Granite Island. The South Australian Company, managed by Samuel Stephens, was at Rosetta Head (the Bluff). Stephens rejected Blenkinsop's suggestion to work co-operatively. So when a whale was sighted, boats from both stations raced to intercept the animal. In 1840, four French and American whalers were offshore. By 1855, shore-based whaling was abandoned. The discovery of petroleum products in the 1860s meant whale oil was no longer such a cheap fuel. 

Good early wheat crops 
bring flour
-milling first secondary industry 
to South Australia in 1840s

Steam- and wind-powered flour mills were an early technology operating in Adelaide after the success of 20 acres of wheat planted on the Adelaide plains in 1838. Flour milling became the first secondary industry of the colony as “the granary of Australia”. Two wind-powered mills were built within the city square in 1842. The City Mill in Wright Street was an octagonal smock mill, 30 feet high of local timber. The circular tower of the West Terrace Mill was designed by George Kingston. The walls were three feet thick and 50 feet high and built of bricks made from River Torrens clay. After the sails were damaged by lightning in 1845, a steam engine was installed. In Light Square, a roller mill was owned by John Wyatt and powered by a steam engine made by son George. Clark's Steam Flour Mill & Biscuit Bakery in Halifax Street, Adelaide, was later adapted to house the rubbish destructor. John Ridley's mill at Hindmarsh was the colony’s first to produce flour in 1840. The South Australian Company had a mill at Hackney, and Dr Benjamin Kent’s mill on his farm in Kent Town was moved to Grenfell Street and renamed the Albion. By the 1840s, mills were extended to country areas, initially the Adelaide Hills (Echunga and Mount Barker), followed by Gawler, Hawker, Quorn and Port Augusta; Tanunda and Angaston in the Barossa and Noarlunga, Aldinga, Willunga and Second Valley. By 1856, 60 mills could process the entire SA wheat crop in less than three months. Mills expanded to Strathalbyn, Bridgewater, Stockwel, Birdwood and Salisbury, with Murray Bridge, Balaklava and Port Lincoln soon after.


W.H. Burford, Thomas Walker leading quality soap/candle makers in Adelaide from 1840s

Early South Australia built such expertise is soap and candle making that judges at the Adelaide exhibition in 1845 declared it unnecessary to import those items any more. Thomas Walker in Wakefield Street and William Burford in Grenfell Streetset up soap and candle factories in Adelaide in 1840-41. Walker’s soaps were praised by 1845 exhibition judges as the equal of England’s Paton and Charles, with product from Burford’s and Wright and Linn’s Hindmarsh factory not far behind. Burford started his factory on Grenfell Street-East Terrace corner in a tin shed in virgin bushland. But encroaching homes started the complaints that dogged all soap and candle makers: the smell from boiling down tallow (rendered animal fat). W.H. Burford and Sons took over Apollo Soap Ltd in Adam Street, Hindmarsh, in 1887 and, when it burnt down, Frearson’s Printing Works, also in Adam Street. Next move was in 1900 to the Sturt Street, Adelaide, premises of competitor Tidmarsh & Co. A bigger factory with new technology to cut the smell failed to stop neightbours' protests. After another fire, the final move was to a former smelter at Dry Creek in the 1920s when Burfords, who also set up in Western Australia, merged with J. Kitchen of Melbourne and Lever Brothers of Sydney and were bought out by Unilever (Australia) in 1957. Thomas Walker's enterprise was producing about 2,000 pounds of candles in 1876 but Woodville Council blocked plans for a factory at Ridleyton. Residents, especially in the popular middle-class suburb of Croydon, protested the anticipated bad smell.

Breweries among the first industries in South Australia as beer is encouraged over spirits

Beer brewing was one of the first industries in South Australia. Early in 1838 Governor John Hindmarsh allowed John Warren to build a brewery on the parklands near the River Torrens. Other small breweries in Adelaide and nearby soon followed. To minimise the consumption of spirits, regarded as detrimental to the colonists’ wellbeing, the authorities encouraged beer to be brewed. By the mid 1860s, South Australia had more than 30 breweries spread across the settled areas of the colony. in the city, were the Union (Rundle Street), Adelaide (Pirie Street), West End (Hindley Street) and Anchor (Morphett Street), with breweries in Hindmarsh, Kent Town, Port Adelaide and Walkerville and Thomas Cooper’s small brewery in Norwood. One of the earliest in the country areas, Johnstons’ brewery at Oakbank, was established in 1843. Several breweries in the city, suburbs and country closed through their owners becoming insolvent. Many early brewers weren't skilled and were unable to produce acceptable beers, particularly during summer when high temperatures made fermentation control difficult and  beer sour. Advances in scientific knowledge and improved equipment in the late 19th Century enabled city brewers to increase production. The remaining smaller breweries, particularly in the country, less able to adapt to modern methods, soon became uneconomic.

Thomas English, Henry Brown form leading architect-builder firm in Adelaide from 1850s

Thomas English and his brother-in-law Henry Brown became Adelaide largest 19th Century building contractors, by also offering design, selling timber and accessing stone from the Glen Ewin quarry they bought at Tea Tree Gully in 1852-53. Arriving in Adelaide in 1850 from England on the barque Richardson, commanded by English’s brother James, the firm of English and Brown soon made its mark constructing Chalmers (now Scots) church (1851), old parliament house (1853), the south-west wing of government house (1855/56), the South Australian Institute (1859) – all surviving North Terrace, Adelaide, features; additions to cell block at Adelaide Gaol (1862), Flinders Street Baptist Church (1863), foundations and basement of the Adelaide Club (1863), National Bank of Australasia and Imperial Fire Insurance Buildings (1864) and the Register building (1865). English also was eighth mayor of Adelaide from 1862. As mayor, English was a major advocate for building a town hall. A public meeting voted 1,116 to 809 in favour of borrowing  £20,000 to be build the hall. (Final cost was about £24,000). Edmund Wright, with Edward Woods, were the hall’s architects while English and Brown won the tender to erect the building – using stone from their quarry. In 1865, Thomas English was elected to the Legislative Council and became minister of works until 1867. When a new act prevented a building contractor from also being an MP, he left English and Brown in 1866, three months after the town hall was completed (for an Adelaide then of 54,000 people).


just before the 1850s effects of gold discoveries in Victoria kick in

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.


as Elders, Adelaide Steamship become Australian industry giants

Menz and Co. keeps on growing from its 1850 start as a small shop in Wakefield St., Adelaide

