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DANIEL CONGDON’S POSTCARD to A. M. JOSEPHSON: REQUEST for HIS V0TE

The postcard had a brown One Half-Penny Swan stamp of Western Australia postmarked FREMANTLE/ 1/ JY 14/ 94/ W.A, and it was addressed to Mr. A,M. Josephson, Fremantle (Figure 1).

 

The reverse was headed WEST PROVINCES ELECTORS, and the message was somewhat unusual: ‘It is reported that MR. D. K. CONGDON is safe for election, and canvassers are asking for pumpers for their candidate. The friends of Mr. D.K. Congdon are asked to give him a vote if they wish his election to be secured.’ I don’t fully understand the message, but I suspect that Mr. Congdon was a ‘shoe-in’(Figure 2).

 

The West Australian (Perth) on 28 February 1908, reported in 1½ columns ‘A LARGE ESTATE. THE LATE MR, A.M. JOSEPHSON’. Probate of his will was granted and he had died at Hastings, in England on December 13, 1907. The estate had been sworn at £31,000 which consisted almost entirely of Perth and Fremantle property, with Sir Walter James as his sole executor. His personal and household effects were divided between 2 daughters, Naomi and Leah, as well as mainly other family members. He also donated to many charitable organizations, including one in his native Russia.

I was fortunate to find a Google book ‘Gold & Silversmithing in Western Australia’ by Dorothy Erickson which gave worthwhile biographical information on Abraham Moise Josephson on page 34, as follows: born 1830-died 1904 arrived W.A. with Reichberg in 1863 profited from pearling he was a Polish Russian emigre who had been convicted with Reichberg and others of counterfeiting Russian roubles. It was suggested that the group was planning to fund uprisings in Russia where the intelligentsia were attempting to get peasants some rights. Josephson received his ticket-of-leave in October 1864 and was soon in business as a general merchant (in W.A.). His overseas connections, including family in Paris, were considerable assistance in developing networks. Although he had been a jeweller in London before his conviction, much of Josephson’s Australian business was In drapery, pearls and property in Perth and Fremantle, including the Park Hotel in Fremantle, and a row of 3-storey houses. Josephson was in partnership with Johnny McCleery. They owned and ran pearling luggers, the Twilight and Clarence Packet allowing Josephson to develop a considerable tradeas a pearl dealer. He rented 7 Cliff Street from Frederick Mason in1881 and advertised in The West Australian for "good pearls" and "good white Barok" to the value of £7,000 suitable for necklers, having received an order from Baron H. Ginsberg of St. Petersburg. The size of the amount indicates the profitable nature of pearls. This allowed for philanthropic interests. Josephson, along with wealthy colonists Lionel Samson and jeweller Henry Seeligan was involved in the building of a synagogue in Fremantle.

Josephson’s London agent was David Sassoon & Co. About 1884 when he sent a consignment of pearls to Sassoon in London he tried to interest him in the ‘Hampton Plains’ pastoral development. In 1885 a joint shipment of pearls was sent with Fred Mason, but they fell out over the deal. Josephson also fell out with Henry Seeligson. He was lucky with the pearls however, and in 1886 The Welcome of 38 carats and worth £2,000 was sent to Sassoon for sale. This pearl is reputed to have been used in Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Crown. Josephson also sold pearls to Benjamins in Melbourne, and in 1898 moved to that city with his second wife Elizabeth and their daughter, Naomi. When Elizabeth died he returned to live in Perth, dying later in London a wealthy man.

Daniel Keen Congdon, was born in Kent in 1840, the son of William John Congdon. He was educated at a private boarding school at West Ham, Essex. He took up the profession of a civil engineer, but his probationary period had elapsed when his father left for Western Australia under engagement of the Government to act as a dispenser and compounder of medicines at one of the convict depots. In the year 1853 the Congdon family arrived in Western Australia, and he settled down at Fremantle with his parents. He entered on his career in Australia by joining the staff of Mr. Charles Alfred Manning, general merchant, whose business was then the most extensive in Fremantle.

