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Elliott, Sizar (1814–1901)

by E. A. Beever

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Sizar Elliott (1814-1901), merchant and innovator, was born on 13 May 1814 at Burnham, Essex, England, son of John Elliott, flour-miller, and his wife Annie, née Bell. After his father died, he was taken at 4 by his mother to New Brunswick, Canada. There he was educated at the national school and served a seven-year apprenticeship to a merchant-auctioneer. In 1835 he left New Brunswick to join an uncle in Launceston, Van Diemen's Land. Next year he married Sarah Neestrip and soon afterwards moved to Sydney, where in 1839 he set up as a grocer. He remained in Sydney until gold was discovered, when he first tried his luck at the Bathurst diggings, then shipped goods to Victoria and finally established a general retail merchant business in Melbourne. Apart from a short stay at Dunedin, New Zealand, in the early 1860s, he lived in Melbourne.

With a strong physique, great energy and passion for scientific experiment, Elliott was above all a tireless advocate of the products of his adopted land. In Sydney his efforts of promotion included colonial wine for the local market, the export of lambskins to China and the import of kauri gum from New Zealand. Particularly notable were his pioneering efforts from 1845 to develop a canned meat export trade in response to the current glut of livestock. He was probably the first in Australia to can meat and was awarded medals at successive Sydney shows. Although he failed commercially he inspired others who were more successful. In Melbourne Elliott's inventive talents won him exhibition medals at various times for tentmaking, butter churns, milk pans and wine; in 1859 he had planted a small vineyard at Brighton and for many years devoted much time to fermentation experiments. In 1872 and 1876 he published two editions of On the Introduction of Local Industries into New South Wales.

Elliott became a public figure of some note in Melbourne. In 1857 he served on the committee to send an expedition to central Australia. Next year he became a Melbourne City councillor and was chiefly responsible for establishing the Public Baths, though he protested bitterly when they were leased to a private contractor known to be 'a molester of ladies'. In 1859 he was appointed a magistrate of the city. In the early 1870s, after his own business had declined, Elliott became a professional fund raiser for the Alfred Hospital. In this role he was among the first to suggest the idea of a 'Hospital Sunday' when church and chapel collections would be donated to hospitals. However, while the Alfred Hospital moved slowly on the idea, the Melbourne Hospital took the initiative, and Elliott lost much of the credit for a device which was to raise large sums for the hospitals.

Elliott's creative efforts faded in the 1870s. His wife died in 1876, survived by two sons and a daughter. He moved to Prahran and lived in retirement though still active physically and as a magistrate. In 1887 he published Fifty Years of Colonial Life, and in 1895 the Prahran Telegraph ran a series of articles, later published as a pamphlet, on his long and useful life. He died at Prahran on 1 March 1901 and was buried at the Cheltenham cemetery.

Citation details

E. A. Beever, 'Elliott, Sizar (1814–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/elliott-sizar-3478/text5325, published in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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