The 1885-1910 turn-of-the-century era saw W. Menz and Co. making more leaps of growth. The Menz biscuit story had started in 1850 with a small Wakefield Street, Adelaide, grocery shop/bakery run by John Menz and his wife Magdalena who arrived in Adelaide from Hamburg on the Steinwaerder the year before.
When John, a qualified architect, died in 1856, Magdalena ran the store until one of her two sons, William, became one of Adelaide’s first biscuit makers and, in 1867, took control of the small company. In 1885, W. Menz and Co. built a plant to increase biscuit production and, in 1893, expanded into confectionary. During 1910, it grew again to produce more chocolate under the name Menzona. Over the next 30 years, it increased production and introduced new products, including the honey-flavoured Yo-Yo biscuits, in 1932. As a public company in 1951, the company kept expanding in a bigger Marleston factory with its Yo-Yos, Crown Mints (1892) and FruChocs (1948), now South Australian icons. By the mid-1960s, after takeovers and mergers, W. Menz & Co amalgamated to form Arnott-Motteram-Menz. Arnott’s took over biscuit and confectionery production and was eventually sold in 1992 to the Sims family’s South Australian dried and confectionary Robern Dried Fruits, later to become Robern Menz of Glynde. The former Menz products still are being produced but Arnotts removed Yo-Yos from their family assorted packets in 1997 because they weren't popular enough Australia wide. Menz FruChocs was declared a South Australian icon by the National Trust in 2005.


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.

Duncan & Fraser move from horse coaches to building Adelaide's trams from the 1870s

Adelaide’s 19th Century horse-coach-building industry – with names like Holden and Richards –  would have a profound effect on Australia’s early 20th Century car manufacturing. Also important were two Scotsmen, coach builder James Duncan and coach painter James Fraser, who set up their business in Franklin Street, Adelaide, in 1865. At Easter in 1869, they caused a stir by introducing the velocipede to Adelaide but they only sold 50 before another invention, the pennyfarthing cycle, overran it. Bulding a reputation for quality – winning the best-carriage gold medal at the Duke of Edinburgh’s exhibition in Adelaide in 1867 – they moved into bigger premises at 42 Franklin Street. They were rewarded with the 1873 commission to build two carriages for the Adelaide, Glenelg and Surburban Railway Co. But, in 1876, when Adelaide authorities faced the need for horse trams, they opted to buy them from John Stephenson & Co. in New York. The American tramcars arrived unassembled and unpainted. Duncan & Fraser was the only Adelaide company with the experience to fix the problem, charging £20 per tramcar. From then on, all Adelaide’s trams were built locally. Duncan & Fraser bought 16 acres at Kilkenny next to the Port Adelaide railway line for their third factory. Duncan took over the business after Fraser died in 1886. By 1909, with South Australia and Victoria electrifying their tram systems, Duncan & Fraser built Adelaide’s first 100 electric trams. Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong also had Duncan & Fraser trams, with some operating in the 1960s. In 1900, Vivian Lewis’s cycle works in Adelaide invited Duncan & Fraser to build their first car. This would be the first of thousands of automobile bodies Duncan & Fraser would assemble.

Herbert Hughes' tinned meat from Booyoolee in South Australia possible origin for "bully beef"

South Australia has its contender to solve the origins of “bully beef”. Could it derive from Booyoolee, a 19th Century sheep station, in South Australia’s mid north, where Herbert Bristow Hughes set up a canning factory to export tinned meat to England in the 1870s? His canned meat didn’t sell well in England and Hughes's tinned beef export industry hopes were finally dashed by refrigeration being invented in 1882 for meat shipping. But the tinned-meat concept didn’t die. It was a way of feeding troops on the European western front in World War I. This has led to theories such as “bully beef” being adapted from the French “beouf bouilli” (boiled beer). Herbert Hughes, who arrived in South Australia from Liverpool in 1843, and his brother Bristow started Booyoolee station on the Rocky River near Gladstone (and a government town called Booyoolie in 1875). Hughes’ wife Laura gave her name to another nearby town. Booyoolee sheep were bred from stock from Bundaleer station, started by older brother John, and from Anlaby station, with rams from Germany. This produced a lighter-fleece animal, better suited to dry country. Herbert Hughes, who took over Booyoolee when brother Bristow returned to England, came up with the tinned meat idea after setting up boiling-down works to make tallow for candles, using his glut of sheep in the 1870s. His canning factory was later sold to Dean and Laughton and moved to Port Adelaide. Booyoolee eventually switched to wheat farming. Hughes later moved to live at Athelney in the Adelaide suburb St Peters. He also owned paddocks in Netley near Adelaide Airport.

Alfred Simpson starts Adelaide industrial dynasty in 1853 making pots, pans and cans

South Australia’s remarkable Simpson dynasty began with Alfred Simpson, apprenticed in London in 1820 as a tin-plate worker who also studied science and chemistry.  Admitted to the Worshipful Company of Tinplate Workers, in 1829, he became a Freeman of the City of London. After joining his brother in a tailoring firm, he set up as a hatter. Fire and depression hit the business and Simpson and his family had to migrate. They sailed for Melbourne but got off at Port Adelaide in 1849. After unsuccessful business ventures and twice going to the Victorian goldfields while wife Sarah gave piano lessons, in 1853, Simpson turned to tin smithing, making pots and pans, and cans for Glen Ewin jam factory. In 1862, he leased premises in Gawler Place, Adelaide. His son Alfred Muller Simpson, apprenticed in 1857 and as partner in 1864, took the firm's range from jam tins to snuff scoops. The younger Simpson, one of the first members of South Australian Chamber of Manufactures, introduced products such as fire-proof safes, bedsteads, japanned ware, colonial ovens and gas stoves. The fire- and thief-resistant Simpson safes became an early speciality, used in offices and banks throughout South Australia and interstate. The business expanded in 1871 to the former Congregational Chapel in Freeman Street, Adelaide. In 1878, Simpson visited Paris Universal Exhibition, prompting him to mechanise his factory. He brought an American double-action press back to Adelaide along with ideas for new products and refining existing ones. 

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.

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.

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.