Meanwhile he had been diligently studying and after the lapse of three or four years he resigned his position at the merchant's house and entered the Educational Branch of the Government Service, accepting a position as school teacher at Pinjarra, W.A. On the 23rd December, 1861, four years after his arrival in the district he married Jane Ainslie Fairbairn, daughter of Mr. John Fairbairn, and sister of Mr. R. Fairbairn, the Resident Magistrate of Fremantle. He stayed at Pinjarra for twelve months longer and then returned to Fremantle, where he opened a business of his own. In 1863, he started as a chemist, druggist, and draper. He had obtained a good knowledge of drugs and chemicals from his father, and consequently had some pretensions to the calling of an apothecary. When Congdon commenced in Fremantle business houses were few, for there were not more than ten in the street which is now a busy crowded thoroughfare. As Fremantle grew so did Congdon increase his premises, until in later years he built the expansive premises occupied by Messrs. Cargeeg, Dimant, and Co. in High Street. Three years ago he retired from active business affairs, since which he has devoted the whole of his attention to municipal and parliamentary matters.

In Fremantle municipal administration Congdon took a leading part. He was a member of the old Town Trust, and always took an active interest in their deliberations, from the time of his return from Pinjarra. In October, 1885, he received a signed requisition from prominent residents asking him to stand for the mayoralty. Acceding to the wishes of the requisition, he contested the election with the Hon. W. E. Marmion, M.L.A., who was a popular man in Fremantle. Congdon secured the seat by 79 votes. Having already been in the Council for ten years, he thoroughly understood the work which was likely to fall on his shoulders, and he discharged the functions so satisfactorily that he held the office for three successive years, which period is the set consecutive limit in the Municipal Act. In 1891 he was again requisitioned to stand for mayor, and was returned with a substantial majority. He held the office for one year, and was then asked to again stand, but having given up business in Fremantle and being a resident of North Fremantle he pointed out that he did not think he would be in a position to thoroughly discharge his duties. But Congdon had shown his admirable qualities for the mayoral chair, and Fremantle was again anxious to have his services. In October, 1895, he was once more asked to stand for mayor. In the meantime North Fremantle had been created as a separate municipality, and the residents of the newly-born municipality clamoured for Congdon. Congdon declined Fremantle proper, with the result that he was unanimously elected to the mayoralty of North Fremantle. On July 22, 1886, Congdon was made a J.P.

In June,1887, he was nominated to a seat in the Legislative Council, which seat he held till the initiation of responsible government. In 1890, Congdon stood for South Fremantle in the Assembly, but was defeated by David Symon. He had a crowning success, however, in the Legislative Council election for the West Province, being returned as senior member for that electorate in 1894. He certainly did some valuable work in the interests of Fremantle. Setting to work, he had a Sanitary Committee appointed from members of the Council and the leading residents. He drew up a report which was presented to His Excellency Governor Broome, and in this he pointed out that the great drawback to sanitary reform lay in the lack of a water supply. Certain suggestions were made, with the result that the Government placed on the Estimates a sum £9,000 as a nucleus for a water supply for Fremantle. An efficient water scheme was then launched with eminently satisfactory results, for under the improved water service and the reforms which Mr. Congdon instituted other sanitary conditions, it became apparent on all sides, and a number of objectionable hovels were razed to the ground. The report which Congdon and his colleagues forwarded contained sound suggestions with regard to sanitary laws, and it was primarily responsible for the present Health Act. Congdon can therefore claim to have played an important part with regard to water supply and sanitation generally. He was also instrumental in having North Fremantle created a separate municipality. He took up the cause of separation, and as a result of his efforts (and those of other gentlemen), North Fremantle was created a separate municipality in October, 1895.

Congdon was associated with a number of cricket, football, and other athletic clubs as patron; and was president of the Fremantle Building Society and one of its original promoters. Congdon was involved in the Masonic Fraternity, holding the office of Deputy District Grand Master of the organization in Western Australia. Politically he was a Liberal, and had been a consistent supporter of the Forrest Government. A picture of Daniel Keen Congdon is seen in Figure 3.

The information on D.K, Congdon as well as his photo was extracted from a Wikipedia article by Warren Bert Kimberly in 'History of West Australia'.  The information on Abraham Josephson was extracted from an article by Dorothy Erickson in a Google book 'Gold & Silversmithing in Western Australia: A History'.

 
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