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Mosman, Archibald (1799–1863)

by M. D. Stephen

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

Archibald Mosman (1799-1863), by unknown photographer

Archibald Mosman (1799-1863), by unknown photographer

State Library of New South Wales, GPO 1 - 17662

Archibald Mosman (1799-1863), merchant and pastoralist, was born on 15 October 1799, the elder of twin sons of Hugh Mosman, of Auchtyfardle, near Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, and his wife Agnes, née Kennedy. His father was convener of the County of Lanark and his eldest brother Hugh, became deputy-lieutenant of Lanark. Archibald and his twin brother George, after spending some time growing sugar in the West Indies, arrived in Sydney in the Civilian on 24 August 1828. The ship appears to have been under charter to them; they brought with them their own clerk, W. Scott, and a recommendation to the governor from the Colonial Office. They at once launched into business. A warehouse was first established in George Street and in 1831 a small grant was obtained on the foreshore of Great Sirius Cove.

The sequence of events in Archibald Mosman's business career is certain but the dates are indefinite. Until 1832 the George Street warehouse was maintained doubtless to support general trade of the kind suggested by an announcement in the Sydney Gazette, 15 January 1829, that Messrs Mosman were agents for the Mary sailing to 'Liverpool direct' and that they would 'either purchase or make an advance on wool [in cash] consigned to their House in Liverpool'; perhaps connexions with Liverpool had been established during the years in the West Indies. The partnership between the brothers was dissolved in July 1829 but whether this was more than a business manoeuvre is uncertain. In practice the firm seems still to have been referred to as Messrs Mosman. In July 1832 the George Street warehouse was offered for sale and about that time Mosman built The Nest at Sirius Cove.

The brothers, like many Sydney merchants of the late 1820s, were interested in whaling, and Archibald planned to make Sirius Cove a centre for the industry. He bought out his competitor, John Bell, who had also been granted land at the cove for a whaling depot, and eventually extended his original grant to include a large part of the suburb which was given his name. In 1835 two whalers, the Jane, 221 tons, and the Tigress, 192 tons, were registered as belonging to the firm of Mosman; and in that year another vessel was bought by them, apparently for trade with New Zealand. The profits from whaling and from the berthing, careening and refitting facilities at Mosman's Bay appear to have been considerable; and in 1838 by arrangement, the precise nature of which is uncertain, Mosman's interests at Sirius Cove were taken over by Messrs Hughes & Hosking in return for a fixed sum to be paid to Mosman annually. By August 1844, however, Mosman and Hughes & Hosking were bankrupt. Mosman lost not only his annuity but the whaling establishment as well. His other more speculative Sydney interests, the Floating Bridge Co., the Sydney Ferry Co. and the Australian Auction Co., seem all to have been abandoned; and it was probably soon after this that he acquired Furracabad station near Glen Innes. In the widely scattered information on Mosman little more can be found about his career. Presumably the initial cost of Furracabad was purely nominal and with the development of Glen Innes Mosman appears to have prospered sufficiently to remove eventually to Byron Lodge, Randwick, where he died on 29 January 1863.

He had married on 31 December 1847 Harriet Farquharson, who died on 24 August 1883. There appear to have been eleven children of the marriage, ten of whom survived. The eldest daughter married Sir Arthur Palmer and another married Sir Thomas McIlwraith. The eldest son, Hugh Mosman, was conspicuous in the development of the Charters Towers district, Queensland.

Select Bibliography

  • E. C. Sommerlad, Land of the Beardies (Glen Innes, 1922)
  • E. A. Archer, ‘Mosman's Bay: The Romance of an Old Whaling Station’, Journal and Proceedings (Australian Historical Society), vol 2, part 10, 1909, pp 229-255 and vol 2, part 11, 1909, pp 257-70
  • J. H. Watson, Mosman newscuttings, manuscripts, and photographs (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

M. D. Stephen, 'Mosman, Archibald (1799–1863)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mosman-archibald-2485/text3341, published in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 29 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

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