The plain stampless postcard was sent on 10 July 10, 1901 and the postmark was obliterated by a black printed DEPARTMENT OF TRADE & CUSTOMS/ VICTORIA/ FRANK STAMP. It is addressed to Messrs.Felton Grimwade & Co., Importers, City [Melbourne] (Figure 1).

The printed card was sent from H.M. CUSTOMS with the heading NOTICE and the printed message read: Unless perfect entry is made in accordance with above Sections of the Customs Act 1890 and delivery taken within Twenty-four hours from the time and date hereon of the undermentioned Goods ex the (illegible) from Germany they will be forwarded to the Queen’s Warehouse at your risk and expense:– Signed by two individuals, described as ‘Landing Waiter’ (Figure 2).

Alfred Felton businessman and philanthropist, was born on 8 November 1831 at Maldon, Essex, England, the fifth child of Thomas Felton, tanner, and his wife Hannah. He was probably apprenticed to a chemist before migrating to Victoria in 1853. He is said to have made money carting goods to the goldfields before establishing himself as a merchant in Melbourne. In 1857 he was a commission agent and general dealer and in 1861 a wholesale druggist in Swanston Street.

In 1867 Felton bought the wholesale drug house of Youngman & Co. in partnership with its manager, Frederick Grimwade. Renamed Felton, Grimwade & Co. the firm expanded rapidly in the next twenty-five years, and although the depression of the 1890s reduced both its trading and manufacturing activities, it remained the largest drug house in the colony and a sound and profitable business, with subsidiary interests in drug houses in New Zealand and Western Australia. The two men also founded other enterprises: in 1872 the Melbourne Glass Bottle Works (ancestor of Australian Glass Manufacturers Ltd), and an acid works which was merged in 1897 with Cuming Smith & Co.; in 1882 the Adelaide Chemical Works Co., in partnership with the principals of Cuming Smith & Co., and the Australian Salt Manufacturing Co., the only failure among their ventures. In 1885 they went into partnership with Joseph Bosisto, founder of the eucalyptus oil industry in Australia. Felton also bought two large estates, Murray Downs and Langi Kal Kal, in partnership with Charles Campbell, the senior partner in Cuming Smith & Co. When Felton died on 8 January 1904 his assets were valued at more than £500,000.

Shrewd and upright in business, Felton was mildly eccentric in his private life and opinions. Although probably self-educated, he had a strong interest in literature and the arts, and he remained a bachelor. He sought no public office, and his many benefactions were usually discreet and anonymous. A picture of Alfred Felton is seen in Figure 3.

After his death, his will gained him more renown than he had ever sought in life: it established a trust fund, originally of £383,163 but later increased to more than £2,000,000, under the control of a Felton Bequests’ Committee of five. Half the income was to be given to charities, especially those for the relief of women and children, and the other half spent on works of art for the Melbourne National Gallery, works judged ‘to have an artistic and educative value and be calculated to raise or improve the level of public taste’.

Frederick Sheppard Grimwade, businessman and parliamentarian, was born on 10 November 1840 at Harleston, Norfolk, England, second son of the 17 children of Edward Grimwade and his wife Anne. After attending Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Ipswich, he was apprenticed to his father’s firm of wholesale druggists at Ipswich and London. In 1862 he was invited to manage a wholesale drug-house established in Melbourne by Edward Youngman, another of his father’s former apprentices. Grimwade arrived in Victoria in 1863; three years later Youngman was drowned in the wreck of the London, and in 1867 Grimwade borrowed £8000 from his father and with Alfred Felton bought Youngman’s business, renaming it Felton, Grimwade & Co.

The partners prospered, and within three years they had recouped the whole purchase price of £24,000, and the firm was soon the largest drug-house in the colony, with subsidiary interests in Western Australia and New Zealand. Grimwade was also chairman of the Royal Bank in 1889-1910. The depression of the 1890s interrupted the progress of these enterprises but all except the salt venture survived to resume profitable growth in the twentieth century. When Felton died without issue in 1904 Felton, Grimwade & Co. became solely a Grimwade concern.

Grimwade was a shrewd businessman of great probity, strong character and forthright opinions. His views were conservative but moderate: as chairman of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce in 1883 he pleaded for less bitterness in political conflict, for pragmatic legislation and administration, and for co-operation between merchants and manufacturers despite their disagreements over protection. Persuaded to stand for the Legislative Council in 1891 he was elected unopposed and represented North Yarra Province for thirteen years; he did not seek office but often spoke in debate on a wide range of issues. As a member of the royal commission on state banking in 1894-95 he stoutly resisted proposals for radical government interference in the banking system. On constitutional questions, however, he showed an increasing liberalism, gradually abandoning his opposition to one man one vote.

Grimwade became a prominent layman in the Church of England, and served for many years on synod and the councils of the Boys’ and the Girls’ Grammar Schools. He played some part in the Charity Organization Society and, if less notable a philanthropist than Felton, he had, unlike his partner, a family to maintain. In 1865 he had married Jessie Taylor Sprunt (1842-1916); they had nine children, of whom four sons and three daughters lived to maturity. His substantial mansion, Harleston, built at Caulfield in 1875, was presented to Melbourne Grammar School in 1917 by his sons and renamed Grimwade House. In his last years a diabetic condition undermined his health but he remained active in business affairs until a few days before he died at Caulfield on 4 August 1910. Frederick Grimwade’s picture is shown in Figure 4.

Grimwade’s third son, Alfred Sheppard (1874-1941), became a surgeon. The other three all carried on their father’s business; Edward Norton succeeded him as senior partner, Harold William (1869-1949) combined business with a distinguished military career and Sir Wilfrid Russell (1879-1955) worked with his brothers in developing the enterprises founded by Grimwade and Felton into some of Australia’s largest public companies.

Most of the information on the two partners is extracted from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Business, Political