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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Wortman, Ignatz

by E. F. Kunz

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

This is a shared entry with Adolphus Wortman

Ignatz and Adolphus Wortman (Wortmann), (flourished 1842-1857), match manufacturers and exporters, came from the northern Hungarian town of Nyitra (now Nitra in Czechoslovakia), where Adolphus was born in 1825. Ignatz arrived in Sydney in November 1842 and in April 1843 announced in the press that he had 'commenced manufacturing lucifer matches and cigar lights of every description'. The advertisement added 'matches packed with care for any part of the world', a reference to the export activities of the firm which was to be emphasized during fifteen years of business. The first match factory was in Pitt Street South, whence it was moved to King Street and later to York Street. In March 1847 Adolphus arrived from Hungary, bringing from London phosphorus, nitric acid and matchwood. Ignatz handed over the factory to Adolphus, and probably left the colony. Adolphus moved the factory to Campbell Street, where he manufactured matches for ten years and then sold his business to A. Blitz, under whom the establishment prospered for several decades.

The matches made by the Wortmans were advertised as 'lucifers', a name originally denoting a sulphur-type match. Nevertheless the arrival of shipments of phosphorus and nitric acid for their factory proves that their matches were phosphorus matches, a type invented by the Hungarian chemist János Irinyi and concurrently by other Austrian, German and French chemists. Although Irinyi sold his patent in the mid-1830s to the Austrian Römer, he nevertheless operated his own manufactory in Pest between 1840 and 1848. It is almost certain that Ignatz Wortman learnt the phosphoric method, at that time the most advanced in the world, in Irinyi's workshop at Pest, or in one of the other Hungarian match factories using Irinyi's method. The production of this new type of match, named 'Congrave' in England, developed only later in Great Britain and a very large proportion of matches used in the British Isles were of Austro-Hungarian and German manufacture.

The technical skills brought by the two Wortmans from Hungary to Australia enabled them to reverse the trade pattern in their field: they imported matchwood, boxes, and chemicals from Britain, and exported their finished products to New Zealand, the South Sea islands, America and England.

Ignatz invariably spelt his surname with a double 'n'; Adolphus's naturalization certificate shows one 'n', and he used both spellings in his advertisements.

Select Bibliography

  • E. F. Kunz, Hungarians in Australia (M.A. thesis, University of Sydney, 1966), and for bibliography.

Citation details

E. F. Kunz, 'Wortman, Ignatz ', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1967, accessed online 30 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 2, (MUP), 1967

View the front pages for Volume 2

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2020

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Wortmann, Ignatz

Nitra, Slovakia