Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

White, Daniel (1834–1923)

by Margaret Steven

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

Daniel White (1834?-1923), carriage-builder, was born probably on 19 September 1834 at Roscrea, County Tipperary, Ireland, eldest son of Edward White, mechanic, and his wife Margaret, née Guilfoyle. While Daniel was still an apprentice in his father's blacksmith shop, Edward's death left him responsible at 17 for his mother and her seven children. The family migrated to Victoria in 1861 and Daniel easily found employment in Melbourne workshops. On 2 June 1868 at St Mary's Catholic Church, Geelong, he married his countrywoman Sarah Delaney, a milliner. Possessed of £180 by March 1869, White began his own carriage-building business 'in a small way' in Swanston Street, Melbourne.

In the following decade White's carriages, in which 'lightness, sound workmanship and artistic ornament were happily blended', were showered with medals and prizes at exhibitions in Melbourne, Sydney and London. The business quickly became one of the best known of its kind in Melbourne. White's versatile employees (some of whom were with him for decades) produced a range of vehicles including buggies, waggonettes, landaus and Victorias. A celebrated four-in-hand drag was made to order for the 2nd Marquess of Normanby and an exact copy in crimson and gold, trimmed with maroon velvet and yellow silk lace, was built for the King of Siam in 1882. In the early 1880s White moved his plant and showrooms to a site in Grant Street, off St Kilda Road. With its modern, steam-powered machinery, and about one hundred employees, it was considered one of the most complete carriage-making workshops in Australia; when White converted to a limited liability company (with a capital of £60,000) in March 1888, the shares were quickly oversubscribed. Refusing to use other than the best imported materials, he opposed protection, telling one official inquiry: 'I would like to see everything free as the air that blows on the mountain top'.

For three years Daniel White & Co. Ltd was able to pay a remarkable dividend of 10 per cent, but the depression drew White in 1892 to attend to the branch he had opened in Western Australia some five years earlier. On his return in 1896, he found his Melbourne company facing daunting claims. Perhaps it was his lovable disposition and Irish eyes twinkling in a smooth and placid face rather than his blacksmith's robustness that persuaded timber merchant James Moore to build him a new shop in Sturt Street, South Melbourne. After 1904 White entered the automobile trade, building bodies for imported chassis, and holding the agency for Simms Welbeck and Duryea Power Carriages. His original company in Grant Street went into voluntary liquidation in 1908.

A life member of the Coach and Waggon Builder's Association, White was an office-bearer in the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. In 1877 he had moved the motion that created a local chamber of manufactures, of which he was president (1883-84) and honorary treasurer for thirty-eight years. He represented the chamber on the Working Men's College council: at the smoke-night to honour his retirement from its presidency in September 1923, his 'vigour, shrewdness and humour, and kindliness incomparable' were recognized affectionately. He died on the 24th of that month in St Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy, and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. Two sons survived him; his estate was sworn for probate at £5304.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Victoria), 1894, 2 (37), p 563, 1895-96, 3 (71), p 219
  • Australasian Trade Review, 5 June 1882, p 296
  • Australasian Coachbuilder and Saddler, 15 Nov 1894, p 115
  • Victorian Historical Magazine, 43, May 1972, p 802
  • Melbourne Bulletin, 6 Oct 1882
  • Argus (Melbourne), 26 Sept 1923.

Citation details

Margaret Steven, 'White, Daniel (1834–1923)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/white-daniel-9070/text15987, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 21 October 2019.

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

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2019