Robert Caldwell was born 1815 in Portobello a suburb of Edinburgh, Scotland and he established a business of Caldwell Brothers in Edinburgh. He had been educated in Edinburgh at the New Academy and Queen’s College. He arrived in Melbourne in 1852 and became a partner in Callender, Caldwell & Co., a firm of merchants until ca. 1860. In 1860 he was appointed to the Royal commission for Harbour improvements. He was then involved in various enterprises in Victoria, Queensland and Darwin until 1875, when he purchased the wine business of J.T. Fallon & Sons. He was a successful exhibitor of wines in the Melbourne Exhibition of 1880-1881. He opened up a market in India for colonial wines and was the founder and president of the Australian Wine Association. His firm, known as Caldwell & Co., became Caldwell’s Australian Wine Company Ltd in 1888 after his death. He was the author of The Gold Era of Victoria. A colourfull advert for ‘Calldwell’s The Wine of Life’ is seen in Figure 4.
In addition he was President of the Chamber of Manufactures 1884-1885 and a director of Hobson’s Bay Railway Co., the Colonial Bank, as well as commissioner of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in 1886. He was elected the Member of the Legislative Assembly for West Melbourne in October 1859 until July 1861, when he resigned on account of his poor health in Victoria, and he moved to the warmer climate of Queensland. He had married Elizabeth Cooper in 1856 at St. Kilda, Melbourne and they had 3 sons and several daughters. He died on 7 August 1887 at Brisbane, Queensland.
The death of Robert Caldwell is recorded in The Argus (Melbourne) dated 9 August 1887, two days after his death at Brisbane. He was described as of the firm of R. Caldwell and Co., wine merchants, Collins-street west, who held for many years a prominent position in mercantile circles, and who was especially active in recent years in promoting the Australian wine industry. He had caught a severe cold 2 years ago and it settled on his lungs, and he never recovered from it. The business of his firm, during his absence on account of ill health, was conducted by his son Robert Caldwell Junior, who had lately been admitted into it as a partner. In May last, under medical advice, he took a trip to Queensland for the purpose of escaping the severity of the Victorian winter. His death at Brisbane was stated to be due to bronchitis. The firm of Caldwell Brothers in Edinburgh was still in existence, but he had severed his connection with his brother.
He had a short period in Melbourne when he started the Victorian Meat-Preserving Company, of which he was the managing director at the same time as being in the Victorian Parliament; the company was not a success, and he went to Queensland where he took up a station and began sheep breeding. He had a few prosperous seasons followed by his prospects being shattered by the drought and the low price of wool. He gave up pastoral pursuits, returned from Queensland, settled in Warrnambool, Victoria, opened another meat preserving factory, but was not successful in that industry due to a glut of preserved meats, both locally and in England.
He next went to Port Darwin with stores and traded with nearby islands, as well as having a pearl fisheries interest which was very remunerative, but the climate was not to his liking. His next venture was to buy the Lake Albert Vineyard, near Wagga Wagga N.S.W. Unfortunately his obituary was not in a clear dated order, and I suspect that he never entered into the meat preserving business for a second time! His body was returned from Brisbane for burial in the Melbourne General Cemetery.
I acknowledge that I have abstracted information on Robert Caldwell from the Parliament of Victoria’s website.