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FREDERICK WILLIAM HADDON, THE ARGUS JOURNALIST & EDITOR

This cover was sent from England with a bistre nine pence and a one penny red QV stamps with 2 examples of the YARMOUTH/ D/ MY 22/ 67/ NORFOLK duplex with numeral ‘927' to F.W. Haddon Esq, The Argus Office, Melbourne, with a manuscript ‘via Marseilles’. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

In the late 19th century newspapers and journals flourished in Australia. Dozens of papers and journals boomed as a result of new technologies such as steam presses, telephones and the telegraph. Newspapers such as the Argus, Punch and the Bulletin were read avidly by an increasing literate and affluent public, hungry for information and self-education in a rapidly changing world. The Argus was published in Melbourne for more than a century from 1846 until 1957.

Frederick William Haddon (1839-1906), journalist and editor, was born on 8 February 1839 in Croydon, Surrey England, the son of Richard Haddon, schoolmaster and landscape artist, and his wife Mary Caroline. He was adopted by an uncle, educated at private schools and in 1855 he entered the service of the Statistical Society of London, where he helped to edit the Journal of the Statistical Society and contributed statistical articles to other London journals. The proprietors of the Melbourne Argus engaged Haddon in 1863 and he arrived in Melbourne in December on the Great Britain.

He worked as contributor and then sub-editor and became co-editor of the new weekly Australasian in 1864 and sole editor the next year. He was promoted as editor of the Argus on 1 January 1867 and under his guidance it became ‘the best daily paper published out(side) of England’. In 1873 he left for Europe and after surveying leading English newspapers, he recommended that the Argus adopt the ‘telescopic system’ of varying the newspaper’s size according to the availability of news. The editorial council of the paper, resentful of Haddon’s influence over Edward Wilson, the co-proprietor, dismissed the system and Haddon refused to attend daily policy meetings, and so jeopardized his editorial position. In January 1879 he went to England to stop Sir Graham Berry’s attempts to gain imperial reform of the Victorian Legislative Council.

He left London after lobbying English statesmen on this matter in June 1879 and in spite of reduction in price of the Argus from 3d to 2d in 1884 and to 1d in 1893, the Argus failed to rival the Age in circulation, but Haddon continued as editor in more stable circumstances than before.

Wilson described Haddon as a ‘safe and good editor’ (in spite of his previous contentious behaviour), who lacked brilliance but kept the Argus free from libel actions. Later critics recognised Haddon’s ability to encourage new writers, his disciplined yet frank relations with the staff and his insistence on efficiency. He also acted as Melbourne correspondent for The Times of London in 1895-1903, and he retired from the Argus in 1898 to represent the trustees of Wilson’s estate on the management board of the Argus and the Australasian.

He served on the inquiry on finances of the Royal Melbourne Hospital and undertook other work of charitable bequests from the Wilson estate. He went to London for the coronation of KE VII in 1902, and was for some years president of the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club! Haddon’s first wife Annie Jane King had died in 1877 at 37, and when Haddon died on 7 March 1906 at his home in South Yarra, he was survived by his second wife, Alice Annie Good and a daughter of his first marriage, his estate being valued for probate at £2558.

Haddon had been a strong campaigner for federation for he considered that ‘an unfederated Australia would very quickly become a country of hostile states striking at each other’s commerce and general business interests’. A large and distinguished ‘who’s who’ of media, business, political and social leaders attended his funeral at St Kilda Cemetery on 9 March 1906. A photo of Haddon is shown, with Haddon flanked by Dr. Aubrey Bowen, standing (an important ophthalmologist) and the seated Marcus Clarke (journalist and novelist) (Figure 2).

Part of this paper was derived from the on-line edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography.


 
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