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Vanzetti, Eugenio (1844–1908)

by Robert Pascoe

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Eugenio Vanzetti (1844?-1908?), financier and entrepreneur, was born near Verona, Italy. Having studied chemistry and metallurgy, and gained mining experience in France and Spain, he migrated about 1879 with his wife and daughter to New South Wales. As a chemist and medical practitioner in Forbes, Parkes, Mount Hope, Broken Hill and Cobar, he incidentally broadened his knowledge of mining. He was granted approval to mine for gold in New South Wales in 1892 and, as the representative of commercial interests, took his family to the Western Australian goldfields in 1894. To his business drive, Eugenio added the grooming and courtesy 'of a widely travelled and well-read Italian gentleman'. 'I am', he said, 'a staunch believer in the mineral resources and future prosperity of Western Australia'. By 1896 Vanzetti had perhaps more capital than any individual in the colony; he had held Great Boulder shares until they reached £8.

Having travelled to London in 1895, he floated the Water Trust, Mining & Quartz Crushing Co. of Western Australia Ltd with a capital of £250,000 to develop his Golden Pig mine at Southern Cross. For his Colonisation Co., he also visited the area near Lucca, Italy; there, backed by the Italian consul in Sydney, he recruited twenty-five peasants to settle on his Seabrook Estate near Northam, Western Australia. They were to be followed by 300 families to form an Italian colony which would include farmers, winemakers and sericulturists who worked for his companies. He was negotiating to reopen a silver mine at Kendinup and claimed to have floated companies worth £515,000 in London. On this trip he also brought his orphaned nephew Francesco back to Perth.

In June 1896 Vanzetti announced that his Water Trust Co. at Seabrook, on the Yilgarn railway, was ready to begin operations. Its plant included an 80-head stamp battery, assay office, storehouses, blacksmith's shop and rolling-stock from South Australia. The company was to crush ore from the Golden Pig and backload water for sale in Coolgardie. Later that year Vanzetti publicized his Western Australian Industrial & Mining Tramway Co. which proposed to build railways to carry ore to a terminus near Newcastle. Vanzetti again took his wife and daughter to London in 1897 where he planned to capitalize the tramway company to the extent of £2 million. In 1898 he opened the magnificent Alhambra Café in Hay Street, Perth. Next year Vanzetti & Co.'s grandiose schemes were crumbling: changing cost factors rendered his mining ventures unprofitable and the machinery was dismantled.

Turning his attention to the Australian wine industry, in 1900 Vanzetti sailed to Italy; cancer delayed his next foray to London. By 1902, when his wife and daughter arrived in Milan, he had joined an Italian mining company. In 1904 the flow of Italian migrants to Western Australia provoked an outcry and a royal commission on non-British immigrants was established to investigate whether they were arriving under illegal contracts. Alfredo Gaddini, one of Vanzetti's first recruits, was a key witness. Eugenio Vanzetti died probably in Italy in 1908.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberley, History of West Australia (Melb, 1897)
  • J. Gentilli, Italian Roots in Australian Soil (Perth, 1983)
  • British Australasian, 2 May, 24 Oct, 28 Nov 1895, 29 Sept 1898, 6 Sept, 13 Dec 1900
  • Australasian, 6 Apr 1895, 4 Jan 1902
  • Morning Herald (Perth), 21 Jan, 8 Feb, 17 June, 29 Oct 1896, 11 Jan 1897.

Citation details

Robert Pascoe, 'Vanzetti, Eugenio (1844–1908)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vanzetti-eugenio-8905/text15643, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 16 January 2019.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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