Royal Reels: Gambling


The advertising cover shows a Farmer’s Woolpress made by Humble & Sons, Makers, Geelong and is addressed to The Lincoln-Williams Twist Drill Co., Taunton, Massachusetts, U.S. America. It has a single green ½d and two red 1d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamps cancelled with a roller GEELONG/ 21.JUL.13 820PM/ VICTORIA (Figure 1).

The reverse has scroll with HUMBLE & SONS/ ENGINEERS, &c,/ VULCAN FOUNDRY, GEELONG (Figure 2).

William Humble was born on 9 April 1835 in Yorkshire, England, son of Thomas Humble, farmer, and his wife Jane, née Bland. He worked for Hornsby & Sons, agricultural implement makers at Grantham and also for Bates & Vaughan, Middlesbrough. He arrived at Melbourne in in 1858 and joined Thomas Fulton’s foundry as a journeyman. In 1860 he moved to Geelong where he was employed at the Corio Foundry, chiefly in casting postal pillar boxes. In 1861 with John Simmons and Ward Nicholson he bought the Western Foundry in Geelong. Simmons died in 1863 and next year Humble and Nicholson decided to control the business themselves. Their partnership lasted until Nicholson retired in 1900.

By 1866 Humble & Nicholson bought the Vulcan Foundry in Geelong. Their success continued through the 1870s and 1880s for they benefited from large government contracts that resulted from the policy of protection. By 1888 Humble & Nicholson had won £60,000 in government contracts, they built the bridge at Cressy, the hydraulic crane at Echuca and boilers, tanks and pumps for several public authorities. They also had an extensive private market linked to the agricultural economy around Geelong. The firm made the Ferrier woolpress, began building reaping and binding machines in 1872 and was one of the first Australian companies to manufacture refrigerating machines on the absorption principle. From 1900 Humble was in partnership with three of his four sons: Thomas Strong (1866-1915) and William Henry (1867-1958) were practical engineers and George Bland Humble (1871-1949) who was an accountant.

Humble was active in community affairs as a councillor from 1869, and was mayor of Geelong in 1888-89. He was also a trustee of the Geelong Free Library and a member of the board of the Geelong Hospital. As a zealous Methodist he staunchly supported temperance and was a director of the short-lived Geelong Coffee Palace Co. Ltd in 1888-89. In politics he was a protectionist but his evidence to the royal commission on the tariff in 1883 suggested that this allegiance was more a matter of profit than principle.

His great sustaining interest was his business and he was always a keen inventor. In 1869 he began to manufacture velocipedes and later built the first car made in Geelong. The chassis and body were made in the foundry and the car was used by his family for many years. An example of one of his inventions, a bus made by Humble & Sons is shown in Figure 3.

Humble died at Geelong on 27 February 1917, survived by his wife Emma, née Strong, whom he had married on 22 July 1865, and by three sons and one daughter.

This paper was abstracted from Humble’s entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

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