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von Stieglitz, Karl Rawdon (1893–1967)

by Tim Jetson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Karl Rawdon von Stieglitz (1893-1967), pastoralist and antiquarian, was born on 19 August 1893 at Andora, a holding near Evandale, Tasmania, second son of four children of John Charles von Stieglitz, pastoralist and politician, and his second wife Lilian Brooke Vere, née Stead. The family was originally from Pomerania, Saxony, but had moved to County Armagh in Ireland, then to Van Diemen's Land in 1829. F. L. von Stieglitz was John's uncle. Karl was educated at home by tutors, because bouts of rheumatic fever prevented regular school attendance, and later in England.

In March 1917 he reputedly enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was allotted to the Australian Medical Corps but was discharged in November on health grounds. Remaining in New South Wales, von Stieglitz studied for two years at Hawkesbury Agricultural College, Richmond, and married Eileen Bessie Helsham at St Peter's Church of England, Richmond, on 19 June 1920. Returning to Andora, he top-dressed the soil, sowed subterranean clover pasture, developed a Corriedale stud flock and planted more trees than he felled. His innovations did not extend to mechanization, however, as he retained draught horses until after World War II. Karl became active in the local community. In 1952 he was appointed O.B.E. in recognition of his involvement in local government, the Church of England, the Boy Scouts' Association, Freemasonry, Evandale Agricultural Show and the Royal Society of Tasmania.

Von Stieglitz was best known for his contributions to local history, inspired by an enthusiasm for his pioneer pastoral ancestors, a visit to Britain in 1906-07 and his belief in the primacy of the landowning class. His thirty-eight works, which covered pastoral history, bushrangers and churches, could best be described as a pageant of pioneer families. The books lacked a chronological or thematic framework, included unverified stories and had a concept of pastoralists as the motive force for change. He had a roseate view of convict assignees as old lags, and regarded Aborigines as simple and inoffensive until roused to revenge. His charm and pastoral background, however, gave him access to oral reminiscences and previously unused family material such as letters, manuscripts and photographs. In epilogues and interludes he showed a poetic streak and an Arcadian appreciation of the environment. According to the Launceston Examiner, his books, radio broadcasts, lectures and excursions, brought history 'alive'. He donated the proceeds from his writings to charity.

His works coincided with a burgeoning interest in the State's heritage, previous Tasmanian history having been concerned mainly with celebratory accounts of major institutions such as independent schools and churches. He exemplified the antiquarian imagination, based on intimate knowledge of local sites and sources.

Von Stieglitz died on 26 March 1967 during a service in St Andrew's Church of England, Evandale, and was buried in that churchyard. His wife and their son and daughter survived him. The Launceston branch of the National Trust of Australia established a memorial lecture in honour of him and his fellow stalwarts Isabella Mead and Roy Smith.

Select Bibliography

  • The Tasmanian Cyclopedia (Hob, 1931)
  • T. Griffiths, Hunters and Collectors (Melb, 1996)
  • Australian Women’s Weekly, 22 Oct 1975, p 30
  • Examiner (Launceston), 27 Mar 1967, p 3, 29 Mar 1967, p 7, 10 July 1973, p 9
  • Mercury (Hobart), 1 Jan 1952, p 3, 27 Mar 1967, p 6
  • private information.

Citation details

Tim Jetson, 'von Stieglitz, Karl Rawdon (1893–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/von-stieglitz-karl-rawdon-13229/text7183, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

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