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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Zöllner, Simon (1821–1880)

by G. P. Walsh

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

Simon Zöllner (1821-1880), manufacturer, was born in 1821 at Posen, Prussia (Poznan, Poland), son of Marcus Zöllner, merchant, and his London-born wife Rosalie, née Indig. Simon reached Sydney from Hamburg in the Cesar Godeffroy on 11 December 1852 as one of 230 migrants. By 1853 he was working as a merchant at Sofala, but was living in Sydney when he was naturalized in August 1855. In partnership with Louis Heitz and Henry Lippman, he began business as a tin plate manufacturer at 381 George Street, as Zöllner & Henry. At St James's Church of England, King Street, on 15 August 1857 he married London-born Anne Maria Thurston (d.1915). They had six children.

Heitz had left the partnership in October 1855 and Lippman departed about 1860. In the meantime, the company had turned its attention to the galvanizing process, patented in France in 1837, whereby iron was coated with molten zinc to prevent corrosion. Zöllner's business thrived and in the 1860s he secured larger premises, including a new factory in Dixon Street and a wholesale warehouse and office in York Street. By 1870 his Sydney Galvanizing Works employed fifty-two men and boys and worked up fifteen to eighteen tons of black sheet-iron a week into galvanized tubs, buckets, tanks, sheep troughs, guttering and ridging in addition to tinware products, including cans, pannikins, candlesticks, candle moulds, pitchers and teapots. A particular specialty was the manufacture of household and blacksmiths' bellows.

Zöllner, with other Sydney businessmen, including Ebenezer Vickery and John Frazer, was a leading shareholder in the Fitzroy Ironworks Co. at Mittagong. Beginning in 1864, its blast furnace supplied iron for the Gundagai bridge and Vickery's new premises in Pitt Street, Sydney, but its operations proved uneconomical and in 1873 Zöllner and others sold their interests to the Fitzroy Bessemer Steel Hematite Iron & Coal Co. Ltd, incorporated in England.

Zöllner died of pneumonia on 17 October 1880 at his Potts Point home, survived by his wife and their two sons and two daughters, and was buried in the Anglican section of Rookwood cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at £8860.

His eldest son Martin Leo (1858-1900), born on 25 June 1858 in Sydney, took over the business, which he expanded and modernized. The works, stores and office were moved to 443-445 Kent Street. By 1888 a new patent process for tinwork had been acquired and three large presses and a stamper were in constant use, the dies for the latter being made on the premises. Zöllner's products were renowned for their finish and durability and were particularly favoured by country storekeepers. The firm had a considerable market throughout Australasia and won awards at intercolonial and international exhibitions from 1869.

Leo Zöllner lived at Carmyle, West Street, Petersham, and was a member of the Sydney Rowing Club. On 28 April 1890 at St Michael's Church of England, Sydney, he married Maude Hoctor. Following the outbreak of the South African War, he sailed to Cape Town and by 28 February 1900 had joined Kitchener's Horse, a unit largely composed of men from many countries. Serving with 'G' Squadron, Trooper Zöllner was killed on 27 April 1900 at Thaba Nchu, east of Bloemfontein, in the Orange Free State. His wife and three children survived him. About 1923 S. Zollner & Co., which had become Zollner Ltd and moved to Dowling Street, Waterloo, was taken over by Briton Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • The Industrial Progress of New South Wales (Syd, 1871)
  • W. F. Morrison, The Aldine Centennial History of New South Wales, vol 2 (Syd, 1888)
  • G. J. R. Linge, Industrial Awakening (Canb, 1979)
  • Town and Country Journal, 30 Mar 1872, p 401
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 10 Jan 1901, p 5
  • Times (London), 8 Apr 1903, p 4
  • 4/3272, item 3913 and naturalisation records, register 1, pp 388 & 658 (reel 129) (State Records New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Zöllner, Simon (1821–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 30 September 2020.

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

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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