Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover is addressed to C.F. Pitt, Chemist, Campbell Town and its red 1d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamp is cancelled with a roller postmark of LAUNCESTON/ 4 SEP13 7 35 PM/ ***/ TASMANIA. The return address is given as L. Fairthorne & Son. Launceston. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Landon Fairthorne was born on 13 February 1823 in London and arrived in South Australia with his wife, Maria Emily in 1839 and then in 1842 he moved to Tasmania where he qualified as a chemist. Some articles state that in 1844 he set up in business as a chemist and druggist in Launceston. However a later advertisement in the Tasmanian Post Office Directory (Wise’s) for 1903 states that the business was established in 1846. In MacPhaill’s Directory of Tasmania for 1867, Fairthorne was listed as a chemist and druggist in Charles Street, Launceston. Fairthorne sold homeopathic medicines, although it is not known if he commenced selling these products from the time of the shop’s establishment or at some later date. He was the first pharmacist registered in the British Dominions, and according to the Pharmacy Society of Australia, he received his licence in Hobart on 15 January 1846. This licence was issued by the Court of Medical Examiners in the Colony of Van Diemen’s Land to Landon Fairthorne to ‘carry on the business of a druggist in this island’. Intercolonial shipping and gold- and tin-mining were his other interests, and he was Mayor of Launceston in 1884. Landon died on 17 August 1890, and his success gave his son Frederick Kirk Fairthorne a good start in colonial life. A picture of Fairthorne senior is seen in Figure 2.

Frederick was educated at Horton College, Ross, and at Launceston Church Grammar School in 1861. After a few years on the mainland in shipping and wheat-broking, he was articled to his father, qualified as a chemist in 1871, and was soon taken into partnership. L. Fairthorne & Son expanded into a large wholesale as well as retail and dispensing pharmacy. Frederick was a founding member and sometime president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Tasmania.

On 27 July 1884 at St John’s Church, Launceston, he married Louisa Letitia Hardman. They were to have three sons and two daughters. Appointed a justice of the peace in 1893, in December 1897 Fairthorne was elected an alderman of the city of Launceston, and was mayor in 1900-02. He resigned from the council in 1908. He shared his father’s interest in mining. In 1890 Frederick was appointed director of the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Co. and was subsequently chairman. He was also chairman of the Royal George Co. and personally owned and worked several small mining ventures with more or less success. His interests extended to both the north-east and to the west coast of Tasmania, where silver, lead and zinc were being mined very profitably in the late nineteenth century.

Respected by his colleagues and the citizens of Launceston, he was often encouraged to stand for parliament, but declined to take an active role in party politics. The Reform League, however, which argued for level State expenditure and taxation in post-Federation Tasmania, won his firm support. After a long illness, Fairthorne died at his home at Launceston on 14 November 1919, and was survived by his wife and two daughters, and by two sons who carried on the business. Fairthorne Road, at Trevallyn, Launceston, was probably named after the younger son Frederick Falkener Fairthorne (1887-1963), athlete and pharmacist. The firm became Drug Houses of Australia Ltd (Tasmania) some years before his death.

An advertisement for L. Fairthorne & Son, described the business as Family & Dispensing Chemists, Wholesale Druggists and Manufacturing Chemists, 42, 44, 46, 48 St. John Street, Launceston, Tasmania, Direct Importers of (and down the left hand side the advert read) Drugs, Chemicals, Patent Medicines, plus several illegible items. Down the right hand side the following were listed: Druggists’ supplies, Surgical Supplies, Photographic (—–), Homeopathic Remedies. The centre of the advert shows a picture of the chemist’s business (Figure 3).

The information about the Fairthorne family was partially derived from the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum (October 2010):  Another cover addressed to Messrs L. Fairthorne & Son, Chemists, St. John Street, Launceston had a pair of the red 1d ‘Pictorial’ stamp of Tasmania which were cancelled with ROSS/ NO 4/ 04/ Tasmania, but the reverse was not seen (Figure 4).

Categories: Health Sciences