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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Muller, Frederick (Fritz) (1881–1962)

by J. Tampke

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Frederick (Fritz) Muller (1881-1962), manufacturer, was born on 21 July 1881 at Neustadt, Prussia, Germany, son of Wilhelm Müller, tourist guide, and his wife Elizabeth, née Hock. The family reached Sydney in the Bombay on 9 June 1885. Known as Fritz he attended several schools and after his father's death helped his mother to run their Viennese-style café. At 13 he started work for the sheet-metal-working firm, Wunderlich Patent Ceiling and Roofing Co. Ltd. A devout Lutheran, he married Gertrude Amelia Katherine Jope at the Lutheran Church in Goulburn Street on 11 April 1903. He was naturalized in 1904.

Next year Muller opened his own sheet metal workshop in a small loft in George Street, equipped with a blowlamp, a primus stove and a soldering-iron. After successfully repairing a car radiator for Mark Foy and a mudguard for John Norton, he specialized in radiator and mudguard repair and manufacture. He invented an all-metal mudguard and, as motoring became more popular, his business grew rapidly. By 1911 he had moved to larger premises in Crown Street. Expansion continued during World War I and in 1919 he bought a large block on Parramatta Road, Camperdown, where he later built a three-storey factory.

In the early 1930s Muller began to manufacture refrigerator components, which previously had been imported. He imported specially designed plant as the equipment was unavailable in Australia. Developing a hard-solder technique, Muller made submerged and flooded coils, condensers, evaporators and other sheet metal and tubular parts for commercial and domestic refrigerators, as well as air-conditioning equipment.

In 1937 he set up the private company, F. Muller Pty Ltd. The business flourished during World War II with the acceptance of government contracts; production included radiators for cruiser tanks, power-generating plants for Australian-produced vehicles, and self-sealing fuel and oil tanks for Mosquito aircraft. The firm also helped to establish the operational value of new inventions for the Army Inventions Directorate.

Known as the 'Chief', Muller was a strong, thick-set man with an 'air of quiet purpose'. Cautious and meticulous, he always thought modestly of himself as 'a sheet metal worker'. With his ingenuity and mechanical expertise he made a considerable contribution to the development of Australian secondary industry and was one of the most successful of Australia's German immigrants. In 1955, the fiftieth anniversary of his firm, he retired in favour of his sons, but continued to take a keen interest in the business. In 1959 the firm merged with National Radiators Ltd (now National Consolidated Ltd).

Survived by his wife, three sons and two daughters, Muller died at his Caringbah home on 23 March 1962, and was buried with Lutheran rites in Woronora cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £95,144.

Select Bibliography

  • People (Sydney), 12 Jan 1955
  • Refrigeration, Cold Storage and Air Conditioning, 30 Apr 1955, 31 May 1962
  • Refrigeration Journal, 2 Aug 1955
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 11 May 1962
  • naturalisation file, A1/04/3368 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

J. Tampke, 'Muller, Frederick (Fritz) (1881–1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 29 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

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