The Mellors' mercurial rise and fall in farm machinery making business from 1840s-90s

Mellor Brothers was a South Australian pioneer farm machinery maker, founded by Joseph Mellor, who arrived in Adelaide from England with wife Mary and wider family in 1840. He set up in Morphett Street, Adelaide, as a carpenter and wheelwright, soon employing five men to make drays, wheelbarrows, harrows and other farm implements. By 1857, he had more than 50 employees. This grew by 1859 to 100 men, with agents in Victoria. At the 1862 International Exhibition in London, Mellor’s reaping and harvesting machine won a medal and was later sold to Russia. In 1863, Joseph opened a Kapunda factory supervised by son James. It produced 110 reaping machines in 1864. In 1869, Joseph Mellor handed control of the Franklin Street works to sons Thomas and James, later joined by Benjamin. Mellor Brothers, run by James and Benjamin from 1878, founded a factory at Braybrook Junction, near Melbourne, where they demonstrated their stump-jump plough. They also stared Meadowbank Implement Works in NSW. Mellor Brothers Cooperative, founded in 1890, took over Mellor Brothers assets, and shares were sold, mainly to farmers and employees. A severe 1893 recession hit South Australia. In 1894, the company compulsorily acquired shares held by James and Benjamin Mellor and filed for voluntary liquidation. James Mellor returned to the factory at 178 Franklin Street, Adelaide, and made replacement parts for the old company's products and improved designs. He  patented a popular “clockspring” stump-jumping plough. The factory closed soon after he died in 1914 .



James Martin's 100 locomotives mark peak of industry in South Australia's Gawler

James Martin’s engineering firm built 100 railway locomotives in the 1890s peak of late 19th Century industrial phase for the town of Gawler, north of Adelaide. Martin was among thousands of Cornish immigrants who, attracted by South Australia’s mining, made a special contribution to the colony. Martin’s grandfather set up a foundry in the village of Foundry, Cornwall, where James was born in 1821. Apprenticed to a millwright, Martin had little formal education but was innovative. His model for a “man engine” or lift was widely adopted to save lives in mine shafts. Martin arrived in South Australia in 1847, seeking better opportunities and relief from asthma. He worked for miller and inventor John Ridley but local legend has him moving north to Gawler in 1848 in a dray carrying his wife, furniture and tools. He felled a red gum by Galton Street and made his first lathe. As a blacksmith, he tackled anything with quality work. He began making farm implements, bullock drays and iron work. James Martin & Co. expanded to towns such as Quorn and Gladstone. In 1874, he joined with skilful Frederick May and began making mining machinery before moving into railway rolling stock. In 1888, he won a South Australia government contract of £167,000 for 52 locomotives. He built many more that steamed all over Australia. A rail line was built to his Phoenix Foundry in the heart of Gawler that, in 1898, covered 18 acres and employed 700. When Martin died in 1899, his nephew John took over James Martin & Co that declined amid a changing economy in the 1900s and was eventually absorbed by Perry Engineering.


amid other smaller resilient South Australian 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. 

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.

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) put 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.

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. 


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

Bickford's is back to its 1840 origins as 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.

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.



Port Pirie smelters the biggest in the world, processing Broken Hill ore riches since 1889

The Port Pirie lead smelters plant was developed into the world’s largest after the first processing of ore from the Broken Hill silver, lead and zinc mines in 1889. The South Australian government cashed in on Broken Hill's rich ore lodes in 1883 by building a rail line from Peterborough to the NSW border in 1887. The private Silverton Railway Company took the line to Broken Hill, allowing timber and food to be railed from Port Pirie. Broken Hill mining companies tried smelting locally but water was limited and fuel had to be railed from Port Pirie. Some ore was railed and shipped to Port Adelaide; some to Port Pirie and shipped to Germany. In 1889, the minor British Broken Hill Company built their smelter in Port Pirie. Major mine Broken Hill Propriety followed in 1892. It took over the British Broken Hill Company smelter and enlarged it. In 1915, the smelting of five companies merged as BHAS (Broken Hill Associated Smelters). The smelters had continual technology upgrades. It improved industrial relations after the big 1919 strike with round-table conferences from 1925, when BHP sold out to the other partners. In 1988, CRA and North Broken Hill Holdings merged lead/zinc mining and smelting into Pasminco that went bankrupt in 2001. Zinifex, created  after Pasminco’s insolvency, merged its smelting with Umicore in 2006 and floated a new company, Nyrstar. It announced $600 million plans in 2012 for flexible polymetallic processing and recovery to improve its environmental footprint – a health concern in Port Pirie. Half the cost of its new furnace was underwritten by the state Labor government.

After 1880s start, via Marino, Angaston, Yorke Peninsula, 1970 cements Adelaide Brighton firm

Welshman William Lewis set up kilns at Brighton, in 1880, using limestone from Precambrian formations at Marino, Reynella and Hallett Cove. Brighton Cement Works began in 1882 with a large kiln to replace the 8,000 tons of Portland cement imported each year. But it closed in 1883, with the local product considered expensive and inferior. In 1892, Lewis and others founded South Australian Portland Cement Company with a plant at Marino. In 1896, its quality was good enough to construct Happy Valley Reservoir. By 1900, the company was selling more than 3,500 tons a year but a fire in 1909 destroyed the Marino works. The revived South Australian Portland Cement Company, in 1911, upgraded Marino, including the first electrified cement mill. In 1913, the company had 74 horses cart cement to the city and return via Brompton with coke. Horse-drawn trolleys carted stone from Reynella quarries to the railway station, to be freighted to Marino. The Reynella horses were replaced eventually by the “flying fox” labour-saving ropeway that became a tourist attraction. A.W.G. Pitt, in 1913, founded rival Adelaide Cement Company at Birkenhead. It used Yorke Peninsula limestone and black mud from Port River. With a lack of stone reserves, South Australian Portland Cement Company moved from Marino to Angaston in the 1950s. After failed attempts back to 1927, Adelaide Cement Company and South Australian Portland Cement Company merged in 1970 as Adelaide Brighton Cement. Today, the company makes and distributes cement products nationally. 


Super Elliott carries the Adelaide cycle tradition of Vivian Lewis/John Bullock in 21st Century

Super Elliott bicycles brand has survived into the 21st Century, carrying the banner for Adelaide's strong tradition of cycle manufacturing started by Vivian Lewis in 1892 and taken up by John Bullock in the early 20th Century. Lewis was soon running one of Adelaide city's largest cycle suppliers in the 1890s and Bullock's venture into quality cycle making and retailing saw him create Adelaide's first chain of stores. Both Lewis and Bullock assembled the earliest motors cars in Adelaide and both sold motor cycles. The Elliott brothers, Bertrand and Laurie, founded what later became Super Elliott, as a shop in Payneham in 1902. They also added motor cycles to their range. When the original partnership broke up, Victor Elliot joined the company that started a factory in Gawler Place, Adelaide, in the 1920s. it was later in that decade  that Bertrand Elliott decided to discard the petrol-driven side of the business and concentrate on bicycles. Two years after opening a shop in Rundle Street, Adelaide, the business became a limited company: changing from Elliott Bros to Super Elliott. The business was blessed with the technical and artistic talents of frame builders such as Claude Bushell, Len Edwards and Tom Robinson, painters Percy Kutcher, and frame enamellers Rex Hunter, Les Hall and Ray Greenslade. This personal attention to frame building almost ended in the 1960s but Super Elliott survived the flood of imports in in the 1970s/80s, even developing its own in-store brand Pursuit, built by Wayne Roberts. The Elliot brothers' belief in bicyles was vindicated with their 21st Century revival.


