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F.C. KLEMM, VICTORIAN GOLD, GERMAN CONSUL, GOVERNMENT & PRESS

The cover had an octagonal blue ‘ONE SHILLING’ as well as a blue 3d ‘Beaded Oval’ stamps of Victoria postmarked by at least 5 copies of MELBOURNE/ 4A/ MR 23/ 64 duplex and it was addressed to F.C. KLEMM, Brewer, Sandhurst (Victoria). There was a ms. ‘Sample of Merchandise Only, Packed without letter or writing, and the sender was identified by a ms. ‘From Louis L. Lewis, Collins St. Melbourne’ (Figure 1).

The reverse had an unframed postmark of SANDHURST/ 23 MA/ 64/ VICTORIA (Figure 2).

An educated guess suggested that Louis L. Lewis’s ‘without letter or writing’ might have included a cutting from The Argus (Melbourne) for he was an inveterate letter writer to this newspaper from at least 1864 until the 1880s. He was a socialite, invited to the important Government levees; he was a broker with a business address of Lloyds Rooms, Collins St. W., Melbourne; a home address at Raglan Terrace, Rob St., St. Kilda; a Victorian Commissioner; Editor of the Journal of Commerce; and he wrote about numerous subjects and events, often criticizing other peoples’ views. He even placed an advert stating that his wife gave birth to a still-born baby. All this information was found in numerous National Library of Australia (NLA) newspaper Beta reports. The only non-NLA report of any import was the finding of a drawing of the Wine Manufactory, at Sandhurst which was ascribed to F.C. Klemm (Figure 3).

A breakthrough came about when I received an email reply from a librarian at the State Library of Victoria which gave me information which I previously could not access. Basically I had asked the question as to whether the Klemm of the wine manufactory in Sandhurst, the importer of wine and spirits in Melbourne, the owner of gold shares of Victoria, and the man who was slandered by the German Consul in Melbourne (the last 2 personas not yet mentioned), were one and the same man. The answer was yes, for she supported this with seven pages of documentation. I quote in brief: "Barring a few discrepancies, all of the sources which I have consulted seem to indicate that the F.C. Klemms you have listed are one and the same person".

Klemm was a prominent and well-to-do member of Melbourne and Sandhurst society. " I have been able to find a large number of references of Mr. Klemm in our collections. However, I have not been able to find an individual biography on him". Frederick C. Klemm arrived in Victoria in July 1854, on the Themis from a British port. [Later claimed to have arrived in Australia in the Catherine Mitchel in 1852, from Liverpool]. Frederick Klemm of Sandhurst was naturalised on 17 September 1857. He was originally from Stettin, Prussia (now Szczecin, part of Poland), aged 29, a merchant. That year he married Marion McDonald, who had been born in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1859 Klemm’s business partnership (wine and spirit sales) with Charles H. Hoffmeyer was dissolved and the latter took over the business [date contradicted may have been 1869]. In Victorian Government Gazette (1861) F.C. Klemm listed as wine and spirit merchant, Sandhurst. 1863 he had a wine press constructed and he extended his prmises in Mundy St., Sandhurst.

In November 1864, there was the first mention of acquisition of land, Hibernia reef for gold prospecting. In January 1865 acquired 540 £1 shares in Bird’s Reef, Kangaroo Gully. Shares in additional Gold Companies were acquired the same year, and he continued to buy shares up to at least June 1873. In March 1871, F.C. Klemm’s business partnership with Henry Wolfe was dissolved and he operated the business as F.C. Klemm and Co. wine merchant at Queen St. Melbourne. In November1873, German Consul (of Victoria) Brahe makes false statement re Klemm’s financial reliability (see later); the same year, Klemm’s wines won an award for the Sandhurst district.

Marion Klemm died on 5 June 1877 at Eden Terrace, Dalgety Street, St. Kilda, Melbourne, and F.C. Klemm died 11 April 1878, aged 48 at the same home address, his parents being identified as Christian Fr. Klemm and Dorothea Fredericke (nee Hering) Klemm. Frederick was buried in the Roman Catholic section of St. Kilda Cemetery. Klemm’s business at 31-33 Queen St., Melbourne was still in operation under his name after his death, and it was run by one of his executors, F.D. White. There was no information as to whether the Klemms had children.

I had considerable information about the defamation of Klemm by the German Consul,before the State Library of Victoria contacted me with the above research. There were at least 3 entries in The Argus (Melbourne), the first dated 2 December 1883, p. 8, titled ‘Mr. F.C. Klemm

and the German Press’ with a letter addressed to ‘His Excellency the Minister of the Interior, Berlin’ sent by the President of the Bendigo Deutscher Verein in a complaint against a consular report from Melbourne, in which Mr. F.C. Klemm, "a man universally esteemed, well worthy of our confidence, and that only personal envy or malice can have caused the transmission of the before-mentioned report" can be seen in full as Figure 4.

 

This was followed by a 4-column report on 4 December 1873, p. 6 signed by numerous people explaining how this calumny came about, when Mr. Brahe, the Consul had maligned Klemm when he went home to Prussia after an absence of 20 years. He had been entrusted with the duty of floating a company on the London market to work a certain claim on the Sandhurst gold-field. After transacting his business, he went on to Germany and on arriving there was surprised to find that the papers were full of comments respecting his character and the business that had brought him home. In brief the signed gentleman wanted to right this wrong, and they blamed the German Consul. The Consul’s reply is shown in part as Figure 5.

 

The follow-up was in the 2 May 1874 issue of The Argus (Melbourne) translated from the Australische Deutsche Zeitung, which was accepted by Klemm’s supporters as "VICTORY OF THE RIGHT" because of the retraction by the (German) Imperial Chancery (Figure 6).

The following advert inserted by Klemm about his wines and spirits was found in The Argus (Melbourne) on 18 May 1876 (Figure 7).

One has to wonder whether this incident involving the German Consul and the German press might have contributed to the early deaths of F.C. Klemm and his wife.

I wish to acknowledge the remarkable contribution that Katie Flack of the State Library of Victoria made with a documentation of Frederick Christian Klemm’s relatively short life in Australia.

 
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