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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Rasp, Charles (1846–1907)

by A. Coulls

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

Charles Rasp (1846-1907), by unknown photographer

Charles Rasp (1846-1907), by unknown photographer

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 28307

Charles Rasp (1846-1907), prospector, was born on 7 October 1846 at Stuttgart, Duchy of Württemberg, where he was educated. A clerk in a chemical firm, he later trained as an edible-oil technologist with a large chemical manufacturing company in Hamburg, where he worked in the export department as he was fluent in English and French. Rasp was delicate and the bitter winter of 1868 brought on a serious lung weakness, so he decided to leave Germany for a warmer climate.

Rasp arrived in Melbourne in 1869 and found work pruning vines. After two years on agricultural properties he tried the Victorian goldfields but the days of the big strikes were over and the slushy diggings gave him a hacking cough. On advice from friends he moved to New South Wales. He worked on Walwa station, then wandered from place to place until engaged as a boundary rider on Mount Gipps station in the Barrier Ranges in the far west. After discoveries of silver at Silverton and Day Dream every station-hand in the area searched for indications of the metal.

When his duties led him to the 'hill', Rasp often examined the outcrop. No geologist, he was observant and on 5 September 1883 pegged the first block on the 'Broken Hill', which he thought was a mountain of tin. On advice of the Mount Gipps manager, George McCulloch, a 'syndicate of seven' was formed and seven blocks pegged to include the whole ridge. Each member subscribed £70 to the unregistered 'Broken Hill Mining Co.' and paid £1 a week towards working the claim.

The syndicate had little success for some months and the Adelaide analysts' reports were disappointing as they only tested for tin. The discovery of rich silver ore in 1885 led to the formation of the Broken Hill Proprietary Co., with capital of 16,000 £20 shares, 14,000 of which went to the syndicate, and to a rapid growth of the mining industry at Broken Hill. Within five years Rasp had made a fortune.

He was prominently connected with Broken Hill for some years. With a large number of shares in the company, he moved to Adelaide when dividends were declared; he married Agnes Maria Louise Klevesahl there on 22 July 1886. They bought a house, Willyama, where his wife entertained in the grand manner. Rasp preferred his library of French and German books. For some years he had mining interests in Western Australia.

Leaving an estate of £48,000, Rasp died suddenly from a heart attack at his residence on 22 May 1907 and was buried in North Road cemetery, Adelaide. He was childless. In 1914 his widow married Count von Zedtwitz and died in Adelaide in 1936. Oil paintings of Rasp and his wife are in the Charles Rasp Memorial Library, Broken Hill.

Select Bibliography

  • J. J. Pascoe, History of Adelaide and Vicinity (Adel, 1901)
  • R. Bridges, From Silver to Steel (Melb, 1920)
  • A. Coulls, Charles Rasp: Founder of Broken Hill (Broken Hill, 1952)
  • W. S. Robinson, If I Remember Rightly, G. Blainey, ed (Melb, 1967)
  • Argus (Melbourne), 19 Aug 1905
  • Barrier Miner, 23 May 1907
  • Australian Worker, 30 May 1907
  • private information.

Citation details

A. Coulls, 'Rasp, Charles (1846–1907)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1976, accessed online 25 November 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 6, (MUP), 1976

View the front pages for Volume 6

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