in transport, first with the bicycle then cars in early 20th Century

John Hill & Co., largest of Adelaide horse coach firms, as railways and motor cars arrive

John Hill & Co. was Australia’s largest and oldest surviving horse-coaching transport company by the end of the 19th Century, with 1000 horses used daily in its peak year. John Hill began work in the goods department of his father’s business, Henry Hill & Co, that had a South Australian Railways contract. In 1866, John Hill was put in charge when the South Australian independent affiliate of Cobb & Co. bought the stagecoach business from 1844 of Willliam “Ben” Rounsevell. Cobb & Co. sold this business, in 1873, to John Hill & Co., owned by Hill, Henry Fuller and George Mills. In 1882, the firm, based on Pirie Street, Adelaide, was restructured as John Hill & Co. Ltd as it expanded but it was always only a few years ahead of railways on the most profitable long routes. Initially, the company ran Serpent buses between Adelaide and Kensington then took over Mr McDonald's Rose and Shamrock Scotch coaches traversing Glenelg Road (later Anzac Highway) where “the traffic became so great that 20 coaches per day were required to cope with it”. The longest northern route went to Yudnamatana, via Kapunda, Melrose and Nuccaleena, where a packhorse completed the final 100 miles of a 400-miles journey. After seven years as a railways commissioner, in 1888, Hill returned to manage Hill & Co. and, with former competitor Henry Graves, founded Hill, Graves & Co., in 1911, with a huge stone bulk store at Port Adelaide, and Australia’s largest stables in Pirie and Grenfell streets. The company ceased trading in 1920 but with the business rationalised as H. Graves & Co.

David Shearer invents Australia's first car – steam powered – at Mannum in 1894-97

David Shearer was the inventor of Australia’s first motor car. A blacksmith and farm machinery maker with his brother John at Mannum on the River Murray, David Shearer began working day and night in 1894 on his “horseless carriage” powered by steam with mallee wood firing the engine. It was driven in 1897 with the world’s first differential. Shearer got special permission to drive  his “automobile”  in Adelaide city streets in 1900 when he brought it to be shown at the Adelaide Chamber of Manufacturers Exhibition. Shearer’s vehicle travelled at 15 miles an hour, faster than England’s first car two years later that reached 10-12 mph.
But Shearer wasn’t interested in making cars. He just wanted to prove the horseless carriage was workable. He returned to making agricultural machinery. After early experience in blacksmithing and wagon building, David had joined brother in 1877 to make farm implements. The Shearers were invited to Mannum where the farmers needed tough equipment to clear land covered with mallee and pine. The Shearers came up with rugged machines – adding stump jump ploughs to the grubbing machines, fixed ploughs, scarifiers, harrows – that found a ready market in South Australia. In 1888, they invented a virtually unbreakable wrought steel plough share at one quarter the price of the old forged share. These shares swept Australia in popularity and saved farmers millions of pounds. By 1895, the Shearers expanded their business but kept improving to produce a lighter, stronger stripper with a wider cut in 1902. The steam car project was just a background to all this.


Vivian Lewis's cycle business produces first South Australian-built petrol motor car in 1900

Lewis Cycle and Motor Works, with Adelaide horse carriage and tram builders Duncan & Fraser, produced the first petrol-driven motor car made in South Australia – at its McHenry Street, Adelaide, factory in 1900. The Lewis company, founded by Vivian Lewis and Tom O’Grady and initially renowned for its bicycles and building the first South Australian motorcycle in 1899, gained valuable publicity from the small two-horse-power vehicle it made in 1900. The Lewis display at the 1901 Royal Agricultural Society autumn show brought more publicity by featuring two motor vehicles, with the Register reporting that “the whole of the designing, construction, and finishing of these machines being executed at the works". By the spring show, the Lewis car had a more practical water-cooled 5hp motor. With its larger motor, the car travelled to country shows and holiday destinations in 1902. A Lewis car conveyed progress reports of a coronial investigation into a murder at Towitta, 21 miles beyond telegraph station at Angaston. The Lewis design settled in 1903 on the Minerva motor beneath a diamond frame design. Although Lewis built some more motor cars, it eventually favoured importing over manufacturing. The first car imported by Lewis, assembled in the McHenry Street factory, was for Gordon Ayres, A Gladiator for Bertie Barr Smith was “the first four cylindered car imported into Australia”. Lewis started bringing in more quality brands like De Dion, Talbot, Napier and Star and the Lewis Motor House was built on Victoria Square in 1904 with a factory on Molton Street, Adelaide.


Duncan & Fraser killed by Ford's Geelong car assembly and the end of the Model T in 1927

Duncan & Fraser, the Adelaide firm that started as a maker of quality horse carriages and then trams for Adelaide and Melbourne, won the Oldsmobile automobile agency early in the 20th Century. It set up South Australia’s first showroom for cars with salesmen, spare parts, clothing and driving instruction. In 1903, a 5HP Oldsmobile arrived for South Australia’s first motorist Dr J.B. Gunson. By 1905, Duncan & Fraser’s original Franklin Street, Adelaide, factory was demolished to allow for a large car showroom. The firm won more car agencies but the big coup was the big-selling Ford Model T. After World War I, Fraser & Duncan stopped making horse-drawn transport. It also sold its Kilkenny trams factory to Holden's Motor Body Builders – to fund its own Mile End factory to build cars. When that factory was destroyed in Adelaide's largest fire in 1923, Duncan & Fraser found temporary premises to assemble eight cars daily, including Fords and Studebakers, within weeks. Ford Motor Co. was unhappy about dealers such as Duncans selling other car brands. In 1924, Duncans' new three-storey car factory was opened in Franklin Street. But, next year, the new Ford Australia started its own car assembly in Geelong with bodies made by Duncans. In 1926, Duncans’ assembly role ended when Geelong took only steel frames from Canada. The killer blow for Duncan & Fraser came in 1927 when Ford ended the Model T that wouldn’t be replaced by the Model A for 12 months. Without enough cars to sell and caught in a costs squeeze, the formerly high-flying Duncan & Fraser ceased trading that year.

