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Hand book of W Howard Smith & Sons Line of Intercolonial Steamers

Date: 1883
Overall: 278 x 224 mm, 1.1 kg
Medium: Ink on paper, leather bound boards, gilt
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00008022
Place Manufactured:Sydney

User Terms

    Published as a guide for intending travellers to the Australian colonies, this interesting book is illustrated with portraits of the Howard Smith Colonial fleet. Each lithograph has a cabin layout on the reverse enabling passengers to book a specific berth. The text of the volume outlines the history of each state and the commercial opportunities. The volume also carries a large quantity of advertisements for Australian, British, and American goods including buggies, hardware, leather, and timber.
    SignificanceThis guide for travellers to the Australian colonies is significant in providing insight into the ships travelled on during the voyage to Australia. It also conveys many mid-to-late 19th century views on the history and commercial opportunities in the Australian colonies.
    HistoryWilliam Howard Smith (1814-1890), master mariner and ship-owner, was born at Yarmouth, Norfolk, England in 1814. At 10 Smith went on his first voyage; he later studied navigation and qualified as a master. He became a partner of his father Ormond Smith (mariner, ship-owner and mail contractor) at 21 and was given command of the steamship ADONIS. For some years he was employed by Malcolmson Bros, ship-owners, and sailed to Dutch, Spanish and Latin American ports. His first wife Anna Geil, née Hansen, died without issue; in 1854 he brought his second wife Agnes Rosa née Allen, and their five children to Australia.

    With marine engineer S P O Skinner, Smith bought the 136-ton schooner-rigged steamer EXPRESS, and entered the Port Phillip Bay trade between Melbourne and Geelong. After eight years Smith sold out to his Geelong agent T J Parker (later a founding partner of Huddart, Parker & Co), and entered the inter-colonial trade.

    In 1862 he and his family revisited Europe. He bought the steamer KIEF, renamed it YOU YANGS, and from mid-1864 commanded it in competition with the powerful Australasian Steam Navigation Co. between Melbourne, Sydney and Newcastle. The venture was successful and two years later he bought another steamship in England, the DANDENONG. It was his last command and he remained ashore after 1870.

    Establishing himself in the Newcastle coal trade, Howard Smith formed a limited partnership with L J L Burke, who had a large coal business in Melbourne in the mid-1860s; he acquired the firm afterwards and it became one of Melbourne's largest and most efficient coal importers, constantly acquiring vessels because of the growing demand for passenger and general cargo services from Melbourne to all the eastern coast ports.

    In the late 1870s he had three of his sons in the partnership and they took charge of the Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane offices. The firm became a limited liability company in September 1883, William Howard Smith and Sons Ltd, with a nominal capital of £1 million, paid up to £500,000: all the £10 shares issued were taken up by the family. He became managing director at Melbourne and his second son, Edmund, at Sydney. Howard Smith retired from active management in 1884 and his sons Walter S and Arthur Bruce succeeded him. He continued as chairman until 1887.

    The company continued to thrive after William Howard Smith's death in 1890. Coastal routes rapidly expanded until 1947 when the company's involvement in the inter-colonial passenger trade ceased. In 1961 the Melbourne Steamship Co. was taken over by Howard Smith. The company was also heavily involved in the towage, salvage and stevedoring industries, until it withdrew from the traditional shipping business in 1996 and from the towage industry in 2001 when the company was taken over by Wesfarmers Ltd., Perth.

    See G. R. Henning, 'Smith, William Howard (1814 - 1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, Melbourne University Press, 1976, p. 161

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