Australian Dictionary of Biography

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

Cultural Advice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

In addition, some articles contain terms or views that were acceptable within mainstream Australian culture in the period in which they were written, but may no longer be considered appropriate.

These articles do not necessarily reflect the views of The Australian National University.

Older articles are being reviewed with a view to bringing them into line with contemporary values but the original text will remain available for historical context.

Philip John Camm (1892–1964)

by Arthur Winzenried

This article was published:

Philip John Camm (1892-1964), engineer and jam manufacturer, was born on 27 July 1892 in South Melbourne, fourth of five children of Daniel Thomas Camm (c.1864-1941), labourer, and his native-born wife Annie Maria, née Bacchus. Born in Devon, England, Daniel had come to South Australia in 1879 and served with the South Australian Naval Force. He was discharged in 1888 and moved with his family to Melbourne where he found work on the wharves.

In 1894 Daniel bought land at Monbulk in the Dandenong Ranges. There, from 1896, he started to grow berry fruit while his four sons attended the local state school. Using his natural talents as an engineer, he first invented a 'devil' to assist in stump-pulling on the family block and later installed an intricate irrigation system for his plants. Transport of the delicate fruit was difficult on the rough hill-tracks. In 1897 Camm joined other locals to form the Monbulk Co-operative Fruitgrowers' Association and to establish a jam factory near the railway station at Upper Ferntree Gully, then the nearest terminus of Melbourne's suburban railway network. The factory was destroyed by fire in 1909.

With the assistance of his three eldest sons, Camm improved a pulping technique which enabled fruit to be moved more cheaply to the city for processing into jam. Encouraged by this success, in 1909 the family erected a small pulping factory on their property. Increased business, based on locally-grown fruit, required a new and larger plant next year. A bumper crop of local plums in 1913 almost spelt disaster for local growers when prices fell. Daniel, however, bought the entire crop and began to manufacture jam.

In 1912-24 Philip attended night-classes at the Working Men's College, Melbourne, where he studied mechanics and steam-boiler operation. He became the factory's mechanical engineer and developed much of the plant's machinery. In 1914 his brother Robert, who had responsibility for marketing and purchase, enlisted for war service; he died at Passchendaele on 4 October 1917. In his absence, Philip assumed control of the factory.

On 30 August 1913 Philip had married Elsie Veronica Marr at Abbotsford with Methodist forms. After Daniel died on 3 June 1941, Philip took over as managing director of D. Camm & Sons Pty Ltd. The firm thrived and during World War II won large orders with the British Ministry of Food. From this time the company's export trade grew quickly and on trips abroad the Camms saw their jam in England, Europe, North America and Japan. In 1946 Philip moved to Hobart where he set up a Tasmanian branch of the firm, which in 1948 changed its name to Camm's Jams Pty Ltd. It became Monbulk Preserves Pty Ltd in 1957 and on 15 May was registered as a public company. Philip was its chairman until 1960 when he was succeeded by his eldest son. Survived by his wife, daughter and three sons, Philip Camm died on 21 December 1964 at Taroona, Hobart, and was cremated.

Monbulk Preserves Ltd ended as a Camm family business when the whole concern was purchased by the Shepparton Preserving Co. which sold it to Cottee's General Foods Ltd in December 1989. The subsequent economic recession affected operating costs and the old factory at Monbulk closed its doors in May 1991.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Coulson, Story of the Dandenongs, 1838-1958 (Melb, 1959)
  • A. Winzenried, The Hills of Home (Melb, 1988)
  • Age (Melbourne), 4 June 1941, 22 Dec 1964
  • Ferntree Gully News, 6 June 1941
  • Free Press (Belgrave, Melbourne), 30 Dec 1964, 8 May, 2, 9 Oct 1991
  • H. Coulson, The Camms of Monbulk (manuscript, 1964, privately held)
  • private information.

Citation details

Arthur Winzenried, 'Camm, Philip John (1892–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 July, 1892
South Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


21 December, 1964 (aged 72)
Taroona, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.