Royal Reels: Gambling


The printed green Tasmanian stamp cover was postmarked with a duplex HOBART/ S/ 20 JE/ 1899, with the barred obliterator TASMANIA, and it was addressed to Mess J Kronheimer & Co., Flinders Lane, Melbourne. The reverse was not seen but was backstamped Melbourne, June 20, 1899 (Figure 1).

Several of the Australian Colonies’ newspapers published his obituary and The Mercury (Hobart) on Monday 20 July 1914 on page 5, was the most legible. Headed “JEWISH PHILANTHROPIST/ Death of Mr. J. Kronheimer” occurred on the past Thursday afternoon at his residency, ‘Rolveden, New-street, Brighton (Melbourne). He had reached the age of 88 years, was a native of Bavaria, and came to Victoria about 60 years ago to join his younger brother, Julius Kronheimer, who at that time was engaged in business in Melbourne. The two brothers commenced the business as tobacco merchants, which together with the late Mr. Charles Franklin, they had conducted until comparatively recently under the title J. Kronheimer and Co., and which is now carried on as W.D.& H.O. Wills, Australia, Limited.

For the past 15 years the late Mr. Kronheimer took little active part in the business affairs of the firm, but devoted his time to a long and varied list of charitable pursuits. Apart from his more noted charitable benefactions, such as the Kronheimer wing of the Austin Hospital as well as a number of Cottages for the Old Colonists’ Home, practically all of his charities shared his frequent gifts, so that he kept an office at the firm’s business house for no other purpose than to attend to the constant stream of those in need of charitable assistance which flowed in that direction.

Among his co-religionists throughout the Jewish communities of the whole world, he was known and respected for his philanthropy. His benefactions were as widespread as they were liberal, and included the maintenance of an orphanage at Jerusalem as well as other gifts to the Jewish community. He was unmarried, and he is survived by his brother Julius who is now a resident at Hamburg. His only relative in Melbourne is a nephew, Mr. J. Englander who is associated with the firm of W.D. & H.O. Wills, Australia Ltd.

Joseph left a will that showed his total value, in all states of Australia, was £833,033, and his will was contested because of the onset of World War One. The circumstances were as follows: He had left about £300,000 to German nationals, prior to the onset of the war, and their rights were called into question. As a result of the High Court’s decision, the Public Trustee was entitled to receive the shares of all the beneficiaries who were of German nationality. A newspaper picture of Joseph Kronheimer is seen in Figure 2.

There were problems also with the charitable gift to the Austin Hospital, Melbourne for the Victorian Premier was approached by local people who had concerns about a Block at the Hospital to treat patients with tuberculosis. There were considerable number of letters to the Editor of The Argus, Melbourne, and the admission of consumptive patients was delayed for more than a year. The 1905 Kronheimer Wing of the Austin Hospital is shown in Figure 3.

Kronheimer’s estate was administered by a Board, and a long list of organizations were listed on a yearly basis. The remarkable number of charities supported, and the amounts given, are shown in part only for clarity, as the first 20% and the last 20% of the total contributions listed in 1927, as Figures 4 & 5.

The importance of the J. Kronheimer Company to the Australian Tobacco Trade was the reason Joseph made so much money to distribute to charities, both before and after his death in 1914. In 1904 the firm had been established for over 50 years in Melbourne, and W.D.& H.O. Wills was another distributing firm in Sydney. They amalgamated in the tobacco distributing business and the new company carried on in all of the Australian States under the style of Kronheimer and Co., Limited. The new company has been described as monopolist, but they held no monopoly. They had taken over the agencies of most of the Australian manufacturers, who for years had been doing their own distributing, and they had found that the work was very expensive. Now they got their distribution done at a far less expense. Joseph Kronheimer was no longer in charge, but he was a major shareholder.

I acknowledge that Figure 3 which shows the 1905 Kronheimer Block at Austin Hospital, Melbourne was found at the Heidelberg Historical Society.