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Appleroth, Adolphus Herbert Frederick Norman (1886–1952)

by Paul Brunton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

Adolphus Herbert Frederick Norman Appleroth (1886-1952), jelly manufacturer, was born on 30 December 1886 in West Melbourne, third surviving child of William Appleroth, a Russian-born driver, and his wife Emma, née Audebart, daughter of a Melbourne wine merchant. William had reputedly been a Russo-Finnish sea captain who jumped ship. The family moved to Sydney where Bert began work in 1902 as a messenger-boy at the Lipton's Tea agency, then took a job as a tram conductor. He began experimenting with mixtures of gelatine and sugar in the bath in his parents' home at Paddington, and hawked the jelly crystals that he produced door-to-door, using trams as transport. At St Michael's Anglican Church, Sydney, on 19 February 1910 he married a 19-year-old dressmaker Ferri Marion Wotzasik.

Leaving the tramways in 1917, Appleroth rented premises at 10 shillings a week in which to manufacture his jelly crystals. He marketed some jellies under the name 'De-Luxe'. In 1926 he formed a company, Traders Ltd, and was joined by a partner Albert Francis Lenertz (1891-1943) who became managing director. The business operated from Sussex Street in the city before moving to Alice Street, Newtown, in 1927. Inspired by feats in aviation, that year Appleroth named his product 'Aeroplane Jelly'.

In 1930 Lenertz wrote the words and music of the Aeroplane Jelly song which was to become the longest-running advertising jingle in Australian history. It was first recorded in 1930, sung by Amy Rochelle, an actress who did child imitations. The song was again recorded in 1938, sung by Joy King, a young girl chosen as the result of a competition. Her recording was used for more than fifty years. Lenertz produced and announced radio programmes over Sydney stations 2KY and 2SM, and used the song as the signature tune. Eventually, the jingle was broadcast over commercial radio one hundred times each day:

I like Aeroplane jelly,
Aeroplane jelly for me,
I like it for dinner, I like it for tea,
A little each day is a good recipe . . .
It was the quintessential radio-advertising campaign.

After Lenertz left the firm in 1934, Appleroth chartered a Tiger Moth aeroplane, emblazoned with his product's name, to make deliveries to rural areas. This caper proved particularly popular with children, his jelly's greatest consumers. In 1935 he held a model-aeroplane display in Centennial Park, Sydney, and in the late 1940s sponsored radio broadcasts involving prisoners at Goulburn gaol which were rounded off with an exhortation to buy 'Aeroplane Jelly'. By 1949 Appleroth's factory had an annual turnover of £170,000. His publicity stunts, and the song, made his product a national icon.

Appleroth was a Freemason. He gave money to the Federation of New South Wales Police-Citizens Boys' Clubs and to the Hospital Saturday Fund. In 1950 he bought a racehorse, Typhonic. Appleroth suffered from hypertension and died of a coronary occlusion on 17 July 1952 at his Croydon home; his wife and son survived him. He left an estate valued for probate at £9025 and appointed the formidable Ferri as governing or managing director of several family companies. His portrait is held by Traders Pty Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • Australasian Post, 8 Dec 1949
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18, 19 July 1952
  • Weekend Australian, 10-11 June 1978, 19-20 Jan 1985
  • A. F. Lenertz papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Paul Brunton, 'Appleroth, Adolphus Herbert Frederick Norman (1886–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/appleroth-adolphus-herbert-frederick-norman-9373/text16465, published in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (MUP), 1993

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