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JACOB BRACHE, GERMAN CIVIL & MINING ENGINEER, COAL & GOLD MINER

The 1876-81mauve‘One Penny Bell’ postcard of Victoria according to Geoff Kellow’s ‘The Stamps of Victoria’ (1990), pages 360-361 was issued on 6 October 1876 and in mid-1878 a new plate was issued with a thicker outer frame-line than in the present one, which was an example of the earlier post card. It was addressed to J. Brache, Merri St., Northcote (Victoria). The stamp was cancelled with a duplex MELBOURNE/ 7Z/ AU 8/ 78 with the VICTORIA barred obliterator. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Jacob Brache (Braché), civil and mining engineer, coal mine owner, and gold miner was born on 5 June 1827 at Coblenz, Prussia, son of Jacob Braché, civil servant, and his wife Johanna Elizabeth, née Heppner. He was trained as an engineer and left Prussia in 1846 for the silver and gold mines of South and North America, where he gained experience in engineering and mining. After employment in Panama on waterworks and the railway and also prospecting for gold, he reached Melbourne in August 1853.

Braché was soon attracted to the goldfields. Various ventures, one at Forest Creek near Castlemaine in 1854 and another at Ballarat in 1855, failed. Individualistic diggers were hostile to his introduction of wage labour and machinery, and the government refused to grant the leases he sought. Eager to reform mining administration and operation, and encouraged by John Humffray, Braché began to emerge as a spokesman for mining interests. Humffray was responsible for Braché's nomination as secretary to the select committee on gold in 1855-56. Humffray's bill of 1856 'for the better protection of inventors' was probably stimulated by Braché who claimed to have suffered because of lack of protection for his various inventions of mining machinery.

His most comprehensive work was his 'Report on the State of the Mines in Victoria, as compared with that of other Mining Countries' (Transactions of the Mining Institute of Victoria, 1, 1859). In it he advocated a system of mining based on the union of capital and labour for their mutual benefit and the safeguarding of investors' interests by adequate leasing laws. A professionally qualified mining administration with central government authority should replace local administration. He deplored the influence on the government of squatters who prevented the provision of adequate leases and security of tenure.

In November 1856 Braché was appointed secretary of the royal commission on the colony's mining resources. His imperfect knowledge of English made the position difficult, so he was requested by the commission to make mechanical drawings. His disagreement with the chairman, Professor (Sir) Frederick McCoy, on the potential of quartz mining caused him to dissociate himself publicly from the commission. In 1857 under vice-regal patronage he founded the Mining Institute of Victoria with a nucleus of men well known in mining circles, such asAlfred Selwyn and Charles Ligar. The rules and by-laws of the institute were comprehensive and also contained many of Braché's personal views and comments. He edited the Transactions of the Mining Institute of Victoria and the short-lived Colonial Mining Journal. He also published Prospectus of the Projected Great Long Tunnel Gold Mining Company, Walhalla (Melbourne, 1876). In 1860 Braché was said to have been a government medallist for an essay on water supply. In March 1861 he began work at Ararat for the mining and topographical survey of the Geology Department under Selwyn and from April 1862 to September 1864 he was superintendent of the survey. In this capacity he reported on surveying administration. In the 1880s, after putting much money and energy into the survey and exploration of brown coalfields near Moe, Gippsland, Braché found that he could not extend leases which he had held for ten years. His Claim on the Government for Losses Sustained in Connection with Certain Coal Lands in Gippsland (Melbourne, 1895) was unsuccessful and he had to compromise with his creditors, suffering great financial loss.

Braché married a Scotswoman, Hannah Campbell, and had six sons and two daughters. Until late in life he carried on his business as a civil and mining engineer in Northcote, Melbourne, where he had lived since 1865, and was a member of the Victorian Engineers' Association from 1883. He died on 2 September 1905; he and his wife who died on 27 April 1912 were buried in the German cemetery in Separation Street, Northcote.

In response to my email to the Darebin (Victoria) Library local history website, Jackie Goddard, Acting Manager Information, confirmed that Jacob Brache and his wife Hannah (Campbell) Brache lived at Merri Street, Northcote, his occupation being listed as an engineer. Jacob Brache, engineer was also listed in 1856 at 187 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, presumably his address for business. This information was obtained from Sands & McDougall street directories and Electoral Rolls. Unfortunately no photos of Jacob Brache were held at the library, or at any other major Australian archival sites. The supplied information confirms that the Jacob Braché whose biography was found at the Australian Dictionary of Biography (A.D.B.) was the man addressed on this postcard.

I acknowledge that I have copied the paper in the A.D.B. on Jacob Brache with only minor cosmetic alterations.

 

 

 

 

 
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