Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Edward Campbell (1883–1944)

by C. G. T. Weickhardt

This article was published:

Edward Campbell (1883-1944), businessman and lord mayor, was born on 26 May 1883 at Footscray, Victoria, second son of Edward Campbell (d.1931), Scottish-born engineer, and his wife Annie Smith, sister of James Cuming junior. Young Edward was educated at Yarraville State School, University High School and Wesley College. In the mid-1880s his father had managed the Victorian Sugar Co.'s refinery at Yarraville, but about 1889 he established a blacksmithing and engineering business in Carlton. Edward was apprenticed to his father in 1900, but received no special privileges as the owner's son.

After completing his apprenticeship, Campbell was sent to Edinburgh in 1907 to study structural engineering. He returned to Australia in 1909 and was soon appointed a governing director of his father's firm. On 4 May 1910 at St Columb's Church, Hawthorn, he married Beatrice Caffin; they made their home in East St Kilda. In 1913 the firm of Edward Campbell & Son Pty Ltd was formed, and a year later it was joined by Edward's elder brother James, an accountant.

Campbell enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in March 1917, embarking in the Nestor for England in June. He spent some months at the engineers' and signallers' depot at Parkhouse camp, Wiltshire, before serving in the battles of Mont St Quentin and the Hindenburg Line as a sapper in the 14th Field Company. After his return home in May 1919 he resumed activities in the family business, later becoming chairman and managing director. In the 1920s and 1930s the company supplied structural steel for many major buildings in Melbourne, including St Andrew's Hospital, East Melbourne.

In 1921 Campbell gained a seat in the Melbourne City Council as a member for Smith Ward. He was a representative of the council on the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and served on three of its committees. Elected lord mayor in 1937, he strongly opposed government proposals to reform the city council's constitution. Next year he failed by four votes to win a second term of office.

Campbell regularly attended the meetings of the Old Wesley Collegians' Association. A Freemason, he was a foundation member of the Wesley Collegians' Lodge and of the Victorian Engineers' Lodge No. 411. He and his wife worked untiringly for various charities, especially the Children's and Prince Henry hospitals, and Campbell was made a life governor of the Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind in 1938. During World War II he travelled extensively to raise money for the Australian Comforts Fund, of which he was an executive member. In 1942 he was appointed C.B.E. He was a great gardener. A charming and unassuming man, he had a keen sense of public responsibility and was generous with his time to those who sought his assistance.

Campbell died of coronary vascular disease in hospital at Richmond on 6 August 1944 and was cremated. He was survived by his wife, three sons and three daughters, and left an estate valued for probate at £64,742.

Select Bibliography

  • Argus (Melbourne), 11, 30 Oct 1937, 6, 16, 29 Apr, 11 Oct 1938, 8 Aug 1944
  • Age (Melbourne), 7 Aug 1944
  • private information.

Citation details

C. G. T. Weickhardt, 'Campbell, Edward (1883–1944)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 28 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


26 May, 1883
Footscray, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


6 August, 1944 (aged 61)
Richmond, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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