Royal Reels: Gambling


The cover intrigued me because of what must be an early rendition of an extraterrestrial life-form which appears on a cover, produced by F.T. Wimble & Co., Printer’s Furnishers, &c, 87 Clarence St. Sydney, (their only address at the time). The extraterrestrial figure is accompanied by an admonition “Keep Your Eye On Your Pocket and Save Money by Purchasing Goods from F.T. Wimple & Co., Sydney” which is “Printed in Our Super Electric Blue Ink.” It is addressed to Express Printing Supplies, Blenheim N.Z. and has the 1d red N.S.W. ‘Shield” stamp postmarked with a SYDNEY/ AU 8/ 4- P.M/ 98/ 41 duplex cancel (Figure 1).

Frederick Thomas Wimble (1846-1936), ink-maker, type-founder, printers’ furnisher and politician, was born on 28 November 1846 at Clerkenwell, London, thirteenth child of Benjamin Wimble, a second-generation ink-maker associated with Cambridge University Press, and his wife Elizabeth, née Smith. In 1867 the consumptive youth migrated for his health, reaching Melbourne in the Anglesey on 29 June.

Wimble brought out printing materials valued at £150 with a £30 bank draft to establish himself with support from his father, who forwarded further plant and raw materials. Attached to the firm of J. Spencer, Wimble produced his first ink in 1868, claiming that his blue ink made the Melbourne Star in that year the first newspaper published with a local ink supply. His provision of red ink for a South Australian postage stamp in 1869 led to contracts from other colonies. On 13 March 1872 he married Harriett Gascoigne, née Howard, a widow with two children. There were three children of the marriage, which ended in divorce. In 1876 Wimble travelled to the USA and Britain, securing agencies for printing equipment. He returned to Australia in 1878, and moved the headquarters of F. T. Wimble & Co to Sydney, where he furnished the printing trades throughout Australia and New Zealand.

In 1883 he left the business to his partners and, hoping to become ‘a sugar baron’, moved to Cairns, Queensland, where he speculated in land, became founder and editor of the Cairns Post in 1883, and was elected an alderman. He then reputedly spent £7000 in a successful campaign to be elected to the Legislative Assembly as a Liberal member for Cairns on 5 May 1888, in a bitter fight with Richard Ash Kingsford, who was the famous aviator Kingsford Smith’s grandfather. On 16 August 1890 in Brisbane he married London-born Marian Sarah Benjamin, who died in 1933. When Wimble’s printers’ furnishing business opened in Brisbane, he rejoined the firm and presided over the branch. With business affected by the economic depression, he did not again contest his seat in parliament in April 1893, but returned to Sydney.

He obtained a loan and resumed control of his company, expanded it, with a plant at Mascot as well as offices and warehouse showrooms in Clarence Street and branches in each mainland capital. From 1895 he promoted the firm’s wares through Wimble’s Reminder, which developed into a handsome new series that ran from 1906 until 1957. It was a periodical-cum-catalogue, which championed process engraving and colour printing, the possibilities of which he displayed in a lavish edition in July 1927. In 1920 he had registered F. T. Wimble & Co. Ltd as a public company.

A celebratory article of the diamond jubilee of his business mentioned that he had “an inky strain in his blood” for Wimble was a third generation ink maker and his son of his second marriage, George Wimble carried on the business. His picture, a pencil portrait drawn for his “Wimble’s Reminder” in 1928, is shown in Figure 2.

Wimble conducted a type foundry with overseas-designed faces that were re-named as Extended Tasmanian Gothic or Wentworth Bold. ‘Books fit to be read here must be printed here’, he declared in 1927. ‘When you are reading a Novel, note where it is printed’. In keeping with the New Protectionism, he supported what he called ‘legitimate unionism’, but exhorted his tradesmen to lead the fight against ‘the madness of Moscow’.

As a hobby, he took up poultry farming at Wimbleford, Bankstown, and he published his autobiography, Climbing the Ladder, in 1924. He was still working at his office in his 82nd year, and when he died at 89 at his home in Artarmon, Sydney on 3 January 1936, he was survived by 3 children of his first and 3 children of his second marriages. A printing museum at New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, commemorates his business, which continued with his name until 1991, but under non-family management.

I wish to acknowledge that the majority of information presented here was derived from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Addendum: David Embury, Librarian at the Queensland Parliamentary Library Research and Reference Section provided me with Figure 2, as well as Wimble’s maiden speech in the QLD Parliament on 22 August, 1888. This showed him as a man of some humility, particularly well researched, and very capable of speaking his own mind. He spoke of the past as if setting the stage, and was very strong on the future of the colony of Queensland. The breadth of his speech was quite remarkable, running into more than 4 columns of excruciatingly small print, but I could not put it down, until its completion. A short outline of many of the subjects follows:

In a non-partisan manner he congratulated the government “that the financial position is not worse than it actually is at present” (a deficit of over £600,000), and went on to say he had such confidence in the colony with its magnificent resources, that he predicted that a surplus could be accomplished before long. His argument on the need for trade protectionism was supported by his considerable research for same in America, Great Britain, Germany and the colony of Victoria (“one of the shining lights of the Australian colonies”). He considered that agricultural colleges should be initiated, for they were necessary for agricultural development. He agreed that the gold mining industry should receive attention from the government, but other mining industries should not be neglected.

He was pro-active on the expansion of the railways, and not want to wait for further growth of the settlements: “I would go the length of running railways through the country without waiting for settlement, because it is well known that wherever a railway goes population will follow”. He strenuously opposed those towns, particularly Townsville and Mackay, which proposed that northern Queensland should separate from the south, for it “would be a most unfortunate thing for the colony, but it would be a calamity for the North.” He backed up his argument with facts from his own electorate, and claimed that if the “North were polled, I believe it would be found that not 20 per cent of the people would trouble themselves about the Separation question.”

His final speech on 7 April, 1892 was short and sweet, dealing with the Kanaka labour in the canefields issue, of which he had always been in favour, for Cairns was a sugar district: “Queensland is the only colony in Australasia in which sugar can be grown successfully.” It was Queensland’s loss when he did not contest his electoral seat again, prior to returning to his business.