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Wimble, Frederick Thomas (1846–1936)

by Humphrey McQueen

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

Frederick Thomas Wimble (1846-1936), ink-maker, type-founder, printers' furnisher and politician, was born on 28 November 1846 at Clerkenwell, London, thirteenth child and one of two sons of Benjamin Wimble, a second-generation ink-maker associated with Cambridge University Press, and his wife Elizabeth, née Smith. In 1867 the consumptive youth migrated for his health, reaching Melbourne in the Anglesey on 29 June.

Wimble had brought out printing materials valued at £150 and a £30 bank draft to establish himself with support from his father who forwarded further plant and raw materials. Attached to the firm of J. Spencer, Wimble produced his first ink on 4 May 1868, claiming that his blue ink made the Melbourne Star in that year the first newspaper published with a local supply. His provision of red ink for a South Australian postage stamp in 1869 led to contracts from other colonies. On 13 March 1872 in the manse of the Scots Church, Melbourne, he married Harriett Gascoigne, née Howard, a milliner and draper; she was a widow with two children. There were to be three children of the marriage, which ended in divorce. In 1876 Wimble travelled to the United States of America and Britain, securing agencies for printing equipment. Returning to Australia in 1878, he moved the headquarters of F. T. Wimble & Co. to Sydney, from where he furnished the printing trades throughout Australia and New Zealand.

In 1883 Wimble left the business to his partners and, hoping to become 'a sugar baron', moved to Cairns, Queensland, where he speculated in land, founded the Cairns Post in 1883 and was elected an alderman. He then reputedly spent £7000 in a successful campaign to be returned to the Legislative Assembly as a Liberal member for Cairns on 5 May 1888. On 16 August 1890 in Brisbane he married with Presbyterian forms London-born Marian Sarah Benjamin (d.1933). When Wimble's printers' furnishing business opened in Brisbane, he rejoined the firm and presided over the branch. With business affected by the economic depression, he did not recontest his seat in parliament in April 1893, but returned to Sydney 'with nothing left but my good name'. Obtaining a loan and resuming control of his company, he expanded, with a plant at Mascot as well as offices and warehouse showrooms in Clarence Street and branches in each mainland capital. From 1895 he promoted the firm's wares through Wimble's Reminder, which developed into a handsome new series that was to run from 1906 until 1957. A periodical-cum-catalogue, it championed process engraving and colour printing, the possibilities of which he displayed in a lavish edition in July 1927. In 1920 he had registered F. T. Wimble & Co. Ltd as a public company.

Wimble conducted a type foundry with overseas-designed faces that were re-named as Extended Tasmanian Gothic or Wentworth Bold. These nativist attractors were an earnest of his devotion to protectionism. 'Books fit to be read here must be printed here', he declared in 1927. 'When you are reading a Novel note where it is printed.' In keeping with the New Protectionism, he supported what he called 'legitimate unionism', but exhorted his tradesmen to lead the fight against 'the madness of Moscow'.

A Freemason, Wimble belonged to Lodge Austral, No. 194, United Grand Lodge of New South Wales. As a hobby, he took up poultry farming at Wimbleford, Bankstown. He published his autobiography, Climbing the Ladder, in 1924. Still chairman of his company, Wimble died on 3 January 1936 in his Artarmon home and was cremated. One daughter and two sons of his first marriage and the son and two daughters of his second survived him. A printing museum at New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale, commemorates his business, which continued with his name until 1991, but under outside managements.

Select Bibliography

  • The History of the House of Wimble in Australia (supplement to Wimbles Reminder, no 84, 4 May 1928)
  • R. Kirkpatrick, Sworn to No Master (Toowoomba, Qld, 1984)
  • Queenslander, 17 May 1928, p 22
  • Argus (Melbourne), 4 Jan 1936, p 20
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 Jan 1936, pp 13 & 16
  • F. T. Wimble & Co. Ltd records (Powerhouse Museum, Sydney).

Citation details

Humphrey McQueen, 'Wimble, Frederick Thomas (1846–1936)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wimble-frederick-thomas-13250/text4433, published in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 30 October 2014.

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

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