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Smith, Victor Charles (1892–1981)

by Ted Best

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

Victor Charles Smith (1892-1981), businessman, was born on 19 July 1892 at Boots Gully, near Daylesford, Victoria, second of five children of Victorian-born parents Edwin Lewis Smith, farmer, and his wife Mary Elizabeth, née Righetti. Victor attended University High School, Melbourne, then a small private school. Joining the staff of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, he studied accounting, completed his articles and became an associate of the Incorporated Institute of Accountants. He moved to Tasmania to work for a firm of accountants in Launceston. Commissioned in the Australian Imperial Force on 1 May 1916 and promoted to lieutenant in September, he served on the Western Front with the 40th Battalion for three months in 1916-17 and ten months in 1917-18. He was then attached to the AIF Education Service in England and attended classes at the London School of Economics and Political Science from April to October 1919. His appointment ended in Australia in March 1920.

Six months after Smith returned to his Launceston employers, he came in contact with the ‘Cadbury commission’, formed to select a site in Australia for a factory to manufacture confectionery. Cadbury and other British firms wanted to regain their share of the local confectionery trade lost when imports were restricted in 1914. Joining the commission as secretary and accountant, Smith conducted many of the negotiations leading to the establishment in 1922 of the company Cadbury-Fry-Pascall Pty Ltd and to the construction of its factory at Claremont, Tasmania. Appointed a director in 1924, with the chairman and managing director N. P. Booth he helped to develop the business. He married Nerida Marion Wilkinson on 4 November 1925 at All Saints Church of England, Brisbane.

In 1939 Smith succeeded Booth as chairman. During his thirty-two years with Cadbury-Fry-Pascall, Smith saw enormous changes at the company and in Tasmania generally. He steered the firm successfully through the Depression and World War II. Slight in build but incisive in business leadership, he earned great respect for insisting on product quality and manufacturing efficiency, and for supporting a vigorous national sales force and marketing program. By the 1950s the company was a market leader. Smith was also a consulting director to the New Zealand company Cadbury-Fry-Hudson Ltd, founded in 1930.

Smith had many business associations in Tasmania and on the mainland. He served (1942-44) on the council of the Hobart Chamber of Commerce and for several years on a federal exports advisory committee. In 1946 he became president of the Commonwealth Chocolate and Confectionery Manufacturers Association. In 1950-61 he was a member of the Hobart Savings Bank’s general committee. He retired from Cadbury in November 1953.

A keen bushwalker and skier, Smith helped to found the Ski Club of Tasmania in 1926 and was later chairman of the council of southern Tasmanian ski clubs. On his 1300-acre (526-ha) property at Ravensdale, on Tasmania’s east coast, he produced high-quality wool. He was chairman (1956-58) of the board of management of the Queen Alexandra Hospital. In later life he lived at Mooloolaba, Queensland. Survived by his wife and their two daughters, he died there on 21 September 1981 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • I. A. Williams, The Firm of Cadbury 1831-1931 (1931)
  • Bournville Works Mag, Jan 1954, p 1
  • Mercury (Hobart), 25 Sept 1981, p 2
  • B2455, item SMITH V C (National Archives of Australia)
  • private information and personal knowledge.

Citation details

Ted Best, 'Smith, Victor Charles (1892–1981)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-victor-charles-15739/text26927, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 26 May 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (MUP), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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