Holden's grows from saddlery in 1856 to making car bodies for USA giants from 1919

The Holden story began in 1856 when James Alexander Holden, who emigrated from England in 1852, set up J.A. Holden & Co saddlery business in Adelaide. In 1885, German-born Henry Frederick Frost joined the business which become Holden & Frost Ltd. Edward Holden, James' grandson, brought an interest in automobiles to the company in 1905. In 1908, Holden & Frost moved into minor repairs to car upholstery. It began making complete motorcycle sidecar bodies in 1913, and Edward experimented with fitting bodies to different carriages. After 1917, wartime trade restrictions allowed the company to start full-scale production of vehicle body shells. Holden in 1919 became Holden's Motor Body Builders (HMBB) specialising in building car bodies and using a building on King William Street south, Adelaide. By 1923, HMBB was producing 12,000 units per year. HMBB was the first company to assemble bodies for Ford Australia, before its Geelong plant was operating. From 1924, HMBB exclusively supplied car bodies for the US General Motors in Australia, making them at the new Woodville plant. These bodies also suited imported chassis from makers such as Chevrolet and Dodge. In 1926, General Motors (Australia) had assembly plants in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and Birkenhead, South Australia, using bodies produced by HMBB Builders and imported chassis. General Motors bought HMBB in 1931 and merged it with General Motors (Australia) to form General Motors-Holden's Ltd (GM-H).     


T.J. Richards goes from master builder of horse coaches to assembling cars at Keswick in 1920s

John (“T.J.”) Richards founded the horse-coach company that would form the manufacturing base for Chrysler Australia cars. Richards’ first job was with Adamson Brothers farm machinery in Kapunda. He tried other trades, such as cordial making in Gawler and blacksmithing in Unley before learning coach building and opening a shop, in 1885, in Pulteney Street, Adelaide. By 1905, he has 35 coach designs, mostly sulkies, including his “King of the Road”. Richards became a coach-building judge at Sydney shows and, in 1908, headed the Coachbuilders' and Wheelwrights' Society. He retired in 1911. In 1914, the firm began selling Dixi, Palmer-Moore and Swift motor vehicles and Rudge and Pope motorcycles. Next year, it won the Studebaker agency. T. J. Richards & Sons was founded in 1916 and opened and expanded a workshop/showroom in Pirie Street Adelaide and, in 1920, moved to a large new factory on Leader Street, Keswick (later Le Cornu’s furniture warehouse) and concentrated on its “King of the Road” motor bodies, built on chassis made by such companies as Dodge Brothers. In 1928, when a second factory opened at Mile End, the company forged a relationship with Chrysler Corporation and built car bodies for Chrysler, Dodge, DeSoto and Plymouth. The new Australian company Chrysler Dodge Distributors bought control of T.J. Richards & Sons in 1937. The Richards family sold its remaining interest in 1946.  In 1951, the American Chrysler Corporation bought 85% of Chrysler Dodge Distributors (Holdings) and renamed it Chrysler Australia.



with whitegoods and other manufacturers called into wars effort

Alfred Muller Simpson early munitions maker; enamels innovator with whitegoods in the 1940s

Alfred Muller Simpson brought back ideas from the Paris Exhibition 1878 for labour-saving machinery and for new products and refining existing products from A. Simpson and Son ­– the company originating in 1864 when he became partner in the Adelaide business started by his father. In 1885, Alfred Muller Simpson became the first maker of munitions, including submarine mines, in South Australia. This was in response to Australia’s fears of a Russian invasion. A new Simpson plant in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, in 1894, included electroplating and furnaces for hollowware and porcelain enamelling – a first for Australia. Enamelled street and advertising signs from Simpson’s soon appeared in most Australian capitals, making the firm’s name known throughout the country. Besides creating the largest metal manufacturer in the country, with three factories and 500 employees, Alfred Muller Simpson was also prominent in public life including being elected in 1887 to the Legislative Council, representing the Protectionist Party. With World War I, Simpson’s returned to making munitions but also enamelled water bottles, harness fittings and mess tins for the Australian forces, and boilers and enamel ware for hospitals. With the next Simpson generation, Allen (Alfred) and Frederick, as directors, the company expanded further in the 1920s. A new factory was opened at Dudley Park in the 1940s and the company began making whitegoods.


First shipbuilding in South Australia at Osborne on Port River near end of World War I

South Australia’s first big shipbuilding project was at Osborne on the Port River from the end of World War I. Late in the war, when the Commonwealth government faced a shortage of ships in Australia, partly due part to wartime losses. It brought in a scheme to promote shipbuilding in the states by advancing loans to companies. The Sydney firm of Poole and Steele won a contract to build four ships in South Australia. Their shipyard at Osborne was gouging out of mangroves, reclaiming a 800 feet frontage, a workshop area of 384 x 128 feet, tramways, slipways, cranes, and wharfs. By January 1920, work began on the first ship Eurimbla and the keel for the second ship was soon laid.The Poole and Steele yard used the most up-to-date equipment, including lathes, and methods. The Eurimbla – 5,500 tons deadweight, 331 feet long with 48 feet beam – was launched in 1921 and handed over to the government that year. Poole and Steele yard’s work standard was reputed to be Australia’s best in Australia but its contract was reduced to three ships by 1921. After completing the third ship in 1922, Poole and Steele kept in business by building two dredges for the state government. By 1925, it had diversified into building wagons for the South Australian Railways and the steel work for the new bridge at Murray Bridge. But the shipyard was unable to survive beyond 1937 when it was sold to the state government and all its equipment auctioned. The property was then taken over by the Harbors Board. The site is now occupied by a power station.

Essington Lewis rises from BHP to Australia's arms industry supremo during World War II

Essington Lewis became one of Australia’s most powerful men during World War II when he dictated and directed Australia’s munitions industry. Born at Burra Burra in 1881, Lewis followed his bushman father in self reliance and hard work. Educated at St Peter’s College and a sports champion (he played football for Norwood and South Australia), Lewis left working on his father’s cattle station to become a mining engineer, enrolling at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries in 1901. In 1904, he joined Broken Hill Proprietary where his work at Port Pirie smelters and projects such as Iron Knob ironstone. He impressed BHP general manager Guilluame Delprat. In 1921, Lewis replaced Gelprat. Lewis took over when the Australian steel industry was floundering, to the extent that BHP’s Newcastle plant had to shut down in 1922. Gaining power as the first executive on the BHP board, Lewis transformed the company’s production techniques, made a shift to rigorous training of Australian (not overseas) engineering executives, and developed steel-using subsidiary companies. Keeping a close watch on overseas trends, Lewis put a resurgent BHP on a war footing, including setting up the Whyalla shipyards, after he saw what was happening in Japan during the 1930s. When World War II started, Lewis was given enormous unquestioned power by the federal government as director of munitions. He controlled production and choice of weapons and equipment. Much of Australia's industrial expansion after the war was based on Lewis’s techniques. Lewis influenced important post-war projects.


