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Blumenthal, Stanley Joseph (1893–1972)

by George Morgan

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

Stanley Joseph Blumenthal (1893-1972), trade unionist, was born on 23 August 1893 at Waverley, Sydney, second son of Gustavus Adolphus de Blumenthal, a 'professor of phrenology' from Germany, and his native-born wife Evelyne, née Bignell. Attesting that he was a produce merchant, on 11 August 1914 Stanley enlisted in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, and took part in the capture of German New Guinea. His engagement expired on 4 March 1915. Exactly one month later he joined the Australian Imperial Force. Five ft 4 ins (163 cm) tall, with brown eyes and a dark complexion, Blumenthal served at Gallipoli from August to December; he saw action in Egypt and Palestine in 1916-18 with the 12th Light Horse Regiment and the 4th Machine-Gun Squadron; he was discharged in Sydney on 28 October 1919.

Moving to the Federal Capital Territory, he took a job as a park ranger and performed much of his labour on horseback with the help of a blue heeler. Blumenthal married Amy Irene Botterill on 11 June 1927 at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney. He was one of the first Rugby League referees in the Canberra district. An office bearer in the local branch of the Australian Workers' Union, in 1937 he was elected treasurer of the Australian Capital Territory Trades and Labour Council. Next year he became secretary. As a result of a dare over a lunchtime drink, on 23 June 1941 he joined the Citizen Military Forces, and was employed on garrison and instructional duties in Australia. After nearly a year of inappropriate treatment which exacerbated his arthritis, he was discharged medically unfit on 11 May 1943.

Back in Canberra, Blumenthal was employed as a clerk at the Kingston bus depot and resumed his part-time post with the T.L.C. Under his stewardship, the labour movement grew rapidly as he oversaw the unionization of building workers involved in the city's many construction projects. He was an energetic advocate for the service staff at Parliament House. In 1946 Blumenthal played an important role in the controversy surrounding the dismissal of Ernest Fields who had been valet to the governor-general's chief of staff, Brigadier Derek Schreiber. Having left his post in acrimonious circumstances, Fields worked at the Hotel Kingston, but was soon discharged, allegedly at Schreiber's instigation. Prime Minister J. B. Chifley intervened and a public inquiry was announced, but, before it began, Blumenthal was able to negotiate Fields's reinstatement without loss of pay.

Blumenthal held mixed attitudes to postwar immigration. In 1947 he warned prospective migrants from the United States of America that Australian labour standards were higher than those in their own country. At A. A. Calwell's request, he went to Perth where he met British migrants and explained Australian trade union principles and work ethics to them. He was sometime president and a life member of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Labor Party. Survived by his son, Blumenthal died on 1 August 1972 in Canberra and was buried in Canberra cemetery with Catholic rites. One legacy of his union activity is the Territory's annual picnic on trades and labour day.

Select Bibliography

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 18, 19, 25 Jan 1946, 9 Sept 1947
  • Canberra Times, 3 Aug 1972
  • Trades and Labour Council (Australian Capital Territory), minute book (Australian National University Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

George Morgan, 'Blumenthal, Stanley Joseph (1893–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/blumenthal-stanley-joseph-9529/text16779, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 22 November 2017.

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

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