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Grosse, Frederick (1828–1894)

by Peter A. Dowling

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Frederick Grosse (1828-1894), engraver and vigneron, was born in February 1828 at Aschersleben, Prussia, son of Tibertus Andrew Arristoft Grosse, founder, and his wife Dorothea, née Hensher. Frederick arrived in Adelaide in January 1854, departing a few days later for Victoria. After a year on the Sandhurst (Bendigo) goldfields he set up business in Melbourne as a designer and wood-engraver. At his home in Flinders Lane on 6 November 1856 he married with Lutheran rites Caterina Sophia Henriette Hachmann, née Hanstein, a German-born widow. They were to have four children, three of whom died in childhood.

Grosse had mixed success in business, mainly producing woodblocks for illustrated periodicals that rarely ran for long. His earliest recorded work was in the first issue of Melbourne Punch on 2 August 1855, after which he engraved illustrations for the Newsletter of Australasia, the Illustrated Melbourne News and the Illustrated Australian Mail. Yet he was optimistic concerning the future of graphic journalism in the young colony, being a partner with the publisher William Detmold and the artist-illustrator Nicholas Chevalier as proprietors of the Illustrated Melbourne News, which ran for six weeks at the beginning of 1858. The most likely cause of failure was a lack of capital, compounded by an ambitious weekly publication schedule given Victoria's small, decentralized population.

Engaged to engrave the punches for two series of Victorian postage stamps, Grosse produced the Beaded Ovals series (1860) and the Laureated series (1863-67). Also at this time, he and Rudolph Jenny, possibly an employee, developed what seems to have been a woodblock stereotype process known as 'Bismuthography'. This was patented on 16 February 1861 but there were no commercial applications. In 1862-68 Grosse's engraving work for illustrated periodicals expanded with the launching of the Illustrated Melbourne Post and the Illustrated Australian News. His monogram appeared on many illustrations in both these monthly papers. A new prosperity was reflected by his 1864 purchase of Tooronga Vineyard on Emu Creek, Strathfieldsaye, near Bendigo, after having sold a vineyard he had planted in 1857 at Thomastown.

On 11 June 1868 Grosse was appointed supernumerary wood-engraver to the Government Printing Office. He subsequently produced hundreds of engravings for government publications, most notably R. B. Smyth's The Goldfields and Mineral Districts of Victoria (1869) and The Aborigines of Victoria (1878). Grosse was given a permanent appointment on 1 July 1877, but lost his position six months later in the Berry government's 'Black Wednesday' dismissal of sections of the public service.

Grosse then became a full-time vigneron. In May 1881 he expanded upon his operation by opening Bendigo Wine Cellars in Melbourne. His wines won prizes at colonial, intercolonial and international wine shows and he displayed further entrepreneurial flair in 1889 when he engaged a German-trained wine-maker Maurice Steiner, from Hungary, to manage his vineyard. In the early 1890s Grosse bought the adjoining Emu Vineyard, giving him a total holding of sixty-eight acres (27.5 ha) under vine; he became the largest grape grower in the Bendigo district.

His wife died in 1887. In December 1893 he found Phylloxera vasatrix in his vineyard, the first discovery of the disease in the district; his vines were uprooted in early 1894. The experience told heavily and after a short illness Grosse died of influenza and pneumonia on 4 October that year at St Kilda and was buried in St Kilda cemetery. One daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Mahood, The Loaded Line (Melb, 1973)
  • G. Kellow, The Stamps of Victoria (Melb, 1990)
  • J. Kerr (ed), The Dictionary of Australian Artists (Melb, 1992)
  • D. Dunstan, Better than Pommard! (Melb, 1994)
  • Australian Vigneron and Fruit-Growers’ Journal, no 4, 1893, p 124, no 7, 1894, p 110
  • Advertiser (Bendigo), 8 Oct 1894, p 3
  • P. A. Dowling, Chronicles of Progress: The Illustrated Newspapers of Colonial Australia, 1853-1896 (Ph.D. thesis, Monash University, 1997).

Citation details

Peter A. Dowling, 'Grosse, Frederick (1828–1894)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/grosse-frederick-12955/text23415, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 24 September 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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