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Vogt, George Leonard (1848–1937)

by J. D. Adams

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

George Leonard Vogt (1848-1937), journalist and editor, was born on 1 November 1848 at Frankfurt am Main (Germany), son of Johann Hermann Vogt, printer, and his wife Maria Elisabeth, née Kellner, a former operatic singer. The family arrived in Melbourne on the Marco Polo on 6 December 1856, lived at Kew and later settled in the Scarsdale district where Johann established the Grenville Advocate. On his father's death in 1864, George was apprenticed to a Ballarat printer and became caught up in political reform movements.

In June 1870 Vogt joined his brother John in Gippsland; they founded a newspaper, the Bairnsdale Courier, in which they recorded many of the activities of reform groups. Vogt left the paper in 1871 and returned to Melbourne to partner the printer Charles Jones in the publication of the Internationalist; it ran for twelve issues between February and May 1872, and continued as the Australian International Monthly for another two issues. Both of these papers supported the formation of the Democratic Association of Victoria which espoused the cause of the First International (formed in London in 1864).

Moving to Ballarat, Vogt worked for a local paper and married Scottish-born Margaret Young with Presbyterian forms on 10 January 1877. Next year he took over the management of the Bairnsdale Courier from his brother. When it ceased publication in March 1879, George founded the Bairnsdale Liberal News which was to become in 1881 the Bairnsdale and Bruthen News. In 1890 he and John launched Gippsland's first and only daily paper, the Gippsland Daily News; the venture failed and they were both bankrupted. While John revived the Courier, George went to Melbourne about 1894 where he worked as a printer at Malvern. Shifting to Ballarat, he began a pioneering cork-cutting business.

Back in Melbourne in 1899, Vogt was employed from 1901 on the Federal Hansard printing staff. He again became associated with the radical press: with Thomas J. Windlow, he set up a workers' co-operative newspaper, the People's Daily, to provide a 'liberal democratic' penny daily in opposition to the Argus and Age. Against great odds, their paper was published from November 1903 to June 1904. A short, wiry man, Vogt saw himself as a 'fighting journalist' and a champion of the workers.

When the paper folded, George retired with his family to run a cork factory, Vogt Bros Pty Ltd, later the Cork & Crown Seal Co. Pty Ltd. At his Brunswick home he entertained many of his friends in the labour movement, including several politicians. In retirement he wrote for journals such as Labor Call, produced papers on contemporary and historical subjects, and lobbied successfully for a tariff on imported corks (1908). Vogt died at Brunswick on 12 April 1937 and was cremated. His wife, three daughters and six sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Labor Call, 25 June, 9 July 1931, 19 Dec 1935
  • Labour History, Nov 1964, no 7, p 14, May 1965, no 8, p 22
  • W. Trevena, Country Newspaper People: A Select Biographical Dictionary of Country Newspaper Men and Women Working in Victoria Between 1840 and 1980 (M.A. thesis, University of Melbourne, 1985)
  • Vogt papers (State Library of Victoria).

Citation details

J. D. Adams, 'Vogt, George Leonard (1848–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/vogt-george-leonard-8929/text15687, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 September 2017.

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

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