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Crowder, Frederick Thomas (1856–1902)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Frederick Thomas Crowder (1856-1902), by unknown photographer

Frederick Thomas Crowder (1856-1902), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an21399820-47

Frederick Thomas Crowder (1856-1902), businessman and politician, was born in Adelaide on 21 January 1856, son of William Nathaniel Crowder, a manufacturer of aerated waters, and his wife Emily, née Hayward. After working in his father's firm, W. N. Crowder & Co., he migrated to Western Australia in 1876, and in 1878 established at Fremantle a business which soon became the colony's leading manufacturer of aerated waters. Trading later under the name of Crowder & Letchford, the firm survived at Fremantle for a hundred years. In 1884 Crowder bought a part-ownership in the Fremantle Herald; it merged in 1886 with the Perth Daily News. He became a director of its publishers, Stirling Bros & Co. Ltd, including a term as chairman in 1900-02 in which it was decided to close down the old-established weekly Inquirer. By 1895 he was also a member of the Perth stock exchange, speculating in the Coolgardie gold-mining boom. For many years he was chairman of the Perth Gas Co.

Crowder's political career began with service on the Perth City Council in 1885-91. When the Legislative Council became elective in 1894 he contested South-East Province and, although non-resident in the district, topped the poll. He generally supported (Sir) John Forrest's ministry, but he had all the small businessman's antipathy to government spending, and was an implacable critic of the engineer-in-chief C. Y. O'Connor. Even after disproof of his predictions that the centralized Fremantle harbour would be a failure, he continued to attack the Coolgardie pipeline scheme until O'Connor's suicide. A consistent foe of Federation, holding that intercolonial free trade would kill Western Australian agriculture, he nevertheless consented to serve as a delegate to the 1897-98 sessions of the Australasian Federal Convention when it became necessary for the Western Australian legislature to replace members whose parliamentary terms had expired. He spoke only twice at the convention, both times inanely objecting to the proposal to phase out Western Australian tariffs on a sliding scale.

On seeking re-election to the Legislative Council in 1900 Crowder was defeated, but was returned in 1901 at a by-election for East Province which he represented until his death from cancer at his residence in Cottesloe on 2 May 1902. By his wife Annie Imelda, née Fitzpatrick, whom he had married in Adelaide on 17 March 1877 he left a son and a daughter. A Roman Catholic, he was buried in Karrakatta cemetery. A decent, mediocre, local politician, Crowder's national importance was due solely to his membership of the Federal Convention, to which he was elected mainly to serve as a follower in the wake of Forrest, and in whose principles he had not the slightest faith.

Select Bibliography

  • Morning Herald (Perth), 3 May 1902
  • private information.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Crowder, Frederick Thomas (1856–1902)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/crowder-frederick-thomas-5832/text9905, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 10 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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