Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Daniel Cooper (c. 1785–1853)

by J. W. Davidson

This article was published:

Daniel Cooper (1785-1853), merchant and investor, was born at Bolton, Lancashire, England, the son of Thomas Cooper and his first wife Hannah. In 1815 he was convicted at Chester of stealing and was sentenced to transportation for life. He arrived in Sydney in January 1816. He received a conditional pardon in 1818 and an absolute pardon in 1821. On 6 January 1819 he was married at St Philip's Church, Sydney, to Hannah Dodd, who had been sentenced to transportation for fourteen years at Chester in 1816. Both Cooper and his wife described themselves as widowed.

Within a short time of his arrival in Sydney Cooper developed a variety of business interests. He ran a general store in George Street, and between 1818 and 1822 he was the licensee of an adjoining public house; he made a small investment in shipping; and in 1824 he established the Australian Brewery. In 1821 he became a partner in the firm of Hutchinson, Terry & Co. (also known as the Waterloo Co.). From its original concern with flour-milling, the company had extended its activities into general merchandising, and in 1822 entered the field of banking with the issue of its own notes. In 1825 Cooper and Solomon Levey became the sole owners of the Waterloo Co., which in the following years was generally known as Cooper & Levey, though the names Waterloo Co. and Waterloo Warehouse were also used. As a condition of their partnership, both Cooper and Levey disposed of individual business interests that conflicted with those of the new firm.

The firm of Cooper & Levey achieved a success that was spectacular in economic terms and conspicuous in that both its partners were emancipists. It continued the activities of its predecessor and developed additional ones based largely on the previous interests and experience of the two partners. To sustain its large retail trade, the firm sent ships to Van Diemen's Land, to New Zealand and the Society Islands, to India, and to Mauritius for cargoes of potatoes, salt pork, wheat, rice, wines, textiles and other goods. On occasions it bought the entire cargoes of vessels arriving in Sydney on speculative voyages. As an exporter, it took a leading part in pioneering the shipment to England of Australian wool. The firm's concern with shipping not only involved it in the ownership and chartering of a number of vessels but also enabled it to build up a lucrative business as a shipping agent. In addition, its shipping interests lay behind a number of its other activities. The firm engaged in both whaling and sealing. It seems to have procured the first cargoes of sandalwood from the New Hebrides. It was financially interested in Samuel Henry's trading establishment in Tahiti. In New Zealand it founded an establishment of its own at Hokianga for the procuring of timber, flax and salt pork, and its vessels visited many parts of the coast. Much of the profit from these varied ventures was invested in real estate. Perhaps the most notable of the firm's successes was its acquisition of the estate of Captain John Piper, which included more than 1100 acres (445 ha) at Woollahra and Rose Bay. Many other valuable areas were acquired in Sydney and its environs, in the Monaro and elsewhere in New South Wales, and in Tasmania.

In 1826 Solomon Levey left Sydney for England to further the firm's business interests. While he was there, he became involved with Thomas Peel in the colonization of Western Australia and did not return. The active direction of the firm thus largely fell on Daniel Cooper.

Though Cooper's management of the firm was a major achievement, it represented only a part of his activities. From an early stage in his career he served on committees concerned with the most diverse objectives: the prosperity of the colony, the interests of stockholders, the commemoration of anniversaries and the honouring of governors. He was elected to the executive committee of the Sydney Free Public Grammar School and was the only emancipist to participate in the founding of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. He took an active part in the campaign to have emancipists accepted for service on juries; when it was won, he was one of the first to serve. He bitterly criticized the policies of the Bank of New South Wales and successfully countered its attempt to force his firm out of the banking field. In August 1828 he was elected a director of the bank. In addition he built up a personal fortune, largely in real estate, independent of his share in Cooper & Levey.

In October 1831 Cooper sailed on the Dukenfield for England. He subsequently took new partners into the firm, who carried on the management in Sydney. From an office in London he arranged shipping and other matters and apparently continued to exercise a general supervision of the firm's affairs. He died at Brighton, England, on 3 November 1853. His wife had died in June 1836; his third wife Alice survived him. He had no children but had taken great interest in the education and business training of a nephew who bore his own name (later Sir Daniel Cooper, baronet) and to this nephew the major part of his great estate passed.

Citation details

J. W. Davidson, 'Cooper, Daniel (c. 1785–1853)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


c. 1785
Bolton, Lancashire, England


3 November, 1853 (aged ~ 68)
Brighton, Sussex, England

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.

Passenger Ship
Key Organisations
Convict Record

Crime: theft
Sentence: life
Court: Cheshire
Trial Date: 30 March 1815


Occupation: broker (general)
Married: Yes


Left the colony: Yes