Australian Dictionary of Biography

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David Alexander Craig (1887–1950)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

David Alexander Craig (1887-1950), businessman, was born on 18 August 1887 at Dunedin, New Zealand, son of John Craig, an Otago-born storeman, and his wife Martha Clark, née Marshall, from Ireland. Educated locally, David became a greengrocer's assistant. He was a warehouse manager when he married Margaret Bennie (d.1925) on 29 November 1910 at St John's Church, Wellington; they were to have one son. By 1917 Craig was in Sydney working as a manufacturer's agent and merchant. In 1917-19 he registered trademarks for soap and salt, and in 1921-22 (as assignee for an American firm) patents for batteries.

Regarding real property as a bad use of capital, for some years Craig chose to live at the Australia Hotel with his family. His preferred entrepreneurial strategy was to help in introducing an overseas brand to Australia, but to sell out rather than develop the product. He frequently travelled to the United States of America and Europe. In 1925 he held sales contracts for Life Savers sweets, and is claimed to have been involved (about 1931) in setting up Smith's Potato Crisps. At All Souls parish church, St Marylebone, London, on 5 December 1928 he had married Marina Graciela de Lopez, from San Salvador; they were to have two daughters. With homes in Paris and London, his three children received some of their education in Switzerland.

In the 1930s Craig and his associates secured, from the U.S.A., local patent rights for an industrial process to manufacture fibre-board from woodchips. A director of the Masonite Corporation (Australia) Ltd, which was registered on 3 September 1937, he resigned in 1939, after the company had built a plant at Raymond Terrace, but before defence orders during World War II helped it into profit. From 1939 he led a consortium seeking approval to manufacture bitumen in Sydney from imported crude oil. In 1940 the Advisory Committee on Capital Issues rejected the application. He appealed to (Sir) Arthur Fadden, but, following a Tariff Board inquiry, the proposal was again rejected. It was not until 4 March 1946 that Bitumen and Oil Refineries (Australia) Ltd was incorporated under Craig's chairmanship. With part-owners California Texas Oil Co. Ltd supplying the crude product, a bitumen and oil refinery was opened in March 1947 at Matraville on Botany Bay, despite opposition from oyster-farmers and others who feared oil pollution. Craig seems to have been reimbursed up to £20,000 for expenses incurred in preparing for the company's formation. In October he resigned in ill health. The firm later sold its oil interests and, as Boral Ltd, became one of the country's largest manufacturers of building materials.

In October 1942 he had been appointed to the Central Cargo Control Committee by R. V. Keane, the Federal minister for trade and customs. Among other mineral-development ventures, Craig had a property at Thuddungra, near Young, which produced magnesite for the making of steel at Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd's Newcastle plant.

Craig was a big man, with blue-grey eyes, who enjoyed playing the piano. He played bridge and belonged to the Bowral and New South Wales golf clubs, and to the Australian Jockey and Elanora Country clubs. From 1936 the family lived at Darling Point. Craig suffered from diabetes. He died on 30 September 1950 in Nassau, in the Bahamas; his wife, son and daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Jobson's Investment Digest, 1 July 1925, p 342
  • Stock Exchange Official Record, Mar 1947, p 78
  • 'Wild Cat' Monthly, 4 May 1946, p 101
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 29 Aug 1941, 27 Oct 1942, 2, 12 July 1946
  • private information.

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Craig, David Alexander (1887–1950)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 April 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]


18 August, 1887
Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand


30 September, 1950 (aged 63)
Nassau, Bahamas

Cultural Heritage

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