Premier Tom Playford badgers federal govt for bigger share of extra defence industry spend

A late convert to industrialising South Australia, Tom Playford, as premier from 1938, quickly transformed the state’s economy because of World War II. Playford worked hard to get investments  such as British Tube Mills, to set up their plant in Adelaide, and for Hume Steel's pipe-making plant at Port Pirie. Playford won negotiations started under previous premier Richard Butler, despite intense competition from NSW amd Victoria. Playford became legendary and notorious for winning federal government financial support. He made many short visits to Canberra and wrote thousands of letters to prime ministers, with support from South Australian federal cabinet members George McLeay and Philip McBride. In 1939-41, Playford complained that South Australia, with nearly 9% of population, was receiving less than 0.1% of extra federal government defence spending. He stressed that South Australia’s industrial towns, further from the open sea, were less vulnerable to attacks from carrier aircraft. Prime minister Robert Menzies ignored these appeals but John Curtin grasped them. Munitions works started at Hendon, Finsbury, Salisbury and in the country at Peterborough, Gladstone, Naracoorte, Tailem Bend and Murray Bridge. Adelaide’s motor body works won contracts to make parts for Royal Australian Air Force planes. BHP made shells and built corvettes for the Royal Australian Navy at Whyalla. Playford gained federal approval for factories making armed forces clothing at Wallaroo, Clare, Port Pirie, Mount Gambier and Lobethal, with flax mills at Morphett Vale and in the mid north. 

Whyalla booms from 1940s with steel blast furnace plus shipyards created in World War II

South Australian premier Richard Butler cleared the way for the BHP to build a steel blast furnace at Whyalla in Spencer Gulf by passing a 1937 indenture act that gave the company rights and benefits. BHP chief Essington Lewis, a South Australian, persuaded BHP to take advantage of the benefits at Whyalla that the company has used for shipping out ore from Iron Knob since 1903. The blast furnace, blown in during 1941, was initially to produce pig iron for sale or use at other BHP plants. With the outbreak of World War II from 1939, Whyalla fitted the federal government’s need to decentralise industries such as shipbuilding. In 1940, BHP set up a Whyalla shipyard that quickly started constructing HMAS Whyalla and other corvettes for the Royal Australian Navy. BHP also began building ships for its own needs. The Iron Monarch (1942) was the first of these, with the Iron Duke (1943) and three other River Class freighters by the end of the war. In 1947, Australia's largest domestically built vessel, the bulk carrier Iron Yampi, was completed, topped in size by the Darling River in 1965. With the tanker Arthur Phillip in 1974, Whyalla had produced more than one million tonnes of merchant vessels. Adding to ongoing labour dispute problems, a 1970 fire at the yard gutted half-built tanker the Amanda Miller. Shipbuilding, including the world's first gas turbine-electric powered ship, Seaway Prince in 1975, continued but the Zincmaster, the 59th ship, was cancelled twice. Its last large ship, the Iron Curtis, was completed in 1978. From there, the shipyard was shut down and 1,800 workers made redundant.

Thousands of women join Adelaide's factories making World War II munitions, equipment

Adelaide became an arms-making machine for the World War II campaign. Finsbury Munitions Factory, employing 4,000 women, from 1941, made cartridges, It had about 20 major buildings spread over 50 hectares and housed 300 women in fibro huts (later Finsbury migrant hostel). Another huge complex was Salisbury Explosives Factory with a workforce of more than 6,000 men and women. A Hendon factory (taken over by Philips Electronics after the war) made .303 rifle ammunition. Car body production lines at General Motors-Holdens in Woodville, Beverley and Birkenhead and the T.J. Richards' Keswick factory (later LeCornu’s on Anzac Highway) switched to producing guns, tanks and military aircraft parts. Islington railway workshops churned out armoured cars. British Tube Mills (Australia) Kilburn factory, from 1939 the only one in Australia making steel tubing, was thrown into producing aircraft guns, warships' boilers and oil/fuel bottles for torpedoes, within days of the war's start. Other  factories making war equipment included Colton, Palmer & Preston (grenades), David Shearer of Mannum (track links for machine-gun carriers), Horwood Bagshaw at Mile End (anti-tank guns), ICIANZ at Osborne (calcium chloride), Kelvinator at Keswick (primers), Perry Engineering at Mile End (shell forging and machining), Pope Products at Beverley (aircraft practice bombs), Southcott of Adelaide (heat treatment of tools and gauges), Wheatley and Williams of Bowden (non-ferrous castings), Wiles Chromium and Electroplating of Mile End (Wiles mobile cookers).

Colton, Palmer&Preston boldly shows the skill to make versions of top global products in 1940s

Colton, Palmer & Preston showed the boldness and skill of South Australian manufacturing in the early 20th Century by making its versions of some of the world’s best-known brands. Ezy-bilt was a South Australian made imitation of Frank Hornby's Meccano construction kits. Ezy-bilt was a popular toy from the late 1940s until the 1960s. Also from the late 1940s, a Singer 20-lookalike toy sewing machine, called the Peter Pan Model 0 was made at Colton, Palmer & Preston’s factories that grew from locations at Southwark (now Thebarton) to Allenby Gardens on Port Road. The company originated with John Colton (later a South Australian premier, 1876-77) starting a wholesale harness and hardware business in 1842 with the first loan – £500 – issued by the Savings Bank of South Australia. Colton and Co. supplied horse bridles, saddles and hardware, with premises in Currie Street, Adelaide. By the 1860s, it begun making bicycles and kerosene lamps. It merged with ironmongers Harrold Bros in 1889, survived a big Currie Street fire in 1907, and joined with Palmer Preston & Co. in 1911. As wholesalers and makers of hardware, saddles, bicycles, lamps and clocks, the company moved in the 1920s to Port Road factories at Thebarton (now the brewery site) and then Allenby Gardens. In the 1930s, it had 300 employees. During World II, the company made grenades for the Australian army. In the 1950s, Colton, Palmer & Preston concentrated on light engineering, before tending towards wholesale and, in 1965, it was taken over by another Adelaide-born wholesaler G. & R. Wills (Holdings).

