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Jones, Sir Henry (1862–1926)

by John Reynolds

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Sir Henry Jones (1862-1926), jam manufacturer, was born on 19 July 1862 in Hobart Town, second son of John Jones, clerk in Alexander McGregor's mercantile and shipping office, and his wife Emma, née Matheson (Mapperson). Both parents were Welsh; his father was known as an amusing 'good fellow', but Henry was more influenced by his mother's devout Wesleyanism. He was educated at Mr Canaway's school where he excelled in commercial subjects. After beginning work, aged 12, at George Peacock's jam factory on the Old Wharf, pasting labels on tins, within a few years he had become an expert jam-boiler. On 21 April 1883 at St David's Anglican Cathedral, Hobart, Jones married Alice Glover, a capable, striking, auburn-haired woman who bore him three sons and nine daughters and who became one of the principal supporters of art in Hobart.

In 1885, at a time when the viability of the Tasmanian intercolonial jam trade was threatened by mainland competition, Jones was promoted factory foreman; and in 1889 when Peacock retired he took control as H. Jones & Co. in partnership with A. W. Palfreyman and Peacock's son Ernest. With Jones as manager the firm slowly recovered: by 1898 'splendid' new premises had been built, the range of canned products had been diversified, and the partners had entered the hop-production business and the overseas export trade. During the partnership period Jones adopted the brand name IXL (a play on 'I excel') and was himself popularly dubbed 'Jam Tin Jones'.

In 1902 the partnership was dissolved and a limited liability company was formed in July 1903. Jones, as chairman and managing director, was joined by (Sir) Alfred Henry Ashbolt and George Bertrand Edwards, a former football team-mate who had become Federal member for South Sydney and an expert on tariff matters. The need for strong united policies to deal with the new system of national wage fixation and the conditions required by tariff legislation relating to protection of industries led to the formation in Melbourne in November 1909 of a confederation of companies, Henry Jones Co-Operative Ltd. The group organization received much public criticism; yet it was in fact a rare example of 'horizontal monopoly' which did not result in policies harmful to the consuming public. The company eventually extended to all Australian States, New Zealand and South Africa.

Jones was a shrewd investor in promising Tasmanian undertakings. His greatest profits came not from jam, but from the Thailand tin-dredging industry whose promoter was Hobart-born E. T. Miles. The IXL Prospecting Co. was formed about 1903, followed by the Tongkah Harbour Tin Dredging Co. (1906) and Tongkah Compound (1910). The word 'Tongkah' entered the Hobart vocabulary as an adjective denoting good financial luck. Jones became a leading Australian financier and one of the early advisers to the Commonwealth Bank. During World War I he advised British government authorities on their Tasmanian investments. His support for the war effort also included the gift of an aeroplane to the British Army. He was knighted in 1919.

Caricatured as the 'Knight of the Jam Tin', Jones confronted post-war difficulties with his customary energy. He was influential in the formation in Hobart of the Growers' Export Pool in 1919; his part in the operation of the scheme entailed securing steamers to carry the fruit to England. He also tried, with limited success, to improve the cargo shipping services between Tasmania and the mainland by a programme of wooden ship-building at Tasmanian ship-yards. On a visit to England in 1921 he arranged for the erection of woollen mills in Launceston by the English firms of Paton & Baldwins Ltd and Kelsall & Kemp Ltd. The rival Hobart jam manufactory, W. D. Peacock & Co., was acquired by purchase after World War I, but an attempt to establish branch factories in California failed. In 1922 Jones retired and was succeeded by Frederick H. Peacock.

Jones accepted appointment to the Executive Council in 1924, although he was characteristically a man who shunned public office. A teetotaller, he liked to entertain his few cronies over billiards in his home, Glenora, and supported with quiet generosity such institutions as the Methodist Church, the Nurses' Home, the Girls' Industrial School and various sporting bodies. In his youth an active Australian Rules player, he was a lifelong supporter of the North Hobart Football Club. His factory manager of the 1890s, William Leitch, was a star player, and many a promising young footballer was assured of a job with the firm. Jones was also a member of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce and Hobart Rotary and consul for Denmark. He died on 29 October 1926 in Melbourne of coronary thrombosis while negotiating for the establishment in Launceston of a British tyre-manufacturing industry. Survived by his wife and children he was buried in Cornelian Bay cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £112,646.

Select Bibliography

  • Papers and Proceedings of the Tasmanian Historical Research Association, 20 (1973), no 1, and for bibliog.

Citation details

John Reynolds, 'Jones, Sir Henry (1862–1926)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-sir-henry-6874/text11911, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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