British Tube Mills at Kilburn keeps growing postwar, making huge range of components

British Tube Mills plant, set up at the Adelaide suburb of Kilburn (formerly Little Chicago) in 1939, was ideally suited to supply the World War II arms and equipment effort. Formed by Tube Investments (UK) and Stewarts & Lloyds (Australia), British Tube Mills, was the only Australian factory making precision steel tubing for products such as hypodermic needles, milking machines, locomotives, golf clubs and bicycles. During the war, it produced huge quantities of tubing for aircrafts, naval ships and guns, as well as anti-tank gun handles, and parts and gas cylinders for aircraft. Its workforce grew from 300 to 840. This workforce grew to 1500 after the war when British Tube Mills (Australia) was making steel tubing components for a stream of industrial and household needs: refrigerators, frame tubing, pram handles, golf shafts boxes, spanners, tubular steel furniture, boiler and condenser tubes, baker’s oven tubes and steam pipes. By 1946, the expanded Kilburn side covered more than 400,000 square feet and include an area devoted to selling products from goods made onsite. During the war, Birtish Tube Mills made components for Malvern Star bicycles to be used by the army. It also became associated with Adelaide bicycle brands Super Elliots and Bullock, extending into the post-war years when, in 1947, it sponsored the state’s best professional riders in the British Tube Mills Club’s 45-mile road race at Enfield. In 1969, British Tube Mills became a division of Tubemakers Australia, an amalgamation of nine companies. The Kilburn factory closed in 1993, with operations transferred to NSW. 

Pope Products grows from its World War II munitions work to be a 1950s appliances giant

Pope Products, notably washing machines and refrigerators, grew out of a father-and-son operation making irrigation components at home in Robert Street, West Croydon, in the late 1920s. The assets of Pope Sprinklers were taken over by the two Pope brothers, Barton and Clifford, who set up Pope Products in a factory at Beverley in 1935. From 1939, an increasing output from the factory was directed towards the war effort; chiefly stamped and cast parts for the Commonwealth munitions factory and aircraft production in Victoria. This allowed for major expansion after the war when the company bought premises in Finsbury. Pope Products had a poor employee relations record in its early days when it used juniors aged 14–16 as machine operators and menial labour to avoid paying award wages (hence its local nickname “The Boy Farm”). Accidents were common. With growing union militancy and the Communist threat in the late 1940s, Pope Products became a model employer. It introduced a generous incentive scheme in 1953 and bonuses to workers exceeded dividends to shareholders. It set up an employees’ recreation hall and sponsored sporting activities for its workers and staff. Pope Products grew to include lawn and garden sprinklers, agricultural sprinklers, Ned Kelly repeating cap gun; woodworking tools: planes, chisels; rotary lawn mowers (endorsed by tennis champion Lew Hoad); hand and powered tumbler mowers; wringer washing machines, refrigerators, PopeAire air conditioners, Pope-Motorola television sets and hi-fi stereo cabinets, (endorsed by Jack Davey) and electric motors.



with GM-H plant at Elizabeth biggest employer in South Australia

Bob Footner builds SA Rubber Mills; becomes Uniroyal before it all ends with Bridgestone

Robert (Bob) Footner built a major manufacturing complex out of a small company called SA Rubber Mills, on South Road, Edwardstown, that he joined in 1940. Mark Lodge and Harold Hill had started the company a year earlier. World War II meant the factory was converted and rapidly expanded to make military components. Footner studied science at the South Australian School of Mines and Industries at night while working days at the factory as a cadet rubber technologist. His team developed a unique rubber sheath for sealing petrol tanks on Beaufort Bombers. After the war, Footner negotiated exclusive licences to supply all rubber components for GMH to produce Holden cars at Woodville. By 1955, Footner was managing factories: at Edwardstown; Dandenong in Victoria,  and Silverwater in NSW. He also built a plastics factory at Corunna Avenue, Edwardstown. Footner’s gift for finding new technologies and attracting top talent built SA Rubber into Australia's largest and most successful supplier of rubber and plastic parts, mostly to the expanding car industry. In 1962, US Rubber (Uniroyal) bought an interest in SA Rubber and Footner built a factory to make Uniroyal Steel Cat tyres. SA Rubber became Uniroyal Australia in 1966 and Footner was managing director, with five factories and 3000 employees. When Uniroyal sold to Bridgestone in 1979, Footner became chairman and joint managing director until his retirement. In 2007, Bridgstone Australia became wholly owned by its Japanese parent company. The Adelaide factory was shut down in 2010 with 600 jobs lost. 

Phillips' 1950s plant the electronics giant of Australia, at Hendon's ex-munitions factory

Phillips Electrical Industries set up its Australian headquarters, as the country's largest producer of electronic components and a major centre of technological skills and research, at the northwest Adelaide suburb of Hendon from 1947.  Phillips, lured from Sydney by premier Thomas Playford’s government, bought the buildings used by a World War II munitions factory. After moving into Hendon in 1947, Phillips employed about 1,000 workers, principally making electronic valves.In 1949, buildings were added to make the newly-invented transistor. In 1954-55, the plant nearly doubled to make television sets from components to complete units on site, and the workforce rose to more than 2,000, mostly women. In 1970, Phillips took over the factory of Electrical Industries at Clayton, Victoria, and began to move its television manufacturing there. Phillips continued to make components at Hendon but gradually wound down operations and sold the land in 1980 to the Emanuel Group of Companies, as Hendon industrial park. Tenants included the South Australian Film Corporation Hendon Studios from 1981 until its move to Glenside in 2011. The new suburb of Hendon had been laid out in 1921 by Wilkinson, Sands and Wyles on part of the land previously owned and used by the aviator Harry Butler as an aerodrome from 1920. It was bought in 1922 by the defence department’s civil aviation branch as the first Adelaide airport. By 1927, encroaching development saw aviation moved to Parafield. With World War II, the still-vacant site was one of three (others at Finsbury and Salisbury) used for munitions factories. 

Lightburn's washing machine factory in Camden Park turns out Adelaide's own Zeta car

The Zeta, made from 1963 to 1965 by Lightburn and Co at its factory in the Adelaide suburb of Camden Park, became an instant car collector’s item because of its odd features and rarity. Car enthusiast Harold Lightburn, the company's owner and founder, was convinced that many Australians wanted the convenience of a small second car. Lightburn, who normally made cement mixers and washing machines, introduced the Zeta in 1963, priced £595, but sold fewer than 400. Zeta models were a sedan, sedan deluxe, utility and sports model.The Zeta Sedan (or Runabout) and utility were powered by a 324cc Villiers engine and were front wheel drive with independent rear trailing arms.The sedan had no rear hatch so the front seats had to be removed to access the cargo area. The chassis was steel, with a fibreglass body enclosing a large but sparse interior. Windows were perspex except for the front laminated glass windscreen. The doors were steel with sliding perspex windows.The four-speed, dog clutch Villiers gearbox had no reverse so the engine had to be switched off and started backwards to provide four reverse gears. Fuel came by gravity feed from a tank behind the dashboard. The fuel gauge was a plastic pipe running from top to bottom of the tank with a graduated glass tube section on the dashboard. The utility was the rarest Zeta with only eight produced. Some were bought by Sydney City Council for its Hyde Park fleet. The two-seater Zeta Sports was introduced in 1964. Like the Goggomobil Dart, it lacked doors and bumper bars. Only 28 were sold.

A Valiant effort fails to get Chrysler at Tonsley Park beyond No.3 in Australian car market.

Chrysler Australia opened its Australian vehicle manufacturing plant at Tonsley in 1964 as the largest assembly plant in Australia operating under one roof. Chrysler Australia had started in 1951 when the Chrysler Corporation bought out Chrysler Dodge Distributors (Holdings) formed in 1935 with Adelaide company T. J. Richards & Sons. Initially, Chrysler Australia assembled North American Chrysler cars and trucks. In 1957, there were consolidated into the Royal. Technical changes failed to stop a sales slide and production ceased in 1963. With its Adelaide assembly plants opened at Tonsley Park and Lonsdale in the 1960s, Chrysler became third of the “Big 3” behind GM-H and Ford.  By 1963, Chrysler had developed a local version of the Plymouth Valiant, the AP5 Valiant, with distinctive styling. Chrysler Australia expanded the Valiant range but it never gained the popularity of Holdens or Ford Falcons. Chrysler Australia’s most memorable car, the sporty Valiant Charger, won Wheels magazine Car of the Year in 1971. Chrysler Australia’s Hemi-6 engine in the Valiant, unique to Australia from the early 1970s, was the most powerful six-cylinder produced in Australia, with 20% greater fuel economy. But Valiant sales were hit by the mid-1970s oil crisis and a switch to four-cyclinder cars. The Galant and Sigma were winners but they were designed by Mitsubishi which increased its 15% share to a full takeover of Chrysler Australia in 1980. 


Mitsubishi shuts Tonsley car plant in 2008 after global problems kill any hope of 380 revival

Mitsubishi Motors Australia Limited (MMAL) took over Chrysler Australia and its Tonsley Park and Lonsdale car-making plants in 1980. It reduced the plants’ jobs that had peaked at 7500 in 1979. Chrysler Australia had been building Mitsubishi-designed Chrysler-branded vehicles: the Chrysler Valiant Galant (later Chrysler Galant), based on the 1972–1977 Mitsubishi and the Chrysler Sigma, a variant of the 1977–1985 Mitsubishi Galant. The popular Sigma was replaced by the Magna Colt, started in 1982 and ended in 1990. Mitsubishi introduced innovative multi skilling at Tonsley plus computer design and manufacturing. Mitsubishi’s first female engineer joined Tonsely that prided itself on being a family-friendly workplace. In 1992, Mitsubishi installed 38 robots in the body weld shop, 60 computerised sewing machines in the cut-and-sew section, and shifted manual painting to robotic spraying. In the early 2000s, a facelift for the Magna/Verada line failed to lift sales. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation in Japan gave funding to reengineer the Tonsley Park plant to allow the Mitsubishi 380 to come onto the market in 2005. In 2003, MMAL gained $30 million from Japan to create Mitsubishi Research and Development Australia (MRDAus) with MMAL's proving ground at Tailem Bend to be upgraded. Testing laboratories at Tonsley Park were also to be improved. In 2004, Mitsubishi’s global problems halted MRDAus with its 90 employees and an incomplete Tailem Bend site. With negative sentiment about MMAL’s future, the 380 sold poorly. Tonsley Park plant’s closure was announced in 2008. 


Elizabeth GM-H plant helps keep Holden in No.1 sales spot until 2003; shutdown in 2017

General Motors-Holden’s car making plant at Elizabeth from 1960 became South Australia’s largest employer. The Elizabeth plant took over from the company’s Woodville plant that, after diverted to making military vehicles during World War II, went into full production of the first Australian car, the Holden, from 1948. As part of his industrialisation push, premier Tom Playford induced General Motors to build its factory at Elizabeth with low-cost homes for workers provided by the housing trust. South Australia actively chased migrant workers from Britain.With sales continually climbing, Holden introduced its third major new model, the FB, in 1960, inspired by 1950s Chevrolets. Elizabeth was central to the Commodore, introduced in 1978 and top-selling Australian car for 15 years. The plant developed Zeta, the full-size rear-wheel drive automobile platform that debuted with the 2006 Commodore and went into the second generation 2013 Commodore (VF). Elizabeth was important in the revisions and modernising GM-H made to hold the No.1 spot in Australian car sales it lost to Toyota in 2003. Tariff cuts (in the 1980s), the high Australian dollar and cost of developing an all-new Commodore compounded this downturn. In 2005, the third-shift assembly line at Elizabeth was shut down, with 1400 jobs lost. In 2013,1700 employees at Elizabeth voted for a wage freeze to decrease the chance of a plant closure in 2016. But survival depended on more government assistance from 2016 to 2022. General Motors in Detroit decided in 2013 that Holden would stop engine and car making in Australia by 2017.


as a range of internal and external factors take their effect

Electrolux the only trace of Simpson and Pope's Adelaide whitegoods manufacturing lineage

Simpson and Pope are the brands-only remains of two long-standing Adelaide manufacturing companies, notable for household appliances, that disappeared in the 1960s-80s. The Electrolux home products plant in Dudley Park is the only 21st Century trace of the Simpson-Pope lineage. The Simpson business was founded in Adelaide in 1853 by Alfred Simpson whose innovations were expanded by his son with products such as fire-proof safes, bedsteads, japanned ware, ovens and gas stoves. It moved into household appliances in the 20th Century. In 1963, it merged with Pope Industries to form Simpson Pope Holdings. Pope had started in Adelaide as Popes Sprinkler and Irrigation Company in 1925 and, after World War II, made washing machines, hand tools and air conditioners. In 1979, the company changed to Simpson Holdings that in 1986 merged with Email Limited, a conglomerate specialising in refrigeration, electric meters and metals distribution. Email was taken over and broken up in 1999 and bought by Electrolux that kept up whitegoods production in Adelaide until 2007 when it closed its dishwasher factory at Regency Park following by the washer/dryer plant shutdown at Beverley. Electrolux’s only remaining Australian plant at Dudley Park – employing more than 400 and making 136 products under Chef, Westinghouse and Electrolux brands – was kept alive, partly due to a 2013 state government contract to supply ovens and stoves to housing trust homes. With that contract expired, the Electrolux was looking to cut its power costs by 2020 with solar energy storage.

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